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V For Vendetta

How the V For Vendetta mask became popular.

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Protester wears a Guy Fawkes masks

Protesters wear Guy Fawkes masks while demonstrating in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany to demonstrate against economic and financial policy.

Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images
It is currently the number one best-selling mask in the world, and in my humble opinion it is well on its way to becoming the best-selling mask of all times, if not the best known. It has already become a modern icon for this century, and unofficially has been used to represent both the Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street movements. I am referring to the Guy Fawkes mask that was featured prominently in the 2006 film entitled V for Vendetta, and in the comic book series of the same name which the film is an adaption of.

Background - V for Vendetta

The V for Vendetta story originated in comic book form, the series of ten comics was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. David Lloyd was the creator of the stylized Guy Fawkes mask used both in the film and the comic book series.

The story takes place in an imaginary version of Great Britain circa 1980s to the 1990s. It is a post-nuclear holocaust world run by fascists who employ concentration camp and police state tactics. The protagonist is V, a revolutionary dressed as Guy Fawkes who is determined to overthrow the fascist regime, and proceeds to do so in a forceful, grand, and colorful manner.

The film adaption of V for Vendetta was released by Warner Brothers, directed by James McTeigue, and produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers, who also wrote the screenplay.

Background - Guy Fawkes

Unlike the character called V, Guy Fawkes was a real person in history. Guy Fawkes was born on April 13, 1570 and executed on January 31, 1606. He is best known for being part of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The plot was an attempt to assassinate the King of England, James I (a Protestant), and to replace him with a Catholic.

The group managed to hid a large amount of gunpowder in the catacombs under the British House of Lords, intending to blow the House up and kill the King. After an anonymous tip to the police, the gunpowder was discovered on November 5, 1605, and Guy Fawkes who had been guarding the stockpile was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death.

November 5 is now annually celebrated as Guy Fawkes Night in Great Britain, when bonfires are lit and fireworks are set of in honor of the gunpowder plot's failure to succeed.

Notoriety of the Guy Fawkes Mask Increases

So how did the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta become so popular? One reason is that so many protestors are now using the mask, conveniently serving as both a symbol of revolution and a means of protecting one's identity during public protests.

The Internet-based protest group called Anonymous adopted the Guy Fawkes mask as their symbol during a protest in 2008 against the Church of Scientology (see more images), when thousands of protestors all wore the mask.

V for Vendetta writer, Alan Moore responded to Entertainment Weekly, "I was also quite heartened the other day when watching the news to see that there were demonstrations outside the Scientology headquarters over here, and that they suddenly flashed to a clip showing all these demonstrators wearing V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow."

More recently, many protestors within the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement have used the Guy Fawkes mask during their often theatrical protests. When asked how he felt about it by the BBC News, David Lloyd, the mask's creator is quoted as saying, "The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.

Protest and Profit

The rights to the stylized Guy Fawkes mask featured on V for Vendetta are owned by the media company, Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Brothers. A portion of every mask sale does return to Time Warner in the form of licensing fees. The New York Times reported that with the help of Anonymous, the mask has become one of the most popular disguises and has contributed to the $28 billion in revenue Time Warner accumulated last year.

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