Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta has a lot to answer for.
If you live in a major metro the odds are you saw someone wearing one of those smiley masks on Saturday? That’s because Saturday was Guy Fawkes Day, which up until recently most of us Americans thought of as some sort of weird early-Thanksgiving-in-England, and the black-and-white mask is a “Guy Fawkes mask,” with the ugly little ‘stache and goatee of the eponymous terrorist.
This year it was also apparently “bank transfer day,” a Facebook-page-organized protest movement urging people to withdraw their money from large commercial banks and transfer it into credit unions or local banks. The goal, according to their Facebook page, is to “ensure that these banking institutions will always remember the 5th of November!!” [punctuation sic.]
My only explanation for the Guy Fawkes imagery-and-association is V for Vendetta. The comic — and, more importantly, the movie it spawned — feature a protagonist who wears the Guy Fawkes mask, and is also a reasonably big fan of blowing up buildings, which your average liberal-on-the-street finds kinda heart-warming when it’s born of some kind of romantic notion of an anarchic state where we can all wear goofy masks and just plain get along rather than, say, ushering in a papally-dominated Catholic monarchy even more repressive than the existing one.
Which, y’know, is what Guy Fawkes was actually all about, and is why they still burn him in effigy on Nov. 5th in England. Sometimes along with a little Pope in a pointy hat.
So this is the power of literature, here. Were it not for a comic book (turned major motion picture) about a radical anarchist in an imagined, oppressive future-state, we would not have protesters (to say nothing of hackers) currently wearing goofy masks to symbolize a genericized rage against the machine that has nothing to do with blowing up buildings for a religiously radical cause.
Or maybe that is what they’re all about, deep down inside. Who knows. Maybe next year it’ll be Osama bin Laden masks.
So write — but write carefully. The history you re-interpret may just be the history a howling mob re-interprets, some day. If you’re very, very lucky. I’ll just leave the comments page for people upset by the Guy Fawkes/bin Laden joke, shall I?