Thursday, November 5, 2009


In the British Isles, November Fifth, Guy Fawkes Day, is celebrated as the deliverance of the King and Houses of Parliament from an ill fated plot to blow them up. As you might guess, the conspirators were dealt with promptly and harshly and the day was to be celebrated annually in perpetuity. It still is in some quarters.
(Good guys 1, Bad guys 0?)

"After The Gunpowder Plot was foiled, King James decreed that on the anniversary of the plot's failure should always be remembered. 400 years later, that celebration is known as Bonfire Night where bonfires and fireworks are lit, and effigies of Fawkes (known, appropriately, as "guys") are burned, in celebration. (You'll have to ask the individual revelers whether or they are celebrating the Plot's failure or its attempt.)"
V for Vendetta (site about the graphic novel)
(Good guys 1, Bad guys 1?)
Below is an illustration of the conspirators.

old engraving of plotters in the conspiracy from newspaper
 An account of the real incident can be found in Faith and Treason by Antonia Frasier.

The incident was one of rebellion against religious oppression and persecution. But subsequent books and movies have moved beyond that incident to paint a passionate picture of the UNIVERSAL and TIMELESS fight against fascism and the death of the human spirit.

graphic novel cover, v for vendetta over paper mache mask
In short, the new plot became,
"[W]hy don't we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier mache masks, in a cape and conical hat? He'd look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he's deserved all these years. We shouldn't burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!'"

V for Vendetta is set in a dystopian future United Kingdom. A mysterious anarchist who calls himself "V" works to destroy the totalitarian government, profoundly affecting the people he encounters. In a near-future Britain, a limited nuclear war has left much of the world destroyed and a fascist party called "Norsefire" has arisen as the ruling power. "V", an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent, and theatrical campaign to bring down the government.

Alan Moore, the graphic novel's creator, made a long list of what he wanted to bring into the plot:
Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, Catman and The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World by the same author. Vincent Price's Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Night Raven. Batman. Fahrenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction. Max Ernst's painting "Europe After the Rain". Thomas Pynchon. The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin...[1]

In the movie made from the graphic novel, staring Natalie Portman, the particulars change a bit but the message is the same. In fact, it may be even more of an indictment of our leaders and their ways.  Britain has not been destroyed, but its people have been duped into believing so. The populace is tightly controlled through curfews, media, and suppression of even books and artwork as harbingers of evil.

The citizen militia enforcing curfew are reminiscent of roving morality police we hear about in the middle east, frightening in their complete autonomy. And the media jackal who controls and drives the conscience of society at the behest of the Chancellor? He bears a striking resemblance, both on stage and off, to a certain media jackal, we know as Rush.

The most terrifying thing about every evil done to the people, however, was that it done for their own good.

What ever one thinks of the inspiring event, Fawkes is no longer solely a British citizen. He has become resident of the world, and his struggle, that of all people.
(Good guys 1, Bad guys 2?)

In the spirit of self-determination, I wish you all a happy Guy Fawkes day, and bid you:

"Remember Remember the Fifth of November"
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.

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