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Review of "V for Vendetta"

V for Vendetta PosterThe year is 2020, and a once-chaotic England is now ruled by a Christian totalitarian government controlled by a dictator known as the Chancellor (John Hurt). The British people themselves are docile, submitting to unrelenting censorship, curfews, and willing to look the other way as gays, Muslims, and anyone else who challenges authority are “bagged” and made to disappear.

V, played by Hugo Weaving, is a masked revolutionary driven by a mysterious past to try to bring down this corrupt government. Brilliant, slightly mad, and always enigmatic, V joins a long list of cinematic loners out to change the world. In typical action movie fashion, Vendetta opens as V rescues Evey (Natalie Portman) from attack, changing the course of a life which until now had been lived in terror and without purpose.

But what drives V? What gives him his courage and conviction? This is where Vendetta, a movie about revolution, itself becomes revolutionary.

Every GLBT person is used to seeing homosexuality portrayed cinematically as shorthand for evil, weakness, and immorality. Does the villain in your summer action blockbuster need a heightened sense of menace? Then have Cillian Murphy play the mad psychologist in Batman Begins as prissy and mincing. Is the psychopath in your thriller not quite immoral enough? Then take a cue from Basic Instinct and make her a man-hating bisexual. Or perhaps you just want to convey that your film's setting is one of loose morals and debauchery. Then look to Cabaret where the acceptance of homosexuality cues the audience into 1930 Berlin's decadence.

Sometimes, in movies like Under the Tuscan Sun or Must Love Dogs, GLBT people get to be the best friend of the main character. And sometimes in comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Bird Cage, GLBT love is shown to be equal to that of heterosexuals.

V (Hugo Weaving) and Evey (Natalie Portman)

But if what's needed is to communicate all that is good and right in the world, that love and honor are what's worth fighting and dying for, that courage and integrity are the highest ideals, then that is always a job for heterosexuality.

V for Vendetta changes all that. From the beginning of the movie, the horror and injustice of life in Vendetta's fascist state are illustrated by the fate of GLBT people, who are vehemently denounced by those in power. Here homosexuality is a crime and those convicted are made to disappear.

Stephen Fry plays a closeted television host, a gay Jay Leno. Like V, he is a man living behind a mask, a man who despises those in power, but who, in exchange for wealth and security, helps to keep his audience docile with mindless entertainment. Unlike your typical gay character, however, Fry soon finds the courage to be one of the first to challenge the brutal government. His actions inspire others to resist as well.

But Fry's storyline is nothing compared to that of Valerie (Natasha Wightman), a lesbian whose life is told in an extended flashback. Indeed, this is where Vendetta becomes truly extraordinary as we learn it is Valerie's story—more specifically, her unwavering love for a woman named Ruth (Mary Stockley)—that inspires his vendetta.

During the flashback, we see Ruth dragged away, and two gay men hauled from their beds and beaten. We hear Valerie wonder, “I don't understand why they hate us so much.” We then see her arrested, and dragged off to a prison where she is subjected to terrible medical experiments.

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