When Comics Get Political
In this column I will dive into times, throughout superhero history, that comics got political. There seems to be a constant debate if political discussion has a place in the medium. I hope to show that politics and superhero comics go together. This time we take a look at the Alan Moore classic V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta is a 1988 comic by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (writer and artist respectively). The is set roughly 10 years in the future (1997) and depicts a United Kingdom under fascist control. Like a lot of pieces of fiction created during the cold war, the world presented here was created by a nuclear war. There are only hints of the outside world, we are told Africa is simply “not there anymore,” and the UK has been able to contain themselves in an isolated dictatorship. An arachist, only known as “V,” commits acts of terrorism in hopes to take down the government. Taken down to its simplest terms this is a story of anarchy vs. fascism. But since we are dealing with the work of Alan Moore it is never as simple as that.
Fascism in the UK
Alan Moore has gone on record numerous times stating that V for Vendetta was a commentary on the political atmosphere he saw in Britain. When this book was published it was well into the Thatcher government. While her conservative government was popular enough to last from 1979-1990 (and until 1997 under John Major after Thatcher stepped down), it was very controversial. Moore has made no secret of his distaste for the government and Margaret Thatcher. He saw the right wing movement happening within his own country as possibly leading to the world shown in V for Vendetta. For example, the book makes it clear that the government has rounded up and killed all homosexuals. In 1988 Thatcher was pushing through Section 28, legislation that banned the promotion homoseuality by local authorities. Schools could not teach about same sex relationships public libraries could not stock literature that contained homosexual content or themes.
Alan Moore purposely chose the near-future as he saw that people might accept fascism. He has even spoken about choosing to show some of the fascists in the book, not as evil powerful nazis, but regular everyday people. Moore wanted to show that the real problems in the world occur, not by some scary “other” but through those in power. And fascism is the absolute subservience to the power of the government, and uniting under race and nationalism. The first antagonists hammer this home.
The voice of Fate is showing that the government controls so much the can even predict the weather with up to the minute accuracy. People listen to Fate and almost act as if it is God speaking. We quickly learn that Fate is a mere man, who has a strange obsession with dolls. He also worked at one of the government’s former concentration camps, where he is eventually changed into a “doll” himself by “V.” Fate is the symbol of unity under fascism all people placing their trust in the government and their willingness to become submissive.
The second antagonist is the priest. He rallies the public under faith but promotes the same fascist ideals. Often faith and the perversion of it takes a role in far right dictatorships. As they couch themselves in tradition and culture they tend to connect with the predominant faith of the people. Much like the voice of fate it does not take long for the veil to drop. The reader quickly learns that the priest is a pedophile who regularly purchases young girls. Thus being a commentary not just on the fascist powers but the growing concern of sexual predators in the clergy (which was not unknown in the 80s).
Anarchy and Alan Moore
Alan Moore is a self avowed anarchist. He believes that power should be decentralized away from corrupt leaders and given to the people. Anarchy has been misunderstood by the public in many ways and is often confused with a form of chaos. Moore has gone on record saying he views the political theory as “romantic” and sees no need for anything more than an administration helping run things without powerful leaders. Far from being a libertarian, he still sees the importance of socialized medicine, education, and services. Moore just sees the conclusion of the phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely” as the government continuously veering to the right and towards fascist.
“Anarchy is and always has been a romance. It is clearly the best way, and the only morally sensible way, to run the world. That everybody should be the master of their own destiny everybody should be their own leader. This is something that I still believe I think that even a cursory look around the world at the moment, particularly at the moment, would reveal that it is about 0.001 percent of the world’s population that causes 99.99999 percent of the world’s problems. And that tiny percentage; it’s not the Jewish banking conspiracy, it’s not the asylum seekers, it’s not the secret homosexual conspiracy running Hollywood, it’s not even the Scientologists, it is leaders. But what we need is an administration at most we don’t need people to boss us about” –taken from the following interview
How accurate was Moore?
V for Vendetta is science fiction however it accurately predicted a few things. Of course Russia never started a nuclear war, and the UK is still a democracy, but there are some alarming political ramifications the text warned us about. In the world of V for Vendetta the fascists use camera surveillance and closed circuit television (CCTV) to control and observe the population. By some metrics today London now is considered to have the most CCTV cameras in the world. The average Londoner is recorded hundreds of times a day. Much like the future warned about in the comic this is all done under the guise of protecting the people, even though people now how to give up their privacy.
The next connection is the fascist ideology of the “national race and culture.” This is much of the same ideology of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) a current day far right nationalist party, not unlike the fascists shown in the comic. In the book the government acts exactly like Nazis, rounding up anyone who is a different race, culture, sexual orientation, and political affiliation from what the government accepts. While UKIP’s parliamentary success has been, thankfully, minimal they did lead the brigade towards Brexit. They know they can not actively run and promote genocide, instead the looked for a way to promote their xenophobic agenda and “other” anyone who isn’t “British” (white). Through the separation of the EU the UK has the power to close their borders and avoid listening to a collective multi-national government. They don’t need to run camps when they can simply remove people from the country and not allow certain immigrants in. The UK in V for Vendetta shows isolationism and fascism going hand in hand.
Notice how this pro-Brexit poster features a diverse group of people as invading the UK. Of course this is showing that refugees are somehow the reason for any problems the UK is facing. It is clear that racist and xenophobic attitudes are still a problem in the UK today, and not far removed from what V for Vendetta was warning about.