V is for Victim

When I was 19, I watched the film version of V for Vendetta in my parent’s house.  I hadn’t read the graphic novel.  I just wanted to see Natalie Portman.  I was impressed that she had shaved her head for the performance.  I had no idea what I was getting into.

I wasn’t dating anyone at the time.  My parents didn’t know that I was gay.  They were religious, conservative, and outspoken in their opinion of what should happen to anyone who was gay.  I sat by myself during the film and silently cheered for V as s/he fought the totalitarian British government that used its power to watch and record its citizens behavior, to keep them paralyzed with fear.

When Evey (Natalie Portman) is captured by the police and placed in prison, she is tortured in an attempt to gain information about V.  While in her cell, she receives a letter through a crack in the wall between her cell and the next one.  Written on toilet paper is Valerie’s story.

Valerie met her first girlfriend at school.  Her biology teacher told her it was an adolescent phase that people outgrew.  Sara did, but Valerie didn’t.  When she was 20 Valerie stopped pretending and took a girl home to meet her parents.  Her father yelled and threw a baby picture of her in the trash can while her mother cried.  Valerie moved to London to study acting.  Ten years later, in 1986, she met Ruth.  They fell in love, and Ruth grew scarlet roses for Valerie.

But then there was war and the take-over.  Undesirables were rounded up.  They took Ruth first.  It was only an amount of time before they got Valerie, too.  “It is strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and I apologized to nobody.”

Evey is released from the prison that wasn’t a prison but an elaborate stage for V to share the chapter of his life spent at Larkhill Concentration Camp.  V explains that Valerie’s story was written to him during his time as a prisoner.  He has a shrine dedicated to Valerie in his underground hide-out–a shrine complete with dozens of scarlet roses, which he places on his victims’ bodies after he’s killed them.

Valerie is of unparalleled importance to V.  She is a part of every action s/he takes once s/he has escaped from Larkhill.  But her story is a tragic one and relegated to the past tense.  And her character–she’s a perfect martyr for audiences who harbor prejudice against gay individuals.   She writes about her experience looking for companionship at gay clubs.  “I saw a lot of the scene, but I never felt comfortable there.  So many of them just wanted to be gay.  It was their life, their ambition, all they talked about it.  And I wanted more than that.”  Particular stereotypes of the gay lifestyle are not just omitted, but seen and then negated.  Valerie is a pillar of morality with her monogamous, loving relationship.

I’m in a loving, monogamous relationship.  I’ve had roses for three years and spent too much time apologizing for it.  I’m not saying that Valerie isn’t a “real” lesbian, as if there was such a thing.  I’m saying that particular virtues are necessary for a character to be a lesbian and accepted as a martyr.


~ by thornfieldrose on July 14, 2012.

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