Masked and Anonymous Redux
About a month ago I wrote a short post about Alan Moore's reaction to the appropriation by the Anonymous group of his iconic V for Vendetta mask, quoting an interview with him from 2008.
Hiding in plain sight
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 20th November
Well interestingly enough The Guardian caught up with him earlier in the week and given the ubiquity of the mask everywhere from Zuccotti Park and #OccupyWallStreet to Julian Assange's fleeting appearance at #OccupyLSX, they sat down and had a good chat with him about what it all means to him now, starting with whether he ever imagined David Lloyd's iconic image would have found such widespread real-life use:
"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."And on the subject of Time Warner/DC making money from each mask sold (my original objection to the appropriation of the mask by protest groups), the article goes on to say:
"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."
...But with the mask's growing popularity, Moore has come to see its appeal as about something more than identity-shielding. "It turns protests into performances. The mask is very operatic; it creates a sense of romance and drama. I mean, protesting, protest marches, they can be very demanding, very gruelling. They can be quite dismal. They're things that have to be done, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're tremendously enjoyable – whereas actually, they should be."
At one point in V for Vendetta, V lectures Evey about the importance of melodrama in a resistance effort. Says Moore: "I think it's appropriate that this generation of protesters have made their rebellion into something the public at large can engage with more readily than with half-hearted chants, with that traditional, downtrodden sort of British protest. These people look like they're having a good time. And that sends out a tremendous message."
It is an irony noted with relish by critics of the protests – one also glumly acknowledged by many of the protesters – that the purchase of so many Vendetta masks has become a lucrative little side-earner for Time Warner, the media company that owns the rights to Moore's creation. Efforts have been made to avoid feeding the conglomerate more cash, the Anonymous group reportedly starting to import masks direct from factories in China to circumvent corporate pockets; last year, demonstrators at a "Free Julian Assange" event in Madrid wore cardboard replicas, apparently self-made. But more than 100,000 of the £4-£7 masks sell every year, according to the manufacturers, with a cut always going to Time Warner. Does that irk Moore?But before you start to picture Moore racing down to #OccupyLSX all beards-a-blazing, he sounds a note of caution about his own direct involvement in any protest:
"I find it comical, watching Time Warner try to walk this precarious tightrope." Through contacts in the comics industry, he explains, he has heard that boosted sales of the masks have become a troubling issue for the company. "It's a bit embarrassing to be a corporation that seems to be profiting from an anti-corporate protest. It's not really anything that they want to be associated with. And yet they really don't like turning down money – it goes against all of their instincts." Moore chuckles. "I find it more funny than irksome."
"I have no particular connection or claim to what [the protesters] are doing, nor am I suggesting that these people are fans of mine, or of V for Vendetta." Ultimately, use of the mask may be down to the simple fact that "it's cool-looking. I'm not trying to make a proprietorial statement."Ah well, so. Now we know.
...The extent of Moore's own activism has been "a good moan in the local pub"; he does not see himself donning a mask ("Be a bit weird, wouldn't it?"). But his sympathies are with the protesters, and there is a clear sense of pride for him that so many people – if not "the 99%" then a great, unignorable bloc – have caused such a stir. "It would be probably be better if the authorities accepted this is a new situation, that this is history happening. History is a thing that happens in waves. Generally it is best to go with these waves, not try to make them turn back – the Canute option. I'm hoping that the world's leaders will realise this."
You can read the full article here.Tweet