Ed Driscoll

A for Agitprop

A couple of weeks ago, a Slate authoress noted, somewhat astonishingly, that she had never seen Schindler’s List until very recently. As she wrote, it’s far easier to simply stream something light and fluffy than to rent something dark and serious:

Why did it take me so long? The reasons will be familiar to anyone who’s ever let a worthy but difficult film languish in its red Netflix envelope. You keep meaning to watch the movie, but when it comes time to nestle into your couch on Sunday afternoon, confronting the depravity of human nature somehow isn’t what you’re in the mood for. Why not put on The Grey instead and confront the depravity of computer-generated wolves?

* * * * * * *

[L]et me tell you about how I finally saw Schindler’s List. I planned a party—complete with wine, hummus, and Korean tacos—and sat down with seven friends to sit through three hours and 14 minutes of unrelenting horror.

Hey, if someone at Slate, where the highbrow pose is always in evidence, can cop to never seeing Schindler’s List, then I can confess to never having seen V for Vendetta until last month, when I rented it on blu-ray from Netflix.

Considering its popularity with the far left Occupy gang in the fall of 2011, I thought that I needed to take one for the team and finally watch the damn thing. (Spoilers to follow, but I don’t really feel too worried about giving away plot points from an eight-year old film.

I was actually surprised at how bad it was. I gave David Zucker, the director of 2008’s conservative American Carol plenty of grief — how did we get from the laugh-a-second seemingly effortless Airplane to this turgid piece of agitprop? But V for Vendetta is a painful reminder that forgetting one’s storytelling skills to grind out political agitprop isn’t just limited to the all-too-rare film from right. Vendetta was produced by the Wachowski brothers (err, actually brother and sister now….) who had previously created The Matrix, at least that film was loaded with kinetic energy and motion.

V featured loads of static shots as Hugo Weaving (the cheerfully sinister Agent Smith who guards the Matrix) under his immobile white polystyrene Guy Fawkes mask, recites pages after page of dialogue, which sounded like it was lifted whole from Howard Zinn textbooks.

John Hurt co-stars as Britain’s “high chancellor,” the film’s Big Brother-style Maximum Leader, an obvious nod to his role as Winston Smith in the movie version of Orwell’s 1984, and Natalie Portman plays The Girl, which adds to the feeling, as John Podhoretz perceptively noted in his review of V for Vendetta at the Weekly Standard, of the film being “an Atlas Shrugged for leftist lunatics:”

And just like Atlas Shrugged, V for Vendetta is an exercise in didactic propaganda in the guise of an adventure story meant to appeal to teenage boys and their narcissistic fantasies about being at the very center of the universe. Both works prominently feature a cool, beautiful, and skinny chick who throws in her lot with the nerds. In Atlas Shrugged, it’s the railroad manager Dagny Taggart who joins with Galt. In V for Vendetta, the beauteous waif Natalie Portman plays Eevy, who throws in her lot with V and falls for him even though he wears a ludicrous wig, minces about like the Olympic skater Johnny Weir, hands out flowers like Ferdinand the Bull, and is horribly burned.

Speaking for any adolescent male who feels self-conscious about his skin, V tells Eevy that she needn’t see his scars, because the face under his mask doesn’t represent the real him. V can go anywhere undetected and do anything, but oh, how lonely he is, sitting alone in his basement lair watching The Count of Monte Cristo and listening to music all by himself on his old jukebox, wearing his mask even in solitude. V for Vendetta began its journey to the screen as a comic book, and V is the ultimate comic-book protagonist–the Superhero loser.

Having recently re-read the Abolition of Britain, Peter Hitchens’ bracing 1999 book, which describes postwar socialist England as morphing into the decadent second coming of the Weimar Republic, it’s was impossible for me to accept the premise of V for Vendetta. Astonishingly, the 2006-era Wachowski brothers apparently see England in a few decades as turning into a Handmaid’s Tale/1984 style dystopia, in which Muslims, lesbians, and gays are rounded up and placed into Nazi-style camps for extermination and/or torturous experimentation, or both. V wears his ridiculous mask, we are told, because he was tortured at some point in one of these camps, and hideously burned beyond recognition in the process. (Naturally, he gets his revenge upon his chief tormentor midway through the film, who willingly accepts being murdered by V as penance for her past sins. The film’s third act begins with Natalie Portman being kidnapped and placed into one of these camps. Her everyday prole clothes are replaced with an orange prison dress, and while in solitary confinement, reads a letter from a lesbian who previously occupied the cell, until being executed.

So let’s review: after the 1984 allusion, we see a British concentration camp where the prisoners are dressed in orange Guantanamo bay prison togs. Gitmo as Auschwitz? Muslims and gays as the new Jews? Tony Blair as Hitler? This film doesn’t redline the Godwin meter, it goes off the scale.

However, it turns out that it was all a bit playacting by V to illustrate to Portman what he had previously gone through. Naturally, she loves him even more for having done so, in a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome.

The film climaxes with V destroying Big Ben and the London Parliament, because, as he tells Portman, blowing up a building can be a truly revolutionary statement. Gee, thanks Wachowski brothers, for the apologia for both 9/11 and Bill Ayers’ bombing of the Pentagon.

The method that V uses to place the bombs that cause the destruction is abandoned subway car — and in a macabre bit of synchronicity, while the film was still in production, the 7/7 bombing occurred in the London tube, which this film both anticipated and served as an apology for.

Oh and by the way, V for Vendetta was produced and distributed by Warner Brothers, which since the 1970s, has been a cog in what is now the Time-Warner-CNN-HBO conglomerate. Funny how, during the left’s freakout over Sarah Palin’s clip art in January of 2011, questions about the murderous content of this film was never questioned.

At least on the Blu-Ray disc of V for Vendetta, the Warner Brothers fanfare opening the film was an orchestral version of the classic “As Time Goes By” from Warner Brother’s epochal Casablanca from 1942.

As recounted early on in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskend’s look at the new Hollywood of the late ‘60s and pre-Star Wars ‘70s, there’s a legendary story about Warren Beatty getting on his hands and knees to convince Jack Warner to fund his version of Bonnie & Clyde. Warner did so, but hated it when the finished product was screened for him. As Rick Perlstein, the leftwing author of Nixonland told Reason magazine in 2008:

My theory is that Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left, much more important than anything written by Paul Goodman or C. Wright Mills or Regis Debray. It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate how strange and fresh that was.

Flash-forward from 1967 to 2006, and it’s obvious that the morals of the studio that produced Casablanca have long since rotted away; V for Vendetta is the pathetic end result of result 40 years of cultural decay. It makes for a horrible night at the movies (or home theater), but as an insight into the insanity that the left was capable of when raging cases of Bush Derangement Syndrome ruled the land, it’s a curious time capsule.

Good thing the Obama administration learned so much from the period. Say, when’s Gitmo closing?

Oh, and by the way, having adopted the wearing of Guy Fawkes masks after attending plenty of midnight showings of V, is the seemingly anti-corporate Occupy crowd aware that each mask they buy puts royalties into Time-Warner-CNN-HBO’s coffers, and is molded by minimum wage assembly line workers in a third world country.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a few spicy chicken tacos, invite my friends over for an atrocity viewing party, and put on Schinder’s List.