Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Mask


The mask – a prominent emblem of social activism – that is making appearances at protests worldwide can be traced to an Alan Moore-David Lloyd creation from their 1982 comic series, V for Vendetta. Some say that the mask has a confused lineage – this particular plastic put-on, a sallow, smirking likeness of Guy Fawkes is actually some sort of a tie-in merchandise from the film version of V for Vendetta – a 2006 Joel Silver production.

Comic-book writer Moore (left) explains: "I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta, I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn't it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It's peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction."

For those who are sadly ignorant about this V for Vendetta story, it tells of a future Britain (actually 1997, nearly two decades into the future when Moore wrote it) under the heel of a dictatorship. The population are depressed and doing little to help themselves. Enter Evey, an orphan, and V, a costumed vigilante who takes an interest in her. Over 38 chapters, each titled with a word beginning with "V" (e.g. Victims, Vaudeville, Vengeance; Vicissitude; the Villain, the Voice, the Vanishing; and Verwirrung – the German word for confusion), we follow the brutal, loquacious anti-hero and his apprentice as they torment the ruling powers with acts of violent resistance. Throughout, V wears a mask that he never removes: bleached skin and rosy cheeks, pencil beard, eyes half shut above an inscrutable grin. You've probably come to know it well.

"That smile is so haunting," says Moore. "I tried to use the cryptic nature of it to dramatic effect. We could show a picture of the character just standing there, silently, with an expression that could have been pleasant, breezy or more sinister." As well as the mask, Occupy protesters have taken up as a marrying slogan "We are the 99%"; a reference, originally, to American dissatisfaction with the richest 1% of the US population having such vast control over the country. "And when you've got a sea of V masks, I suppose it makes the protesters appear to be almost a single organism – this "99%" we hear so much about. That in itself is formidable. I can see why the protesters have taken to it" (The Guardian, November 26, 2011).

I want to get this mask too! Does anybody have any idea if this is available in Malaysia? Otherwise, I may just produce my own cardboard replica!

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