I used to have friends who would watch V for Vendetta religiously. The movie would be queued in the evening so lines of “It’s November 4th” “…Not anymore.” would hit exactly as the real day turned over to be the 5th.
It’s important to remember this movie originally came out in 2006. I was 16 at the time. Assumed myself to be nothing besides American. Had no understanding of queerness, or cultural heritage, nothing besides “I’m live in America, so I’m defined by being American.” This is something that is literally sold to citizens sometimes directly via flags for your pickup truck, or indirectly via cultural assimilation. At the time of the movie’s release, most media criticism of was having a terrorist as a hero. 2001’s 9/11 was still more on people’s minds than fascism from within your own country.
In the movie, we see an assumed white women played by Natalie Portman face abuse several times throughout the movie. But the story to a lesser degree also follows an equally white coded young British girl. And it’s her death that really sparks the people turning against their fascist government. Everything that V does is up for public debate. Evey’s suffering is largely unnoticed. Deitrich, the closeted gay TV show host is only, for a while at least, protected by money, fame, and the performative nature of his job. But that white child specially targeted stood out as a line too far. Her death isn’t excused, it’s truth isn’t confused in media coverage in contrast to the kid’s hurt by St Mary’s virus.
This plot point I always found interesting because it’s an uniquely white idea that the death of ‘innocent’ young white life becomes the line drawn in the sand to stop “the bad things”. That once young girls are targeted well that’s game over for “bad guys”. And there’s a reason why I put ‘innocent’ in quotes, because we cannot deny the fact that white women, and girls in particular, are treated more angelic than little black boys who are demonized. And it’s a lie that is still sold to white Americans who need to protect their “innocent daughters from outsiders”. This has been Trump’s political platform since 2015, and continues to be.
It would be easy to from a strict causality point of view summarize V for Vendetta’s plot in a way that reaffirms this lie. That once that young girl was killed all the white people in the neighborhood step up and fight against their police state. But, the movie also spends every other moment destroying that idea.
I simply am unable to watch the movie like I once could in 2006. Now when I think of it, if I had to pick which one life that changed the course that ended that fascist state I’d think of Valerie’s life. It’s her hope, even in death, that keeps both the main characters going. “It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses, and apologized to no one.”
But her death is not the tipping point. As mentioned in one speech, it’s the causality of all events, everyone’s collectively suffering and hope that makes people finally topple the police state.
Detective Finch: I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It’s like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back before Larkhill. I felt like I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me. And I realised we’re all part of it, and all trapped by it.
That is what history is. And it is the moment we live today too. Each of us a domino of action or inaction that will fall one way or another sending ripples out into the world. There’s not a single piece that stands truly protected, nor alone.
“I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the worlds turns, and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that, even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you. – Valerie.”
It is in solidarity and love of other that change is found. Not innocence. A movie like V for Vendetta with its heroes who aren’t innocent is that makes for the foil for this message. “Who was he?” “He was Edmond Dantes. And he was my father, and my mother, my brother, my friend. He was you, and me. He was all of us.”