For the better part of the century, American citizens have been comforted by the fact that they have certain unalienable rights that, no matter how much you kick and scream, cannot be taken away. The right to bear arms. The right to due process. And of course, the one that Americans continue to bray about and hopefully will continue in the future; the right of freedom of expression. Free speech has always been a touchy topic throughout the length of civilized human interaction, starting with grunts signifying food, shelter, and of course, where to get your car detailed as to not become subject to the offenses of the mainland predatory creatures. Throughout the years these grunts eventually came to distance us as a people from one another due to different dialects, and dare we forget, languages themselves. But through all of the trials and tribulations that have led us to our current and very modern day life, we find ourselves bonded by that one right that is so easy to remember, but frequently unobserved for fear of retribution or backlash.
The most prevalent way that humans have decided to communicate with each other is through the power of mass media. Some of the most advanced technological resources available for humans to use in modern society centers around the globalization of mass media and the different ways we as humans interact with it. Amongst other forms, like blogging and radio transmissions, one of the most habitual forms of spreading the word is through the use of cinema. Big budget films have become intertwined into our culture. And why not? Movies bring out the best and the worst of us as a people. We constantly reference them and on many occasions they come up in our daily lives. The cinema gives us a way to escape and, for at least an hour and a half at a time, let us forget who we are and just let go.
There is a problem, however, in letting ourselves be so led on by such mass media. The obvious risk in this is bedsores from watching too many movies, but there lies a certain menacing and initially subtle consequence to letting one’s guard down and believing in the might and omnipotence of broadcasted information. In films such as V for Vendetta the general public is kept in a state of fear and dullness by what the government has to say. The main outlet for news in V for Vendetta’s war-ravaged world is the BTN, or British Televised News. The government feeds lies to the BTN, and the people follow the lies like puppets on a string. There are parallels between what happens in V for Vendetta and what is happening in our own country. It would seem that, while there is a feeling of free speech, much of what is said in the American mass media is filtered by government sanctioned organizations. As Tony Williams states in his article Assessing V for Vendetta, “Dissemination of government lies and propaganda represents BTN's ideological mission in much the same way as Rupert Murdoch's Fox News in the United States. BBC ethnic newsreaders such as Moira Stewart are no longer present in a new world order hostile to diversity. Her white female equivalent is a twenty-first century version of 1970s BBC newscaster Jan Leeming who blinks in astonishment at viewers whenever she has to read the latest government lies. V blurs boundaries between Britain and America but its real target is the United States.” (Williams). Technology has given us ways to protect ourselves from the grandest forms of perjury and injustice we can find, but it also has the power to control us.
When there is a power shift between the people and their government, it is usually never brought about by those common folks voting their congressmen into office. The love of power has been a common theme and threat throughout the history of civilized society, but as of late there has been more and more emphasis on who truly has the power between a government and a people. Excuses are easy to come by when higher government officials and delegates decide what is good for the common people without so much as a hearty handshake or explanation why. This, as can be seen in many books and movies, such as V for Vendetta, leads to revolution. There are parallels between the movie and current situations in the United States, but it takes much more drastic measures to create a catalyst that leads down the road to revolution. As the character V, played by Hugo Weaving states in the movie, “People should not be afraid of their government. Government should be afraid of their people.”
The overlying message lies in the use or abuse of technology. It is easy to take such a large part of society and use it to one’s own gain, and what stops that from happening? There are many things that can stop the apparently inevitable overtaking and oppression of freedom, such as not putting too much stock in the thing that will control you. The problem with this is that technology has always been something that people have been controlled by. Those that don’t stay current with the technological standpoints around them are generally doomed to be stuck in an era that has made them obsolete. A huge theme in V for Vendetta is the power of suggestion over a people afraid of lies that are perpetrated by their own government. Eventually, however, the means that are used to control and subdue the masses eventually become obsolete, and the people, through their own uprising brought about by the character of V, become free from the chains of their government.
This theme of abuse and use of technology as a means to inhibit the masses is not a new thing, however. Cinema, especially American cinema, has created movies that, even in the last fifteen years, contained concepts of an overlying sinister company run by the government that controls the thoughts and actions of the sheep-like people. This is a theme that is explored in other movies, as well. In the movie Hackers starring Angelina Jolie, a group of underdog computer hobbyists find themselves being tormented by a large company run by a sinister board members. As in V for Vendetta most of the masses are in control of one faction, while an underground rebellion is the only thing standing in between a complete dictatorship and a relatively free society. The use of technology is seen in these movies to be a barrier and a weapon for both sides fighting against one another. The lengths V goes through to free his country from an oppressive government only stop at what he inspires the people to do. He uses forms of mass broadcast through the use of the BTN to incite people to rise and shake off an oppressive and domineering force.
Movies like V for Vendetta show many things. It is important to recognize the dangers of technology and how they can be used for oppression, but it is also important to see how they can assist in making the world a more suitable place to live. But as shown in the movie, it takes more than just relying on others to make it happen. There was never anything good that wasn’t worth fighting for, and this theme is prevalent in V for Vendetta. In our digital day and age, it is easy to become caught in the whirlpool that is the mass media. It is easy to become enraptured by what those nameless powers in control want us to hear, but characters like V will always be around to fight against oppression, even if he only does represent an ideal. The character of V shows how one must sometimes put yourself in front of an ideal. In the movie he displays through his actions that sometimes there are greater things that are worth fighting and dying for. He shows that sometimes we all need a little freedom, forever.
V for Vendetta. Dir. James McTeigue. Perf. Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, and John Hurt. 2005. www.imdb.com.
Williams, Tony. "Assessing V for Vendetta." CineAction Summer 2006. General OneFile.
Image credited to http://www.impawards.com/2006/posters/v_for_vendetta_ver2.jpg