Back in the early 80s, approaching the end of Vendetta's epic 38-part cycle, Moore was struggling to think of another “V” word with which to title a closing chapter. He'd already used Victims, Vaudeville and Vengeance; the Villain, the Voice, the Vanishing; even Vicissitude and Verwirrung (the German word for confusion). “I was getting pretty desperate,” he says.
He eventually settled on Vox populi. “Voice of the people. And I think that if the mask stands for anything, in the current context, that is what it stands for. This is the people. That mysterious entity that is evoked so often – this is the people.”
I think Moore nails it when he discusses the Occupy movement’s use of the Guy Fawkes mask as a means of creating spectacle more than anything else. Making fun of the protesters for wearing the ‘face’ of a theocratic terrorist sort of misses the point.
There are more interesting points to make about the mask: how collectivity and anonymity have become a sort of refuge and protest against the corporatization of identity (e.g. social media); how the mask ironically reveals the face of the ‘average’ OWS protester as white and male; the resemblance of the Fawkes mask to commedia dell’arte masks in that it can be “pleasant, breezy, or more sinister”, depending on the context; the interesting choice of leftist protesters to wear these masks rather than the bandanas and hoodies popular among anarchists in the ’90s—perhaps we always find a face more sympathetic, even if it’s not a real one; etc.
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Protesters at Occupy Hong Kong
Camped out at Occupy London
Zuccotti Park, New York, 10 October 2011 (Andrew Burton/Associated Press)
Shepherd Fairey "Occupy Hope"