Vendettas, Wall Street, and 5 Nov.
It’s been 406 years since Guy Fawkes and 12 co-conspirators were arrested for attempting to blow up the British House of Lords in London, yet something about Guy Fawkes and the 5th of November still captivates us all these years later.
Perhaps it is because in our own country there is currently a large group of people protesting inequality, who empathize with such characters throughout history.
Or maybe it is because modern media commercialized the sentiment with movies and comics like V for Vendetta, establishing them as just another part of our own culture. Perhaps it’s just because people enjoy disturbing masks and a bald Natalie Portman. For whatever reason, lately it seems it’s hard to avoid the likeness of Guy Fawkes and the anti-establishment sentiment he has come to embody.
What might escape some is that the celebration of Guy Fawkes Day in the United Kingdom is not to commemorate Guy Fawkes ideas or anti-establishment sentiment, but rather his failure. Every year on Nov. 5 there are tremendous festivities featuring fireworks and a burned effigy of Fawkes to celebrate nationalism and the foiled terrorist plot.
In recent weeks, Occupy Wall Street has avoided fading from view as many were expecting, and instead has grown to be an even larger presence internationally and in the daily news cycle. As a way to get their message across to even more people, the group has found alternative ways of catching attention.
Like many other anti-establishment protests, some in Occupy Wall Street have adopted the iconic Guy Fawkes mask, incorporating it into their sea of signs and growing protest culture as another way to drive home their message.
The masks, previously linked to anti-establishment group Anonymous known for there protest of the Church of Scientology, are a stylized version of the images seen in the comic V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, and were later commercially produced as a result of the success of the 2006 film adaptation featuring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving.
Even Julian Assange, internationally known as the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks and a strong supporter of Occupy Wall Street, recently attended the protest in London wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
However, what seems to be escaping all those involved in the protests utilizing the image of Guy Fawkes as a way to further their anti-establishment sentiment is that with each purchase of a Guy Fawkes mask, Time Warner, the media conglomerate that owns the rights to the film and its merchandise, profits.
It is hard to do anything but “remember, remember, the fifth of November” when Guy Fawkes’ image is appearing everywhere. V for Vendetta was even screened on campus recently as part of the Philosophy and Political Theory Film Series. Yet with each portrayal the disconnect between the reality and the intent seems to widen. As people in the United States celebrate the anarchy of such figures as Guy Fawkes, using his likeness as an image to convey the discontent amongst “the 99 Percent,” those in England celebrate the vitality and successes of their nation, and all the while the corporations that are causing so much frustration will be gaining from the misconception.