The popular Guy Fawkes mask has very uncomplimentary beginnings
Ibegan intentionin Mumbaiwritingof exploringthis with column every some facets of cinema made in and about Indonesia, but this being Deepavali season, the war-like decibel levels proved to be hugely distracting. The noise took me years back to a November in London, where bereft of the explosions they had been used to for decades, my ears thrilled to familiar bangs and pops.
It turns out that the crackers were because of this rhyme: “Remember, remember! The fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason, Why the Gunpowder treason, Should ever be forgot.”
There’sbut essentially,more to it’s the a rhyme,reference to the Guy Fawkes Night, a commemoration of the night when he tried to blow up the House of Lords in 1605, but was foiled in his attempt. Fawkes was merely the front guy in what was a larger plot.
He became an integral part of British popular culture, and when cinema reared her head in the early 20th century, he became a popular subject. In Percy Stow’s 1904 comedy short, Guy Fawkes’ Day, a father poses as Guy, while his children set him alight. The 1907 short, Guy Fawkes, the director of
which is unknown, explores the subject in a more serious manner, as doesErnest G. Batley's 1913short, Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. The first feature-lengthsubject appears to be Maurice Elvy's Guy Fawkes (1923) is G. unknown,manner, Plot. Batley’slook explores (1913).
Since then, the bomberLeahy’s to have taken a until Jeff in television2005, documentary Quest for Guy Fawkes, unless you count the British sitcom, Barbara, whose 2003 episode set on a bonfire night was titled ‘Guy Fawkes’. There have been numerous other British television passing references, but let us turn our
attention to the famous mask, the image by which we all reference Fawkes with. The iconic image comes from Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta graphic novel
series that began in 1982, with illustrations by David Lloyd. If you are not a graphic novel fan, you are far more likely to remember the 2005 V for Vendetta
film adaptation, where James screenplay McTeigueby the directed Wachowski a brothers (now Wachowski brother and sister, but that’s a different story) with graphic art by Lloyd.
In the film, we are in a dystopian future, where the United Kingdom is ruled by fascists, and the titular V (played by Wachowski regular, Hugo Weaving) plots to recreate Guy Fawkes’ explosive mission, helped by the comely Evey (Natalie Portman). Like most Moore adaptations, including From Hell (2001) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), the film failed to live up to the glories of the graphic novel. However, it did succeed in exposing the Fawkes mask to a new generation, and today, almost every protest against fascist regimes in the West sees people wearing these masks. Not bad for what began as a terrorist plot 410 years ago.