editorial note: i’ve been trying to finish this in a well-written manner for over a week, and it’s so complicated and i keep bringing more things into it that i just can’t. it’s one of those topics that makes me feel really inadequate as a writer and a thinker, and i’m not very happy with how it’s shaping up. i definitely don’t know as much on these topics of war and history and politics and socio-anthropological studies as i could, and that many experts have written and debated about this already endlessly. i realize i’m not writing anything new here but organizing my own thoughts, so i’m just going to finish it half-assed and put it out here for discussion, knowing it’s not well developed, and mostly because i think orange’s thoughtful post deserves a response.
i’m generally not an action movie kind of girl. i don’t get turned on by watching things explode or having my pulse race out of artificial excitement. i’m not into villians and heros, storybook endings or dramatic reinterpretations of historical events. i have very little suspension of disbelief, and often find myself verbalizing thoughts like “that is so ridiculously impossible” and annoying my fellow movie-watchers. so why did i rent V for Vendetta, especially after hating on natalie portman earlier this year when the film came out for her bourgeois intellectualism? because orange told me it was good and thought-provoking, and that it’s more of a dystopian story than an action flick and i’m into dystopia.
while i did enjoy most of the film the first time, i think it was probably due to the fact that i haven’t really WATCHED a movie or much television in 6 months, so i was just enjoying the experience. when i watched it again, it wasn’t quite so good. as for the film itself and all of the political interpretations and commentary that have been written since, i have a few things to say. and no, i haven’t read the illustrated book, and yes, i do realize that the filmmakers took some liberties with the text, particularly with Portman’s character, because i watched the DVD extras that enumerated the differences.
first, the film: sadly, your average action-adventure-flick rating, and certainly not what i would call any kind of masterpiece. however, as i said, i did enjoy it, particularly the part where she discovers that he is the one behind her torture to see if she’d break. i found her backstory a bit contrived, but other than that i was with it up to a certain point.
and that point is when she kissed him.
i’m sorry, but motherfuckingdammit – why do ALL heroines have to be written so that even the chosen/strongest are still playing into the patriarchal structures of society? i about lost it at that point. what a bunch of bullshit. i know it’s a classic literary turn, but let’s get creative here, people. i can only hope that event does not occur in the novel, although they mentioned that her character was more of a pawn in the book, because it really blew the whole damn film for me as it undermined the whole concept of overthrowing Big Brother. and THEN, the final words of the film are something like “people will always remember that night and what it meant to our country; i will always remember the man and what he meant to me”. gag me with the cheese!
so anyway, onto the politics. orange asked a lot of questions in her post about justification of violence, and how that relates to our current “war on terror”. my simplest answer to these questions is that no, i do not think that violence is sometimes the ONLY alternative. and as for the definition of who is a “terrorist” and what their rationales are, this pretty much sums up how i feel about that.
even in the most extreme cases, such as Hitler and WWII, i believe there is always an alternative choice to violence, but often, it’s harder, and some nations, like the US, have more to lose in negotiations than if they just start a war. (i really wish i knew more about the subject of nonviolence and the history and research that has been done so i could speak to it better, but i can’t at this time.) it seems to me the key here is acting at the appropriate time. of course at the height of Hitler’s power violence was required to take him down, but someone should have done something about that man a long, long time beforehand. of course if you wait too long violence is THEN necessary, but if we’re talking about cultivating Peace on Earth, then no, violence is not necessary. violence is the opposite of what we should be doing. we should be cultivating health, safety, and compassion in order to prevent violence. but,of course, it’s not that simple and this debate goes around and around.
the most important thing i noted about this film was that the “terrorist” killed everyone with his own hands. the buildings he blew up were empty. there was no mention or sign of civilian casualties. one can assume those who died did so as a direct result of trying to stop him face to face.
is that terrorism? can terrorism be dispensed without killing anyone? of course it can. putting fear into the minds of the people is terrorism. it’s arguably the greatest tool of terrorism, beyond bombs and viruses and food supply control. controlling the media so that only those things that make you afraid of “the other” is terrorism. in true dystopian fashion, in the film the totalitarian takeover seemed to have occured very passive-agressively and with seeming “democratic” support in traditional dystopian fashion. this is what so many are scared of now, as our civil liberties appear to be disappearing every day, and our country turns toward more conservative laws and actions. our government is just as guilty of instilling fear and creating inequalities, which lead to hate and violence, within our communities as they are of actual terrorism and the taking of innocent lives for political and economic reasons. but, here, again, we’re talking about different definitions of the word “terrorist”, and the film touches on all of them.
The mercenaries who dominate the World Trade Organization … the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund …the bloodsuckers of the world’s poor, the immiserators of nations and the thieves, murderers, shedders of blood: these are the ones who control the international political system. They are the ones who spread their armies throughout the world, terrorizing and stealing the wealth of nations while enslaving them. They are the ones who are exterminating the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and other places. They are the ones who ally themselves to the despotic rulers in order to suck the blood of the people, using companies that are owned by the leaders of their countries and headed by murderers and criminals. — NYT quotes of al qaeda-related websites.
orange’s most interesting question, i think, is this one:
-if the attacks on new york had brought about shifts in foreign policy such that the uS became more of a nation that i, my peers, and the world as a whole could respect, would the attacks have been considered justified?
i am having trouble visualizing how the US could have resonded militarily to 9/11 in a way that would have made the world as a whole respect us more. what i can imagine is that, if the talking heads of the US government would have, for one.single.second. taken even the smallest amount of responsibility for what happened, then we would have gained some respect. and, of course, if the US would have changed their foreign policies for the better, OTHER nations might have justified the event, but i do not see how any american who suffered through that day could ever honestly in their hearts believe that action was justified, regardless of outcome. ever. myself included.
the actions taken in V for Vendetta? although i would agree they were acts of terrorism, i believe they were justified, and obviously had the intended result – perhaps because no one innocent died. the terrorism of 9/11? while logically i can justify it theoretically – the taking of a couple thousand innocent american lives in exchange for a sobering effect on the entire nation, an action that caused millions who had been sleepwalking to wake the fuck up and do something about a war and a problem that has been going on for decades and had already taken tens of thousands of lives elsewhere – the end result thus far has only been more terror and war, which leads me to believe my original conclusion will always be true: war only breeds more war, and nothing else. i think the film agrees. it is utterly amazing to me that our political leaders are unwilling to break it for so many selfish reasons, mostly financial, and that we keep electing them.
i was reading an article today in the SF Guardian about this author Joan Didion and her writings on war and politics and her “radical skepticism”. i found these statements to be striking, and relevant to this topic:
“People believe what they want, and in this sense, there is no truth to speak to power. Belief, no matter how passionate, is always delusional, and almost always serves power…
Perhaps we recalled something she’d written once about the Vietnam War or civil rights or El Salvador, something that might return us to thoughts of our frailties, our practice of foreign entanglements that make some ask, “Why do they hate us?” and others, “Why don’t we hate ourselves more?”
this to me is the most important question in terms of the U.S. role in ending terrorism (among other things, like climate change) and making the world a better place. will waging war make them hate us less? absolutely not. “V” alludes to this cycle more than once.
in the last scene before she pulls the switch, Evey says something about the country “needing more than a building; it needs hope”, and the destruction of the parlaiment building -the nest of the governmental evil-provided that feeling of hope as a stark contrast to what you would expect blowing up a government building to do: create fear. if anything, that’s the message i took away from the movie: that yes, revolutions are necessary (the difference between revolution and terrorism being not the use of force but the use of fear as a weapon), and that dramatic actions can be taken that cause the desired domino-effect of change without the loss of life – sometimes those actions instill fear, and sometimes they provide hope and positive change. the question is, which do we choose, and why?Filed in personal favorites, tv, books and movies | Tagged with bourgeois | Comment (1)