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V for Varnishing

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Or: Guy Fawkes references are bad (except when they’re not).

What a difference 18 months makes. Here’s Time Magazine’s Michael Scherer way, way back on 4/23/10:

A few years back, two left-leaning writers, Andy and Lana Wachowski, adapted the story of Guy Fawkes, a Catholic radical who is remembered primarily for his failed attempt, on November 5, 1605, to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I. The Wachowski brothers movie, V for Vendetta, made Fawkes the hero and presented the British crown as an oppressive dictatorship that was meant to echo, at least in technique, certain aspects of the administration of George W. Bush, down to the hooded prisoners, the orange jump suits and the unapologetic embrace of harsh interrogation techniques…

Now, the Fawkes mythology has come full circle. The Republican Governors Association has embraced the symbolism of Fawkes, launching a rather striking website, RememberNovember.com, with a video that showcases far more Hollywood savvy than one can usually expect from Republicans. Again, the Fawkes tale has been twisted a bit. This time, President Obama plays the roll [sic] of King James, the Democratic leadership is Parliament, and the Republican Party represents the aggrieved Catholic mass.

We Will Remember on 11/2 from Republican Governors Association on Vimeo.

Who would have guessed that Barbour would embrace the symbolic value of the same would-be mass murderer as the Wachowski brothers?

Scherer was basing this “embrace” on the phrase “Remember November,” apparently, because I don’t see any Guy Fawkes masks or any other references in that video. According to Scherer, it couldn’t be that “remember” rhymes with “November,” which was then they held the 2010 elections. It must be a reference to “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot,” etc.

And there was much rending of garments. Josh Marshall, 4/23/10:

I find this completely bewildering. The Republican Governors Association is embracing the mantle of a 17th century radical who tried but failed to pull off a mass casualty terrorist attack to kill the King of England and all of Parliament. Only now Obama plays the role of James I. Guy Fawkes is their new hero?

Nothing shocks me anymore. But this shocks me.

Steve Benen, 4/24/10:

It’s a reminder that the Republican mainstream made a right turn at scary, and have arrived right at stark raving mad.

Michael Tomasky, the Guardian, 4/26/10:

What’s shocking about this ad is that – remember, to borrow a word – it’s not by some tea party group or the Club for Growth or some right-wing equivalent of MoveOn.org. It’s by the Republican Governors’ Association.

Shocking! Scary! Shockingly scary!

Of course, that was back in the old days of Spring ’10, and things are different now. From Saturday’s edition of the Guardian:

The comic-book writer Alan Moore is not usually surprised when his creations find a life for themselves away from the printed page. Strips he penned in the 1980s and 90s have been fed through the Hollywood patty-maker, never to his great satisfaction, resulting in both critical hits and terrible flops; fads for T-shirts, badges and shouted slogans have emerged from characters and conceits he has dreamed up for titles such as Watchmen and From Hell…

But Moore has been caught off-guard in recent years, and particularly in 2011, by the inescapable presence of a certain mask being worn at protests around the world. A sallow, smirking likeness of Guy Fawkes – created by Moore and the artist David Lloyd for their 1982 series V for Vendetta…

It has a confused lineage, this mask: the plastic replica that thousands of demonstrators have been wearing is actually a bit of tie-in merchandise from the film version of V for Vendetta, a Joel Silver production made (quite badly) in 2006. Nevertheless, at the disparate Occupy sit-ins this year – in New York, Moscow, Rio, Rome and elsewhere – as well as the repeated anti-government actions in Athens and the gatherings outside G20 and G8 conferences in London and L’Aquila in 2009, the V for Vendetta mask has been a fixture. Julian Assange recently stepped out wearing one, and last week there was a sort of official embalmment of the mask as a symbol of popular feeling when Shepard Fairey altered his famous “Hope” image of Barack Obama to portray a protester wearing one…

“That smile is so haunting,” says Moore. “I tried to use the cryptic nature of it to dramatic effect. We could show a picture of the character just standing there, silently, with an expression that could have been pleasant, breezy or more sinister.” As well as the mask, Occupy protesters have taken up as a marrying slogan “We are the 99%”; a reference, originally, to American dissatisfaction with the richest 1% of the US population having such vast control over the country. “And when you’ve got a sea of V masks, I suppose it makes the protesters appear to be almost a single organism – this “99%” we hear so much about. That in itself is formidable. I can see why the protesters have taken to it…”

“At the moment, the demonstrators seem to me to be making clearly moral moves, protesting against the ridiculous state that our banks and corporations and political leaders have brought us to.”

So now Guy Fawkes is good again… until the next time lefties want to pretend Republicans have made a reference to him. It’s simple: Fawkes is a symbol of violent terrorism when you think you can pin it on conservatives exercising their free speech, and he’s a symbol of Truth to Power when a bunch of lice-ridden rape apologists dress up like him. The great part about being a liberal is that you can just say any old thing.

P.S. Mr. Moore doesn’t have an Internet connection — which makes sense if you know anything about Alan Moore — but maybe somebody can print out this list of clearly moral OWS moves and slip them under the door of his bunker.

Tags : treacher
Jim Treacher