From Our Readers: Don't Be That Guy (Fawkes)

Jun 11, 2012

When we asked whether the Occupy movement has "crashed or just begun," "Rock Trimlove" took issue with our image of a protester in the Guy Fawkes mask, pointing out that the mask was worn by hacker group Anonymous "long before the 'Occupy' movement began." Ultimately, however, the commenter found the picture to be an appropriate "mistake":

"More than a year after it began, the Occupy movement apparently has no central character or theme, and the best the media can do in attempts to portray it is borrow iconography from a completely different group that may or may not show up at Occupy events ... "

"Paolo Signoria" resents the mask's connotations, calling long-term OWS campouts "entitled liberalism." He writes, "If the movement is dying, I hope the next incarnation stops with the Guy Fawkes mask."

Fawkes and his Catholic compatriots engineered the "Gunpowder Plot" of 1605, an attempt to blow up the British parliament. Though parliament never burned, Fawkes' effigy is torched annually on November 5.

His mask originated in the 1980's comic strip — and later Blockbuster — V for Vendetta, the brainchild of artist Dave Lloyd and writer Alan Moore. In his essay Behind the Painted Smile, Moore writes that the idea to incorporate Fawkes, "was all contained in one single letter that [Lloyd] dashed off the top of his head and which, like most of Dave's handwriting, needed the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone to actually interpret." He includes what he could gather of the letter:

"Re. The script; While I was writing this, I had this idea about the hero, which is a bit redundant now we've got [can't read the next bit] but nonetheless... I was thinking, why don't we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier mache masks in a cape and conical hat? He'd look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he's deserved all these years. We shouldn't burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!"

According to the BBC, "Rubies Costume Company, which makes the mask, sells around 100,000 a year worldwide, and 16,000 in the UK," and Time reports that Warner Brothers earns royalties on every sale.

(Marissa Alioto is an intern on NPR's Social Media desk.)

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