Guest Blogger: Chris KeenonReviewing V for Vendetta Chris Keenon is a teacher at Grace, an exegete of pop-culture and a writer currently shopping his first novel. I have asked him to share some thoughts on the popular new flick, "V for Vendetta." My verbose friend was asked to keep it short so he chose to focus on a few things that haven't received as much attention in other reviews. Much more can be said about the movie, so feel free to add your thoughts.
V for Vendetta: Villainous or Virtuous?
I guess the big question about this movie is whether or not V is a vengeful, vile villain or an honorable, humble hero. On the one hand V kills to achieve his ends but on the other he does what he does to liberate the oppressed masses from a government that has duped the people into giving it absolute power. In a post-9/11 American culture can we support a hero who would vandalize government property, hold hostages, blow up buildings and murder to make his point? In other words can we or should we applaud a terrorist even if he is only a movie character. I’m sure the gut wrench reaction is to write off everyone in this movie as immoral and fictional and so below our consideration, but as V says, “Artists use lies to show us the truth.”
The most obvious thing we need to consider is that V breaks a few of the Ten Commandments. He kills, he steals and he lies. He doesn’t apologize for any of these things. I don’t think he’s proud of them, but he is absolutely unapologetic. Also he goes against the teachings of Christ that tell us to turn the other cheek when struck and when asked to walk a mile, to walk two. When Christ told us that it wasn’t just philosophical principle, it was a reality. In Christ’s time a Roman soldier could grab anyone and force them to carry something for up to one mile. That sounds like an oppressive government and Christ teaches his followers not to fight against it. Later when Christ is going to be taken away to be crucified, Peter draws a sword and is rebuked for his violent act. Throughout history Christ’s followers have been oppressed and martyred, many following Christ’s example by not fighting back. But is this all history and the Bible have to say on the subject? Historically, most of us would be in support of the American Revolution, in which our forefathers fought and killed for our freedom from an oppressive government. I think we would also be in support of WWII, in which many of our grandfathers fought and killed to liberate innocent people from a murderous government. Also during that conflict people lied continuously to save the lives of Jews and others who were being killed because of their nationality or religion. I don’t say these things to say that the Ten Commandments can be disregarded at our whim, but there have been historical situations in which condemning actions that compromise the Commandments seems much harder.
In Exodus 2:22 it says that a man is not guilty of bloodshed if he strikes a thief who has broken into his house and the thief dies. Throughout the Bible God encourages the defense of the fatherless and the widow and the oppressed. Jeremiah 48:10 says, “A curse on him who is lax in doing the LORD's work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed!” In a curse against Moab God equates his work with the shedding of blood. Scripture repeats how God loves justice and will punish those who pervert it. Christ violently clears the temple when people are using the house of worship to swindle the poor and one of the final pictures we get of Christ, in Revelation 19, is of a warrior drenched in blood leading an army and destroying his enemies.
With these things in mind, it makes our judgment of the character, V, a little more difficult. He does the things he does, lying, stealing, killing, to protect the oppressed and depose a government that has forsaken justice to steal from its people. The only people that V kills are those who are guilty and those who take up his mantel march non-violently to watch the destruction of an empty building, which no longer lives up to the ideals it once symbolized. I am not advocating vigilantism by any means, but I’m asking that we think about our responsibility to uphold justice and defend the oppressed whether we think V is virtuous or villainous.
I liked at the end of the movie that they showed all the bars, homes and such, where people had been watching the reports about V and those places were empty. The people, who had been complaining about the lies the government had been spouting, had left their homes and marched unarmed and garbed in the uniform of their inspiration to Parliament, knowing full well that it was guarded by the military. Are we doing the same? The world is throwing lies at us all the time. They tell us that it matters how much money we make or how good we look. They tell us in so many ways that we need to look out for ourselves first and foremost. We complain about it, but how often do we get up off of our couches, put on the uniform of our inspiration and march into the world. Paul tells us in Philippians 2, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:”
Like V’s followers we are most effective when we look like our leader. Christ died for us and performed miracles like feeding and healing people, because he was filled with compassion (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34; Mk. 1:41, 6:34, 8:2). Are we filled with the same kind of compassion or are we sitting at home complaining to the T.V.?