I wrote a 3-page paper for my university course “Understanding Terrorism” on the terrorist aspects of the movie V for Vendetta.
As I wrote about the movie review before and created a poll asking whether V was rather a terrorist or a freedom fighter, I decided to post the review to my blog.
For all those who haven’t watch the movie yet:
Watch out, this review definitely contains spoilers, so watch the movie ;-)
V for Vendetta – Reviewing and Analyzing its Terrorist Aspects
The movie “V for Vendetta”, released in 2005, is based on a comic book series of the same name, written by Alan Moore. 1
The plot of the movie, which is categorized as action, science fiction and thriller2, will be summarized, analysed and interpreted in the following.
V for Vendetta starts looking back at the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, where a conspiracy of Roman Catholics failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament when their religion was severely oppressed.3
However, the movie’s fictional government does not only oppress Roman Catholics but the whole English population.
With surveillance cameras everywhere the socio-political circumstances pretty much resemble Big Brother and the Ministry of Truth from Orwell’s novel 19844, but are also similar to “La Grande Terreur” during the French Revolution, which historians think of as “state-organized or state-backed visitation of violence on [...] dissident citizenry”.5
Citizens are not allowed to leave their homes at “post-curfew” time, which is when the female protagonist Evey goes out and is stopped by patrolling police forces, so called “finger men”.
When they try to rape her, the male protagonist V rescues her and takes her on top of a roof opposite of the Old Bailey.
Here, V has the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky played, blowing up the Old Bailey along the way.
Destroying the featured statue of justice, V demonstrates his disagreement with the government’s understanding of justice.
The graphic novel is more straightforward here because there V literally “professes his love for her, but accuses her of being a whore for the fascist government”.6
V’s main adversary High Chancellor Adam Sutler declares that V has to be found, making him understand what terror really means, implying that he’s willing to use the same means as V.
As the government is passing legislations as it pleases, it has more than “a fair bit of freedom in deciding whether to adopt an essentially legal approach or to step outside the law”7 to fight V’s terror.
Sutler’s approach is rather similar to Israel’s “policy of assassinating those it holds to be terrorist”8.
In his next coup, V walks into the headquarters of BTN TV where he threatens to blow up the building if they won’t let him speak in front of their cameras. He succeeds, telling people to remember 5 November again and denounces the government.
Even though he’s able to escape with the help of Evey, the media reports that the police have killed him in a heroic act, therefore deliberately deceiving people.
V takes Evey back to his place, the “Shadow Gallery”.
Admitting that she hasn’t eaten ordinary eggs and butter since she was a little girl, the government’s totalitarian rule is unveiled once more.
Convinced that violence can be used for good, V kills Lewis Prothero, an influential TV moderator, whom he calls “Commander” as he had been responsible for various cruelties in a detention camp before his TV career.
Needless to say that the media conceals the murder and pretends he passed away peacefully.
In addition to the “Commander”, V plans to kill a bishop who used to work in the camp, too.
Evey serves as a bait here because his holiness has an indulgence for young girls, but she changes her mind and decides to flee from V.
She finds ayslum at Gordon, a well-mannered TV moderator.
It turns out that he’s also secretly opposing the government, showing Evey all his forbidden belongings such as a copy of the Koran.
Meanwhile the police have found out that V has killed all the people who were in charge at the Larkhill detention camp except for one female doctor that he finally liquidates as well.
V’s killing spree is obviously a revenge as the government had developed a biological weapon in form of a virus in the camp, V being the only surviving test subject.
The government had deliberately used the virus against its own population and made it look like a religiously motivated terrorist attack by terrorists.
This way of deceiving the public to exploit the effects for one’s own ends resembles the “Lavon affair” from 1954, when Israeli agents intended to blow up US and British targets in Egypt with the purpose of “alienating the US and Britain from Egypt and Nasser”.9
There’s a turning point in the story now as people publicly start to protest against the government, spraying ‘V’ graffiti all over the government’s propaganda posters.
Furthermore, Gordon exposes the former untouchable High Chancellor to ridicule on TV, which leads to Gordon’s arrest and execution.
As Evey was hiding at Gordon’s flat, she also gets caught and is brought to a camp, where she gets tortured.
However, it turns out that V was setting everything up to test how far she would go to support him.
Condemning what V has done to her, Evey has a nervous breakdown, realizing the government’s responsibility for the deaths of her family.
Thus, she ultimately agrees that V’s actions were indeed justified.
To prevent people from revolting even more the Chancellor starts spreading false news about pandemonium all over the world to spur fear within the population, a beloved tool of politicians from the “terrorism industry” that “systematically exaggerate dangers” to “profit from their fearmongering and alarmism”.10
His actions do not prevent V from killing the head of the government’s Secret Service Mr. Creedy as well as the High Chancellor himself.
Being severely injured, V is still able to accomplish his final goal with Evey’s help, who uses a tube train to send his body together with explosives towards the Houses of Parliament.
The exploding edifice is watched by thousands of V’s supporters on their way to the seat of government.
One might wonder whether V is, in fact, a terrorist or a freedom fighter.
Drawing upon Valls (2000) who states that “violence committed by non-state actors against persons or property for political purposes” is terrorism, one can conclude that V indeed uses terrorist means.11
Internet users don’t seem to share this scientific view though:
1 cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_for_Vendetta
2 cf. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434409/
3 cf. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/g08.pdf, p.2
4 cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four#Story
5 cf. Tilly 2004: 9
6 cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Bailey#In_popular_culture
7 cf. Townshed 2002: 125
8 cf. Townshed 2002: 125
9 cf. http://www.mideastweb.org/lavon.htm
10 cf. Mueller 2007: 4
11 cf. Valls 2000: 68
Mueller, John (2007): Reacting to terrorism – probabilities, consequences & the persistence of fear
Tilly, Charles (2004): Terror, terrorism, terrorists
Townshend, Charles (2002): Terrorism – a very short introduction
Valls, Andrew (2000): Can terrorism be justified’ in Andrew Valls (ed.) (2000) Ethics in
International Affairs, pp. 65-79