Guy Fawkes and Occupy Wall Street

If you have not seen the movie V for Vendetta (or read the book), do it. Natalie Portman (Star Wars, The Black Swan) and Hugo Weaving (Lord of the Rings, The Matrix) present a faithful and enrapturing portrayal of a man driven to revenge, a chance friendship with a young woman, and their mutual transformation in the context of their resistance to a totalitarian government.

Now, Occupy Wall Street has adopted the Guy Fawkes mask from V to represent…what? They seem to be popping up at OWS events now, perhaps the most identifiable theme represented there. But what does Fawkes represent?

Historically, Guy Fawkes was no hero. He was in charge of guarding the gunpowder to be used in a plot to blow up Parliament. Fawkes wanted to return a Catholic to the throne. Celebrations since then in England have commemorated the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. Of course, as time has worn on, this centuries-old symbol has taken on many meanings, the latest of which is…well, it is hard to tell.

In V for Vendetta, the mask is used to through dramatic license to symbolize mankind’s unity in the face of tyranny. At Occupy Wall Street gatherings, it is appropriated for a vague, insipid, and pointless gesture of delinquency. Where V understands his target well, OWS has nary a clue. Where V wrestles to clarify the personal motives behind his crusade, OWS wallows in ambiguity and shallowness. Where V is redeemed by love, OWSers hope to get laid in a tent.

Would that OWS supporters demonstrated a tenth of the introspection the two main characters in V for Vendetta. We might see a mass uprising against the real culprits of our current crisis instead of an adolescent gripe-in.

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About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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