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V for Vendetta masks: Who's behind them?

• bbc.co.uk
 

The sinister Guy Fawkes mask made famous by the film V for Vendetta has become an emblem for anti-establishment protest groups. Who's behind them?

(Spoiler alert: Some plot details revealed below)

From New York, to London, to Sydney, to Cologne, to Bucharest, there has been a wave of protests against politicians, banks and financial institutions.

Anybody watching coverage of the demonstrations may have been struck by a repeated motif - a strangely stylised mask of Guy Fawkes with a moustache and pointy beard.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrived at the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest to make a speech wearing one of these masks. He took it off, reportedly at the insistence of the police.

They were thought to have been used first by the notorious hacker-activist group Anonymous in 2008 during a protest against Scientology, but have since spread throughout the global protest movement.

The masks are from the 2006 film V for Vendetta where one is worn by an enigmatic lone anarchist who, in the graphic novel on which it is based, uses Fawkes as a role model in his quest to end the rule of a fictional fascist party in the UK.

Early in the book V destroys the Houses of Parliament by blowing it up, something Fawkes had planned and failed to do in 1605.

British graphic novel artist David Lloyd is the man who created the original image of the mask for a comic strip written by Alan Moore. Lloyd compares its use by protesters to the way Alberto Korda's famous photograph of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara became a fashionable symbol for young people across the world.

"The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny - and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way," he says.

A curious Lloyd visited the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park, New York, to have a look at some of the people wearing his mask.

"My feeling is the Anonymous group needed an all-purpose image to hide their identity and also symbolise that they stand for individualism - V for Vendetta is a story about one person against the system."

The film of V for Vendetta ends with an image of a crowd of Londoners all wearing Guy Fawkes masks, unarmed and marching on parliament.

It is that image of collective identification and simultaneous anonymity that is appealing to Anonymous and other groups, says Rich Johnston, a commentator on the world of comics.

Still from the film V for Vendetta The 2006 film added a new costume to the fancy dress pantheon

The widespread adoption of the masks was definitely a reaction to the film rather than the book, he argues.

"The book is about one man bringing down the state but the film includes a scene of a huge crowd - making a statement against a faceless corporation."

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Powell Gammill
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People who want to say "Hi" to the masters.


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