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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

"what works for me may not work for you."

Pursuant to various V for Vendetta conversations around the blogosphere, here's selections from a conversation between truepenny and me on why the movie did work for us. Especially the Icky Bit.

This is very stream of consciousness and conversation-between-friends-who-have-a-lot-of-personal-shorthand, and I've re-edited it to make it make sense without all the "Wow, where did Weaving learn puppetry?" comments and then further re-edited it from a comment at buymeaclue:

I said: Moore's V is not sympathetic.

And Weaving's V is. He's, in fact, pitiable. And so it hurts (me the viewer) more to realize that it's him that does that to Evey, and he thinks it's for her good. Because this is somebody who loves her being abusive.

And we're *with* her. We feel her betrayal, and we have to process it with her.

And we have to understand that no, the narrative isn't forgiving V. (Whereas I think Moore's narrative *does* kind of forgive him; "We had to destroy Evey in order to save her.") And Evey isn't forgiving him either. That's not a kiss of forgiveness, not in the human sense anyway. That's a kiss of absolution, because she knows him now, and she knows why and how he's crazy.

(Sarah then points out here that V is attempting to communicate with Evey, and he's too broken to do so in any sane kind of way. And I replied: Vengeance cannot nurture. Even when it tries.)

And I said: And she's stronger than he is, in some ways. Because she remains a rational being, rather than the cunning, driven animal he's become. And some of that rubs off on him, and makes *him* more whole. Which is why it *hurts,* in the movie, when he walks away from her.

Because she's given him back a shred of his humanity. That's not just a monster going to die, any more. It's a monster who could have been a man.

What she is choosing to do is to rise above this thing he has done, and accept what it has made of her.

I don't forgive my abuser. But I value the person her abuse made of me. And that's a hard distinction to make, I think, and one we want to reject.

To which truepenny replied, that the discomfort is that we want it black and white, and the movie won't give you black and white. It gives you human monsters--V and Delia, for example.

And I said, Yes. No good guys. Evey is complicit in murder. V is not a good guy. He's not even an antihero.

He is a necessary evil; his tragedy is that he wants to be a man. It goes all Pinocchio/Beauty-and-the-Beast there... and there are ways he could survive; he does not HAVE to choose to die.

But he chooses to die because he knows he *is* evil, and he knows Evey has to make that last human choice. Because she can rise above the things he's done to her, and by extension the things society has done to her.

V... cannot. His verdict *is* vengeance. It is the only one he is capable of making.

Evie can love.
And truepenny said: "Evey is not a monster.  But she knows she could be."

And I replied: Yes. And so she chooses to come back and grant V absolution. Which is what it is, I think; it's *not* forgiveness. It's absolution. He's still a sinner; he's still responsible for his crimes. She's not healed.

But she can go forward anyway.

That's heady stuff.

Later on, she said: "It doesn't want us to forgive V.  It wants us to understand why he is what he is.  And the same goes for Evey and Finch and Gordon and all the people we see watching their televisions."

And I said: Yes.

And ourselves. Sitting there watching the television while people are being tortured at Abu Ghraib. Which is why it's important to understand that there are all kinds of monstrosity, and Gordon's bravery is as profound as V's, once he finally stands up.


And then we nattered on for a bit in ways wherein, while the characterizations and the thematic elements worked very well for us, there were some bits of plot that were stupid and we were choosing to ignore them.

Anyway, it worked for me. Which of course doesn't mean it has to work for anybody else, but since there's been so much discussion of it, I wanted to talk about *why* it worked for me. Really profoundly, in a very uncomfortable self-examination "I want to be alone now" sort of way, not unlike "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas."

Which is my favorite story.

So, squid.


If V is evil, what are we to make of all the people wearing his face in the final confrontation? And of Evey's saying--I can't remember the exact words, was it "He is all of us" or "We are all him"?
It feels important, I think, that they _take off_ the masks, there at the end.

That is, he may be part of them or vice versa, but not necessarily all.
Thank you for making me aware of that story ("The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"). Wow. Thank you.
Best story ever.

The end. *g*

Also, you are welcome.
That is a reading of the movie that makes me like it a lot. Upon first seeing it, I just felt confused, because I felt like it opened up on a huge number of possible readings, some pretty awful -- and there were things I didn't pick up on at ALL, like the significance of the Count of Monte Cristo.

I feel like your posts on V for Vendetta (and comments elsewhere) provided some scaffolding that I really needed in order to enjoy the movie. And I wonder whether it needs the scaffolding because I haven't read the graphic novel, or because of flaws in the movie, or just because there's a lot I didn't pick up on, but--really, it's like a very funny joke that I needed to have explained for me. I still have that little bit of resentment that I didn't get the joke the first time around.

I loved the graphic novel, but some things about it bugged the hell out of me. And the movie fixed a lot of those things. Which is another reason I'm predisposed to like it.

And there's a significance to the way it undermines Count, too.

No happy ending for V.

No room in the tree for him.
Also, if I may--

matociquala: That's why the detention sequence bothers people who haven't read the comic book so much more than those who have. Because Moore's V is not sympathetic.

truepenny: Also, Moore's V *is* omniscient. He *is* a puppet-master, pulling strings. No one in the book *ever* behaves contrary to V's expectations and plans. Several of the people he needs to get rid of, he doesn't have to kill himself. Because he can perfectly manipulate other people into doing it for him.

matociquala: And we have to understand that no, the narrative isn't forgiving V. (Whereas I think Moore's narrative *does* kind of forgive him; "We had to destroy Evie in order to save her.") And Evie isn't forgiving him either. That's not a kiss of forgiveness, not in the human sense anyway. That's a kiss of understanding, because she knows him now, and she knows why and how he's crazy.

truepenny: Yes. And because she understands what he was trying, in his stupid, broken way, to tell her. And because he *did*, in his stupid, broken way, give her something valuable. He gave her Valerie.

Moore's book believes in tough love. And it's very invested in V as paterfamilias--Evey's wrong to think he's her father, but at the same time she's *right*. I'm not sure Moore thinks there's anything to forgive.

(Also, can I just say how grateful I am to the movie for getting AWAY from that creeptastic Oedipal vibe. Making Gordon gay was *so* the right thing to do. Because otherwise you've got Evey being handed, or handing herself, from Lilliman to Gordon to V, and can we really say that Gordon and V are better than Lilliman? What really creeps me out about that is that I'm not sure it's intentional.)

The other thing I like about the changes they've made is that it changes the dynamic between V and Evey. It's pretty clear, in the book, that V has decided Evey is his protege/apprentice/successor, and he does what he does in order to train her, to make her worthy. Whereas the movie V does it in order to try to communicate. And in order to make her his *equal*. That's what's beautiful and painful about her leaving him--she does it with her eyes open, she does it as an informed choice, and she does it with the strength he gave her. And he understands that that's the price he pays for trying to make her strong in the first place. If you love something, you don't just set it free, you give it a chance to survive its freedom.
of course you may.
I'm skipping over the commentary since I haven't seen the movie yet (going tomorrow, I hope), but, wow, not unlike "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas." That story just kills me. I haven't read it in years but I've a feeling it's going to lurk in the back of my brain, resonating, while I'm at the theater.
It's the echo of a choice between what is easy and what is not so easy, when neither of them is right, but one may be less right than the other.

If you know what I mean?
Put it like that, I think what didn't work for me was Evey's characterization. Gordon I loved to bits because he is a coward, but a coward capable of a sudden flip of courage.

Evey... if she had betrayed V because she was horrified at him, or if she had just tried to get away without betraying him, I would have bought her transformation into a hardened brave woman able to withstand torture. As it was shown, her trasformation for me came out of nowhere. Well, it came out of a rather romantic view of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger which I don't buy.
Yeah, I saw your post, and everything that didn't work for you resonated very strongly for me, both on the level of a personal myth of the sort that we tell ourselves to survive, and also as a retelling of an Inana/Isis style initiation-by-descent.
That's similar to the reading of the film that I've chosen to have. What makes me uncomfortable (in what may be a good way, I'm not sure) is that it's a reading I pretty much have to impose on the film, according to my own moral lights and human sensibilities. It's not a reading that's clearly there. Or clearly not there. By the same token, another person could watch the same film and come away with a romanticized view of Stockholm Syndrome. That's not news; different readings happen with any form of communication. But it's unsettling to me that I could not perceive what the director intended for us to understand from the film, or whether his? intent was to create something onto which any number of readings could be mapped. Yet I fight a lot against people who want to turn art into didactism, so I'm discomfited to be so bothered by the idea that people could have readings of it that I fear could be harmful. Intent is important to me, apparently. I need to think about that more.

I liked the film. I think it made some brave choices (and some 'hit-me-over-the-head-with-a-hammer' choices), and I like that it's getting so many people to think and to question.
Yes! I agree with this completely.
Oh, damn. Good discussion. Now I'm going to have to see this. Somehow. Even though it's going to jab sharp little ouchies everywhere.
I found the Count of Monte Cristo sequence particularly unnerving and effective for me as a huge Dumas/Count of Monte Cristo becasue they picked a version that appears to have a "happy" ending. Somehow that made the whole thing resonate even more for me.
Yeah, I think so too. There's an intent there, I think, to contrast the fantasy--where the Count gets his justified revenge and lives happily ever after--and the reality.

No room in the tree for V.

Contrast at the scene at the end of the current movie where Evey and Finch are up in a tower (A treehouse) looking down at the crowd....


The ending in the book was different...

The ending in the book was different...

In Alan Moore & David Lloyd's graphic novel V FOR VENDETTA, the crowd never puts on masks. They riot. Less poetic, but certainly more realistic.

And Evey puts on the dead V's mask and assumes his role. (It is not made clear in which way she will be any wiser or less destructive an influence than V.)

I'm ambivalent about the graphic novel. It has some very good parts -- the depiction of all the characters except V, how it shows that even a fascist dicttorship is the sum of all the actions of its citizens.

The worst part is the character V. Because V FOR VENDETTA is, ultimately, a superhero comic striving to be something more. Every other character in the story, even the dictator himself, is a flawed human being. V is simply superhuman -- in fact, he fits the fascist superman ideal perfectly.

The real reason why Alan Moore had to kill off V is because superheroes among ordinary people become insufferable know-it-alls real fast.

Suppose he had not included "V" at all? Suppose all the other characters had still been in the story, and V FOR VENDETTA instead had depicted how the fascist system itself breaks down.

Because even if such a dystopian system is vaguely possible in the real world, it has never lasted long.

Nazi Germany waged war against the whole world, and the whole world turned against it.

Every Great Dictator died of sickness, old age and assassination.

What is most evident in the graphic novel is how financially piss-poor the police state is: economic breakdown and food riots are just a breath away.

Maybe England never really needed V to free itself in the first place.


Re: The ending in the book was different...

Ooops! Forgot to add my name to the above post -- wasn't trying act mysterious, honestly...

Until then, I will neither wash my hands, nor let them hang useless.

Interesting insight.

In the mirror of many judgements, my hands are the color of blood.

Roger could write, all right. *g*