Moore’s American Vendetta

In my review of V for Vendetta, I had originally planned to mention that Alan Moore, author of the comic book series on which the film is based, has distanced himself from the Wachowski Brothers’ film. Moore’s comments point to some of the interesting complications that develop in adapting a relatively contemporary text to a significantly different political context. In an interview with, he faults the Wachowskis for disregarding the original intentions of the comic book, which was to comment on fascism and anarchy in Margaret Thatcher’s Great Britain. Moore notes that

Those words, “fascism” and “anarchy,” occur nowhere in the film. It’s been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. In my original story there had been a limited nuclear war, which had isolated Britain, caused a lot of chaos and a collapse of government, and a fascist totalitarian dictatorship had sprung up. Now, in the film, you’ve got a sinister group of right-wing figures — not fascists, but you know that they’re bad guys — and what they have done is manufactured a bio-terror weapon in secret, so that they can fake a massive terrorist incident to get everybody on their side, so that they can pursue their right-wing agenda. It’s a thwarted and frustrated and perhaps largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values [standing up] against a state run by neo-conservatives — which is not what “V for Vendetta” was about.

While I certainly understand Moore’s frustration, it’s worth noting that his comments are based on a reading of the sreenplay, not on a screening of the film. The film’s visuals explicitly invoke fascism through the iconogpahy associated with the Chancellor (played by John Hurt), and the “V” graffiti painted over the fascist posters that promote the city clearly recall the anarchy symbol and identify V’s politics, however inconsistent they may be, with aspects of anarchism.

Moore also regards the film as politically cautious because it is set outside the United States, implying that the Wachowskis’ political commentary could have been “more direct” had the story been set in the United States. Here, I think Moore again misreads the film (or, again, the screenplay). Many of the key characters are clearly modelled on prominent figures in the US (a pill-popping conservative talk show host?!), and the political allegory uses Moore’s narrative to show the limits of the restrictions on rights justified by the “war on terror.” Depicting characters as being punished for homosexuality or for owning a copy of the Koran seems clear enough. That being said, I think I agree with Moore that the film is too cautious politically and that it lacks some of the self-reflection that made Moore’s Vendetta a more thoughtful text.


  1. A. Horbal Said,

    April 2, 2006 @ 5:28 pm

    I also agree that the film is too cautious politically, but setting the film in Great Britain instead of the United States is merely a superficial change. It doesn’t alter its politics in any significant way.

  2. Chuck Said,

    April 2, 2006 @ 7:18 pm

    Yeah, the setting doesn’t matter much with regards to the politics. I think Moore is wrong about that. But while I have been critical of Vendetta’s political caution, the film does tap into some deep dissatisfaction with the direction the country is heading.

  3. A. Horbal Said,

    April 2, 2006 @ 8:53 pm

    With this I agree. The distinction that I will draw, though, is that while this is an interesting facet of the film, it does not necessarily mark the film as subversive. Some critics have jumped the gun in regards to the latter. A lot of work would have to be done to support that contention. I ramble…

  4. Chuck Said,

    April 2, 2006 @ 9:24 pm

    I don’t see Vendetta as subversive, either, but the dissatisfaction is worth exploring as well. I’ve ompared the final scene to a cinematic spectacle in the manner of Fight Club but have underplayed other moments of watching in the film, including all of the TV watching, especialy the girl with glasses seeing through and dismissing the Chancellor’s BS by saying, “Bollocks!” Of course we see several families who watch the fascist spectacle on TV, but we also get the nostalgia for celluloid cinema with the Count of Monte Cristo scenes.

    Shorter response: you’re right, the film isn’t subversie, at least in my read.

  5. Hal Jordan Said,

    August 29, 2006 @ 9:37 am

    The Wachowski Bros. uses the Vendetta film as a vehicle for telling the American public about the repressive tactics of the Bush Administration. Movies like Syriana are getting into the mainstream because there is a disquiet among the masses. HG Wells saw the future and likens us to Elois and our governments which traditionally served us, have now become our predators. The 911 attacks is a typical example of how the U.S. government has become a Morlock cannibalizing on its citizens. Long live the Revolution!

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