"Remember, remember the fifth of November and the gun powder treason and plot..." So began the famous quote regarding a "terrorist" known as Guy Fawkes, who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, England in 1605. Each year, supposedly, English people burn in effigy Guy Fawkes in commemoration to the failed plot. This does not make sense, though. Why would you keep the memory alive of a failed terrorist plot? Such a thing tends to make a folklore "hero" out of Guy Fawkes, especially if people in the United Kingdom know 5 November as "Guy Fawkes Day."
Americans only know Guy Fawkes through a film by the creators of The Matrix, the mysterious Wachowski brothers, who based their film on the graphic novel, V For Vendetta. This is one of my favourite films from 2006. It was released at the right time, when President George W. Bush's popularity was in the 40% approval ratings (post Hurricane Katrina, he never saw his polls above the 50% mark) and many people began questioning his policies. When I saw V For Vendetta in the theaters, I was struck by the thought, "This is one of the most subversive movies ever made!" Its amazing that it got made at all, as the allusions to the Bush Administration were not quite subtle. In fact, a part of me wonders if this film's depiction of the British government being the actual culprit behind some devastating terrorist attacks gave rise to the 9/11 "truthers" movement.
We never quite know how hides behind the Guy Fawkes mask, but in the years since this film's release, the mask has become quite popular. The hacker group known as Anonymous wears the Guy Fawkes mask. Now, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the local Occupy movements around the world, have witnessed a few protestors in Guy Fawkes mask. This is not accidental. I believe that twenty-five years from now when we Generation Xers look back on this moment in history, historians will point to the film V For Vendetta as one of the most influential films of all time. When one decides to wear the Guy Fawkes mask, they are showing solidarity with Anonymous or Occupy Wall Streat (or both). These are strange days we're living in. Make no mistake, Guy Fawkes was a terrorist. However, as the famous quote goes: "When people fear the government, you have tyranny. When government fears the people, you have democracy." What brings fear to governments around the world? Massive protests and a complete refusal to budge one inch in the name of justice. When one has lost a great amount of dignity and the injustices pile on, of course a figure like Guy Fawkes would appeal to people.
Thanks to the catchy opening line, I am able to remember, remember the 5th of November. Not for Guy Fawkes, though. As it turns out, two of my friends celebrate their birthday today. What a great day to be born, because it makes things easier for their friends to remember, thanks to V For Vendetta!