V For Vendetta? A For Anarchy!

Submitted by Corker on September 28, 2006 - 10:03am.

[Ed. Note: A for Anarchy was a working group that came out of the very first NYMAA General Assembly]

By Smile Inducer

Anarchists of all stripes (including irate comic book freaks) have united in action against the Hollywood distortion of the V For Vendetta graphic novel. Created by Alan Moore, V For Vendetta is a story in which a masked insurrectionary anarchist, "V", revolts against a fascist government and inspires an anarchist revolution. After being put through a film filter, the V character appears to be a quasi-George Washington promoting representative “democracy.” Angered by the watered-down version of what could have been an amazing movie, a group of us gathered and formed the A for Anarchy collective in New York City.

Yet anarchy is never mentioned in the film while the film's fascist government serves as a stand-in for the Bush administration, leaving filmgoers with the assumption that V's notion of freedom is something John Kerry would approve of. Knowing that mega corporation Time-Warner would never deliver the "uncompromising vision of the future" the film's tagline promised, an ideologically diverse group of New York City anarchists banded together as "A for Anarchy." We sought to inspire moviegoers to recognize that if we truly want "Freedom Forever" (another film slogan), we can't just replace one shitty government with another one, but must destroy ALL governments and the whole capitalist system, both in our daily lives and our long-term visions. And because movies are largely a passive experience, after the shock felt by a film with promiscuous violence against police and bombing of government buildings, we greeted them at the exit with incitement of revolution in the real world, encouraging people to put a little anarchy in their lives and let them know that insurrection is not just for Hollywood, we can take back our lives and build a new world.

On opening weekend, we waited outside Manhattan movie theaters for the film to let out, prepared to offer a genuinely anarchist alternative to the film's Anarchy Lite. As moviegoers left the theater, they were met by "V" (tall hat, white, smiling mask, black clothes, big belt, cloak and daggers) who handed them anarchist propaganda designed to look like comics, (with panels lifted directly from the graphic novel) and copies of Fighting for Our Lives (Courtesy of west coast Crimethinc. agents).

Flyers ran out quickly as they were quickly grabbed and we were thrown out of the theaters by security multiple times. We had help from local anarchists with copy scam knowledge, while we used a less complex one. After scamming literally thousands of flyers, one fine day we took it too far a week or so into the project. Getting cocky with our abilities, dressed in patched up punk attire and looking rather sketchy in general, we sat in a corporate copy shop for half an hour running off over 700 copies of our excellent flyer. The security guard was more than a little curious when we slid a Sacagawea dollar across the counter. “Let me see your receipt!” “Sure,” we answered. After two seconds of contemplation we saw the jig was up and ran out quickly down two avenues and ten street blocks, clutching that bag of flyers like Santa Claus on Christmas day.

Advertisements for the movie were posted all over New York. They were soon decorated with comic book style word balloons declaring "V For Vendetta? A For Anarchy!" accompanied by the aforanarchy.com webaddress. During our project we had a few confrontations with police. The first was on one of the many days we were outside flyering. Two cops came up and cited a mask law and said we had to take our V masks off. One of us with legal knowledge stepped up, “Oh that law was knocked down two years ago, it’s no longer in effect.” The cops looked a bit confused and said “Oh sorry, nobody tells us when they change the law, carry on,” and that was the last we saw of them. If only it were always that easy, “No really officer, blocking traffic is legal now, didn’t you hear?” Just by chance, cops with assault rifles walked into a theater on 34th st while some of us were leafleting. “Would you mind leaving with your rifles? You’re frightening people.” On several occasions, the cops tried to bully us away from the theater, with no success. One time, in a stroke of luck sufficient to make an anarchist reconsider atheism, cops were insisting that one of us had to leave or be arrested-- just as anarchists with law school and National Lawyers' Guild training walked out of the theater and told them to back off!

After doing these theaters for a while we decided to make a bigger show and try to get anarchism into the mainstream media alongside this film. We had already corresponded with anarchist comrades around the world, especially in Spain where they had set up their own website and project on the same issue. Anarchists in various cities in the U.S. were also doing the same thing. We planned an international day of action on the same day that the film was released in Spain, contacted activist news sources, and sent out a press release to hundreds of mainstream news agencies as well. It also happened to be tax day, so we figured that into our plot.

That morning we drew a small crowd outside of the Time Warner building near Columbus Circle and unfurled our big black-and-white banner and set up props for street theater. Quite a few photographers were there taking pictures for newspapers and several people interviewed us about the film, our project, and what anarchists are fighting for. One of us dressed in a full V costume and acted out deleted revolutionary scenes from the novel. At the same time we had a tax day themed street theater happening with a corporate executive controlling a monster with two faces (Bush and Clinton) with a video game joystick while the two handed money back and forth. Our citizen character inserted their taxes into one end of a mailbox while the politician pulled it out of the other side.

Next stop was DC Comics headquarters. We were greeted by a few self-described “anarcho” capitalists who came on their lunch break to say “D for diplomacy! These socialists should thank their lucky stars they have DC Comics and Time Warner to entertain them.” The pseudo-anarchists lost their nerve when the people they described mockingly as the "real anarchists" mercilessly ridiculed them. A security guard from the building eventually came out and tried to chase us away. He demanded to know who our leader was. One of us at first started saying, "We don't have leaders!" but he was cut off by a clever comrade, who pointed out the leader--of the capitalists! Like good corporate pawns, they dutifully went back to work when ordered to leave by the security guard. We got some media attention and the next day one of us was interviewed on a Canadian radio station for 20 minutes about anarchy and battled a caller who denied global warming existed.

Throughout the effort, we were inspired by the interactions we had with ordinary people while dressed as V. Some of us took to staying in costume on subways and buses, provoking curiosity and discussion by projecting the absurd into unexpected spaces. In one instance, a fully costumed "V" tried to hail a bus at a stop on a New Jersey highway. Perhaps unwilling to pick up a masked passenger the driver rode past the stop. Immediately, a motorist cut him off, forcing him to pull over into the shoulder. The motorist pulled over in front of the bus, walked up to the bus, and when the driver opened the door said to him, "What's the matter? You don't ride with radicals?"

ON AUGUST 1, V FOR VENDETTA WILL BE RELEASED ON DVD. ANARCHISTS EVERYWHERE ARE DECLARING THIS "A FOR ANARCHY"DAY! STICKERS ON DVDS WITH THE A FOR ANARCHY ADDRESS? PASSING OUT FREE BOOTLEG DVDS WITH AN ALTERED SOUNDTRACK THAT PUTS THE ANARCHY BACK IN THE STORYAND ADDS A FEW REAL ANARCHIST VIDEOS FOR GOOD MEASURE? AFORANARCHY.COM GRAFFITTI? "V BLOC" VISITS TO MILITARY RECRUITERS, CORPORATE STORES, OR POLITICIANS' OFFICES? LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD!

For resources, info, ideas, and to watch our video, visit: www.aforanarchy.com