On vendettas and visions of dystopia

v for vendetta

Salon: The man who invented the future. Interview with Alan Moore, writer of many “comic book” dystopias, on the odd resonances between many of his works and the current War on Terror. While normally people like to name-check The Watchmen in this context, here the interviewer (Scott Thill) accurately checks the parallels with V for Vendetta:

[Moore]: Fascism is like a hydra — you can cut off its head in the Germany of the ’30s and ’40s, but it’ll still turn up on your back doorstep in a slightly altered guise. … “V for Vendetta” has had an annoying way of coming true ever since I wrote it in the early ’80s. Back then, I wanted something to communicate the idea of a police state quickly and efficiently, so I thought of the novel fascist idea of monitor cameras on every street corner. And the book was, of course, set in the future of 1997. But by that year — and I don’t know if Tony Blair and Jack Straw were big fans, but evidently they thought its design for future Britain was a really good one — we had cameras on every street corner along the length and breadth of the country.

(Aside: I had a ridiculously large comic collection in middle and high school—one of the dubious perks of working at a comic store was not having to go very far to spend one’s paycheck—and V for Vendetta was one of the few works I kept when the rest of the collection was sold wholesale. I would love to say that I was making the connections at a young age, but I doubt I went further with it than the general affinity that the intellectual kid who gets beaten up at the bus stop feels with victims of real oppression, and the gratitude that that same kid feels to those who dramatize the exile that they feel inside. That’s not to say that I wasn’t politically conscious, just that I didn’t always go out of my way to get really informed beyond what I saw and reacted to in the news magazines. Hopefully I’ve learned a few things since then.)

I always felt that, Moore’s vision of the dystopia aside, that his character’s reaction to it—the “vendetta” of the book’s title—was profoundly unsatisfying when you got right down to it. I wonder whether this is a reflection of the sense I have that the book is trapped in British history. The first volume opens with echoes of Guy Fawkes, who is today celebrated for failing to change the order of the world in his attempt to bomb Parliament, and V’s methods don’t really move past that (except directly to murder). There’s no vision for change beyond the ending of the current order and the placing of the people’s fate in their own hands. I guess that Moore’s point was that it should end there, that solving the problems needs to be done by the people rather than by some narrator or revolutionary.

(Link via BoingBoing. More writing and analysis on the work at the V for Vendetta shrine and the annotations by Madelyn Boudreaux.)