Remember, Remember the 5th of November…

The pre-apocalyptic world in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, run by HelthWyzer and similar corporations/compounds, echoes a lot of the themes portrayed in the movie V for Vendetta, which is based off the graphic novel by Alan Moore, the same creative mind behind The Watchmen. As a common rule, I have this general distrust of the government, the police, and large corporations, so when I finally watched V for Vendetta, starring Hugo Weaving (of Mr. Smith/The Matrix fame) and Natalie Portman (of general awesomeness and beauty as well as her role in Closer), I couldn’t help but fall deeply in love with its artistic and narrative style, as it has some of the best dialogue I’ve seen, as well as its creative take on corruption, anarchy, and vigilante justice.

(Just check out this typography video of V’s introduction.)

Though I could ramble on about the movie and all its awesomeness (but really, go watch it, like now), I’d like to focus on one particular facet, the almost parallel storylines that exist in both the movie and Oryx and Crake: the deliberate creation of a deadly virus and the withholding of its antidote for high profits and world control, despite a mass loss of human life.

In the film, the men who later became Norsefire (the fictional fascist political party ruling the United Kingdom, the only surviving civilization) had staged a plan that would sweep them into full control of the nation; using detention centers begun as a Conservative Party program, they conducted horrific medical experiments on prisoners to perfect a deadly virus (and the cure for it) which they then used to stage a terrorist attack by religious extremists.

To maximize its effect, the virus was released in a water treatment plant called Three Waters, a London Underground station, and the St. Mary’s Primary School. The “St. Mary’s Virus” quickly killed almost 100,000 people in the British Isles, and the British populace was gripped by fear. Several “terrorist” scapegoats were tried and executed. Norsefire then promised to bring back security against the new “terrorist threat.” Party leaders had bought stock in the pharmaceutical companies that would later mass produce the cure, becoming very rich in the process. Not long after the biological attack and their ascension to power, the public was informed that a cure was miraculously discovered and distributed throughout the country. Adam Sutler (Norsefire’s leader) was then elected to the new office of High Chancellor.

V about to destroy one of Norsefire's mantras.

This prompts the appearance of our mysterious anarchist protagonist V, who dons a Guy Fawkes mask and systematically works do bring down the Norsefire government. Wherever he destroys a building or kills a political leader, he leaves his symbol conspicuously etched (in true Zorro fashion), which is a variation on the widely accepted “anarchy symbol.”

Been there, killed that.

Been there, killed that.

The only disparity between V for Vendetta and Oryx and Crake is that that Crake’s world is controlled by scientific advancements (and dare we say corruption) whereas V’s United Kingdom is controlled by political corruption. In the end of both tales, chaos ensues. In the end of both tales, multiple people die. In the end of both tales, a new leader arises from the ashes of destruction. In the end of both tales, you leave changed and wanting more.

Something to think about.

–Justin Barisich

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~ by justin.barisich on March 22, 2010.

2 Responses to “Remember, Remember the 5th of November…”

  1. Though we are not told why or how, in the Pixar movie Wall-E a major corporation has seemingly gained control of everything in the world, presumably to make money. It is interesting that as our culture progresses fictional writers seem to think that our society is trending towards being controlled by the major corporations of the world and that money has the power to tear down peoples moral fiber. It is a fairly pessimistic viewpoint but it also is interesting to think about. Are we as the public truly handcuffed by the products we buy? Are we nothing more than consumers? I tend to be more hopeful than that

  2. I too am obsessed with this film, it’s 1984 meets Beauty and the Beast, the very blatant graphic imagery is thrilling. It’s intriguing to think about it in the context of Oryx and Crake.

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