Guy Fawkes Day: Why 'V for Vendetta' is More Important Than Ever

Guy Fawkes Day: Why 'V for Vendetta' is More Important Than Ever

Warning: major spoilers below

Every Nov. 5 for the past few years, I've sat back with a few friends to watch V for Vendetta. While ostensibly we did this to commemorate Guy Fawkes Day, which marks the anniversary of British revolutionary Guy Fawkes's attempt to blow up the Parliament in 1605, we really did it because everyone else was doing it, and we were bored.

But this Nov. 5, I expect I'll be a bit more alert when I watch V. Why? Because the movie's lessons are more important now than ever before. 

Originally a graphic novel by Alan Moore, V for Vendetta is set in a dystopian England where a revolutionary wearing a Guy Fawkes mask sets out to destroy a fascist party called Norsefire by convincing citizens to stand up and rule themselves. 

The most important lesson that the movie teaches, is distilled by this scene, where V talks about how irrational fear has resulted in the sacrificing of liberty for security: 


Additionally, this quote is a reminder of recent events:

"Where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others ... but ... truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now-High Chancellor ... He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent." 

Because of fear, Americans — like the English citizens in V — are trading our precious liberty in for a false sense of security. Sept. 11 happened, and it was horrible, but instead of reacting with resolve, we reacted with fear. We passed the so-called "Patriot" Act, which implied that anyone who disagreed with this utter trampling of the Bill of Rights was a traitor, or worse. We held people in prison without respecting habeas corpus. And so on. 


Yet, in our rabid fear, in our race to the paternalistic government, in our herd impulse to trade in our most central rights for false security, we forgot one incredibly important fact: Liberty is much easier lost than recovered. 

As V said, "Fear got the best of [us]." Amidst our panic, we turned to the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, and to secretive organizations that are well-intentioned but not accountable to the people because they are not visible. Those who oppose this trampling of our liberty are labeled "unpatriotic." In reality, they are the most patriotic people America has. 

We are acting like a frightened herd of sheep — like sheeple in the truest sense of the term. It is time to end this madness. So, this Nov. 5, when you watch V for Vendetta, watch it with a critical eye, and remember: Usurping freedom by appealing to security concerns is the oldest trick in the book. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Michael Shammas

Second-year Harvard Law student, politico, Breaking Bad fan, cynical idealist, coffee addict, & Duke sports fanatic. Contact me at mshammas@jd16.law.harvard.edu.

MORE FROM

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.

Yes, Donald Trump can fire Robert Mueller. Here’s how he can do it.

It's a complicated process, and it could get messy, but he can do it.

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.

Yes, Donald Trump can fire Robert Mueller. Here’s how he can do it.

It's a complicated process, and it could get messy, but he can do it.

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.