Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More of my Vendetta against "V for Vendetta"

Newsweek’s movie reviewer, Jeff Giles, has little good to say about "V for Vendetta":

V for Vendetta" will get its share of dismissive reviews—probably more than enough to convince hard-core fans that the movie was simply too smart and dangerous to be given safe passage. In point of fact, though, "Vendetta" is not good. The film may spark interesting debates—about the nature of terrorism and governments, about the inalienable right of artists to shock and provoke—but what we’re dealing with is a lackluster comic-book movie that thinks terrorist is a synonym for revolutionary.

Nothing I see in this review leads me to believe that it’s a dramatization of Locke’s Two Treatises, as some commenters here have suggested. For instance, the hated symbol of the oppressive government, it turns out, is a modified crucifix (so much for encouraging pious Muslims to overthrow the mullahs in Iran). The "graphic novel" (euphemism for "big comic book") on which it’s based was written in protest against the Thatcher government in Britain (we all know what a totalitarian Maggie was). And:

as adapted by the Wachowski brothers and directed by their protégé James McTeigue, the movie plays like a clumsy assault on post-9/11 paranoia. It references "America’s war," uses imagery direct from Abu Ghraib and contains dialogue likely to offend anyone who’s not, say, a suicide bomber.

My only consolation is that, because the main characters are neither black nor gay, the film is unlikely to receive any Academy Awards.

Discussions - 14 Comments

"In point of fact, though, "Vendetta" is not good." That sounds like an opinion to me, but I guess I’ll be able to look it up in the next edition of the World Almanac, under "Films That Are Not Good." Handy.

Giles says that the film "contains dialogue likely to offend anyone who’s not, say, a suicide bomber." What would that sound like, I wonder? And what is he driving at? There should be no depictions of people engaging in discussions which we would find offensive? If that’s so, then I guess any movie like "The Wannsee Conference" must necessarily be a film that’s "not good." Is any film with "offensive dialogue" automatically ineligible for greatness? Will anyone find the "imagery direct from Abu Ghraib" offensive? If so, why? Or will that aspect of the film be interpreted as the "Animal House" moments, and laughed off as no big whoop?

John - a few points & questions, some spurred by this post, others left over from your earlier post on this film.

The film might have something worthwhile to say, even if it’s not a dramatization of Locke’s Two Treatises.

You commented in the last "Vendetta" thread that "What concerns [you] is that Hollywood seems to be speaking with a single voice on world affairs, and on the wrong side." Ok, well, two replies to that. First, is the Hollywood product "24" (the tv series) part of this "single voice" that you refer to? Does that show contain viewpoints on world affairs that you disagree with; does it take some leftist, "openly pro-terrorist" viewpoint? Ok, ok, I know, that’s a tv show. What about films? Well, and here’s the 2nd point, I still think your libertarian ideals should be put to the test more on this. If you think that America just isn’t getting enough, or any, films with Middle Eastern terrorists as the villains, then you and some like-minded capitalists should put your heads together and create one/some for the silver screen, too. If you don’t have the time or inclination for that, perhaps you could just be a consultant to Conservative Films & Entertainment, LLC, and you could get them to produce some helpful films that will help Americans to see that Arab = Terrorist. So far, it seems like a promising venture, as they’re situated next door to the undeniably entertaining Disney World (no one teaches a good lesson like Disney!), and the sole film that they are either producing, financing or just promoting is one called "Think Tank," which has the tagline "There’s a thin line between genius and stupid." Hmmm...well, there’s room for improvement, I guess.

"My only consolation is that, because the main characters are neither black nor gay, the film is unlikely to receive any Academy Awards." - ok, now, your message is slipping. If Hollywood is so "openly pro-terrorist" as you said before, and this film is also promoting terrorism, then wouldn’t it make sense that Hollywood would toss a few Oscars its way this time next year? And do you have any stats to offer on how many films with main characters who are black or gay have been awarded Oscars? Do you think Hollywood’s been way too generous with their Oscars for blacks and gays?

In "The Wannsee Conference" it was the villains who were engaging in offensive activities. In this film it is the "hero."

And yes, Giles expresses opinions about films. I believe that’s part of the job description for "movie reviewer."

"And yes, Giles expresses opinions about films. I believe that’s part of the job description for "movie reviewer."

Right; however, declaring those opinions to be "fact" is not. That’s overzealous junior high film criticism.

You also mentioned Timothy McVeigh in the last thread. His favorite film was "Red Dawn" with "First Blood" and "Missing in Action" also on his list. I’m not saying that those inspired his murderous acts, but am wondering if those are the types of films you’d like to see Hollywood produce more of, but perhaps taking aim more at the Middle East? (Not sure, but I think all 3 of those were produced in Hollywood)

Initial reports about the OKC bombing mentioned witnesses reporting Middle-Eastern looking men fleeing the scene. Sounds like the start of a good movie.

This stupid movie was based on an even stupider novel...a bitch-and-moan fantasy protesting Maggie Thatcher was back in the 1980s. Folks, spend your money on something that entertains.

1) I’ve never watched "24," but my understanding is that it suggests a vast conspiracy in which the terrorists are in the government as well as outside of it. Better than making the terrorists the heroes, I suppose, but hardly the sort of thing that’s going to bolster public morale during wartime.

2) Fine, forget I said anything about nationalizing Hollywood. It would never work, anyway.

3) What makes you think I have the sort of money or access that would allow me to become a film producer? I have another good old-fashioned capitalist response--I won’t spend my money to see the movie.

4) I never said that I wanted movies that send the message "Arab=Terrorist." I am tired of movies that send the message "Arab=Absolutely anything BUT Terrorist." And I’m definitely tired of films that say "Terrorist=Good Guy."

5) I have no idea what Jeff Giles’s politics are; if I had to guess I’d say he’s probably a liberal. I don’t know that I’ve ever even read a review by him before. I quoted him because he’s seen the movie, and apparently it lives down to my expectations of it.

6) The thing about "blacks and gays" was an attempt at humor. For the record, I thought that "Crash" was an excellent movie, and was fully deserving of the Oscar.

7) Why are you so quick to defend this film? Are you related to the Wachowski brothers? Or is it your theory that any movie that ticks off a conservative must be worthwhile?

8) While I believe that filmmakers should be free to make whatever sorts of movies that they want, I think that anyone who, at a time when we are engaged in a war against terrorism, produces a movie that glamorizes terrorism has committed an act that, while perfectly legal, is despicable. Do you disagree, and, if so, why? Is it because you do not think there is a war going on, or is it because you don’t believe that filmmakers have some moral responsibility to the civilization that offers them the freedom (not to mention the wealth) to carry on their creative work?

That it seems kind of dumb for two guys who haven’t seen this movie to be having such a big ol’ debate about it.

You’re absolutely right. And since I don’t plan on seeing the movie, that will be my last word on the subject.

Someone has probably made this point in some thread, but isn’t it interesting that before September 11th, Arabs/Muslims routinely played terrorists in Chuck Norris movies and the like, but after September 11th, they are becoming a rare breed as terrorists?

Good call, Tony. (By the way, before anyone makes the accusation, this isn’t Tony). It seems like Hollywood fears to portray Arabs and other Middle Easterners in the "terrorist" light because it is such a sensitive subject in today’s world. I can accept that, but if they don’t want to push that red button why are they suddenly so insensitive when it comes to making a movie about guy who wants to blow up the Parliament building? I think that’s what has those who are unhappy with the movie’s timing concerned.

THe mask should be great for Halloween, though.

You should try reading ’big comic books’
sometime, if of course, your brain is capable of processing all the information from written words and drawn pictures at the same time.
Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell’s ’From Hell’ or ’King’ by Ho Che Anderson are both highly recommended.

I randomly stumbled upon this website searching for reviews for V for Vendetta. I actually saw the movie last night but was searching for reviews because after seeing the movie I think quite a lot of movie critics gave this movie lower ratings than it deserved. Perhaps out of fear of endorsings a supposedly "pro-terrorism" movie.

I thought the movie was quite good.
Certainly it does not hide the fact that it is referencing the war on terror, and ertainly an interesting (for me at least) aspect of the movie is that its designed to have you rooting for the "terrorist".

What I found most interesting on this page (and why I commented) was John Moser’s previous comment about nationalizing hollywood, which even if its joke is a pretty scary idea. I thought it was interesting because this illustrates one of the main themes of V for Vendetta which is the government using mass media in a deceptive way to control the public. Natalie portman’s character Evey works for a news station which frequently plays (fake) news.

John, there was no need to walk off the set (maintaining the film motif!). You asked me a couple of questions in comment 6, and there were a few things I’d like to respond to there also, even if you don’t read this and it simply disappears into the commen-section ether of the blogosphere. Here goes, answering your queries or responding to your points, where warranted:

1) I still don’t see why film or TV producers should feel legally or morally compelled to create feel-good movies that "bolster public morale during wartime." If you’re judging public morale by the low approval numbers for Bush or for the U.S. invading Iraq (a reasonable approach), then perhaps the public’s morale could be improved by cessation of the status quo in Iraq, an admission of error regarding the WMDs and the decision to invade, etc. I really don’t think that Hollywood can be expected to bolster (or rather, improve) public morale for, at most, more than an hour or so after filmgoers emerge from the darkened cinemas. And they shouldn’t be expected to do so from on high.

2) I’ll forget you suggested that, at minimum, a presidential threat of nationalizing Hollywood was a worthwhile idea. Ok, it wouldn’t work.

3) "What makes you think I have the sort of money or access that would allow me to become a film producer?" Oh, come on, this is America, where anything is possible. This talk of "money or access" sounds like some liberal hogwash. If you want to make conservative films, JUST DO IT! Ok, but really, I didn’t say you had to be the financing capitalist for it all. I said you could just be a consultant, so that Conservative Films & Entertainment could come up with something more enticing and challenging than "Think Tank."

5) Why would you guess that Giles’s politics are liberal? What gives you that impression, especially since you claim to know little about the guy? Also, I never even speculated on his politics. I have no idea. He could be liberal, he could be conservative. Left, right or in-between, it’s pretty silly to push one’s own film review as being factual.

6) Well, your joke that "because the main characters are neither black nor gay, the film is unlikely to receive any Academy Awards" would be more amusing if its unstated premise -that Hollywood has been giving out praise to films or actors simply because they are, or favorably depict, blacks and gays- were true. I think this year’s winners provide additional evidence that isn’t true.

7) I’m not defending the film, merely its right to exist, whether it is as outrageously, unambiguously and overtly pro-terrorist as you claim, sight unseen; or whether it’s merely thought-provoking; or whether it’s just a bunch of pseudo-depth masked by a lot of special effects, as was The Matrix. No, I’m not related to the Wachowski Bros.

8) I oppose terrorism in all forms, be it perpetrated by the left or right. Actually, I suspect that if we got into the nitty-gritty my definition of what qualifies as terrorism might be somewhat more broad than yours - maybe. That said, I don’t believe that "the civilization that offers them the freedom (not to mention the wealth) to carry on their creative work" has truly given them real freedom if exploring controversial issues (such as, say, the definition of terrorism) is deemed off-limits, and thus it becomes only a theoretical freedom that atrophies. If the civliization is great and inherently, intrinsically strong, it should be able to withstand the creation of a movie. Let’s remember that they’ve only made a film here. They haven’t blown anything up. As for the civilization that has granted them their artistic freedom, I’m not sure if you’re referring to the West, or simply the U.S. variant. If you’re talking about the latter, then I’d like to point out that at Abu Ghraib -a real place not fabricated by the Wachowski Bros.- our civilization perpetrated some acts that weren’t very civilized, what with all the feces-smearing, sexual humiliation, beatings, mock executions, waterboarding, etc., and the brazenly recorded images of those acts are more likely to inspire further terrorist attacks than any fictional film ever could.

Lastly, I don’t tend to like films merely because they "tick off conservatives." Depending on the conservative critic, that might mean I’d have to like 95% of films produced. But I can agree that ’American Pie’ is a piece of crap, for instance, and I presume that ticked them off plenty.

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