The Magazine

'A' for Absurd

It's 'Atlas Shrugged' for the Loony Left.

Mar 20, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 25 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
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THINK OF V for Vendetta, the new movie written and produced by the brothers who made the Matrix pictures, as an Atlas Shrugged for leftist lunatics.

Ayn Rand's 1957 novel portrayed a dystopic future in which every paranoid libertarian fear of evil statism was fulfilled. V for Vendetta is set in a dystopic future as imagined by Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, dailykos.com, and Michael Moore--a future in which we learn that the "war on terror" was a plot hatched by evil right-wing politicians who used weapons of mass destruction against their own people to create the conditions for a homophobic, theocratic, totalitarian regime in which the only happy people are those who get paid off by a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

In Atlas Shrugged, the message of liberation is delivered by a faceless figure named John Galt, who commandeers the nation's airwaves to deliver a speech proposing a nationwide strike against the state. The John Galt of V for Vendetta is a man wearing a mask bearing the likeness of Guy Fawkes, the instigator of the early 17th-century plot to blow up the House of Commons. The masked man, known only as V, takes over the British airwaves in 2020 and promises to blow up Parliament.

And just like Atlas Shrugged, V for Vendetta is an exercise in didactic propaganda in the guise of an adventure story meant to appeal to teenage boys and their narcissistic fantasies about being at the very center of the universe. Both works prominently feature a cool, beautiful, and skinny chick who throws in her lot with the nerds. In Atlas Shrugged, it's the railroad manager Dagny Taggart who joins with Galt. In V for Vendetta, the beauteous waif Natalie Portman plays Eevy, who throws in her lot with V and falls for him even though he wears a ludicrous wig, minces about like the Olympic skater Johnny Weir, hands out flowers like Ferdinand the Bull, and is horribly burned.

Speaking for any adolescent male who feels self-conscious about his skin, V tells Eevy that she needn't see his scars, because the face under his mask doesn't represent the real him. V can go anywhere undetected and do anything, but oh, how lonely he is, sitting alone in his basement lair watching The Count of Monte Cristo and listening to music all by himself on his old jukebox, wearing his mask even in solitude. V for Vendetta began its journey to the screen as a comic book, and V is the ultimate comic-book protagonist--the Superhero loser.

Atlas Shrugged is a primer in Rand's own ludicrous Objectivist philosophy, complete with the full text of Galt's broadcast speech, which runs longer and is far less interesting than a Fidel Castro stemwinder. V for Vendetta is a two-hour alternative history lesson of the past four-and-a-half years. There was no terrorist threat to Britain, America, or the world. Rather, the threat was entirely the result of a plot hatched by a "deeply religious politician of the Conservative party" whose security chief uses prisoners at an Abu Ghraib-like facility as guinea pigs in a biological warfare experiment he then unleashes on the people of England. A hundred thousand die, "terrorists" are rounded up, and the "deeply religious politician" is elected dictator by a desperate populace that has allowed itself to be seduced into making decisions from unwarranted fear.

"There is something wrong in this country," V tells the people of Britain in his speech. But he doesn't just blame the government. Like John Galt, he blames the people: "If you are looking for the reason, you need only look into a mirror. Fear got the best of you."

If you believe that the entire edifice of the war on terror is built on lies and more lies, then V for Vendetta is for you. Its admirers, like the critic James Wolcott, are throwing around terms like "subversive" and "daring" to describe this film, for which a corporation called Time Warner ponied up more than $100 million and whose ideology is shared by the vast majority of those who make up the cultural community in the West, from the most recent Nobel literature laureate to Michael Moore, bestselling author and Oscar-winning director of the smash hit Fahrenheit 9/11.

It might have been subversive had V's erotic leanings mirrored those of the movie's co-screenwriter Larry Wachowski, who left his wife four years ago to become a preoperative transsexual named "Laurenca" living under the domination of a professional sadist named Mistress Ilsa Strix, to whom (according to Rolling Stone) he has transferred most of his possessions. But then, nobody would go see the film.

At this point, the only genuinely subversive Hollywood movie about the war on terror would be one in which Osama bin Laden is the villain, George W. Bush and Tony Blair are the heroes, and al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are in cahoots.

John Podhoretz, a columnist for the New York Post, is The Weekly Standard's movie critic.