the symbolism in V for Vendetta

When I first saw the title, "V for Vendetta" I lamely joked "V for Vagina", knowing full-well it was a political, subversive movie 1. Now that I have seen it (and read a few reviews) I think it's worth returning to this.

If you want to read about the politics, go here instead.

The character 'V' is a asexual masked enabler, allowing the dramatic arc of the secretary played by Natalie Portman. An ordinary, practical young woman is made into a political warrior.

In the original version of the story the female lead was different. David Edelstein writes:
"Evey might seem less of a goody two-shoes if she’d begun—as in the graphic novel—by turning tricks for money; and her relationship with another TV host, a melancholy teddy bear (Stephen Fry), is yawningly platonic. After Evey’s head is shaved and she endures a marathon torture session, we expect great things. It’s a lapse in the screenwriting that her new fearlessness is barely tested; she’s a Joan of Arc who never fights. But Portman’s watchfulness and unaffected beauty keep you entranced—and the movie from drifting into camp. Whatever else it is, V for Vendetta is not frivolous. The Wachowskis—one of whom is reportedly in the midst of a sex change—introduce a lesbian martyr to make a plaintive case for the right to be what one is."
The Wachowskis seem to have shifted the core symbolic struggle in the powerful material from
working-class prostitute holding off Thatcherism

virginal woman who sympathizes w lesbians holding off self-absorbed rapists

In every scene with V and multiple men V pulls 'his' knives out of their scabbards. They are shiny and sharp, and they cut the bad men. None will never have sex life again.
V as Edwards Scissorhands luckier older brother?


V for Vendetta is very good movie. I doubt it could have been made any better. Despite the surface material it is not pretentious - it's makers worked with the anti-authoritarian pulp roots like gardeners transplanting a precious young tree.

Good for them!

The movie may not have the most enlightened deep meanings possible, but sexual subtext in political movies truly can matter.

I do not have the writing skills to explain how these kinds of messages can stick over time. But they do.

For instance, this happened with 2 influential, quality movies about WWII. In both Open City (1945) and the Longest Day (1962) the authoritarians were depicted as gayer than they actually were, while simultaneously the freedom-fighters were made straighter.2 No doubt this was done with the best intentions - but a generation later the stereotype of the mincing Nazi is entrenched, and millions of homophobic authoritarians today are unable to use the past as a mirror.

To directly compare the symbolisms, the gayness in the intervening 50 years has shifted from the authoritarian sadist not to the victim but to the enabler of the victim's righteousness.


  1. More things could be said. #1 on the list, possibly, is that the some of today's Guy Fawkeses are likely heterosexual men who had been sexually molested as boys. But that as a subtext could not explain the doppelganger wannabe relationship between the authoritarian and the terrorist (that they are each other)

  2. The layering of "the Longest Day" Nazi train sequence and the emphasis on the heterosexuality of the French Underground is profoundly ahistorical. It implies something very different from the truth. In reality that movement was largely comprised of the French that would have been vulnerable to the Nazis, that would have been taken in any secondary wave of arrests. Who was the most vulnerable? ..gays and freaks of all kinds (bless them all), as well as the socialists, former labor union organizers and anarchists. These groups largely were the French Resistance (and their prior experience in keeping secrets helped them). Instead of showing this the movie shows a stereotypic man + woman cooing at each other, just stopping to fight the Nazis. ... "Open City" is a translation of Roma, città aperta (I'll add to this note later).