Something that appears to be as prescient and as a pressing issue to us today as it was in 1215 when the Magna Carta was created is the want of freedom and the fear of losing it. We have seen it in our history and it is has been covered by a significant of authors and thinkers, I don’t need to tell you this of course it has always been something that’s been part of our culture. We have had George Orwell and Aldous Huxley in the UK, Ray Bradbury in the US, Solzhenitsyn in Russia. When it comes to non fiction we have the biography of Nelson Mandela and stories from survivors in North Korea, there are many more out there and there will be many more to come. One such example I have been thinking about lately (if you’re reading this in 2020 put the news on, you’ll know what I’m going on about) is V for Vendetta.
The graphic novel V for Vendetta has had a significant cultural impact on our own world. V for Vendetta goes a bit further than other dystopian stories in respect to the fact that it’s not just about the horrors of a totalitarian government and the people who have to live under their rule, it’s also about how such governments come into power and how they are resisted by methods of which may not be desired if albeit appear effective.
The world of V for Vendetta is set in a late 20th Century Britain after the Cold War stops becoming cold and nuclear missiles are launched around the world. Britain however, survives the brunt of it after not wishing to take sides before the nuclear holocaust. The chaos and devastation does affect British life and out of the chaos for want of law and order, the fascist party Norsefire comes to power under the leadership of Adam Susan. Despite Norsefire ruling as they do we come across somebody who chooses to resist them who is the opposite to the fascists. An out and out anarchist. This character is V. V is clad in black and can be identified by his Guy Fawkes mask which has its own symbology (which would eventually stretch out into our own world).
In V for Vendetta we meet V in central London and learn about him along with a young (and at first naïve) girl called Evey. We learn about his reasons for being who he is along with his so called vendetta. V is everything the government isn’t. He lives among the banned works and forms of expression that the government does not like. He’s also intelligent, articulate and appears to be almost superhuman. V tells Evey that he thinks everybody is special, that everybody has a story which is the opposite to what the fascist state thinks. We witness V in his attempts to dismantle the leadership.
It is not just V and Evey we see in this world. There is also the leadership, mobsters and unfortunate souls who have to cross the path of these ruthless people who through some reason or another end up plotting against each other or at least seen as being undesirable in some way. They’re not all necessarily bad. The detective Eric Finch who has the job of trying to find V goes through his own journey and awakening.
V reminds us how we put these people ruthless people into power, these ‘malicious incompetents who made your working life a shambles’ and in his own way tells us we can do something about it. Who V is under the mask is not important. We don’t even know his real name but that isn’t important. What he represents is.
The world of V for Vendetta is not that far away and we must remind ourselves, we can easily let the wrong type of people encroach on our own way of life to our own disadvantage and it is imperative that we check on such people.