For those unaware, the film is set in a dystopian London of the not-too-distant future in which Great Britain is essentially a Christian fundamentalist dictatorship run by a collection of police state bureaucrats, government and church officials all of whom compete with each other for who can be the most cruel, corrupt and degenerate. It is all very Orwellian and the main character, a masked, vigilante bomber called “V” works to incite the population to rise up against their totalitarian dictator (played by John Hurt) with the help of his report sidekick played by Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman. Much of the odd nature of the film can be illustrated by looking at the character played by Stephen Fry, which seems to have been written in such a way that Fry basically plays himself. Fry, a homosexual Jewish Briton who has opposed celebrating the foundation of the State of Israel and who is a member of “Jews for Justice for Palestinians” plays, of all things, a television funnyman who is a closeted homosexual and who keeps an antique copy of the Quran in his private collection, he says for its artistic qualities, and is eventually arrested and executed for owning a Quran.
The first time I saw it, I really thought I had missed the joke. Initially, it didn’t even occur to me that the filmmakers could be serious about this. England (Scotland and Ireland are never mentioned as I recall) becoming a fundamentalist Christian dictatorship? England being dominated by “conservative” state-run media? I thought it had to be some kind of joke. England has been moving away from Christianity (of any sort, to say nothing of the fundamentalist flavor) not towards it. Acceptance of homosexuality is on the increase in England, not the decrease. Muslims, far from being persecuted in modern-day England, can have the most radical and fundamentalist in their ranks march down the street calling for the overthrow of the British government and they are protected by the police. And where is the threat from right-wing media in Britain? British media seems as far from that as possible. Take the most prominent right-wing politician in recent British history, Baroness Thatcher. On the BBC even a show as far-out as “Dr Who” criticized Thatcher, over on Channel 4 “Spitting Image” regularly derided Thatcher (and the Royal Family, Ronald Reagan and conservatives in general) and there were a million more. Where exactly is the government-backed media giant in England that the filmmakers behind “V” are so afraid of? I cannot find it for the life of me. Sky News is not government controlled and though I have heard it leans to the right, I cannot give an opinion as I’ve never seen it. I also have the feeling that such a reputation may be solely due to Rupert Murdoch who is not a right-wing, conservative ideologue. He’s an anti-monarchy republican with liberal social views who cashes in on untapped markets; sometimes that’s the left and sometimes the right, he just goes where the money is.
“I hate big government controlling my life. They should just provide me with a free education, free medical care, a guaranteed job at a government-set wage, a government paid pension for when I am not working, housing, transportation, childcare and an old age pension for when I retire. And other than that, stay the hell out of my life! Yeah, because I’m a radical who believes in total freedom and individual rights, that’s why we need more collectivization. We should have a march or a protest or something and show how radical we are in supporting our individual rights and disdain for the government by all wearing the exact same mask in the image of a centuries old would-be terrorist who wanted to blow up Parliament and put a Catholic Queen on the throne of Britain! Who’s with me?!”
So, that is the logic: rail against “the system” while demanding it become ever more powerful and you become ever more dependent on it. And show what a rebel you are by becoming the most conformist creature on the planet. It’s enough to make even a monarchist feel sorry for Guy Fawkes to have his image associated with such idiotic rabble.