Remember, Remember the 5th of November — A Borrowed Review
. . . the class is about how science fiction, and speculative fiction in general, “is a favored genre for reimagining, reworking and critiquing gender roles, human sexuality, the relationship between humans and technology, war, and racial stereotypes. It is a place where utopic and dystopic notions of government and power are explored, a powerful lens for looking back at our own contemporary reality.”
Yes, I’m quoting myself quoting something else, in this case the syllabus of Joan Hawkins’s media class on science fiction in which I and two other “SCIFI” critique group members took part (see May 24). Apropos of this, last night’s DVD fare was V FOR VENDETTA, spurred by a review by Emily Asher-Perrin via yesterday’s TOR.COM email. It was the second time I’d seen the movie, actually, and I hadn’t been all that impressed the first time, I suspect probably because I watched it as an adventure, dystopic, yes, but on the surface the exploits of a single dissident against “The Man.” On that basis it wasn’t bad, mind you, but seemed a little too Zorro-like to my taste, too comic-book like maybe (notwithstanding that it is itself based on a graphic novel).
And yes, there are plot holes, if one wants to see them. But on this second viewing I was looking past the surface, this time at the background, which, sometimes even in comic books as well, offered a richness of context in detail which, I would say now, is the point of the film. And, as Asher-Perrin argues in her review, perhaps the film is more important now than in any time during its ten-year history, especially given events of last weekend.
How do dystopias work, anyway, and what are their details? In Joan Hawkins’s class, one story I described was one of my own, “Invisible People” (cf. October 30, May 30 2015, et al.), with MATRIX-like implications of a semi-voluntary brainwashing, an avoidance of viewing the truth straight on fueled by a desire to conform with others, to not rock the boat. To blend into the background, even if that background is dishonest. In V FOR VENDETTA it’s more direct — the background is fear. In “Invisible People” there may be an echo more of the past, of a mid-century, 1950s America where there was fear too, of “Godless Communism” just as there is now of “radical Islamic terrorism,” but also, as now, an underlying more general fear of those (things and people) that are just . . . “different.” In V FOR VENDETTA it’s more direct, though with echoes also, accented perhaps by its setting in England, of Orwell’s 1984.
In 1950s America there was ultimately a rebellion of sorts, the shakeout of which is still with us. Rock ‘n’ Roll, for one thing, as a sort of precursor but, more, the counterculture movement that grew up in the late 1960s. When the ‘80s came, perhaps it was sold out, what parts remained of it — in economic terms the growing prosperity for those at the bottom as well as the top, what once we thought of as “the American dream,” has yet to return too. While in the world of V FOR VENDETTA. . . ?
For a look at Asher-Perrin’s view, “Apologize to No One — V FOR VENDETTA Is More Important Today Than it Ever Was,” one may press here.