The lessons of V for Vendetta

After reading the book The Count of Monte Cristo and seeing the 1934 film adaptation, I watched the film V for Vendetta again and enjoyed it even more, as it is one of those films whose message grows on you with repeated viewings (though the plot holes also become more apparent) and I cannot recommend it enough. The trailer focuses a lot more on Natalie Portman, the box office draw, than the film does.

I could see why the character of V would be drawn to the story of The Count of Monte Cristo. Both he and Edmond Dantes seek vengeance for injustices and terrible harm done to them personally, as well as see themselves as agents for bringing evil people to justice. Here is a key scene in which a speech that V gives explains what is going on and why things have to be changed.

I predicted that the film V for Vendetta would become a cult classic and that seems to be coming true. Its basic message, that of people waking up to their oppression and taking on a cruel and ruthless power structure that uses the media and religion as tools of control, has caught on and I have been observing people in various demonstrations wearing the iconic V mask and using the V symbol, mimicking the climactic scene in the film where the people rise up against their oppressive rulers.

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The group Anonymous that consists largely of computer hackers sees itself in the tradition of V, fighting against oppressive structures behind a shield of anonymity. It even uses the V mask on its website where it describes its vision of expanding access to information and breaking down the barriers of secrecy that prevent people from realizing what is actually going on. This group is acting behind the scenes to support the current uprisings in the Middle East.

A recent communiqué further explains its mission.

Under most circumstances, ordinary people have little chance against the massive firepower that rulers will unleash through their security forces against protestors. The prime purpose of the armed security forces in any country is less to defend the country from outside forces and more to be used against their own people if they should challenge the power structure. Soldiers are deliberately hardened during their training so that they will be willing to kill even their own people. We see this happening in Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya, and it is likely to happen in Saudi Arabia and Syria and Jordan. And, yes, it will also happen in the US if the people should really rise up in mass protest against the oligarchic rule that is going on here.

What stops security forces from killing civilians is if they are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers arrayed against them, so that except for the psychopaths, even the most hardened troops on the front line begin to suspect that rather than saving the nation from those who would harm it, they are on the wrong side and are being used as tools to perpetuate a power structure that is actually against the best interests of the nation.

For all the ballyhoo about the use of social networks in the Middle East revolts, that is only a tiny part of the story, since only a small, though influential, minority has access to these new technologies. Besides, technology alone cannot overthrow oppressive governments. The basic message of V for Vendetta is that it is when large numbers of people are willing to get out of their homes and go out into the streets and rise up against their tyrannical rulers that regimes get toppled. As the tagline of the film says, “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

The people in the Middle East are doing precisely what V recommends, whether they have seen the film or not. These protests are spreading. I don’t know where they will go.


  1. JamesD says

    Natalie Portman is another one of those Jews who does not believe in God but wants to live as a Jew, raise her kids as Jews, and eventually return to Israel.


    However, whats your problem with Greed? If I am strong enough to take what I want, the fact that you don’t like it is irrelevant.

    You certainly have no “moral” postion to say I can’t.

  2. says


    I am not sure what Natalie Portman’s personal life has to do with the post.

    As for morals, I am not sure what your point is. Is it that there can be no morality at all, at least in the sense of people collectively deciding what rules we want to live by and that we are all free to do what we want by sheer brute force, and that if we want to (as an example) we can kill each other?

  3. JamesD says

    Have all collective deciding you want. But if I am stong enought to take what I want, so what?

    That you don’t like that conclusion means nothing to me.

    After all, if there is no God to tell me what I should do, then I sure don’t have to listen to the collecitive.

    Unless I am weak, of course…then I have to.

  4. Paul Jarc says

    JamesD: it sounds like you’re saying that power, the threat of punishment, is the only basis for moral obedience. So God would not be not morally special, but would just be one example of an entity powerful enough to back up their commands with force. Anyone else who can muster sufficient force would also have a legitimate claim to define what is moral. Is that an accurate reading?

  5. says


    Yes, it is a self-evident fact that you could choose to live as a brute, seeking to pillage and/or enslave your fellow human beings–and no god would stop you. It is precisely because there is no externally-imposed Perfect Divine Order(tm) that we have a need for things like ethics, morality, and politics in the first place.

    Holding up a paper-and-ink idol like the Bible, Torah, or Quran and saying in your Spooky Voice that if we don’t live according to the rules and prejudices of barbarian desert tribes or fringe sects of the Late Roman Empire, that the Bogeyman will get us after we diiiieeeeee does not create the externally-imposed Perfect Divine Order(tm) you desire. You’re just a primate, holding up the scribblings of other primates no better than yourself, and demanding that we all join you in pretending that we live in a celestial North Korea, in which you are a courtier of the Great Leader.

    Have you ever noticed that gods never talk? It’s always some human being–often dressed in finery and living in splendor with lots of political influence–doing the talking (or the writing of “sacred” books), telling us what “the Word of God” says and that we must obey–not the silent gods, but the talking humans who present themselves as the Divine Mouthpieces.

    If we want the best morality, rather than fossilized attitudes of the past, we have to use the tools that actually work–science and reason, combined with empathy for our fellow beings–to discover for ourselves the principles we ought to live by if we want to live in a happy, safe, sustainable world.

  6. says

    Libya is a prime example of this. Tyrants are so insecure in their own evil that they must oppress their people rather than being “By the People” and “For the People”.

    Much greater things can be accomplished through love than through hate and evil. Makes me think of the task master in Egypt and the children of Israel.

    But when you serve and worship out of love a person or a people will go to much greater lengths to please who they serve. Rather than out of fear!

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