On Alan Moore and the Mask

We all know the mask, the Guy Fawkes mask that shows up in photos of kids getting pepper sprayed by cops. If you don’t know, the use of the mask as a symbol of protest has its contemporary roots in Alan Moore’s and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta comic book that was published in the 1980s.

The Guardian has an interview with Moore about the use of the mask.

This is a great example of something that I like to talk about all the time. A quote from the opening paragraph sort of sums it up:

“I suppose I’ve gotten used to the fact,” says the 58-year-old, “that some of my fictions percolate out into the material world.”

I want to make a related point: this is happening all the time. Characters are leaking out all the time, escaping control, and when it is a character like V, it is especially great. You see, the character of V is inextricably linked to a rhetoric of revolt. The mask is bound up in an argument about anarchism; wearing the mask means agreement with that.

Moore alludes to the first use of the Guy Fawkes mask in the real world, and I remember when it was going on–4chan decided to fight Scientology, and the use of the mask bloomed from there. In Rancierian terms, which are terms that I like to talk in, the mask changes the distribution of the sensible. The iconography of that shit-eating grin renders the rhetoric of V physical. Space for the argument is made by simply seeing the mask.

Of course, it isn’t that new. The use of the Fawkes mask is really just the logical extension of Black Block mentality–coherent message by anonymous solidarity and so on.

In a way, I am reminded by what Warren Ellis wrote in Planetary. In one issue, an interdimensional being escapes a portal and the trail goes cold. The common assumption is that this being is Alan Moore. It’s weird how fiction is true.

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2 Responses to On Alan Moore and the Mask

  1. Jacob says:

    So by conforming to the use of a recent and nicely timed media symbol and following their script you are really expressing your true inner anarchic nature? Never trust a prankster a wise soul once said..

    • kunzelman says:

      Movements need symbols, and appropriation of media is a part of that. The fact that the mask is involved with a rhetoric of anarchism is just true. Does that mean that everyone who puts the mask on is “embracing their inner anarchic nature”? No. But it certainly means that they become aligned with a politics of anarchy in the same way that wearing black and standing with the black block embroils you in a similar process.

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