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The following movie review from a 2005 issue of Biblical Worldview Magazine is quite relevant to our own day and time of “burn it down” revolutionaries. G.K. Chesterton, ever the prophet and eminently quotable, made the point about good always needing to be vigilant in the fight against evil with his “old white post” analogy:

Chesterton addressed this perennial fight for good against resurgent evil in his classic Orthodoxy. In the chapter titled “The Eternal Revolution,” he pointed out that you can’t just paint a fence post once and call the job done. “If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.”

“One reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better,” Chesterton explains, “But the only reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse.” Christianity, GKC argued, is the only answer to the progressive desire to improve the world continually, because the Christian knows that “men were naturally backsliders; that human virtue tended of its own to rust or to rot… Human beings as such go wrong.” (Source)

V for Vendetta is a 16-year-old movie that romanticizes the revolution, while never bothering to ask what will take its place. Christianity has, and always will have, the only workable answer, and it’s needed now more than ever…

Propaganda is a fact of life. In fact, by definition propaganda is simply “publicity intended to spread ideas or information that will persuade or convince people.” [1] There’s good propaganda and there’s bad propaganda. There’s liberal propaganda and there’s conservative propaganda. There’s even propaganda about the evils of propaganda. This last category is where V for Vendetta fits. In what amounts to a twenty-first century French Revolution, it spends the better part of two hours showing the systematic removal of a dictatorial oppressor embodied in a radical right-wing regime of power and corruption.

When the last enemy has been slaughtered and the establishment is delivered a final crushing pyrotechnic demonstration of force, the movie ends appropriately with the Rolling Stones “Street Fighting Man.” As Mick Jagger laments — “what can a poor boy do, except sing for a rock and roll band, ‘cause in sleepy London Town there’s no place for a street fighting man” — the audience is left to ponder what it has just witnessed. V for Vendetta claims to be about the power of ideas; “But what good are ideas,” it seems to ask, “without a little dynamite to back them up?” And since Jagger’s London has no place for a “street fighting man,” his role as a “rock and roll singer” will have to suffice. It’s probably just as well; after all, every revolution needs a theme song—and a voice to sing it.

V, the main character of the title, has chosen a theme song for his revolution. It’s Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” Tchaikovsky was a Russian-born composer who wrote the “Overture” to commemorate Russia’s defeat of Napoleon’s army in 1812, which marked the beginning of the end for the Napoleonic Wars. This is an interesting song choice since Napoleon was the logical result of the French Revolution. Choosing a song that celebrates his defeat is a bit of a non sequitur; but this is par for the course with this film. Revolutions are simply solutions for the moment. V takes great pains to point out the faults of the current system, but except for dismantling it, never offers anything in its place. [2] The final explosion leaves many questions unanswered, and in actuality, unasked. We are expected to believe that since V is willing to give his life for his revolution, it must be noble and benevolent. History is littered with misguided martyrs; one more does not justify the cause.

The worldview of V for Vendetta is that ideas are powerful and have the ability to outlive those who hold them. V, the person, is really an idea incarnate. Tired of living under the thumb of the dictatorial, ministerial, and judicial triumvirate of the current administration, V decides to take matters into his own hands. His revolution is aimed at waking up the sleeping proletariat of the not-too futuristic U.K. His first public outing is a successful bombing of the Old Bailey in London. The Old Bailey is where major criminal cases are tried in England. V is, in essence, proclaiming his own judgment on the judges. Dressed all in black (with a cape, of course) and sporting a Guy Fawkes mask, V takes out the landmark with precision and hijacks the TV station the next day to take credit for it and reveal his long-term plan. This is where V the entertaining movie, meets the reality of life head-on. V’s philosophy for the future only involves removing, not replacing.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel used the metaphor of the owl of Minerva, referring to philosophy, which “takes flight only at dusk. [He meant] that philosophy always and necessarily comes too late to influence what has already taken place as a condition of being known.” [3] But this is putting the “cart before the horse.” The “owl of Minerva” has the benefit of hindsight. Philosophical musings always seem harmless until they become social policy. The very dictatorial government that V wants to demolish is the result of a philosophy. The humanistic philosophies of men, no matter how good they look on paper, never take man’s sinfulness into account. Hegel’s “owl” was able to perch on a branch, analyze the day’s activities, find their faults in terms of a preconceived idea of how things “should be,” and find them wanting. The theoretical paper version of the philosophy never resembles the reality because of the depraved heart of man. Hegel saw this as philosophy always lagging behind, but in actuality, philosophy was what led the charge.

The ultimate irony of V for Vendetta is made manifest in its first three minutes. “Remember, remember, the fifth of November.” V wears a Guy Fawkes mask, presumably as the ultimate terrorist, worthy of emulation and remembrance. Who was Guy Fawkes? He was a minor player in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an attempt by disgruntled Catholics to lash out at the Protestant-leaning Parliament. The conspirators were filling a room that they had rented below Parliament with kegs of gunpowder, but the night before the “big bang,” Fawkes was caught and tortured. He eventually gave up the other 12 and they were all summarily executed—the revolution must wait. It takes over 400 years and a “reincarnated” Guy Fawkes to finish the job.

However, no one bothers thinking beyond the final explosion, not even V himself. He has a “vendetta” against those whom have wronged him. In spite of all his eloquence and culture (frying eggs with real butter while listening to Stan Getz and quoting Twelfth Night), V is nothing more than a vigilante out for blood. He wears the mask because he was disfigured in a chemical fire at the concentration camp where he was locked up. He wraps his own personal vendetta against his enemies in a social cause to “finish the work of the Gunpowder Conspirators. Remember, remember, the fifth of November.” His female protégé, Evey, sees right to the heart of the issue when V tells her that what was done to him was “monstrous.” Evey replies that “now you have become a monster.” Exactly, stupid is as stupid does.

In order to demonize “fundamentalists” of every stripe, Hollywood must elevate a band of old-regime Catholic dissidents to the level of hero. This is what Herbert Schlossberg refers to as an “idol of history.” [4] People, events, and beliefs are ripped out of their proper historical time, place, and significance and inserted into the modern mind as an “idol.” Forget the fact that the Gunpowder Conspirators were “establishment” Roman Catholics upset at the “protestors” — the Protestants. Forget also that the chaos that ensued after the French Revolution was what ushered in the Reign of Terror. When Napoleon came on the scene, France was ready for any one to take charge and lead them out of their revolutionary mess. Ditto post-WWI Germany. This is why most revolutions fail—there’s nothing to take the place of the decimated system. Revolution leads to chaos, chaos leads to anarchy, anarchy leads to tyranny, and tyranny leads back to revolution. And the last state becomes worse than the first (Matt. 12:45).

This was the beauty of the representational system of government that was instituted by our predominantly Protestant founding fathers. Since they understood the sinfulness of man, their structure of checks and balances has left us with the most stable form of government in history. The American form of government works because it is not a theoretical system. It follows the hierarchy of Jethro’s counsel to Moses in Exodus 18. Representation was God’s idea in the first place. We are represented individually in His covenant by either the first Adam or the Last Adam.

The theoretical ideal of the revolutionary is always “freedom.” But true freedom is paradoxically only possible by becoming a slave first. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23). History is replete with examples which show that rejecting this divine revelation will inevitably lead to a “reign of terror.” In like form, V must resort to terrorism in order to become a messiah. Once the dust settles however, London will find itself just as enslaved to sin as it was before.

Liberals, terrorists, and revolutionaries all want a Christian society without Christianity. But try as they might they cannot escape the fact that men need to be governed, as Robert Winthrop stated, “either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”

V for Vendetta is rated “R” for strong violence and some language. [5]


[1] Oxford American Dictionary (New York: Avon Books, 1980).

[2] “J. Allen Smith of the University of Washington, one of the crusaders against the old morality, used to worry about where it would all lead. ‘The real trouble with us reformers,’ he said, ‘is that we made reform a crusade against standards. Well, we smashed them all and now neither we nor anybody else have anything left.’ He no longer had any justification for saying that an action was morally wrong.” [Quoted in Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 46.]

[3] Tom Rockmore, “G.W.F. Hegel,” The Columbia History of Western Philosophy (New York: MJF Books, 1999), 541.

[4] “The idolatries of history exalt an age (past, present or future), or a process, or an institution, or a class, or a trend and make it normative. They place the entire meaning of life within the historical process or some part of it, allowing nothing extrinsic to it. Historical events in their relationships exhaust the whole meaning of history.” (Idols for Destruction, p.13)

[5] From the official site, http://vforvendetta.warnerbros.com/ I would also add that there is some nudity when dead bodies are thrown in a ditch and covered with lime.

Author: Gary DeMar

Gary—who served as President of American Vision for thirty-five years—is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. Author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, he has been featured by nearly every major news media outlet. Gary also has hosted The Gary DeMar Show, History Unwrapped, and the Gary DeMar’s Vantage Point Webshow and is a regular contributor to AmericanVision.org. Gary has lived in the Atlanta area since 1979 with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and are enjoying being grandparents. Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).