V for Vendetta, the Movie, Glorifies Western Terrorism
Debate Rounds (4)
(2) Main Argument
(3) Rebuttal to opponent's main argument
(4) Response to rebuttal + closing arguments
The Western world (Occident) = The countries of Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
Contention #1: V for Vendetta, the movie, is different than V for Vendetta, the graphic novel.
Film adaptations often differ from the books and graphic novels that inspired them, and V for Vendetta is no exception. The graphic novel features a rigid, calculated, and almost inhuman protagonist. His interactions with Evey are largely unemotional. When he does show emotion, it is in the form of gritty resentment and rage. For example, V talks to statues as if they were lovers—"So you stand at last. You are no longer my justice. You are his justice now. You have bedded another" —before blowing them up. The movie, however, features a more charismatic V, a protagonist who cooks Evey breakfast and works intentionally to better his relationship with her. While somewhat socially stunted, V is approachable, almost likable. Evey discovers him, one day, pretending to swordfight while watching a movie. While some, though not many, of these moments appear in the graphic novel as well, they are portrayed there with an overt grimness that paints V as a mentally and emotionally struggling individual.
The character of Evey changes from book to movie. In the graphic novel, Evey is a fifteen-year-old girl who, faced with poverty, attempts to make a living as a prostitute. In the movie, she is a twenty-something girl who never, as far as the audience is aware, considers prostitution.
Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novel, had his name removed from the movie's credits. About the graphic novel, Moore writes, "Whereas, what I was trying to do was take these two extremes of the human political spectrum and set them against each other in a kind of little moral drama, just to see what works and what happened. I tried to be as fair about it as possible. I mean, yes, politically I'm an anarchist; at the same time I didn't want to stick to just moral blacks and whites. I wanted a number of the fascists I portrayed to be real rounded characters. They've got reasons for what they do. They're not necessarily cartoon Nazis. Some of them believe in what they do, some don't believe in it but are doing it any way for practical reasons. As for the central character of the anarchist, V himself, he is for the first two or three episodes cheerfully going around murdering people, and the audience is loving it. They are really keyed into this traditional drama of a romantic anarchist who is going around murdering all the Nazi bad guys."
According to Moore, the graphic novel attempts to do justice to a complicated issue. The film, by contrast, offers little humanization of individuals within the oppressive government. The few exceptions include Finch, Finch's partner, and (depending on your interpretation) Delia Surridge. These exceptions, however, do little to balance the overflow of black-and-white, negative portrayals of the oppressive regime.
Contention #2: V, the character, is a Western terrorist.
I propose that terrorism is here defined as "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes." Given this definition, V's actions are acts of terrorism. V bombs buildings, murders political leaders, hijacks public broadcasts, and threatens public venues with acts of violence. A review of the film from CinemaBlend.com suggests that "He's a terrorist, but he's not terrorizing the people." Whether or not V intentionally terrorizes "people" (civilians, bystanders, observers, etc) is irrelevant. V is committing acts of terror against an established entity, and those acts have the same basic consequences as other acts of terrorism as defined above. And, though V's origin is largely unknown, he is attacking a European government, and he is acting, in part, of behalf of a section of Europe. He is a member of the Western world; thus, he is a Western terrorist.
Contention #3: The context provided does not justify V's actions.
Given V's acts of terrorism, and given the aforementioned differences between the graphic novel and the film, the film does not provide enough context to justify V's actions. The film may justify an aggressive response to oppression, but aggression is different than terrorism. The film may justify an underground sociopolitical movement in response to tyranny, but a member of an underground sociopolitical movement is not necessarily a terrorist. The film does not answer questions regarding V's use of explosives and lethal weapons. Given that those tools are used to commit acts of terrorism, the film does not adequately respond to V's use of terrorism as a tool for change.
Because the film does not provide the same nuanced approach to a complicated issue, V's acts of terrorism go unchecked. The audience is meant to assume that V's actions are justified without receiving any real justification for them. Though entertaining, the film is, in many ways, a simple, pruned version of the graphic novel. The film pruned away the grey complexity of the graphic novel, leaving a somewhat relatable man who destroys building and kills government officials as a way of symbolizing his disapproval of a government. The oppressive government is portrayed as strikingly evil, thus emphasizing the glorification of V's acts of terrorism.
In The Matrix, the Wachowski siblings dulled the moral backlash against violence by allowing the would-be terrorists to run around in a fake world. V for Vendetta, however, takes place in London. It is a future, dystopian version of London, but it is still London. V did not explode fabricated buildings inside a virtual reality with the power of his mind—he blew up real buildings in London. Aside from the possible sociopolitical arguments for anti-oppression coup d'�tats, V for Vendetta, the film, provides a platform for unrestricted violence against authority. The film's use of violence without adequate context creates an environment that glorifies Western terrorism.
Thank you, bluebb9, for giving me the opportunity to debate this very interesting resolution. I'm sure it will be a very fulfilling debate. I also enjoyed the movie V for Vendetta.
I would also like to note that, because Pro has asserted the claim, the burden of proof is on him to show that the movie V for Vendetta glorifies Western terrorism- not on me to show how it doesn't.
Contention 1: V for Vendetta, the movie, is different than V for Vendetta, the graphic novel.
Rebuttal 1: While I acknowledge the differences between the characters in the graphic novel of V for Vendetta and their counterparts in the graphic novel's film adaptation of the same name, I would like to submit that these differences are irrelevant. In his original submission, Pro clearly stated that his position is that "V for Vendetta, the movie, glorifies Western terrorism." As the graphic novel is most assuredly not the movie, the characters from the film should be judged on their own merits- not on how well they cling to the source material. As such, I will only address the portions of Pro's argument in his first contention that directly relate to the film.
In the film V for Vendetta, V is undeniably charismatic. His introductory monologue, spoken shortly after he dispatches several government agents attempting to molest Evey, is full of alliteration and powerful words, establishing V as a powerful orator. But V's outward appearance – the one he projects to Evey, and the one that he adopts while broadcasting on television after hijacking the BTN building – is merely a mask that grows to dominate who he is.
In the beginning of the film, the audience only sees this part of V: the symbol. But as the film begins to progress, V is humanized further. He is seen to have severe burns while cooking Evey breakfast, but he doesn't want to talk about them; he takes over the BTN in order to broadcast his message of revolution, but he also fulfills a personal vendetta by killing government officials who worked at Larkhill. The audience sees V's duplicity: they see V as a character – a "dramatis personae," in V's own words – but also as a person. They see what he went through at Larkhill; they see him carry out his vengeance. As the audience gets to know V as a person, as well as V as an idea, they begin to appreciate him for what is he is: a tragic hero.
V is not perfect. He saves Evey from the Fingermen – putting Evey in his debt – and then kidnaps Evey, forcing her to stay in his underground hideaway against his will. He murders several members of the government for personal reasons, drawing a negative response from Evey. He tortures Evey in order to mold her into an agent of change, forcing her to lose her fear at the expense of his own morality. Even his favorite film – The Count of Monte Cristo – showcases his tragedy. The film follows Edmond Dantes, a man wrongfully imprisoned for treason, and his quest for revenge after he escapes from prison. Along the way, Dantes causes the deaths – either directly or indirectly – of those who wronged him, often with terrible consequences. The toll on his conscience is immense. Easy parallels can be drawn between the character of Dantes and the character of V: both are imprisoned, escape, and proceed to murder those responsible, ultimately atoning for their crimes the only way they can: death. V fulfills his role as a symbol, an idea - he tells Creedy that "beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bullet proof" - and then dies an empty shell, having given up everything for his revolution. This is not glory; this is a fitting end for a flawed character.
I will save my remarks about the government in the movie for the third rebuttal, where they belong.
Contention 2: V, the character, is a Western terrorist.
Rebuttal 2: I understand Pro's connection with this argument: if the movie glorifies V, and if V is a Western terrorist, then the movie glorifies Western terrorism- which was the implication of Pro's first contention. But, as I wrote above, I disagree that the movie glorifies V.
Contention 3: The context provided does not justify V's actions.
Rebuttal 3: I don't understand Pro's argument that "the film may justify an aggressive response to oppression, but aggression is different than terrorism." Using Pro's definition of terrorism, and Merriam-Webster's definition of aggression – "a forceful action or procedure; the practice of making attacks or encroachments; hostile, injurious, or destructive behavior or outlook especially when caused by frustration" – is perfectly in line with terrorism. Terrorism is a form of aggression; all aggression is not terrorism, certainly, but the opposite is true. All terrorism is, by definition, aggression.
I would disagree that the film does not answer questions about V's use of explosives and lethal weapons. Evey is outraged at V's murderous tendencies, especially at his attempts to justify them: when V claims that "what was done to me was monstrous," Evey responds bitterly by stating that "they created a monster." Even the government, as oppressive as it is, opens up a criminal investigation against V for his murders, assigning their best officers to the case. As I mentioned before, V also suffers personally for his crimes, which take their toll on his humanity so soundly that by the end of the movie his morality has eroded completely. With regards to the explosives, V doesn't kill anyone with them: instead, he uses them to make a point. Indeed, he even says as much: "...A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. Alone, a symbol is meaningless, but with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world."
The film also shows "grey morality:" it does follow the original plot of having the fascists elected legally and kept in power through general apathy of the public- the only difference is that the fascist party in the film, like the fascists in real-life Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, provided the catalyst for their election themselves. Hitler burned the Reichstag to the ground, and fingered the Communist Party as the scapegoat in order to get his party more votes ; in V for Vendetta, the Norsefire party does much the same.
The film also attempts to humanize the government and give a balanced perception of them. In the graphic novel, the police are simply tools of the government, out to stop V simply because he means to overthrow them; in the film, they are relatable characters who start out doing their jobs but realize as the film goes on that they are working for the wrong side. Even in the final sequence, where the people of London march with their masks on the military checkpoints, the military leader has a change of heart and orders his men not to fire, realizing that his orders from the government are immoral. In both the graphic novel and film, the government is made up of people, and the film accurately portrays these members of the government as being people, not cartoon characters. They serve the government, but they make their own decisions.
Conclusion: The character V suffers for his violence against authority. The film creates adequate context for his violence – the government's brutality, for one, and V's origin story for another – but even within this context, V faces the consequences of his decisions by losing his humanity and eventually dying for his goals. V is a Western terrorist, but he suffers for his crimes, and he is a tragic, flawed character. His terrorism isn't even idealized by his closest companion. I contend that V is not idealized, is little more than a tragic hero, and suffers for his actions throughout the film.
Before I respond directly to my opponent's remarks, I would like to summarize some of what has been said thus far.
I have argued that V is, in fact, a Western terrorist, and my opponent seems to agree. I asserted that the film's glorification of Western terrorism is, in part, a by-product of the lack of context for V's violence. I will, in the remainder of this debate, prove that—not only does the film not provide enough context for V's actions—the protagonist of V for Vendetta was glorified.
Because my opponent seems to agree with my Contention #2, I will simply extend those points and apply them to my following comments.
Response to Rebuttal of Contention #1:
During my main arguments, I attempted to argue that the film decontextualized V's violence, and I used the graphic novel as a lens through which to view the film. My opponent correctly pointed out that, ultimately, the differences between the graphic novel and the film are irrelevant because my resolution regards only the film. I would like to assert, then, that my opponent's subsequent comparisons between the graphic novel and the film are equally irrelevant.
That said, I will not argue my first contention any further. I will simply respond to some of the comments made by my opponent about V's character.
My opponent claims that V is humanized throughout the film. He claims that "[audiences] see what he went through at Larkhill" and that "the audience gets to know V as a person." While I understand the logic of my opponent, I believe that neither claim is true. The audience does not see V's experiences at Larkhill. The audience briefly sees V as a fiery figure outside of Larkhill during a flashback, which is hardly a foundation for understanding V's experiences—all one can infer from that scene is pain, anger, and other nonspecific feelings. Other than that, V's experiences are communicated to the audience through Evey. It is through Evey that we learn about V's experiences in prison. It is through Evey that we learn about V's emotional triumph over despair. The audience is forced to live vicariously through Evey in order to know about V.
Through all of this, we never see V's face. V is a character—or, perhaps more accurately, a caricature who speaks using rhyme, alliteration, and rhetoric. As Roger Ebert noted, "The character of V and his relationship with Evey inescapably reminds us of the Phantom of the Opera. V and the Phantom are both masked…control others through the leverage of their imaginations and have a score to settle. One difference, and it is an important one, is that V's facial disguise does not move (unlike, say, the faces of a Batman villain) but is a mask that always has the same smiling expression."  V's mask is more than plastic—it is a reminder that he is a symbol, and a symbol is easier to admire.
I would now like to reframe—though not rework—one of my opponents claims. Yes, V is a tragic hero. My opponent is correct. V's status as a tragic hero, however, supports my claim that his actions are glorified. I will elaborate this point in the following paragraphs.
Response to Rebuttal of Contention #3:
My opponent argues that the government in V for Vendetta, the victim of V's terrorism, is humanized. My opponent writes, "In both the graphic novel and film, the government is made up of people, and the film accurately portrays these members of the government as being people, not cartoon characters. They serve the government, but they make their own decisions." The government in V for Vendetta is similar to the government of 1984, the novel. While some characters (Finch, for example) do make their own decisions, those characters are exceptions, anomalies. At the end of the film, when all the V-lookalikes walk toward the mass of armed government soldiers, the film implies that the only reason that the soldiers did not fire on their own citizens is because they did not hear an order from their leader. One soldier asks repeatedly for an order, and, when hearing none, simply does nothing. That is not choice—that is accepting the status quo, and it makes it much easier to appreciate V's acts of terrorism.
In addition, the Fingermen carry a red-and-black badge. Their loud leader, Chancellor Sutler, surrounds himself with red and black. The insignia is rigid and right-angled. The government spies in its people. The government has a propaganda leader. People are put into black bags and never seen again.
I admit, these statements do not argue definitively that the governments is clearly portrayed as bad, but certainly that do no point to a "balanced" portrayal as my opponent suggests. The sentences above bring about images of 1984 and Nazi Germany—not a humanized leadership. They suggest a government that might deserve acts of terrorism, thus glorifying V's actions.
When considering whether or not V's actions are glorified by the film, one must consider how the film was received by the public, real people. Considering the public's reactions to the film is well within the parameters of my resolution because the effects of the characters and plot on those who watched V for Vendetta is relevant to V for Vendetta as a movie.
My opponent notes that V's "terrorism isn't even idealized by his closest companion." I believe that, by "companion," my opponent is referring to the other characters in the film—Evey, Finch, etc. While I disagree with this point, I will not argue against it. I will, however, note that the other characters in V for Vendetta make up a very small portion of the population who saw V's actions. We must consider the audience.
That said, and given that both my opponent and I have discussed "the audience" at length without using sources, I would like to explore how the audience actually reacted to V. Roger Ebert's review is noted above. Rolling Stone noted that "V has his mojo working."  Entertainment Weekly said, "V is Batman crossed with the Phantom of the Opera…"  And the New York Times stated, "V slices and dices Evey's troubles away, topping off his handiwork first by reciting some vacuous verse and then by blowing up the Old Bailey."  If my opponents thinks that this is a poor sample of audience reactions specifically to V (and not to the movie in general), I encourage him to find different sources.
If "glorify" can be defined as "to make glorious by bestowing honor, praise, or admiration," then surely the film, V for Vendetta, bestows audience admiration upon V, the "tragic hero" protagonist of the film.
My opponent already stated that "if the movie glorifies V, and if V is a Western terrorist, then the movie glorifies Western terrorism." If my opponent agrees that the audience's (including my opponent, who called V a "hero") reaction to V proves V's glorification, then he must argue that V is not a Western terrorist. If he believes that V is a Western terrorist (a point that he did not dispute), then my opponent must argue that the audience's reactions to V do not prove V's glorification.
In my main argument, I noted that V is a Western terrorist and there is not enough context in the film to justify his terrorism. I have now expanded on my main argument, noting that the admiration of V's actions is most easily visible in the reactions of the audience. For those who enjoyed V for Vendetta, V was the hero—or "tragic hero" as my opponent noted. Not only is there a lack of context, there is an admiration for V's actions; thus V's Western terrorism is glorified.
Fauxzor forfeited this round.
Because my opponent forfeited the previous round and was unable to respond to my arguments, I extend previous arguments.
As a conclusion, however, I will note a couple things.
I challenged my opponent to refute one of two claims: "My opponent already stated that 'if the movie glorifies V, and if V is a Western terrorist, then the movie glorifies Western terrorism.' If my opponent agrees that the audience's (including my opponent, who called V a 'hero') reaction to V proves V's glorification, then he must argue that V is not a Western terrorist. If he believes that V is a Western terrorist (a point that he did not dispute), then my opponent must argue that the audience's reactions to V do not prove V's glorification." Because he forfeited the previous round, my opponent neither refuted those claims nor responded to my challenge.
I have shown that V is a Western terrorist and that the film glorifies V. I have also shown that the lack of context for V's actions links the film's glorification of V to V's actions as a terrorist.
I believe that I have fulfilled my requirements as Pro: V for Vendetta, the Movie, Glorifies Western Terrorism.
I thank my opponent, Fauxor, for this debate.
Fauxzor forfeited this round.
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