"V for Vendetta," which opened on Friday, combines all of the celluloid left’s paranoid fantasies – Christian conservatives in charge of a brutal regime, the war-on-terrorism as an excuse for the suppression of civil liberties, homosexuals harassed and killed by conservative Christians, a pedophile priest (who works miter-in-had with the regime) and an attack blamed on terrorists that’s really a right-wing conspiracy.
All that’s missing is a Halliburton connection. For that, we’ll have to wait for "V – The Return."
"V" opens in Britain circa 2020. America has succumbed to plague, civil war, and chaos. (Bush’s fault, no doubt.) The UK is ruled by a fascist regime with strong Christian overtones – the party’s slogan is "Strength through Unity; Unity through Faith." Its symbol is a stylized cross, and its enforcers are a quasi-religious police.
As the film opens, Britain’s most popular commentator is explaining how America’s fall was ordained by its embrace of "degeneracy," as flecks of saliva fly from his mouth.
The Brit Reich is headed by Chancellor Sutler – played by a cadaverous John Hurt (who looks like a cross between Hitler and Kate Moss). Hurt is incapable of delivering his lines unless he’s: A) Screaming B) Sneering or C) on the verge of a cerebral hemorrhage.
In the England of "V," free speech has been crushed. Conformity is ruthlessly enforced. Dissidents and non-conformists are hunted down and eliminated. Torture is a routine. Medical experiments are performed on undesirables. And "1984" indoctrination is ubiquitous.
Enter the mysterious "V" – a knife-throwing martial-arts master in a Guy Fawkes mask.
The movie projects the 17th century Englishman as a prototypical freedom fighter. In reality, Fawkes was a Catholic conspirator who tried to murder James I and most of Britain’s nobility by attempting to blow up Parliament in the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. His objective wasn’t constitutional democracy but a return to Catholic rule. But, then, Hollywood never did have much of a sense of history.
That’s only the beginning of "V’’s confusion. One of the characters is a closet homosexual talk-show host (portrayed by British actor Stephen Fry), who shelters Natalie Portman on the run from the authorities.
In his Crypt of the Banned, Fry shows Portman a Koran. "Are you a Muslim?" Portman innocently asks. No, Fry replies, but I appreciate the beautiful illustrations and poetry therein. Does he also appreciate the perspective of the religion-of-peace on the love-that-dare-not speak-its-name? Were there German Jews in the ‘30, who really dug those snappy SS uniforms?
The only reference to Islam has to do with beauty and poetry. "V" has other targets on its radar screen. In terms of bashing the Right and demonizing Christians – with "V," Hollywood is completely in character.
Need a clichéd bad guy? Call central casting for a stock lecherous priest, hypocritical evangelical, repressive preacher or sadistic nun. Whether now or in the past, committed Christians are regularly portrayed as characters who should be committed – fanatical, hypocritical, cowardly, avaricious and lustful. Think "Kingdom of Heaven," "King Arthur," "Saved," "The Magdalene Sisters," "Priest," The Order," "Dogma," "Stigmata," and the movie version of "The DaVinci Code," coming out in May.
As much a staple as the evil Christian is the unprincipled, power-mad conservative politician, general, or businessman.
Starting with "Dr. Strangelove" and "Seven Days In May," proceeding to "The Manchurian Candidate" (both the ‘60s original and the recent remake), "Dreamscape," "The American President," "The Contender" (with Gary Oldman doing his Bob Dole impression), "Bulworth," "The Day After Tomorrow" (where the destruction of America in a global climate catastrophe is blamed on a conservative vice president opposed to the Kyoto Treaty) – well, you get the picture.
"V for Vendetta" is distinguished by envelope-pushing, combined with an unapologetic glorification of terrorism.
The title character (who begins the movie by blowing up the Old Bailey and ends with the demolition of Parliament) is a noble soul – a courageous, long-suffering, philosophical bloke, who appreciates jazz, Renaissance paintings, weepy old movies, and high-cholesterol cooking.
This is Hollywood’s romanticized take on terrorists – far removed from the reality of Koran-happy sadists who plant nail-packed bombs in restaurants frequented by families with young children.
The slogan of "V for Vendetta" is: "People shouldn’t fear their government. Governments should fear their people."
In the real world, beyond the pages of comic books (where "V" originated), there’s no shortage of governments that prey on their people, and people who live in gut-wrenching fear of their rulers – places like Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and the Peoples’ Detention Center of China.
Here are governments with gulags, medical experiments performed on dissidents, tanks rolling over demonstrators, torture cells and thought-control.
Beijing sells the organs of executed prisoners. Kim Jong Il deliberately starves his subjects while pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran puts out contracts on novelists. When he was in power, Saddam Hussein’s idea of a night on the town was watching a live man being fed into a plastic shredding machine.
When was the last time Hollywood made a big-budget film about the agony of existence in one of these nightmare states? I know; it’s a real brain-teaser.
The few include "Red Corner" (where China’s "justice system" is not portrayed sympathetically) and "Die Another Day" (even here, the bad guys aren’t the rulers of North Korea, but rogue elements therein – scary thought).
While they carry on about Bush being behind the 9/11 attacks and using the war on terrorism to advance his totalitarian plans, much of Hollywood has the warm and fuzzies for the most corrupt and brutal tyrannies on earth.
Sean Penn flew to Baghdad prior to the U.S. liberation and posed next to a picture of Saddam. Steven Spielberg (whose "Munich" posits moral equivalence between Palestinian assassins and Israeli agents out to get them) once remarked, "The best seven hours I ever spent was actually with Fidel Castro." (Given the quality his recent films, he might be right.)
And, lest we forget, Jane Fonda (star of "Monster-In-Law," now playing on cable), who traveled to Hanoi during the Vietnam War to make propaganda broadcasts, told an audience at the University of Michigan (1970): "I would think that if you understood what communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees, that we would someday become communists."
After the war, Fonda called Joan Baez a liar for charging the Khmer Rouge with genocide. (In reality, the Killing Fields were a reclamation project.) The U.S. POWs who said they were tortured at the Hanoi Hilton – also liars, according to Fonda.
Her ex-husband, Ted Turner – who’s gone duck hunting with Castro – has remarked that "communism is part of life on this planet. And that’s okay with me."
In the 1980s, Ed Asner bought "medical supplies" for the FMLN, the Marxist guerrillas who wanted to turn El Salvador into another Cuba.
The aptly named Vanessa Redgrave is a member of the British Workers Revolutionary Party. In her younger days, the mummified Marxist may have shared a bed with the red gravedigger of Cuba. And, in 1978, she teamed up with Fonda to make "Julia," glorifying yet another Red lover: Lillian Hellman. Warren Beatty got off playing John Reed (who thought Lenin was the messiah) in "Reds."
Need I continue? Hollywood has a lot of credibility when it comes to lecturing us on tyranny – about as much as Ted Kennedy does on drunk driving, Bill Clinton on marital fidelity, and Robert Downey Jr. on a drug-free America.
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