Monday, November 5, 2012

The Face of Guy Fawkes

Today, once again, we ‘remember, remember the fifth of November’. I have, already, given my opinion of the Gunpowder Plot and have nothing to add to that or any change of position worth mentioning. Lately though, with all of the protests particularly in America and western Europe, I have also mentioned how tired I am of the ubiquitous wearing of “Guy Fawkes” masks by these professional placard bearers. It is altogether an odd thing to do, for they really have nothing to do with the historical Guy Fawkes (I doubt any have the slightest knowledge of the actual history of the man or the Gunpowder Plot) but rather was popularized by the 2005 film “V for Vendetta” which was quite a bizarre piece of work in and of itself. It has frequently provided the inspiration for anarchist groups, most blatantly the internet community “Anonymous”. The film was based on a comic book, though the author wanted nothing to do with the movie because of the distortions made to his original story. Whether the original was better or worse, I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve read a comic book after the age twelve. As far as the movie goes, about the only positive thing I can say about it was that whoever wrote the dialogue for the main character has some talent. Otherwise, it makes very little sense at all.

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.

Certainly, someone will correct me if I am wrong, but I know of no Christian country in the world where one can be fined, arrested or executed for owning a copy of the Quran. I do know numerous non-Christian countries where one can get into serious trouble for owning a Bible or an “unauthorized” version of the Bible. It also seems rather ridiculous that a homosexual man would keep a Quran even for the sake of artistic quality. He could keep any book for such a reason, but why a Quran? Why not an antique Bible? Again, in the world today and looking forward, I know of no country from the Christian tradition that puts homosexuals to death but in some Muslim countries this does still happen (though not very often because such laws tend to discourage people from being openly homosexual). A homosexual appreciating the artistic value of the Quran would be like a Jew keeping a copy of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” because he thinks it is so well-written. I suppose it is possible, but certainly highly unlikely. I suppose an African-American could appreciate the cinematic artistry of the film “Birth of a Nation” but, again, I would consider that highly unlikely. But that is the whole flavor the film.

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.

The only way it is fitting that the modern crowd that does so uses the image of Guy Fawkes from the “V for Vendetta” movie is that they make as little sense as the film does. Any honest person can see that Britain is in no danger of suddenly becoming a Christian fundamentalist police-state (which, by the way, did happen once -many hundreds of years ago during the only period in British history when there was no monarchy -keep that in mind). Similarly, Guy Fawkes was not an anarchist or even a libertarian. He didn’t really have a problem with “the system” at all but merely those controlling it. He was a Catholic who didn’t like England being ruled by Protestants and he wanted Protestant rule to go out with a bang -to put it mildly. Moreover, those invoking the image of Guy Fawkes do not even appear to be terribly consistent with their own views. Who ever heard of anarchists demanding more government programs? How much sense does it make to say you are protesting against the power of government but want that same government to have more power over the lives of the people by enacting more programs and laws and regulations? None of it makes any sense no matter which way you come at it. Here is the typical thought process:

“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.


  1. In v for vendetta, Guy F is described as symbols of liberty and democracy. Interestingly, from history we know that he is more Osama then Zorro.

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  3. Actually, had it succeeded, it'd be remmbered s the Time the Catholic Mnarchy as restored... but thats a different matter.

    And I agree, but I see this all the Time and hve complained about it often. People tend ot latch onto Historical figures as a sort of Symbol fo rmoern Values then rewrite them to fit modern Ideologies. EG, Glenn Beck claims the British blamed the Churches for the American Revolution and calls them the Black Robbed Regimend, and now a lot of TEA Party types think the Chruches united behind the Revolutionaries.

    Or heck, just look at America's Founding Fathers and hwo they Fought for modern Democracy and whatever flavour f the month value w have today.

    All most know about Guy Fawkes is that he tried ot blw up Parlaiment, and this make shim an Anti-Government activist in heir Minds, they then insert their own otivatiosn for why he woudl do this and create a new Guy Faekes divored from the Historical Reality to spak for them.

    It's no different from when a Modern Lberal Progressive chooses Cromwell as a Hero just because he prodiuced Englands first and husfar only Reoublic. As if Cromwell woudl be for a SOcialist state with srict separation of Chruch and Stte and Secular Value that include casual sex and abortion on demand and Homosexual Marriage.

    Peopel don't care about the Truth, they care about the image that embodies their Ideals. Thy make the Dead ay what they want them to say.

    And don't get me started on Abe Lincoln.

  4. In regard to the movie have you seen Kevin DeAnna's criticism of it in an article "England Prevails" formerly at the Youth for Western Civilization site. The article can also be found at .

    To quote the final paragraph: The group I want to defend is that which is really being oppressed, right now, in the real world. I stand with the great English people who still have some sense of pride, identity, and patriotism in their Isle of Kings. So for my Fifth of November toast — if I may borrow the handle of the Voice of London — I say “Good guys win, bad guys lose, and, as always – England Prevails.”

  5. The Qur'an is not outright anti-homosexual, interpretations are. Most think that "the sin of the people of lot" refers to homosexuality, but some, such as the Amaydiyya, disagree. As with Christianity, Islam is not against homosexuality, only homosexual activities. There are plenty gay Muslims, but most choose the path of celibacy, which is OK. Some liberal Muslims think the sin of the people of Lot is not homosexuality, but promiscuity. It just depends upon interpretation. Besides, the film was just trying to send a message of tolerance. And, petty as it may be, the only thing the film had in common with the graphic novel was the title. It was out-of-order, thematically different, and just all around an insult to the novel

  6. On the BBC even a show as far-out as “Dr Who” criticized Thatcher

    You are aware the crew on BBC who made the older Narnia series (with good intro music, that must be said, and I liked Miss Powers as Jill, not to mention that Dr Who actor as Puddleglum), actually had off stage a session in which the "Aslan" puppet (all talking animals were so portrayed) was derided and in which the actress for Lucy stated her atheism, to satisfaction of older ones in the team? It was, maybe still is, on youtube.


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