The movie ‘V for Vendetta’ is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. It’s a dystopian political thriller, set up in the year 2032, in England. The protagonist named V is trying to instigate a revolution against the ruling government. V convinces a young girl Evey played by Natalie Portman, to join his mission. This dystopian England is ruled by the fascist Norsefire government whose leaders have used unethical means to ascend to and gain power. The three recurring organizational behavior theories present in this movie are: Machiavellianism, high-power distance from Hofstede's framework and utilitarianism.
A Machiavellian is a pragmatic individual who maintains emotional distance and believes that the end is justified by its means. Some traits of a Machiavellian include manipulation, emotional distance and indifference to morality. Almost all antagonists in this movie hold the aforementioned traits. Made evident by their self-serving actions which were to render them power and wealth at the cost of many others’ demises.
Peter Creedy, the head of Chancellor Sutler’s Fingermen and the main antagonist in V for Vendetta, perfectly aligns with the definition of a Machiavellian. Creedy was easily the most diabolical of all the power-hungry antagonists shown in this movie, due to the heinous measures he took to ascend to a higher political rank. His manipulative capabilities were made evident near the end of the movie when he blamed terrorists for the 100,000 deaths caused by the bio-engineered plague that he was responsible for. His intentions to do so were to gain voters and political power which he actualized as this catastrophe made the head of the Finger-men and one of the richest men in the country. To ensure his and his party’s dominance, he would kidnap, detain and murder individuals who would criticize the Norsefire regime. Creedy assassinated Chancellor Sutler once he’d served Creedy’s purpose, reinforcing that Creedy was the true power while the Chancellor was just a political face. Even V describes Creedy as “a man seemingly without a conscience, for whom the ends always justify the means” ('V for Vendetta', 2005).
Another Machiavellian in this movie was Chancellor Sutler. In his efforts to ascend to power he attempted to create bio-weapons by experimenting on people in Larkhill Resettlement Camp.
Manipulation can also be seen by the BTN Host Peter Lewis Prothero, who, as the Voice of London, would transmit propaganda and false information to keep the public docile. His charisma made him adept at persuasion, helping him keep the Norsefire party in power.
Power distance is one of the five values from Hofstede's framework for assessing culture. It constitutes of the extent to which a collection of people accepts that power in institutions and organizations is distributed unequally. The two extents are: low-power distance and high-power distance. The extent of high-power distance follows that the presumed society has an extremely unequal distribution of power between those with wealth and those without wealth (Robbins et al).
High-power distance seemed to be the crux of the society portrayed in ‘V for Vendetta’. The English were led by a fascist named Chancellor Sutler. Who ascended to power following a brutal and mysterious war that destroyed much of the planet. In his supposed efforts to ‘purify’ society, Chancellor Sutler executes all homosexuals, Jews, Afro-British, Leftists, and Pakistanis.
There was no freedom of thought or expression in this dystopian society as possessing art or having any expressive artefacts from the pre-dictatorship era could cost a citizen their life. Additionally, random audio sweeps behest Chancellor Sutler deter freedom of thought and speech. Furthermore, all media, especially television are controlled by the Chancellor through his head of propaganda, Roger Dascombe. While doing the Chancellor’s bidding, Dascombe reframes all news in the favor of the Norsefire regime.
Those who express negative sentiments about the Norsefire regime, face harsh consequences. An example of this can be seen when Dietrich, a bold evening show host, dares to televise a satirical segment about the Norsefire regime. As a consequence, he is brutally abused by Fingermen and later killed after a Koran and other contraband are recovered from this house.
Lastly, prior to V’s final attack at the Parliament, Chancellor Sutler threatens his citizens to not side with V, by saying, “The security of this nation depends on complete and total compliance, tonight any protestor, any instigator or agitator will be made an example of” ('V for Vendetta', 2005).
The theory of utilitarianism follows that right is determined from wrong by focusing on the outcome, rather than the ethical aspect of an action or a choice (Robbins et al). The movie, 'V For Vendetta' takes a bleak look at the society and politics of England in 2032. The world is in turmoil due to a nuclear war. England is ruled by a fascist party and struggling to survive.
Norsefire had established concentration camps, a few years ago, and imprisoned whom the government considered dangerous or disruptive. The main character, V, belonged to one such camp named Larkhill Camp. He was injected with an experimental hormone drug that killed all the other patients but him. After that incident, V turned into a faceless man who dons a Guy Fawkes mask. Guy Fawkes was part of the Gunpowder Treason Plot in 1605 and wanted to blow up the parliament of that era.
V pursues two goals in the story: revenge on the people who imprisoned and experimented on him at the camp and bringing down the fascist government. Throughout the movie plot, V had mainly displayed good utilitarian ideals and moral standing. Most of the actions he performed in the movie were to help people and to benefit the whole society. He somehow managed to attach his personal vendetta with a bigger goal to achieve the greater good.
Throughout the movie, V claimed to be an 'idea', which was 'more than flesh'. It followed that ideas were untouchable and so by hiding behind the mask he created a new persona. This allowed him to convey the bigger picture of his plan into the minds of people. Just before the day of the revolution, he sent every citizen the Guy Fawkes mask which they were to wear to support him overthrowing the government.
In one part of the story, V tortured another character by the name Evey through his fabricated interrogations. During this, he helped her learn that she must protect her ideals more than her physical body. Emphasizing that one’s belief defines them more than their physical existence does. Evey had completely transformed herself till the end of the story and was able to connect with V’s idea of utilitarianism. During the climax, when she was asked who V was, she replied: “… And he was my father, and my mother, my brother, my friend. He was you, and me. He was all of us” ('V for Vendetta', 2005)
The fascist government had created harsh rules that restricted people to think freely and know what true happiness was like. The government controlled the country by setting up cameras, imposing curfews and by listening to its citizens’ private conversations. V had hoped that by destroying parliament buildings, society would have a chance to stand up against the government and be able to freely share their beliefs once again.
He knew he would not survive to see the revolution he planned for so long. He left the final decision to destroy the parliament buildings on Evey. He realized that it was not his decision to make but rather it was Evey’s, as she belonged to the future of the country. The police officer, Mr. Finch, who had tried to capture V, eventually also agreed with V’s ideology and let Evey continue with the destruction of the parliament buildings.
The three theories discussed in this paper are only some of the numerous organizational behavior theories observed in this movie. Creedy’s Machiavellianism tendencies allowed him to achieve power through unethical means and wield his power against the English. Throughout the movie Creedy and his deputies use false information to manipulate the English citizens. Furthermore, due to a high-power distance between the government and the people of the country, the citizens wouldn’t question Creedy’s motives and actions. V’s belief on utilitarianism led him to believe that the ends were important regardless of how they were achieved. Throughout the movie, V committed murderers of ministers and also of innocent security personnel concluding the movie by blowing down the parliament.
- Robbins, Stephen P., et al. Organisational Behaviour. Pearson United States, 2011.
- McTeigue, James, director. V For Vendetta. Warner Bros Pictures, 2005.