I often get told by other libertarians and anarchists that V for Vendetta is their favorite film. Often on my Facebook feed I see Voice of Liberty’s list of movies with libertarian messages. Included among them is V for Vendetta.
V for Vendetta is Not Pro-freedom, Just Anti-Fascist
While I enjoy certain parts of the film, I struggle to find anything libertarian in it. In this regard, I’m in agreement with Alan Moore, the creator of the graphic novel on which the film was based. He hated the film’s take on his story, albeit for slightly different reasons in some areas. The novel was about fascism versus anarchy, individual terrorism against state-sponsored terrorism. Moore was clever enough to not paint anyone as purely good or evil, and he provides realistic rationales for why people behave as they do.
For example, he once remarked that the Nazis weren’t “monsters” in the sense that they were caricatures without any humanity, but regular people who did terrible things for reasons that rise above the simplistic motives of Saturday morning cartoon villains.
Moore also didn’t make the main character, V, a one-dimensional hero, but a deeply flawed terrorist whose behavior creates tremendous moral ambiguity and forces the reader to contemplate the situation in order to make a conclusion. Which is what good literature is supposed to do.
The film strips this all away and makes it a liberal/progressive political and cultural struggle against a quasi-theocratic fascist government intended to represent the neoconservative administrations that were in power during the time the film came out.
The Dystopia Is the Opposite of Reality
What makes the film so ridiculous is the political environment in which it takes place. It is so far removed from reality it seems as though they are engaging in gaslighting. I realize this aspect of the film is faithful to Moore’s novel, but the intent was to highlight current political trends.
In the film, England has banned homosexuality and Islam, even to the point of executing people for the mere possession of the Quran.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Muslims have practically taken over sections of London and British Christians get arrested for speaking out against homosexuality. In Rochdale, young girls were sexually abused by foreign men while the police refused to take action out of fear of being “racist.” In America, things aren’t much different.
What really bothered me was the superficiality of the characters in the story. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. And when the good guys do something bad, we’re supposed to overlook it.
The British government is evil, for example, when it tortures prisoners in their camps in order to come up with cures for diseases, but when V imprisons Evey in a cold desolate cell under false pretenses, shaves off her hair, tortures her, threatens to kill her, and places her in isolation for a year, we’re supposed to excuse it because he did it “for her own good.” The “rebirth scene” intended to show Evey being liberated from her “mental captivity” appears more like the result of Stockholm Syndrome and conveys the idea that aggression and coercion are acceptable as long as one’s motives are pure.
The Main Reason It’s Not Libertarian: No Alternative to the State
The film presents problems with government, but it doesn’t makes it clear that these are problems inherent in the state or just a certain form of government. At no point does any character, including V, suggest, infer, or state directly what the solution is to the problems they have with their government other than blowing up a building where they meet.
As Parliament goes up in flames, the crowd take off their masks as if to say their mission is complete. Yet the politicians, aside from the president and vice president, are still live, as they were not inside.
Ironically enough, the problem with the film is symbolized by the mask the character wears, which bears the face of Guy Fawkes. Fawkes may have been the most honest man to enter Parliament, but he was not fighting for liberty. His efforts to blow Parliament was just to replace the Protestant government with a Catholic one. Moore seemed to realize this when he used Fawkes in his novel.
People can enjoy V for Vendetta for what it’s worth, but there is no libertarian message.
If you want to see a good libertarian film, watch The Outlaw Josey Wales (go to 2:00 for the libertarian speech).