Thomas Jordan, Binghamton University
My name is Tom Jordan and I will be receiving my Masters in English Literature from Binghamton University this spring. My primary fields of study include 19th and 20th Century American Literature, Post-Colonial Literature, and Contemporary Fiction and Theory.
V for Vendetta: Fear and the Specter Left in its Wake
Despite growing public discontent with the war in Iraq and skepticism regarding the war's rhetoric, President Bush and his supporters continue to present a Doomsday depiction of the potential consequences for failing to see the war through to its end. James McTeigue's 2005 film V for Vendetta is a satirical critique of state apparatuses'—namely government's and mainstream media's—use of fear to manipulate the public. Invoking Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx and William Spanos' adaptation of Derrida's work in America's Shadow, this essay seeks to investigate the consequences of a fear-inducing totalitarian regime on its subjects in V for Vendetta and understand the relationship between this critique and our current political moment. The film presents a government that, through the use of fear, transforms its people into lethargic and dehumanized automatons who are unable to question its invention of the normalized citizen. This government operates according to a metaphysical ontology that utilizes essentializing identity politics in order to establish internal enemies. V (Hugo Weaving) is ultimately a consequence of this ontology and becomes the haunting specter that attests to its innate falsity—he becomes an "identityless identity" whose violent disfigurement at the hands of a regime that publicly asserts its protective benignity makes present the contradiction between the government’s innocent ideology and the brutality underlying this ideology. V’s actions reveal a contingent universe and the necessity of human free will within that universe in opposition to the deterministic metaphysical vision of reality insisted upon by the government. The film aptly concludes with Evey's (Natalie Portman) ethical dilemma when confronted by the revealed specter—to act against that government and its manipulation of reality or accept that manipulation as truth. Her decision not only affirms the ethical necessity to act against the metaphysical, fear-inducing identity politics of the ruling hegemony but insists on her power to make a choice and the potential power of a "union of differential identities" to enact change (Spanos 188).