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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

V for Vendetta (2005)

I must start by confessing that when I saw this in theaters with friends, they came out cheering, and I came out deeply distressed. The violence alarmed me. I grew up with violence in movies being (not inaccurately, though a little broadly) demonized as "desensitizing." This was the first movie that made me wonder if there was something to that. It frightened me to see my friends cheering at the way V took down thugs and soldiers. The images that stayed with me were the little girl with coke bottle glasses and, of course, Stephen Fry as Gordon being black-bagged.

As I got older and learned more of history and politics, I grew to love this movie. The idea that the arts might be at the center of inevitable and necessary revolution naturally spoke to my leftist, anti-capitalist self. But tonight, watching this in a moment that I continuously find myself distracted by the horrors of our present (state sanctioned genocide! utter disregard for the basic human rights and survival of our own citizens!) and the certain terrors that await us regardless of the outcome of this already endless election year, I was just scared. Scared that violent revolution might be necessary for change. Scared that I am too cowardly to participate. Scared that I might not be. Scared for my loved ones. Scared for the younger generation. Scared of what the people who are scared of what I believe in might do in the name of their fear. It's a lot.

I was finally able to pinpoint tonight, though, what really turned me off to this movie the first time I saw it. That final fight V has with Creedy's men. It's so... cool. Or it wants to be? And I can't think of anything less cool. It's such a weird time to glorify that kind of seemingly personal violence. It's hard for me to rebound from that to the final sequence (which is, honestly, so breathtaking; I have never not wept through it).

I will always and forever, it seems, struggle with V and Evey's relationship (?). He does horrifying and unforgivable things to her in the name of... setting her free? As someone who is afraid all the time (see two paragraphs up), I can only imagine breaking in the face of being tortured, starved and humiliated. And I'm really very good at surviving. That there's a moment when V tries to explain how difficult it was for him to carry out. The movie nearly loses me.

I also struggle with this movie as an adaptation whose author was vehemently against it. I love Alan Moore. He's responsible for all of my favorite graphic novels. But this is a superior telling of his tale. But I think it's icky that this was made against his wishes.

I love Stephen Fry. I don't know who could have done this part but him. I worry about him the whole time. I want to give him a big hug before one of us dies. I wish Stephen Fry was my big gay dad.

There's such incredible filmmaking and storytelling at work here. The parallels of Gordon and pretty much everyone else important to Evey. The detectives doing some wild and thankless work moving the story along. The whole Valerie section. The full characters we get just in the wee snapshots of people watching V on the television. That final monologue.

Woof. I do not know how to approach this one. The last thing I want to do is romanticize it... But I cannot turn away from its message. Argh.

"I Had Roses and Apologized to No One"

Embroidery and ribbon roses.


-My handwriting is not as clear as I'd like so for those who do not have this letter from V for Vendetta tattooed on their heart: "I hope that the world turns and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you."

-This took probably 15 hours of embroidery, maybe 20. Another 5 or so of trying to figure out the ribbon roses and burning the shit out of my fingers as I did it. Originally I wanted to do stumpwork roses (like the mouse in my Royal Tenenbaums piece or the flowers for Midsummer Night's Dream) but I figured they'd take too long. I'm glad I changed my mind but it's funny because everything took so long on this piece. I had to blend the colors in the thread a little more tediously than I would have liked. I thought I'd simply find variegated rainbow floss and do it that way, sacrificing the across the piece look I wanted (and ultimately achieved) but saving my fingers. Alas. I couldn't find any readily available variegated floss in rainbow colors. So I decided to abandon my usual embroidery lettering style of single strand split stitch for double strand so I could easily stitch the blended colors. Nope! I got the red into orange done and hated it. The lettering was too thick and difficult to read (way more so than the final version), so I had to tear it out and switch to single, alternating stitches with multiple needles whenever I got to the transition letters. Which took forever. But the color work thrills me. It turned out beautifully.

-The rainbow. Rainbows have always spoken to me, long before I knew about LGBTQ+ symbology, long before I knew about god's promise to Noah. Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The Rainbow Connection. These shaped my childhood and continue to shape my healing in adulthood. When I hear "God is in the rain," my brain corrects it to "God - whatever that may mean - is in the rainbows and the flowers that follow the rain." But that feels so innocent - naive! - in a moment in which I am terrified of and for my country. V for Vendetta feels further and further from fiction with every day of 2024 and I am on my tippy toes, leaning over the cliffs of abject horror. As a woman. As a queer person. As someone who loves people who look and love differently than Christian nationalists would have them look and love. I don't really have the words for these feelings except that I hope the world turns and things get better. But for the moment, I have flowers and I apologize to no one. I hope you have the same. And I hope we all have the courage to do what we need to when we are called. Because the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time.

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