Is V for Vendetta an “unintentionally” conservative movie? With all of the not-so-subtle digs at right-wing politicians, the War on Terror, and the Bush administration in the Wachowski brothers’ latest celluloid, it would seem that I’ve lost my mind by even posing that question. But for the movie to work, the Wachowski brothers have to concede some arguments that conservatives have been making quite frequently since September 11.
Now, before you assume that I’m going to give V for Vendetta two thumbs up, I’d encourage you to read Megan Basham’s excellent panning of the film over at Townhall.com. Undoubtedly, a lot of this movie is conspiracy-theory kookery. Basham sums up the movie nicely when she dismisses the Wachowskis as the “ignorant, irresponsible, paranoid filmmakers that they are.” One might also add “careless,” for parts of V undermine the left-wing message that the Wachowskis hope to convey.
Let’s start with whether the character V is a terrorist. Besham states:
But don’t worry, because being a terrorist is now a good thing. As we’ve been told by the media, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter…or masked superhero as the case may be….
So even though V threatens to detonate a load of explosives strapped to his chest, killing dozens of innocent people at the BBC (oh, excuse me, BFC) if they don’t give him air-time, just think of him as Batman — a little overly-dramatic and conflicted perhaps, but also sexy and an undeniable force for good.
Yet in that scene, almost no innocents are killed (one is shot, but the movie never makes clear whether he dies.) V does leave the explosives behind to detonate, but another character defuses them. The Wachowskis seem to sense that if V were engaged in the wholesale slaughter of innocents, he would lose any trace of heroism. The remainder of V’s violence targets evil — people who are responsible for ghastly crimes in the pursuit of power. Thus, most of V’s actions are heroic. If the Wachowskis’ intent was to blur the moral line between a terrorist and a freedom fighter, then they failed miserably.
Indeed, a scene between V and Natalie Portman’s character Evey shows that the Wachowskis did not intend for V’s actions to be morally ambiguous:
V: Violence can be used for good.
Evey: What do you mean?
Most conservatives would argue that violence, in certain circumstances, is just — say, when it is used to dethrone a murderous dictatorship or destroy thugs who are trying to reestablish it. And the movie makes abundantly clear that the regime V is fighting is murderous — it exterminates 80,000 innocent people in order to consolidate its power.
What this means is that the leftist Wachowski brothers have conceded the moral principle that conservatives have used to justify our invasion of and ongoing presence in Iraq. One can still object to it on practical grounds, that it is too costly or our efforts at establishing democracy are unlikely to succeed. But, as far as the Wachowskis are concerned, it can no longer be argued that the Iraq war is unjust.
Although the Wachowski brothers have given conservatives ample reason for complaint, they have also given us a reason to smile. So, should you hear a lefty tell you that he liked V for Vendetta, ask him if he agrees with the movie’s premise that violence is good if it is used to overthrow tyranny. And if he replies “yes,” then have some fun and ask him if he opposes the Iraq war.
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