March 14th, 2006


V for Vendetta

So, it's coming out, out in the US already but won't be seen here for a while.

This is, potentially, an important movie to me - a very important movie. I don't really do the whole 'hero' thing but in so much as I have any Alan Moore is right up there. He might be a crazy middle-aged self-styled magician from Northampton of all places, but he tells a mean story and he has sensibilities that resonate right through me that he expresses in his work. He's one of a handful of British-Isles based comics writers emerging out of the 80's that continue to tune in to varying degrees with many of the things I think, feel and try to express myself in my own way.

So, no typical British understatement, I am very, very excited at the possibility of V and so I'm scanning through the reviews to try and see just how badly the story has been fucked up this time and whether any of the profound political message of the original work remains. I'll reserve final judgement until I've seen the thing myself but so far the answer seems to be both yes and no. Some of the original meaning remains to cause havoc, some of it has gone or been made more simplistic.

Moore's dialogue is, of course, too expansive and too literate to remain completely pure in film form - perhaps an odd thing to say about a comic book but Moore's turn of phrase is often expansive, his ideas big and he draws upon all manner of literature, poetry, magick and other influences whirling it all together - even in this relatively early work. Still, from reviews it sounds like some of the grander set pieces remain though the political message about anarchy has been lost, replaced by a more simplistic critique of current governance, the war on terror and the safety/freedom debate.

I'm in two minds about whether that's a good thing or not. On the one hand it makes it relevant to the modern age, on the other hand it loses much of what made the original book great. It was a much more direct attack on Thatcher's Britain, a time past now but in its own way far more vicious and terrifying than this current media-spin induced slow apocalypse of freedom. Whatever else Thatcher was she was a forceful personality, a creature you could unashamedly HATE (Or love) with little reserve because the Iron Lady was a charicature. Most politicians today are ciphers, no matter what they do, even Bush is a nondescript little toerag really and Blair feels as though he was constructed by committee.

What blows my mind though is that half the reviews I'm ready describe 'V' as a deep and edgy, deeply political film that will greatly affect people, make them think, that it is 'too dangerous' or 'too subversive' for the current times. At the same time, what I'm reading sounds pretty watered down from the original message - to me at least it doesn't sound remotely as controversial or as biting as the comic book.

So, what does that mean really?

Does it mean that our society is already so far gone that even a relatively weak political point can seem controversial and dangerous?
Does it mean people have lost their sense of perspective?
Does it mean that it is simply shocking to people that politics CAN be intersting or deep?

Some of the more right-wing critics are lining up to condemn it, saying it advocates terrorism, huffing and puffing and churning out free publicity for the movie. I can't help thinking that if they can work themselves into apoplexy over this more palatable version of 'V' what on earth would they do if they read the graphic novel? Burst into flames?

In some ways I think the yanks are lucky believe it or not. Despite the virtually nonexistant difference between their two main parties they have a lively political debate ongoing and a (third rate) figure of love/hate in the Whitehouse. Their politics is alive, things are discussed and fought over and a strong figure of hate makes for a strong counterculture.

We don't have that.

Laws are passed with relatively little controversy, even big questions like abortion or ID/Creationism slip under our public radar because nobody gives enough of a tinkers cuss to actually protest or do anything about it. What's been the biggest recent cause? The fucking hunt-lobby, a bunch of out-of-touch toffs and their toadies organising a mass protest to preserve their existing priveledges and their right to be a bunch of sadistic pricks.

How fucked up is that?

'V' admonishes us, 'People shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.' Yet I'm not in government and I'm afraid of both, both the government and the people. Perhaps once I had this notion that people are, at heart, good, pure, decent thinking folk but not for a long time. That's long been a seperation between me and other leftists/anarchists/whatever you want to call its. An individual person might be smart but a mob is a fearful, stupid, animalistic creature that goes for simplicity over sense and effectiveness almost every time. The other end is government by representation, which is rarely representative and concerned only with its own perpetuation and the wielding of power.

You can't win.

Power by, for and to the people is a fine idea and is probably closest to my 'ideal' of a fair model, but then I stop and think. Do I REALLY want 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' running my life? Do I want people who complain about immigrants, desire the death penalty, want creationism taught in schools, want abortion banned, want tougher, longer ineffective prison sentences brought in, want a bobby on every street corner rather than actually affecting crime... do I want the 'Big Brother' generation, the phone-in poll callers, the Jerry Springer watching multitude of short-sighted, ill educated inbred chav-spawn running the country any more than I want captain smarm or the neo-nazi (sorry, conservative) party running the show?


Maybe that's elitist but the old activist, self-educated working class is gone along with any idea of noblesse oblige from the upper classes. Hardly anyone is politically aware enough, or cogniscent of their own ideas enough to decide what they want for dinner, let alone any of the more important decisions of the world.

How did it get this way? We have more technology, more channels of communication, better methods of education than ever before and yet compared to even 20 years ago, nobody knows shit and they mostly wouldn't care if they did!

Grim meathook future indeed.

Grim Meathook Future

From by way of Warren Ellis and now me...

“Feeding poor people is useful tech, but it’s not very sexy and it won’t get you on the cover of Wired. Talk about it too much and you sound like an earnest hippie. So nobody wants to do that.

“They want to make cell phones that can scan your personal measurements and send them real-time to potential sex partners. Because, you know, the f*cking Japanese teenagers love it, and Japanese teenagers are clearly the smartest people on the planet.

“The upshot of all of this is that the Future gets divided; the cute, insulated future that Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow and you and I inhabit, and the grim meathook future that most of the world is facing, in which they watch their squats and under-developed fields get turned into a giant game of Counterstrike between crazy faith-ridden jihadist motherf*ckers and crazy faith-ridden American redneck motherf*ckers, each doing their best to turn the entire world into one type of fascist nightmare or another.

“Of course, nobody really wants to talk about that future, because it’s depressing and not fun and doesn’t have Fischerspooner doing the soundtrack. So everybody pretends they don’t know what the future holds, when the unfortunate fact is that — unless we start paying very serious attention — it holds what the past holds: a great deal of extreme boredom punctuated by occasional horror and the odd moment of grace.”