E26 -

Julian Sanchez & Patrick Eddington join the show to discuss another famous Wachowski film, V for Vendetta.

Hosts
Landry Ayres
Senior Producer
Guests

Patrick G. Eddington is a Policy Analyst in Homeland Security and Civil Liberties.

Research fellow Julian Sanchez focuses primarily on issues at the busy intersection of technology, privacy, civil liberties, and new media — but also writes more broadly about political philosophy and social psychology. Before joining Cato, Sanchez served as the Washington Editor for the technology news site Ars Technica, where he covered surveillance, intellectual property, and telecom policy. Prior to that, he was an assistant editor for Reason magazine, where he remains a contributing editor. Sanchez’s writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The American Prospect, Reason, The Guardian, Techdirt, The American Spectator, and Hispanic, among others, and he blogs regularly forThe Economist’s Democracy in America. Sanchez studied philosophy and political science at New York University.

Summary:

Evey Hammond is a regular U.K. citizen, which is under the rule of the fascist and tyrannical Norsefire Party. Evey becomes the enemy of the state by teaming up with an enigmatic and larger‐​than‐​life freedom fighter known only by the letter “V”. What is the meaning of the Guy Fawkes mask?

Transcript

[music]

00:03 Natalie Dowzicky: Welcome to Pop & Locke. I’m Natalie Dowzicky.

00:05 Landry Ayres: And I’m Landry Ayres.

00:07 Natalie Dowzicky: On this day, the fourth of November, the day after the 2020 presidential election, the only verdict is vengeance, a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. And we all must remember, the fifth of November. Joining us today to talk about another Wachowski dystopia, V for Vendetta, are two of Cato’s very own, Research Fellow, Patrick Eddington…

00:35 Pat Eddington: Hello there.

00:36 Natalie Dowzicky: And Senior Fellow, Julian Sanchez…

00:39 Julian Sanchez: Hey.

00:40 Landry Ayres: Julian, Pat, the iconic Guy Fawkes mask worn by V, in this film, I think arguably has had a more enduring legacy than the movie itself. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, we can get to… Do you think audiences are missing the point by lionising V?

01:05 Julian Sanchez: It was always, I think, even in Alan Moore’s original graphic novel, a sort of strange choice, to make Guy Fawkes the emblem of… Guy Fawkes was not some kind of anarchist, authoritarian revolutionary. He was a radical Catholic who plotted to blow up a democratic institution, or at least as democratic as you got in that era, essentially because he was a theocrat and didn’t like the idea of abandoning a Catholic Britain. So an unlikely anarchist hero. But it is also worth noting that in a sense, I think the meaning that the Guy Fawkes mask has taken on in this modern context where it’s been adopted by groups like Anonymous, really has its origins in something that is original to the film, that is the scene near the end where V has mailed out these Fawkes masks to thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of people in Britain. They all march out with the masks on to support this anti‐​authoritarian revolution that V has sparked. And that just… None of that happens in the comic book.

02:30 Julian Sanchez: In the comic there’s a scene where people come out angry and confused, not necessarily in support of V and are addressed by Evey, who’s taken up the mantle of V… Everyone coming out and doing an “I am Spartacus”, and adopting [laughter] the V mask as a symbol of a kind of mass movement is just a total creation of the film, but I think that’s the scene that folks like Anonymous have in mind when they adopt that. And I just think it is something we’ve actually seen in a bunch of early noughts and late ‘90s superhero movies. I said before, we talked about Watchmen, there is a whiff of inherent fascism to superheroes. Superman is essentially an English translation of Übermensch, but you see in, for example, Spiderman 2, a kind of…

03:32 Landry Ayres: Phenomenal, amazing, just have to say, one of my favorites.

[laughter]

03:36 Julian Sanchez: You see this sort of attempt at a kind of populist moment where… Yes, the very special hero has these powers, but needs the population… Really in both Spiderman movies. In the first Spiderman movie there’s the crowd scene where people start pelting the Green Goblin with bottles and rocks and things, because you can’t mess with New York. And in the second one, he passes out on the train after saving it, and everyone just gives him his mask back, and helps him, and agrees not to reveal his identity. You saw it in… I think Superman Returns, there’s a similar scene where Superman needs to be saved by the masses of ordinary people. And so there’s something of that in, I think, that final scene here, that again I think is why the Fawkes mask has become this mass icon, and it’s part of this attempt to inject something more populist in the original graphic novel. It remains much more of a kind of individualist anarchist. And Moore is certainly a man of the left, but there is a more Stirnerian individualist flavor to his anarchism. At least the anarchism of his V for Vendetta anyway, of which is borderline more juvenilia.

05:01 Pat Eddington: So I think that the whole episode with the gunpowder plot and the reason that the mask itself becomes a thing with Occupy Wall Street and as Julian indicated, Anonymous and all the rest of that, really goes back, at least in my view, to this idea of governmental oppression against a particular group or element that is disfavored. And so I think to put it in the modern context, the Occupy Movement to the extent that it had any coherence at all, was essentially a reaction against what the demonstrators perceived to be an out of control, unaccountable, capitalist run system that was allegedly responsible for all the evils afflicting society and so on and so forth. And I think. Anytime that you have a movement that feels like it’s dealing with an asymmetric power dynamic, and that’s really what we are talking about here, it’s going to have that kind of effect. But there’s no question, Landry that I think that you’re absolutely right that, which is unfortunate because I’ve never really been a huge comic book guy, so I’ll make that admission right now, so I haven’t read the original V for Vendetta here. But I think the number of parallels that this movie has for where we are in 2020 is…

06:52 Natalie Dowzicky: Is scary.

06:52 Pat Eddington: It is pretty alarming, it is pretty scary. And I don’t think that you can 100% necessarily analogize to it, but this whole idea that the coronavirus is a hoax, and then to the movie, it’s like, “Oh, these terrorists are responsible for this virus,” when in fact it was the government itself. And of course, the podcast on All the President’s Men that we did a couple of weeks ago, we talked in that particular episode about this whole genre of movies essentially, dealing with government skulduggery, conspiracies, all the rest of that. For me, V for Vendetta is one of the more contemporary examples of that.

07:40 Julian Sanchez: This is one of many changes between the graphic novel and the film, is that in the graphic novel, Norsefire, the sort of fascist regime in Britain rises to power following a sort of limited nuclear war involving the United States. So this sort of, I guess, plandemic storyline where the characters discover over the course of the film that Norsefire actually rose to power following this biological weapons attack that caused many hundreds of deaths, but was actually developed and released by elements within the government itself. That whole plandemic storyline is also original to the film, and probably just as an update in part because maybe we have a very different sense of how survivable a limited nuclear exchange would be for the planet.

08:38 Pat Eddington: And what folks may not remember or realize is that there was actually a fairly virulent fascist element in the UK during the 1930s…

08:51 Natalie Dowzicky: Of course.

08:52 Pat Eddington: The British union of fascists. So there is also kind of a hearkening back to that odious tradition, if you will. But I think that when I look at this film, and I really do wanna talk about this just from kind of a critical cinematic standpoint, I have always been outraged, and I mean absolutely outraged that Hugo Weaving did not win an Oscar for this. I mean, his performance was simply outstanding. And of course, this is the guy that gave us such a memorable character from The Matrix movies, and did a pretty good job as Elrond in Lord the Rings. But to be able to carry off that performance and to successfully communicate that level essentially of passion and emotion and all the rest of that through that entire getup, that entire garb, a lot of stage actors wind up, if you’re a fan of the opera and all the rest of that, but you’re not talking of like a complete covering there. So I’ve always felt that Weaving got short‐​changed in just a massive way for his performance in that.

10:08 Julian Sanchez: I mean it’s certainly a stumbling block or a difficulty for an actor to be able to perform through an unchanging mask and not being able to use… In particular, Weaving has got an incredibly expressive face. So having that hand tied behind his back is impressive. Especially in some of those scenes, it’s not actually Weaving’s body, it’s his voice dubbed over James Purefoy’s acting, and I guess you’d never know if you hadn’t read the Wikipedia, I guess.

[chuckle]

[music]

10:45 Landry Ayres: One thing that you all sort of mentioned that, specifically the changes from the source material of Alan Moore’s graphic novel comic books to the film is a sort of shift from the focus of the original, which is much more about British Thatcherism based in when it was written and the reaction to that. And the movie, certainly, though it is set in England, and to me was a little refreshing at first to see a fascist movie that was not set in the United States, I realized pretty quickly that it was much more of a commentary on what seemed to be like post‐​9/​11 America than what the source material would be about. You have the sort of dumbing down of the racial purity themes, they even changed Norsefire’s motto from “Strength through purity, purity through faith,” it becomes “Strength through unity, unity through faith.” So there’s that sort of removal. And it heavily focuses on anti‐​Islamic sentiment and the sort of homo‐​antagonism, some of which is still present in the source material, but it’s much more highlighted.

12:06 Landry Ayres: So what do you think it specifically says about that time period, whether it’s what we see today with the sort of Trump Administration, or specifically the George W. Bush, and a subsequent administration that was going on when this movie was being produced? And how different would a film be if it was more devoted to the source material? Maybe Julian, you could enlighten us to that since you’re familiar with it.

12:38 Julian Sanchez: Sure. I mean, yeah, there’s certainly a lot of that Lewis Prothero, the kind of propagandist who’s killed relatively early on in the comic, is actually, sort of poses as the voice of faith, which is the sort of AI super‐​computer that helps plan the fascist state for the government, and he’s essentially supposed to be the voice of the computer itself speaking to reassure the nation. Here, he is re‐​imagined as much more of a kind of a Fox News style personality, essentially, explicitly talking about the problem of godless‐​ness and how the virus is a judgment on the US for being insufficiently godly. There’s a great bit of business by the way, and one of my favorite scenes that’s really original to the film is him in the shower, watching himself on these enormous screens he has in his bathroom and then kind of voicing along to his own sort of Jeremiah on the television.

13:38 Julian Sanchez: So yeah, certainly they’ve updated a lot of things from not just the pandemic as opposed to the nuclear exchange as the kind of instigating force, but also right, a lot more focused on both Islam and on sexual minorities, as opposed to the racial purity that was much more at the core of the concerns in the original graphic novel. One angle, I think it’s important to stress here is the fact that as sort of no one really knew, I guess at the time the film came out, like The Matrix, this is a film made… And I know it was directed by the James McTeigue but it was executive produced and written by The Wachowskis, so I think it’s fair to call this a Wachowski movie.

14:21 Natalie Dowzicky: Absolutely.

14:23 Julian Sanchez: This was a movie that was essentially made by, again, much like The Matrix by a pair of trans women who at the time, were not openly trans. I’m not sure to what extent they themselves thought themselves as trans but were just struggling with their own gender identities at the time, but, of course, no one knew that they were at the time known as The Wachowski Brothers. And I know Lilly Wachowski has said that really, The Matrix should be seen as an allegory for transgenders. You have a protagonist who discovers in effect in the first act of the movie that his body is not his body, and that this makes him different from those around him and gives him to some extent, these sort of special abilities.

15:05 Julian Sanchez: And the film is essentially about embracing and discovering this kind of difference about himself, you see this in characters, some of the stuff was sort of taken out, like the character of Switch in that film, who was supposed to be a different gender inside and outside the Matrix sort of stressing the kind of the illusoriness or the artificiality of the body, and I think a lot of the differences between the source material and the film can be to some extent sort of illuminated by retroactively viewing it in the light of, this is again something produced by a couple of trans women who were at the time presenting as male and maybe only beginning to really come to terms with their own gender identities. There is for example, the character of Gordon Deitrich is totally different.

15:53 Julian Sanchez: This is Stephen Fry’s character who, in the graphic novel Evey is basically a 16‐​year‐​old I suppose aspiring prostitute who ends up having a… Effectively a sexual relationship with this guy Deitrich who is certainly not gay, in the graphic novel before being abducted again by V and… So to the centrality of Deitrich as a kind of closeted gay man who talks quite explicitly about being unable to be open about his sexual identity or his orientation, at least, it becomes a much more central character, becomes in a sense an aid to V or someone who picks up the challenge from V by producing this satirical broadcast, lampooning the fascist leader and pays for it. But that again re‐​centers this on questions of sexual identity, there are lines that are original to the movie, as far as I can tell that I think can be interestingly read as an extension of that theme about the artificiality of the body.

17:06 Julian Sanchez: There’s a line where Evey reaches up to touch V’s mask and he sort of says, “No, no, no, there’s a face behind this mask, but that isn’t me any more than my muscles or the skeleton behind my face.” Consonant with the kind of ideas are bulletproof. It doesn’t matter who, V is V is sort of an idea. But also, again, I think read through this, that light can be seen as an extension of that idea of the self that matters is not in any real important sense of the self of the body, and also I think maybe it throws a different light on that very significant change ending where instead of being kind of angry and confused and hearing Evey speak as the new V, the people themselves come out and actually as they take off their masks at the end, we see characters who have died, including Stephen Fry’s Deitrich and Valerie who we know died years earlier at Larkhill.

18:12 Julian Sanchez: But that final scene, where in a sense the whole community becomes V and then all feel comfortable unmasking, striking again, in terms of… Thinking of this in terms of trans women struggling with their own identity that it seems at odds with sort of bodily presentation and then finding this kind of acceptance that doesn’t really happen. It’s left ambiguous in the graphic novel. It was just, I think that’s an illuminating or an interesting angle on it, that no one when the film came out really would have had the information necessary to see it through that lens.

18:53 Natalie Dowzicky: I think around that same part that Evey was going for V’s mask, she said something along the lines, as you wear a mask for so long that you forget who you are beneath it, which I also thought was interesting ’cause you’re going along with that V as an idea, not necessarily like a person, and I thought that was just interesting how they were bringing up again, the mask, like Landry said earlier, is one of the things that has really had a prolonged presence much past the film, and another thing I think we should bring up from the original material is that… I was reading up that Alan Moore was actually really irritated with how they adapted the graphic novel for film, because he thought they watered down the dialogue about fascism versus anarchy, which is really present in the original source material, but the script that the Wachowskis made is… Obviously centers on political themes that were currently going on in American politics. So that’s back in 2005. So they’re critiquing the politics of that time, which then really changed the original story to no longer be about fascism versus anarchy.

20:05 Natalie Dowzicky: Though, obviously, V is an anarchist, but I think it’s just… I think it’s interesting that there’s that line where the… Alan Moore is upset that they went this road… This road with the adaptation.

20:19 Julian Sanchez: Okay, Alan Moore. I don’t think Alan Moore has ever liked any adaptation of anything that’s been done with his work, but…

20:24 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, that’s true.

[laughter]

[music]

20:30 Pat Eddington: One of the things that disappointed me, at least a little bit, was essentially just these fleeting references to Islamophobia, right? So, when Evey is getting… Basically finishing her make‐​up and all the rest of that before she’s gonna head over to Deitrich’s relatively early in the film. Prothero is the voice of London, is on there basically talking about the Ulcered Sphincter of Arse‐​erica referring to the United States, and she’s watching him, and he makes just that one reference to, “What had to be done” and getting rid of the dicks, so‐​called degenerates and homosexuals and Muslims. And then you only get the other reference, of course, when Evey manages to escape from the pedophile priest, pedophile bishop, I should say, and gets over to Deitrich’s place. He takes her in and then he literally brings her into his real world in that hidden anti room where he’s got a copy of a 14th century… Illuminated copy of the Quran. And I wish that there had been a little bit more of a treatment on what had happened essentially to, in this case, British Muslims.

21:56 Pat Eddington: Because, of course, at the time this film came out… And I can’t remember if it came out before the Stellar Wind revelations or after the Stellar Wind revelations. But it definitely came out after all of those initial raids in the early days after 9/11 where so many Arab and Muslim men were rounded up, some of them were in fact Americans who were captured in these immigration raids, and the entire climate essentially that was created there for that particular community, and how it continues to this day, right? I mean, it… The Trump Administration literally doubled down in many respects with respect to the Muslim ban, and the continued attacks essentially on Arab and Muslim Americans and all the rest of that. So, I wish that they had… That they’d gone into that in a little bit deeper detail there, but that’s also essentially a deviation from Moore’s original.

23:01 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, it’s also important, right, for the success of the movie that it’s relevant to what was going on during that time period, but like you said, there’s a lot of things that we can relate to today as well, and the movie came out, my gosh, 15 years ago now, or 16 years ago now? And I think another big part that we haven’t really hit on yet is that we’re kind of meant to hate the movie’s imagery of dictatorship and how violent they are and how they treat minorities, and like you were just saying, Pat. But by the end, we’re supposed to find this violence against the dictatorship good and emotionally satisfying. And I think… We talked about this during, actually, our discussion about the Purge movies, but it’s this idea that we want the hero to enact violence against the dictatorship, but we abhor the violence the dictatorship is executing. So, I think there’s, again, this weird tension that we’re celebrating violence, we’re celebrating blowing things up because V, in a sense, has gotten… His idea has spread and that was the goal.

24:13 Pat Eddington: Let’s just be brutally honest about our culture here. A celebration of violence is as American as apple pie. Ours is arguably the most violent culture on Earth, I think, in so many ways. Right? I mean, and… I think what you’re kind of alluding to here, Natalie, is the amount of violent content that you just see in our entertainment industry and how much people eat that up. And I think about, in the context of political repression and police repression, specifically. One of the reasons that the police in this country have managed to get a pass for so long, I think, is because of the cultural context. It started with really benign movies, like benign series like Dragnet, right? And I’m really dating myself when I talk about that one. One, Adam‐​12. Also dating myself. But then you fast forward, and it’s not until you get to a series like Hill Street Blues that you begin to get a little bit more nuanced look at cops and policing and their relationship with the public, and this whole issue of police violence.

25:33 Pat Eddington: And then you finally get NYPD Blue, where I think you actually get something a lot closer to reality. But it’s taken us a long time as a culture, and I think among the white Protestant majority in this country, it’s taken a long time to really begin to come to grips with a lot of that. And I think that we do celebrate violence against a tyrannical power, I mean, that’s what our founding was allegedly about. That’s also kind of a fairy tale, too. In a lot of respects. But we absolutely do, and I don’t care if it’s Star Wars or Star Trek or fill in the blank. There’s just… We live in a society that is extremely comfortable with violence and often casual violence, and I think the Purge movies are an awesome example of that, but it says something about us, and something I think that’s not necessarily always super awesome in that regard.

26:48 Julian Sanchez: Yeah, I mean V is very much… I think, again, this is a very early Moore work, and I think V is very much a kind of anarchist, Mary Sue superhero badass of the sort that I think is kind of interestingly deconstructed in Grant Morrison the other… The next great I suppose along with Neil Gaiman, British comics scribe. In his series, The Invisibles, you have King Mob, who’s another again kind of anarchist super badass, but that role and his relationship to sort of aestheticised cool violence is much more directly interrogated there, there’s certainly things in the film that read a little differently now, his rationalization, for example, of the killing of Lewis Prothero who is effectively a media figure, now I don’t know if I dignify him with the title journalist, but a media figure, a anchor, we learn eventually, of course, that he’s killed in part for crimes committed as a commandant at a camp where human experimentation is being done.

27:57 Julian Sanchez: But at the time, the film audience at least is not necessarily aware of this, and so it is sort of just justifying the killing of a media person for I guess for spreading bad… For fake news of a sort, so I think that reads a little more uncomfortably now, and it is an interesting thing. There are things that I think where the movie maybe fails a little bit because it is sort of uncomfortable in places was really depicting the horror of what V is doing. So if you look at the scenes where… I think partly I just think Natalie Portman is maybe mis‐​cast here in significant part just because of her terrible, British accent is distracting.

[laughter]

28:39 Julian Sanchez: But…

28:42 Landry Ayres: It’s true.

28:42 Julian Sanchez: But if you look at the scenes where…

28:45 Natalie Dowzicky: Fair enough.

28:46 Julian Sanchez: I mean he does this horrifying thing, he kidnaps and tortures and psychologically deconstructs this woman and leading her to believe that she’s in prison and is gonna be killed, physically effectively tortures her. And I guess this is supposed to be justified in the end because it brings her to this sort of transfiguring experience and she ultimately, I guess endorses it and believes she’s a better person, but people who are brainwashed often, I guess, come out of it thinking, “I’m so glad, that I’ve been shown the light by your process of mental conditioning.” It’s still this appalling thing, and in a way, I don’t think those things entirely work because one of those things I noticed as I was re‐​watching it for this is really they are afraid to make Natalie Portman look as harrowed and beat up as someone would be realistically.

29:38 Julian Sanchez: I mean she’s still basically Natalie Portman. She looks very pretty, she looks like she’s getting a cute haircut, when her head is getting… She’s crying, but she still looks like a very attractive Natalie Portman with a little bit of eye make‐​up to make her look tired. But they’re not really willing to make her look like someone who has been beaten and starved and subject to sleep deprivation. So she still looks pretty good. In those final scenes where she’s supposedly been there for days or weeks, and I think… Maybe one reason for that is just that it would be, I think, difficult to ever find V sympathetic again, if you did not to some extent, soften the reality of this horrific thing he’s doing to her, nominally for her own good, but he really… He sounds like a classic abuser when he’s explaining why he really he did… He did this for her own benefit.

30:35 Pat Eddington: If he had done that to me… I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t go Stockholm Syndrome. I would wanna go full Mandalorian on him. [laughter] That’s where I would be. I would not be grateful for that, I would not be thanking anybody for that. Yeah, I agree with you, Julian, I think Charlize Theron in the Mad Max remake would be a much more… Towards the end of the movie and much more realistic depiction of what happened there, but yeah, I think even with the flaws we’ve discussed here with the film and the fact that it’s a little bit dated now. I still think there is an enormously powerful and potentially very useful and timely message about opposition to authority, and quite frankly, how we can be literally just one generation away from having this American experiment slip away from us.

31:42 Pat Eddington: I think that Reagan was very, very on‐​point when he made that observation, and it does concern me deeply, the path that we appear to be on now, a lot of people talking about the destruction of norms and all the rest of that, and clearly this film depicts norms being bulldozed, blown up, incinerated, and so on and so forth. But I do think that it does serve a really important… It should serve, I think, as a really important warning for exactly what can happen if you don’t try to keep things on the rails and above board and have people not simply respect the law, because the law at the end of the day, really depends on people going along with those norms. And embracing those norms. So I do think there’s value there.

[music]

32:44 Natalie Dowzicky: And also going along with that, there’s this theme of fear throughout the movie, which I think is resonating with… Can resonate with an audience today. So there was this great quote that said, “People shouldn’t fear their governments, governments should fear their people.” And I was wondering how you all thought the Wachowskis portrayed that idea throughout this movie. This idea that fear is bigger if you let it consume you. So it’s like this bigger idea and how you switch… How a society goes and switches from fearing their government to having the government fear them.

33:22 Pat Eddington: I think that… For one thing, that’s my favorite line in the entire movie. And it’s a line I think we all know that a large number of folks who claim to be Libertarians have embraced and… Look, there is a reason why I have tentatively titled the book I’m working on, “The Triumph Of Fear.” That was very deliberate because when you look at the history of this country, and I was talking with my wife this morning about a lot of this stuff because she is quite frankly terrified, but with where things stand here on November the 4th, 2020. But I made the point that this streak of authoritarianism that I also think is very American, has been with us since the founding. It was less than 10 years after the ratification, and actually the Constitution coming into force, less than 10 years, that we had this new Federalist party ram through the Alien and Sedition Acts in the Congress. To this day, easily the most… Among the most, if not the most antidemocratic, virtually totalitarian, kind of legislative and political act, that we’ve seen next to the institution of slavery itself, of course.

34:52 Pat Eddington: So this idea that when people feel threatened, to borrow a biological term, “They go hindbrain.” And that’s exactly what happened after 9/11. We had the situation where the attacks take place, and instead of doing the rational thing, which is to hold the investigations first to figure out why the attacks succeeded, six weeks after the attacks, we ran through legislation, the Patriot Act that is the supposed solution to why the attacks have occurred. And of course, there’s not a single provision of the Patriot Act, that I’m aware of that can be tied to actually stopping a subsequent attack on this country, or for that matter, American interests overseas. So bad things always happen when folks give into fear. Unfortunately, if I were a bookie, I have to admit, I’d almost always bet on fear, because that unfortunately is just too often how people react.

36:02 Pat Eddington: And it helps to create the kind of climate that we have, the kind of feeling that we have. And when you create an entirely new government department, the Department of Homeland Security, which I prefer to refer to as the Department of Fatherland Security. [laughter] Which does nothing, which does nothing but hype threats day in and day out through press releases and all the rest of this kind of stuff. There’s even a Twitter account, the US Department of Fear, that does try to satirize this stuff as much as possible. But that’s what we’re living with. That’s the mentality that has been created and it’s been sustained, and it has a warping effect, a dramatic warping effect. And you… At least, I begin to believe that the more of these incidents that you have and the longer they go on, the more corrosive they are to attempt to try to preserve fundamental liberties.

37:01 Julian Sanchez: Actually one interesting… And I realize I keep doing this sort of hipster thing. Well you know in the graphic novel? But forgive me. [chuckle] [37:08] ____. One thing that is stressed much more because they have the space of this long running series. I think you would get a very different product if this had been a 10‐​episode HBO mini‐​series of the sort of thing they did with Watchmen, but there’s much more exploration there of the fact that those in power themselves actually also live in this state of constant terror and these elaborate knocking over all the Dominoes plots in the Comic, involves exploiting these internal kinda Game of Thrones machinations of the various senior government officials who are themselves at each other’s throats. The idea that under a totalitarian state, that everything is this kind of… Is effectively a state of nature, which is what Leviathan is supposed to rescue us from.

38:04 Julian Sanchez: But in fact know it is this savage vicious sort of wilderness, where there’s this mask of civility, but in fact, people are constantly at each other’s throats and constantly nervous about their position. You see a little of that in a very much diluted way when you see Adam Sutler in a great bit of stunt casting played by John Hurt. Famously portrayed Winston Smith and I think the best adaptation of Nineteen Eighty‐​Four, but who’s seen always as this face on a screen, imposing Big Brother and threatening people and shout out to his prior role… Ruthless prior role and telling his subordinates, “If you don’t get results, it’ll be you who’s up against the wall.” And then the first time we actually see him in person, I think… And not as this giant screen face, he’s this weak terrified old man who’s been kidnapped by one of his own subordinates and he’s unceremoniously shot in the head, sobbing and pleading for his life as one of the…

39:19 Julian Sanchez: Essentially, one of the inmates of this prison that has beat the other to death, and that is one thing that stands out about the whole torture sequence with Evey, the fake interrogation sequence is… Again, there I think there’s also an obvious trans reading event that’s in the original, but this is maybe some of why the Wachowskis sounded appealing. Right, this kind of gnostic idea of, you believe you are in a prison, but it’s not… The guards are mannequins, you know the walls are paper mache. The rat in the cell is a pet basically. So hey, the prison you believe you’re in, is a construct. And in fact, you may be able to just walk out the doors anytime you please. As soon as you recognize that this prison is a loosery. Obviously… The literal prison. In this case, but in a sense the prison of fear, the prison of believing in the structures of authority. And the reality they’ve created. The Hey, you’ve got the keys, this is my yard, this is the veil of illusion. And in fact it has no power over you, unless you consent to it.

[music]

40:36 Landry Ayres: And now for the part of the show where we get to share all of the other things that we’ve been enjoying during our time at home. This is locked in. So, Pat and Julian, has anything else been something you’ve been really, really enjoying, other than re‐​watching the V for Vendetta?

[chuckle]

40:51 Pat Eddington: The Mandalorian, The Mandalorian is here.

[laughter]

40:54 Pat Eddington: Season two underway… Absolutely loved the opening episode. 54 minutes, which makes me think that maybe Disney is giving them more money. So they can actually stretch these things out to a full hour and give us even more, more character development, but…

41:16 Natalie Dowzicky: One could hope.

41:17 Pat Eddington: Yeah, no, it’s a… And so now, I’m just living for the Ahsoka Tano reveal. That’s the number one reason, that I’m so psyched about the season. For those of you who have only watched the Star Wars movies, if you have not watched the animated stuff. You really are missing out on an awful lot of stuff, but especially the final season of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Star Wars Rebels, is especially relevant for the for The Mandalorian. Anyway, that’s my Star Wars homily. I’m channelling Erin, I’m channelling Erin now.

[laughter]

42:02 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah.

42:02 Pat Eddington: So beyond that, doing my best to try to read some of the rather large number of books that I bought over the course of the last year or so, a lot of it in support of the research I’m doing from my own book, but some of the stuff just from my own edification. And one of them that I’m going through now is Tower of Skulls by Richard B. Frank, which is the first of a three‐​volume series that he’s doing on what he calls essentially the Asia Pacific War. And so he looks at the whole conflict in the Pacific, in the Second World War era, really starting with China and what happened there in China. And it’s terrific. He’s a fantastic historian. His book on Guadalcanal for those of you who are interested in the Pacific War. His book on Guadalcanal, written in 1992 stands as easily the best on that campaign ever written. He’s a great writer, so that’s what I’m digging into.

43:05 Julian Sanchez: Yeah, so actually I think, either Natalie you or Landry mentioned Lovecraft Country, which I’ve believedly been enjoying a lot.

43:11 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh, I so wanna start that. [chuckle]

43:13 Julian Sanchez: It’s really… It’s amazing, it’s very good. And as well as… I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this on a previous episode, but The Boys, which is based on the Garth Ennis comic. They asks the question. “What if there were super heroes, but they were like real people who had off it at a very young age this kind of incredible unaccountable power and fame and money, and what would they really behave like in the interest of the universe?” Not very well. They might affect behavior like super villains, except to the extent that necessary to maintain a public front, to keep the money coming in. So that’s the viewing front, I’m reading Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, who is probably best known as the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Piranesi is more magical realist is probably not quite right.

44:06 Julian Sanchez: It’s just not that realistic. Surrealist, story about a man mostly alone in this enormous hall structure full of various kinds of art and just what he does in the strange lonely environment. As well as Charles Stross, Dead Lies Dreaming. It’s the most recent installment of his very long running series, The Laundry files, such as the premise of which is effectively Lovecraftian magic is real and there are government agencies that are tasked with secretly dealing with this. It started as a kind of [44:43] ____ spoof of British spy fiction, but it’s kind of morphed into this different and much more interesting thing where I think in the present tense of that universe… Spoiler, sorry. N’yar Llat‐​hotep from The Lovecraft mythos is essentially prime minister of Great Britain. So there’s that.

[laughter]

45:05 Julian Sanchez: Next up in my queue is the most recent Haruki Murakami Killing Commendatore. And on the work front, I just started Sarah Brayne, Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion and the Future of Policing, which is looking quite interesting.

45:21 Natalie Dowzicky: Nice.

45:21 Julian Sanchez: And I’m looking forward to the release of, Privacy at the Margins, which is a fourth coming, it’s a little bit delayed book that I’m really anticipating about privacy and marginalized communities. And gaming‐​wise, I’ve been playing a bit of Among Us, which is a fun social deduction trader game in the spirit of, Mafia and Werewolf. And I’ve downloaded it, not started it yet, but. I’m looking forward to starting, Watch Dogs Legion the third game in the Watch Dog series by Ubisoft where… It centers on hackers in this case, a surveillance state London and has this interesting quirk of having the city populated by people all of whom can be kind of recruited and made playable with different sets of skills to go around either social engineering or hacking things or using physical combat skills to navigate various missions that looks maybe the most interesting installation in that series to date and I feel like Watch Dogs has been a series almost like a lot of potential and a lot of interest for folks like us for like Pat and I who work on surveillance issues but the series never quite nailed it and maybe this is the time they finally do that.

46:38 Natalie Dowzicky: On my front, I’m reading the oh gosh, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, it’s just like a fiction book, I’m really enjoying it, I have it at… I’m a little over halfway. It’s basically this story of a Hollywood socialite in the 1950s but the book is set in today and it’s her recapping her whole life and she’s never spoken in public about it but it’s very interesting and then I also I’m keeping up with This Is Us, it came back on the TV. I just find that one of the more enjoyable shows to put on in the background and I’ve been following it since it started and it just came back October 27th I think so that season is only two episodes in.

47:28 Natalie Dowzicky: And then I am almost almost done Schitt’s Creek I am in the fifth season, it has been worth every second, it’s very light‐​hearted and I feel like it got a lot of more attention since it won so many awards. But it’s definitely a good way to distract myself from everything else going on. The character of David is absolutely hilarious, sometimes I wanna channel my inner David but anyway, yes that’s kind of what I’ve been up to. And since I’m at home in Philly for the election time I have been spending a lot of time watching some children’s movies as well because I’m with my nephew so lots of Disney+ re‐​watch and re‐​watch Moana and a Bug’s Life so those have been fun to see again.

48:25 Landry Ayres: I have been painting a lot of miniatures and avoiding election coverage. [laughter] giving myself something to do with my hands which has been nice. I also have just started playing Among Us, Julian and he had messaged us about it discussing some things with us about that game before so I’ve been having a lot of fun actually getting to play it myself when I realized I could download it on mobile and just play via Discord. I have also been listening to a lot of Martha which is a punk‐​rock band from I believe North England interesting sort of queer anarchist DIY, Pop‐​Punk band it’s very fun and catchy I think people would really enjoy them.

49:16 Landry Ayres: I just listened to a very, very interesting and well‐​done, but tough to listen to podcast, it’s called Crackdown and it is produced by people who are living mostly with opioid and heroin addiction actually created by them and not just telling their story for them. But specifically there’s an episode that I realized I was at a conference where they won an award called Change Intolerance where they basically tell the story of how in I believe it was 2014, the government of British Columbia changed the Methadone medication that they were using for their government, Methadone program to something called Methadose. And it was basically a complete failure and didn’t work more than a third of the time and induced all sorts of sickness and is this really heartbreaking interesting perspective about what can go wrong even with well‐​intentioned drug treatment programs that people run so it’s very, very interesting, I recommend people if they’re interested in that type of policy check it out. I have also… And this is how I’ve been spending most of my nights with my wife, I have recently discovered the joy of the Netflix series Busted…

50:38 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh, God. [chuckle]

50:40 Landry Ayres: It is incredible, Natalie you’re gonna hate it as I describe it but I guarantee you you’ll enjoy it.

50:48 Natalie Dowzicky: I can’t wait. I can’t wait.

50:48 Landry Ayres: It is a Korean variety show where all of these K‐​Pop stars and K‐​drama celebrities and people that are famous in the Korean media scene play fictional versions of themselves so they go by their real name but they play themselves if they were detectives and there’s this… It’s highly unscripted in certain portions but there’s also this mythology where their detectives that are part of a team that are trying to solve a larger conspiratorial case but they have to do challenges in this most extreme challenge slush amazing race style thing where they’re running around the city and they either have to do sort of slaps to comedy challenges or they have to solve logic puzzles and figure out words, any type of puzzle or game that you can think of that is sort of a way that they could test a detective for a fake show they do and it’s also funny because you can tell they’re trying to commit to the bit of the story that they’re solving very serious crimes but they’re also being goofy and they will run into other celebrities that have cameo roles and it’ll be like, “I’m the friend of the murder victim.” But it’ll be another famous K‐​Pop Star and they will not know who they… They have to walk in and commit to the role when they’re just going expecting to meet anyone.

52:24 Landry Ayres: And so there’s this multiple levels that it operates on but if you have no idea who these people are like me it’s even more fun still because you can tell we’re supposed to be laughing at something where there’s some sort of other meaning that you’re not getting and it’s still fun and there’s a lot of banter between the stars and you learn about them and their personalities and there’s the sort of goofy dumber characters, that some of them play and it may not be a character they might just be not as good at solving puzzles and mysteries and then there’s the hands‐​on leader and it’s just a very interesting show unlike anything else that makes me wanna watch a lot more of these Korean variety shows of which there are apparently a lot, yeah, that’s Busted on Netflix.

[music]

53:20 Landry Ayres: If there is another significant date that you think that we need to remember other than the 5th of November make sure to let us know on Twitter @PopnLockePod, that’s Pop the letter N locke with an E like the philosopher pod. Make sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. We look forward to unravelling your favorite show or movie next time. Pop & Locke is produced by me, Landry Ayres as a project of https://​www​.lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org. To learn more visit us on the web at https://​www​.lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org.