Guy Fawkes Night/Bonfire Night/Firework Night is a celebration in Britain on the 5th November. It commemorates the failed Gunpowder Plot on the same night in 1605. Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic extremists planned to blow up Westminster Palace, London, using gunpowder they had been storing and hiding under the palace. This was to try and get James VI of Scotland (I of England) off the throne, and return to a Catholic monarch. Their plan failed when an anonymous letter was sent to the police, and Fawkes was captured before he could complete the plan.
To celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, people all over the UK light fireworks, sparklers, and bonfires. In some places an effigy of Guy Fawkes is built out of wood, and burned.
“But what of the man? I know his name was Guy Fawkes and I
know, in 1605, he attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. But who
was he really? What was he like? We are told to remember the idea, not
the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and
forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve
witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the
name of them, and die defending them… but you cannot kiss an idea,
cannot touch it, or hold it… ideas do not bleed, they do not feel
pain, they do not love… And it is not an idea that I miss, it is a
man… A man that made me remember the Fifth of November. A man that I
will never forget.” | V For Vendetta (2005)
Aries: “A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.” Taurus: “There are no coincidences, only the illusion of coincidences.” Gemini: “People should not be afraid of their government, governments should be afraid of their people.” Cancer:“Beneath this mask there is an idea. And ideas are bulletproof.” Leo:“There is no certainty, only opportunity.” Virgo: “Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have.” Libra:“Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.” Scorpio: “Alone, a symbol is meaningless, but with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world.” Sagittarius: “Happiness is the most insidious prison of all.” Capricorn:“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.” Aquarius:“The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.” Pisces: “If you’re not the sorriest piece of ass in London… then you’ll certainly be the sorest.”
Well it is the 5th and already I see people post clips from the film up which I guess is the cool thing to do. I am not sure if people who only know the V mask from just the film or Anonymous really knows what it means. The mask is of Guy Fawkes, a pro-Catholic terrorist, which has ironically now become a symbol for free speech. Like most historical figures we like to remember a fantasy version of them to better suit our modern purposes. We remember Columbus as a heroic discoverer but brush away his slaughter of natives, or Lincoln and Gandhi as Great Emancipator ignore their racist comments. We want to see the fairy tale versions of them and ignore all the negative baggage. So when I see people posting all these Guy Fawkes images from the film, I am wondering how many of them are forgetting this man was not a freedom fighter but wanted to impose Catholic rule over Britain. I assume ironically these people are also upset over the horrendous destruction done during the Crusades by Catholic warriors as well yet promote Fawkes’ image.
However the mask has since become a symbol of freedom and free speech as symbols can take on different meanings over time and the reason is not because of the movie, but because of the original comic version written by Alan Moore. Moore is a believer in the power of art and media to create changes in society. For Moore art is magic, art is literal magic symbols which have power over people. (Take the McDonald’s logo which makes one hungry, etc.) However art is suppose to be a stimulant not a mind numbing depressant. The Fawks mask in the comic now becomes a symbol for Anarchy, representing both the Creator and Destroyer. One who tears down the old canvas so new artists can create something new. The comic revolves around the struggle between Anarchy (complete personal freedom) and Totalitarianism (being bound to a single idea and body). The original comic is much deeper and more thought provoking than the film adaptation, if it can be called that. Yes, I enjoyed it and like it but the social liberalism vs. Bush republicanism rewriting of the story to appeal to a modern American audience dumb down the idea so much it just becomes another cheesy Hollywood action film, exactly what Moore dislikes. Not even getting into Moore’s claim that he writes his stories in a manner that can only fit the comic medium, his original story was not a clear black and white battle of ideology. Both Anarchy and Totalitarianism was presenting in an ambiguous manner as there were no “bad guys” or “good guys”, just perspectives. V murders innocent people in cold blood and wears a symbol of a Catholic terrorist while Norsefire tries their best to care for the citizens by redistributing resources and eliminating class structure by making all an equal part of a greater society. These ideas were meant to upset the reader in realizing the world is not and never will be a simple place like how comforting fairy tales make them to be. Reality does not allow one to go on an adventure then back to the security of home where anything of consequence was changed or lost. The comic allow the reader to come to this understand and to think for themselves and explore what this meant for their world even more, again art as a stimulant. However the film paints a black and white story, with evil Bush right wingers vs. liberal do gooders, really is just self indulging the audience with feel good feelings and fails to inspire really any new views or stimulating thoughts aside from “oh film V thinks like me that must mean I am also a hero”. The film just becomes mind numbing Michael Bay garbage where the clear hero always wins and bad guy loses. This is the V and Guy Fawks I am afraid that has infected our culture. A Guy Fawks that does not even know it’s own history, it’s Catholic terrorism past, it’s Moore symbol for Anarchy and transformation.
Sorry for the rant, I am in bed and ready to go to sleep but keep seeing my dash bombarded by all these Nov 5th posts. I guess what I want to say is if you have only seen the V for Vendetta film or only read the original comic in passing, if you do plan to promote Guy Fawks Day in any manner, please go out and read a copy of the comic. Read it and share it with a friend. Discuss it. Watch, read, or listen to interviews by Alan Moore. Think about what he really means by our art and media being literal magic. Our culture and art scene right now is in a repetitive stump, perhaps it is time to grow out of the old ways and make room for new art and stories to bloom.
Doc: Here’s a red-letter date in the history of science, November 5, 1955. Yes, of course, November 5, 1955.
Marty: What, I don’t get what happened.
Doc: That was the day I invented time travel. I remember it vividly. I was standing on the edge of my toilet hanging a clock, the porcelain was wet, I slipped, hit my head on the edge of the sink. And when I came to I had a revelation, a picture, a picture in my head, a picture of this.