This is the War handwavium score card for the movie “V for Vendetta”: +112
All chapters/times listed are from the DVD.
+6 points. Chapter 1, 3:30, V attacks and subdues three paper targets, fingermen who attempt to rape Evey.
+15 points. Chapter 6, 2:00, V kills 5 paper targets, policemen at the TV station.
+10 points. Chapter 6, 2:00, two different policemen shoot the same officer that V is using as a shield. Lethal Rube Goldberg Machine.
+2 point. Chapter 6, 2:00, Police shoot and wound TV employee, thinking it is V. Nonlethal Rube Goldberg Machine.
+10 points. Chapter 9, 3:30, V refers to what he does as “Justice”. “There’s no court for the men like Prothera”. Violence as superior to social structures.
+5 points. Chapter 15, 1:00, Inspector Finch reads diary. Government conducts medical experiments for no apparent reason. Only after they create a deadly virus and an antidote do they decide to use the virus on their own people to create fear and grab power. Medical experiements are violent demonstration of evilness for no reason. Othering.
+10 points. Chapter 18. V tortures Evey to make her fearless. Misrepresentation of the effects of torture.
+36 points. Chapter 30, in the tunnel, after Creedy kills the Chancellor, V kills 12 cardboard targets, then V kills Creedy.
+10 points. Chapter 31, just before V dies in Evey’s arms, V tells Evey that he loved her. violence as an alternative for social structures.
+12 points. Big finale. As all the people dressed up as V are watching the Parliament building explode, they start to take their masks off. In the crowd, we see four “good guys” who had been killed suddenly appear in the crowd taking off their masks. Gordon Dietrich, Valerie, Valerie’s partner, and the little girl who watches television with her family. Distancing Narration.
+59 paper targets
+11 rube goldberg machines
+30 violence as superior to social structures
+12 distancing narration
+116 total score
It is a vengeance movie, after all.
After watching the movie several times, I was surprised that the scoring is as low at is is. The movie starts out with some quick violence right off the bat, paper targets via the fingermen. And then the assault on the TV station. And then it’s a long investigation into what’s going on. V kills a number of people at that point, but they’re not nameless, and for the most part, we get quite a bit of their character backgrounds. Then Evey is captured by the government and tortured in an attempt to get her to reveal information about V that would lead to V’s arrest. A rather poignant scene occurs when Evey finds a letter written by a previous inmate named Valerie. Valerie wrote the letter just before she died, and the heart of her message is that she wasn’t going to give up, she wasn’t going to give in. They could kill her, but there was an inch of her that they could never reach. Evey finds courage in this message. Evey is told she is to be executed unless she cooperates. Evey refuses. The guard says she is no longer afraid and that she is free to go. He walks out leaving the door open. Evey walks out to discover that she is at V’s secret lair, and that V has been the one torturing her all this time.
At this point, Evey swings through several emotional levels from horror to revulsion to anger and eventually collapses to the ground. V talks her through it and tells her to find the courage she found in her cell. V tells her that a moment ago, she thought she was going to die and was given a choice to tell the government about V or die, and she said she’d rather die. V tells Evey to try to find that courage again.
They go to the roof, and it’s raining outside. Evey stands up in the rain and says “God is in the rain”, which is something that Valerie wrote in her letter. And apparently Evey finds her fearlessness.
There are numerous problems with this scene. The first being the idea of torturing the fear out of someone. That is not an honest representation of the effects of torture. People who have survived severe torture suffer nightmares and panic attacks for the rest of their lives. And we see nothing about Evey to show us she is any different, to show us that she has what it takes to turn being tortured into some carthartic experience. That it just happened to work out that Evey emerged from her torture without permanent negative effects is using the ends to justify the means. And if Evey DID suffer any sort of permanent negative effects, the narrative made a point to distance us from them, as we never see any in the movie. In fact, when Evey comes back to visit V, she thanks him for it.
The second problem is that after the torture, V tells Evey that he did it because she had told him earlier that she wished she wasn’t afraid all the time. And V says this was his way to make her no longer be afraid. Never mind the simple fact that a passing comment doesn’t qualify as permission to torture a person for months. But we also learn some time after the torture that V loved Evey. V tells this to Evey as he is dying. Which is to say that V tortured Evey because he loved her and he wanted her to not be afraid anymore.
Which is to say, V is a psychopath. However, V is a psychopath of the most convenient kind. V is able to operate outside the grasp of government agents for twenty years. According to the movie, V escaped the medical labs twenty years earlier and has been spending all this time going after all the higher ups who worked at the medical labs, killing them. V has also robbed government censors of countless pieces of art. And he’s robbed the Chancellor’s train of real butter. He spent ten years clearing out a demolished subway tunnel and building new tracks to go under the Parliament building. And he did all of this without getting caught. Which is to say, he’s exceedingly brilliant. And yet, when it comes to Evey, his only way to show his love for her, to teach her how to not be afraid, is to torture her for months and risk her life and sanity.
Which is to say, V is the perfect writer’s tool for war handwavium. He’s smart enough to do all these things, and yet when he does something so fundamentally wrong as torture an innocent woman for months, defenders can say “But he’s crazy!”.
War handwavium is fiction that misdescribes violence, war, and the use of force. War handwavium is a misrepresentation of reality. And anyone who is as smart as V is in one respect, but as crazy as V is in other respects, isn’t a character meant to represent reality. It is a character meant to justify the entertaining use of violence.
The point is that the sanity of V’s character is irrelevant. Crazy doesn’t justify unrealistic portrayals of violence. And his torture of Evey produces the most unrealistic result imaginable.