Monday, April 03, 2006

"D" for Duhhhhh

The lonely libertarian's girlfriend probably put it best as we left the theater after seeing "V" for Vendetta: "Why would V want to blow up a historic symbol of democracy to make a political point?" Why indeed.

V can be seen in one of two ways, both of which prove thoroughly unsatisfying. The first would be as a comic book type story (the film actually comes from a graphic novel) heavy on themes (terrorism, war, government propaganda) that are relevant today. The story itself isn't all that fun, and it's a struggle to find meaning in the symbolism. The "terrorist tactics" displayed by V in the film are likely to spur about as much controversy as the terrorist maneuvers of the rebel alliance in the original Star Wars. (Did you know there were over 100 innocent civilians on the Death Star!) Meeting brutality with brutality, force with force is hardly revolutionary. As one critic noted, the only people like to be offender here are fans of concentration camps.

The other way in which V could be seen is as an allegory of the politics of fear ever present in a post 9-11 world. This perhaps is more disturbing. Does the film condone terrorist attacks on our governments? Or is it just saying that "the right-wing governments" of today are no better than the vicious government of the film? Either way, it seems a bit extreme and disconnected from reality. Extreme can be used to make a point, but it's just not quite clear what that point is.

Story-wise, just go back to your X-Files and you'll see many of the same government conspiracy concepts raised ten years ago. Government conducting experiments on innocent people. Check. Government releasing a virus on school children. Check (see Season's 4 "Zero Sum"). Of course, in the X-Files, the conspiracies were much more diabolical and seemed much less transparent.

A power hungry leader coming to power with Hitler like abilities and Cigarette Smoking Man like conspiracies, ruling a police state with an iron fist is hardly the type of story to make a political point. Yeah, it's bad news ... but so what? For a much better futuristic film with a similar sort of political message, try last year's Serenity. The politics are a bit more subtle, and the movie itself is just a hell of a lot more fun than V.

Serenity isn't concerned with blasting the Bush Administration, but telling a Western-type story that we don't see so much from Hollywood anymore. Life in the Serenity universe seems unusually comfortable- except for those who don't care for the benefits of civilization, and would rather just be left alone. And Serenity isn't the story of evil, power hungry dictators, but government that exists for its own purposes and transcends its leadership- Government which truly believes it can create a new Eden for its people. At least to the lonely libertarian, it all seems a bit more relevant.


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