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Study Questions: "V for Vendetta"

CAST

Evey  Natalie Portman
V  Hugo Weaving
Finch  Stephen Rea
Deitrich  Stephen Fry
Adam Sutler  John Hurt
Creedy  Tim Pigott-Smith
Dominic  Rupert Graves
Lewis Prothero  Roger Allam
Dascomb  Ben Miles
Delia Surridge  Sinéad Cusack
Valerie  Natasha Wightman
Lilliman  John Standing
Etheridge  Eddie Marsan
Guy Fawkes  Clive Ashborn
Guy Fawkes Lover  Emma Field Rayner
Tweed Coat Fingerman  Ian Burfield
Willy Fingerman  Mark Phoenix
Baldy Fingerman  Alister Mazzotti
Little Glasses Girl  Billie Cook
Heyer  Guy Henry
Patricia  Cosima Shaw
BTN News Poppet  Megan Gay
BTN News Poppet  Roderick Culver
Vicky  Tara Hacking
Fred  Andy Rashleigh
Storm Saxon  Chad Stahelski
Laser Lass  Antje Rau
Wardrobe Mistress  Amelda Brown
Security Guard  Richard Campbell
Little Glasses Girl Mum  Patricia Gannon
Little Glasses Girl Dad  Mark Longhurst
Barman  Simon Holmes
Barfly  Charles Cork
Old Man  John Ringham
Old Man  Oliver Bradshaw
Middle Class Boy  Jack Schouten
Middle Class Sister  Caoimhe Murdock
Middle Class Mum  Juliet Howland
TV Executive  Brin Rosser
Studio Technician  Raife Burchell
Jones  Joseph Rye
News Anchor  Adrian Finighan
Major Wilson  Malcolm Sinclair
Evey's Brother  Bradley Steve Ford
Young Evey Madeleine Rakic-Platt
Evey's Mother  Selina Giles
Evey's Father  Carsten Hayes
Bureaucrat  Derek Hutchinson
Denis  Martin Savage
Operator  Grant Burgin
Operator  Greg Donaldson
Young Valerie  Imogen Poots
Biology Teacher  Jason Griffiths
Sarah  Laura Greenwood
Christina  Kyra Meyer
Valerie's Father  Paul Antony-Barber
Valerie's Mother  Anna Farnworth
Ruth  Mary Stockley
Tube Station News Poppet  Simon Newby
Young Man  David Merheb
Young Black Detainee  Daniel Donaldson
Civil War News Poppet  Dulcie Smart
Water Shortage News Poppet  Ben Posener
Avian Flu News Poppet  Ian T. Dickinson
Quarantine News Poppet  Sophia New
Three Waters News Poppet  Julie Brown
Surveillance Man  Gerard Gilroy
Surveillance Man  Eamon Geoghegan
Finch's Fedco Man  Matthew Bates
Convenience Store V  David Leitch
Little Glasses Girl Fingerman  Matt Wilkinson
Victoria Station Fingerman  Martin McGlade
Parliament Lieutenant  Richard Laing
Parliament General  Michael Simkins
Radio Man  William Tapley
V Follower (uncredited)  Lee Asquith-Coe
Soldier (uncredited)  Andy Callaghan
Soldier (uncredited)  Tony Cook
Marshal (uncredited)  Nicolas de Pruyssenaere
V Street Vigilante (uncredited)  David Decio
V Follower (uncredited)  Christopher Fosh
V Follower V110 (uncredited)  Gordon Gram
Military Officer (uncredited)  Rogan Grant
V Follower (uncredited)  David Hood
V Follower (uncredited)  Keith How
Soldier (uncredited)  Forbes KB
Masked Protester (uncredited)  Edsel Kragg
Bodyguard (uncredited)  Mathis Landwehr
Soldier (uncredited)  João Costa Menezes
Policeman (uncredited) Jason Oettle
 

Expand All | Collapse All

• Quotation 1: V: Good evening, London....
V: Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine:  the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot."
Question #1

The above speech is the November the Fifth message that V delivers in his hijacking of the Interlink during his occupation of the BTN (British Television Network) studios.  Norsefire Chancellor Sutler orders BTN to proclaim the entire episode an act of terrorism.  Do you consider the content of V's message a terrorist manifesto? When a government, in conjunction with its media, plays down or alters the terror of an alleged act of terrorism, is it a conspiracy?  Why, or why not?  Are there circumstances under which a message of hatred for the ideologies of one's own government is a form of "hate speak"?  If so, what are they?  If not, why not?

• Quotation 2: The 5th of November
Remember, remember, 
the fifth of November, 
the gunpowder treason and plot. 
I know of no reason 
why the gunpowder treason 
should ever 
be forgot.
Question #2

The inspiration for V for Vendetta was the 1604 Guy Fawkes's plot to blow up the British Parliament building and, in a subversive act of protest, assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the British throne.  The U.K. celebrates November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, in the same spirit with which Americans in the United States celebrate October 31, Halloween:  as a vanquishing of the darkness and a celebration.  Much in the way we display scarecrows on Halloween night, in England Guy Fawkes effigies are hung, and often burned, in a celebratory bonfire.  However, Guy Fawkes is clearly a political holiday at its heart.  What political holidays in the U.S. do you feel celebrate—or, should celebrate—the proper spirit of political subversion?  For instance, 2012 marks the 100 year anniversary of San Diego's Free Speech Fight, in which organized workers suffered imprisonment, police violence, and death in order to congregate and protest publically in downtown San Diego. Do you feel that his is comparable to the Guy Fawkes holiday in the U.K.?  Why, or why not?

• Quotation 3: People should not be afraid of their governments....
"People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people."—V
"The building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by their people. By itself, a symbol is meaningless, but with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world."—V
Question #3

Do you agree or disagree with these statements?  The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II by creating a global state of terror in a demonstration of the power of atomic weaponry. It's widely known that Kyoto, not Nagasaki, was originally slated for atomic destruction.  Among other qualities, Kyoto was considered one of Japan's oldest cultural capitals, housing some of it's greatest antiquities and oldest monuments, temples, and buildings.  Its selection was intended to strike at the very heart of Japanese culture, itself.  Buildings can be symbols in many different ways that change the world.  In light of September 11, 2001, how do you react to the quotes above?  What, if anything, is different about V's plot to blow up buildings as a symbolic gesture?  If you could safely destroy (i.e., without casualties) one manmade structure as a symbol, what would it be and what would it represent?  In what way would you wish to "change the world" with this single act, and why?

• Quotation 4: ... a lie or the truth?
"Would you prefer a lie or the truth?" —V
"Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up."—Evey, paraphrasing her father.
"If our own government was responsible for what happened at St. Mary's and Three Waters--if our own government was responsible for the deaths of almost a hundred thousand people-- would you really want to know? . . . [At Larkhill] I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected.  It’s like I could see the whole thing, one long chain of events that stretched all the way back before Larkhill. I felt like I could see everything that had happened, and everything that was going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me and I realized we were all part of it, and all trapped by it."—Finch
Question #4

In responding to Evey's charges that he fraudulently imprisoned and tortured her, V replies, "Yes, I created a lie, but because you believed in it you found something true about yourself."  Is this an example of "artists using lies to tell the truth"?  Was the torture justified?  To what extent does this statement apply to what Finch says about Larkhill and his own government?  Has he discovered something true about himself?  Is it possible to learn something about ourselves by believing in a conspiracy?  Is learning something true about oneself the same thing as learning a truth?  In answer to V's question, "Would you prefer a lie or the truth?" discuss the circumstances under which you would prefer your own government to lie to you, and the circumstances under which you would prefer it to tell you the truth.  Then, discuss how your responses to these questions helps to explain the phenomenon of conspiratorial thinking about "our own government"?

• Quotation 5: ...a grave and terrible threat.
"My fellow Englishmen: tonight our country, that which we stand for, and all we hold dear, faces a grave and terrible threat. This violent and unparalleled assault on our security will not go undefended... or unpunished. Our enemy is an insidious one, seeking to divide us and destroy the very foundation of our great nation. Tonight, we must remain steadfast. We must remain determined. But most of all, we must remain united. Those caught tonight in violation of curfew will be considered in league with our enemy and prosecuted as a terrorist without leniency or exception. Tonight, I give you my most solemn vow: that justice will be swift, it will be righteous, and it will be without mercy."—Chancellor Sutler
"Terrified people do not want to be free, they want to be protected. If you can keep the people in a state of terror, you won't have to take away their freedom — they'll give it to you willingly."—Alden Loveshade, in "Red Alert — Terrorist Threat from Your Own Government?"
Question #5

Propaganda and torture are two extremes used to make people feel willing. For that reason, there is evidence in the story of V for Vendetta that Evey Hamill is perhaps a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, the condition in which a captive begins to identify with the conviction and ideologies of her captor. Do you agree or disagree with this?  Why?  When she falls in love with V, does she fall in love with "the man" or with "the idea"?  How do you know? 

Using your answers to these questions, develop a position about conspiracy theory and cover-up, in general.  To what extent is conspiracy theorizing analogous to Stockholm Syndrom? Do people fall in love with the particular facts of a conspiracy, or with the idea of a conspiracy?  What are the differences between the two? Select an example of a real conspiracy that you feel illustrates your answer, and be prepared to discuss it with the class.

• Quotation 6: Valerie Page's letter
"I know there’s no way I can convince you this is not one of their tricks.  But I don’t care.  I am me.  My name is Valerie.  I don’t think I'll live much longer, and I wanted to tell someone about my life.  This is the only autobiography that I'll ever write, and – God – I'm writing it on toilet paper.  I was born in Nottingham in 1985.  I don’t remember much of those early years.  But I do remember the rain.  My grandmother owned a farm in Tottlebrook, and she used to tell me that God was in the rain.  I passed my Eleven-Plus, and went to a girl’s grammar.  It was at school that I met my first girlfriend.  Her name was Sarah.  It was her wrists – they were beautiful.  I thought we would love each other forever.   I remember our teacher telling us that it was an adolescent phase that people outgrew.  Sarah did.   I didn’t.  In 2002 I fell in love with a girl named Christina.  That year I came out to my parents.  I couldn’t have done it without Chris holding my hand.   My father wouldn’t look at me.  He told me to go and never come back.  My mother said nothing. I’d only told them the truth.  Was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have.  It is the very last inch of us.  And within that inch, we are free.  I’d always known what I'd wanted to do with my life, and in 2015 I started my first film: The Salt Flats.  It was the most important role of my life.  Not because of my career, but because that was how I met Ruth.  The first time we kissed, I knew I never wanted to kiss any other lips but hers again.   We moved to a small flat in London together.  She grew scarlet carsons for me in our window box.  And our place always smelt of roses.  Those were the best years of my life.  But America’s war grew worse and worse, and eventually came to London.   After that there were no roses anymore.  Not for anyone. I remember how the meaning of words began to change.  How unfamiliar words like “collateral” and “rendition” became frightening.  When things like "Norsefire" and the "articles of allegiance" became powerful.  I remember how "different" became "dangerous." I still don’t understand it: why they hate us so much.  They took Ruth while she was out buying food.  I’ve never cried so hard in my life.  It wasn’t long until they came for me. It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place.   But for three years I had roses, and apologized to no-one.  I shall die here.  Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch.  But one.  An inch.  It is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having.  We must never lose it or give it away.  We must never let them take it from us.  I hope that, whoever you are, you escape this place.  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 not meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you: I love you.   With all my heart.  I love you. —Valerie."
"Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof."—V
Question #6

Promising actress Valerie Page is imprisoned, tortured and killed as an unwitting participant in a monumental cover-up and conspiracy.  Her story, and her simple act of sedition—in writing her life story, to the very last inch of her life—is moving, not only because it makes a dramatic emotional impact within the framework of the film's story, but because we identify with her on many different levels as, both, victims and accomplices to conspiracies and cover-ups.  What, though, is the actual idea of her biography that V would describe as "bulletproof"?  What is it we are to understand when Valerie tells us, "though I do not know you . . . I love you."    Did her message have the same inspirational effect on V as it does on Evey?

• Quotation 7: ... the choice to pull this lever
V: "You made me understand that I was wrong, that the choice to pull this lever is not mine to make." 
EVEY: "Why?" 
V: "Because this world, the world that I'm a part of and that I helped shape, will end tonight. And tomorrow, a different world will begin that different people will shape, and this choice belongs to them." 
Question #7

Given the state of affairs in this story, would you make the choice to pull the lever?  Why, or why not?  What are the political and/or social circumstances under which you would endure torture?  What sort of conspiracy would it take in order for you to become a crusader? What risks would you be willing to take in such a crusade? Do you believe that people who believe in, or otherwise support, conspiracy theories are taking risks of any kind?  Do they believe themselves to be crusaders?  Why, or why not?

Quotation 8
PROTHERO
Do you believe this crap, Dascombe?
DASCOMBE
It's not our job to believe it, Lewis.  Our job is to tell the people— 
PROTHERO
"Exactly what they tell us."  I Know but do you think that people will believe it?
DASCOMBE
They will if it's you that's telling it to them.  Now let's try it again.
 

EVEY:
I worried about myself for a while…Whatever you did to me worked better than I imagined.

FINCH
He sat there spoon-feeding me that bull shit, and I ate it up!

LEADER
This, this V is still out there.  I can feel him like a sickness worming its way into the hearts and minds of the public.  Something must be done, and done quickly, to exorcise this demon for the very soul of this country is at stake.

V
For twenty years, I saw this day.  Nothing else existed.
Question #8

Is conspiratorial thinking the same as obsessive thinking?  Why or why not?

Using the quotes above (or others) and the characters from the story V for Vendetta, make a list of five features or criteria that define "conspiratorial thinking."

Then, based on the list you just made, make another list of five reasons people DENY conspiracies.

Last Updated: 05/17/2017

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Karl J. Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Email: karl.sherlock@gcccd.edu
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Phone: 619-644-7871

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