The V for Vendetta movie came out in 2006 when I was a little teenage edgelord, and I absolutely loved it.
So what better day than The 5th of November to remember, remember the catalyst for ninth grade me starting to tell everyone that I was an anarchist? Sure, at fifteen years old I probably didn't have a particularly strong grasp on politics. After all, teenage edgelords subsist on diets of offensive Internet jokes and Mountain Dew, not polished political rhetoric. But how could a masked, alliteration-spitting, vigilante rising up against a fascist regime not burn a fire deep within my darkened, edgelord soul?
V––the titular antihero of the movie based on the Alan Moore graphic novel of the same name––was every edgelord's wet dream. He was a master assassin, capable of expert knife-play and hand-to-hand combat. He enjoyed old romance films and outlawed books, giving off the air of a misunderstood intellectual. But most importantly, V dressed in all black (with a stylish brimmed hat, m'lady), save for his white mustachioed mask based on the 17th century English revolutionary Guy Fawkes––the same mask that would become the calling card for all manner of edgy Internet men, from anonymous 4chan users to me on my Myspace profile.
Very cool.AFP/AFP/Getty Images
I wanted to be V with all my heart. But how could a young boy growing up in a safe, predominantly Jewish suburb stand up against an oppressive government? Easy. I had my mom drive me to Hot Topic, and I purchased a Guy Fawkes mask of my own. I later learned that the Time Warner media conglomerate owns the rights to the mask and profits off every purchase, but I didn't know that at the time. Perhaps if one wants to rise up against the system, one must accept the necessary evil that movie merch comes at the price of fueling capitalism.
Regardless, mask in tow, I rose up against the forces that reigned at my suburban high school.
Some days, I bore the mantle of V during lunch, approaching fellow students outside the cafeteria and reciting the poem: "Remember, remember, the 5th of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot! I know of no reason, the Gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot." These dimwitted children would stare at me with their mouths ajar, and I'd smirk to myself knowing that I just opened their minds to the wonders of anarchy. Down with the government. Rise of the people.
I began watching old romance films, too. In the same way that Natalie Portman's Evey fell in love with V even after he literally tortured her (for the good of the resistance, of course), I knew that girls would find me attractive if I was a total dickhead but also had well-formed opinions on black and white love stories. I also bought a switchblade from an army story in Chinatown and taught myself tricks through YouTube videos. "Just like V," I thought.
Slowly but surely, I transformed myself from a young, wannabe edgelord into a full-fledged revolutionary. By the time I was eighteen, I had mastered the art of romance and perfected a few cool switchblade tricks after cutting my finger 1000 times. But it was 2009, and new Alan Moore graphic novel-based movie was on the horizon––a movie that would change my edgelordiness forever.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Watchmen introduced me to Rorschach, a new masked vigilante with an ever-shifting ink mask (like a Rorschach test!) and an angrier ideology based around justice against a broken, immoral society: "You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it." Rorschach reflected me––broken, dark, and angry in my small suburban town, living an existence that nobody could understand.
By then, I was old enough to drive myself to Hot Topic. I bought a shirt with a picture of Rorschach on the front and that very quote on the back. It was time for me to don a new mask.
Over the decades, the meaning of the the 5th of November, or Guy Fawkes Day, has changed time and time again. Originally, the day was a celebration of Guy Fawkes' failure to assassinate King James I. Nowadays, in stark contrast, Guy Fawkes Day is a celebration of rising up against oppressive governments.
Much like Guy Fawkes Day, teenage edgelord me has changed a lot over the years, too. When I look back on my high school years, the first word that comes to mind is cringe. I no longer think wearing movie masks in real life is anything short of lame, and I've thankfully realized that trying to act like a badass movie antihero in real life is a pretty big hindrance to one's social standing. I'm also not an anarchist, not by a long shot. At the same time, I think I have a better understanding of the message of V for Vendetta now than I ever did as a kid––a message that is more relevant in Trump's America than ever before. Guy Fawkes masks might be out of fashion (or maybe they never were in), but maybe we should break them out for old time's sake. After all, what better day is there than today to rise up against fascism?