V for Vendetta mask: meaning of Guy Fawkes disguise in Hugo Weaving film, designer, why do Anonymous use it?

The V for Vendetta mask was inspired by a Bonfire Night celebration and has become an international symbol of protest

The mask featured in V for Vendetta is inspired by Guy FawkesThe mask featured in V for Vendetta is inspired by Guy Fawkes
The mask featured in V for Vendetta is inspired by Guy Fawkes

In the V for Vendetta comic book series, graphic novel, and 2005 film adaptation starring Hugo Weaving, the mask worn by the hero V is styled after treasonous gunpowder plotter Guy Fawkes. In V for Vendetta, the masked vigilante battles against a totalitarian regime that has risen to power in Britain. He is inspired by Guy Fawkes and his story of opposition to the government of the day.

At the story’s climax, V is mortally injured and laid to rest, still wearing his mask, by his protégé Evey, in a London underground train packed with explosives. Evey pulls a lever, setting the train in motion and it travels through a tunnel beneath the Houses of Parliament.

The train then explodes, completing the designs of Guy Fawkes centuries ago, destroying Parliament, and bringing down the totalitarian regime. On the streets of London, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, also wearing the now iconic mask.

There are several reasons as to why V wears the mask. Firstly, he needs to hide his identity because he is a rebel who lives outside the law. Additionally, as is revealed in the comics and films, he was badly disfigured when he manufactured a bomb to destroy a concentration camp where he was being held prisoner by the fascist regime that had emerged in Britain.

A further interpretation for the mask is that the character of V is a faceless rebel who represents everyone and the importance of mass protest against an unjust government.

Who designed the V for Vendetta mask?

English illustrator David Lloyd designed the mask for the V for Vendetta comic series written by Lloyd and Alan Moore which was published as a serial between 1982 and 1985.

The mask represents Guy Fawkes, one of the leaders of the Catholic rebels involved in the 1605 gunpowder plot to blow up parliament and kill King James I. Lloyd was reportedly inspired to design the mask for the comic after he saw a similar mask on an effigy of Guy Fawkes being burned on Bonfire Night.

The design is of a smiling male face, with an upturned pencil moustache and thin black beard, and blushed cheeks. In the comics and 2005 film, V also sports a long black wig and black Puritan-style top hat. 

Why do Anonymous use the V for Vendetta mask?

The V for Vendetta mask was later co-opted by hacktivist group Anonymous, around 2008 when members donned them at protests against the Church or Scientology. The symbolism of the mask as a weapon of protest aligns with the stated values of Anonymous, who oppose internet censorship and government control, and authoritarianism.

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