We hauled out our DVD of V for Vendetta a few nights ago and I was reminded – for about the 90th time – that it is one of my absolute favorite films. I am not exaggerating when I say that attempting to read graphic novels gives me migraines, so I’ve tried but failed to consume the original text … and I think that failure might actually be to my advantage. I know that many die-hard fans thought this movie was utter drek, but unbiased little me ate it right up.
First off, I believe that the film version of V for Vendetta relates a deeply romantic story. In my opinion, romance is all about tension and longing and … well, denial. The female protagonist – Evey – never even gets to see V’s face, they share only one kiss through his mask, and the two of them never get to ride off into a glowing, anarchistic sunset together. All that buildup and total lack of payoff makes it even more intense, if you ask me.
Secondly, I do NOT condone blowing up buildings. Unless they’re being demolished for construction purposes. For me, the appeal of this movie – aside from the romance, of course – is its musings on power.
The power of a story: Evey is imprisoned for a sizable chunk of the film. She is thrown into a freezing cold cell with no bed, no light source except a tiny window, and no furnishings except a toilet. Her head is shaved, and she is given only an open-backed, lightweight orange gown with which to fend off the chill. And she is tortured. Relentlessly. It’s pretty brutal.
After what seems like about a month, she hears some scrabbling around in the wall of her cell. She reaches into a small hole near the floor, and extracts a tidy little roll of rough toilet paper upon which the woman in the next cell has begun to write her life story. After that, the little scrolls appear regularly, relating this other woman’s amazing tale in tiny, heartfelt chunks. And hearing of her neighbor’s struggles gives Evey the strength she needs to endure her imprisonment, and eventually, face her death with total serenity.
The importance of stories cannot be overstated. The stories we spin from the fine stuff of our imagination, the historically significant stories of our ancestors, and the stories of our own lives. Stories connect us, and shore us up, and teach us, and complete us. If we didn’t tell each other stories, how would we become inspired to change our own lives? Learn to love our own bodies? Aspire to chase our own dreams? Never stop loving stories, or listening to stories, or creating them. And never let anyone tell you that your own story is anything less than miraculous.
The power of ideas: Countless essays, books, speeches, films, and plays have declared censorship to be reprehensible, but this is another statement of incalculable importance. V for Vendetta is set in a fictional, futuristic, totalitarian Britain in which the press is controlled by the government, the public is under constant audio surveillance, and uttering a single sentence that contradicts government policy will get you killed. Although the character V has a vengeful personal agenda, he also speaks passionately and eloquently about the importance of ideas and the importance of expressing them. And he fights to stir up a revolution against this crushingly oppressive force of censorship.
Ideas – and the words we use to describe them – are the most powerful forces in human society. Action is vital to change, but all action is driven by ideas. What you think and what you say about it – be it your views on body image and style, education and taxes, or knitting and crocheting – are among your most important contributions to the world.
Speak your mind, be grateful that you can, and fight for your right to always express yourself freely. It’s indescribably important to say what we think. That, in itself, is a form of fighting for what we believe in.
The power of symbols: Again, hate bombs, hate explosions. But in the film, V blows up two government buildings that he views as symbols of the ruling party’s power. He strikes at this party’s façade of impenetrability by removing two of its historic symbols. With the symbols demolished, the public dares to hope for change. He proves that symbols can be vital to influencing emotions, ideas, and actions.
Obviously, symbols can work the other way around. We are inspired and motivated by the positive symbols in our world, and, of course, some of the most powerful symbols are people. We see Lance Armstrong as a symbol of hope for cancer victims. We see Oprah Winfrey as a symbol of progress for strong, intelligent businesswomen. We see Bono as a symbol of inspiration for philanthropists of all stripes.
And we should see America Ferrera, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, and Christina Henrdicks as symbols of change in the definition of beauty. These women represent mere baby steps toward a broader beauty ideal, and we all know that plenty of jerks still laugh at them for being larger than a size 2. But their success, their iconic status, and their undeniable gorgeousness means something for us all. It means that when impressionable young minds are served up imagery of tall, flat-stomached sensuality they are also getting a dose of deliciously curvy, boobtastic sensuality. It means that someday we may live in a world where a girl with some junk in the trunk can FEEL as beautiful as a boyishly-figured model. It means that change just might be afoot, and about damn time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’d better go pop in that DVD again for a little review session.
(Image via a truly scathing review of V for Vendetta on Libertas.)