I’ve just finished the V for Vendetta graphic novel, and I must say, rarely have I been more disappointed. As a geeky kinda girl, I tend to approach comics with caution, afraid of how they treat women. And the classic graphic novel has done nothing to assuage these fears.
All the women in this comic are hypersexualized to an absurd degree, and are made into permanent and willing victims. All the women have sex and appear naked, while very few to none of the men do. The only woman who isn’t hyper-sexualized, Valerie, is sexualized as much as possible within her lesbianic limits, never appears in person, and is rarely mentioned.
The biggest example of the female gender being stamped into dirt is, of course, Evey. It’s easy to see what she was meant to be: V reborn, his protégé, shaped by him into a weapon through which his work could continue.
What Evey actually is: V’s dog. He picks her up when she’s wandering the streets begging for scraps. He gives her a bed and some food, pats her head and doesn’t tell her shit. When she starts to ask the wrong questions, he abandons her like a puppy. When he takes her back, against her will, he punishes her in order to train her.
V’s torture of Evey is designed to break down everything that makes her herself, except for her essential core. Once she is stripped naked, he can rebuild her as he chooses. She no longer has any agency, she never considers leaving the man who betrayed and tortured her. She stays, like a loyal pet, and does whatever he wants. And she continues to love him, kisses him and thanks him profusely for his monstrous behavior. She protests whinily when he continues to leave her in the dark, to give her riddles for answers.
Evey is not a woman: she is a child. She is a girl playing dress up when she is introduced, a child in her mom’s make-up. When she lives with V, he reads her bedtime stories in a room full of teddy bears. At her moment of transcendence, when V tells her what all the torture has led to, tells her that she can reach herself, she screams for her mommy and daddy and sobs in the arms of her protector.
And she is a sexualized child, one who shyly propositions both of the men she lives with. V seizes his agency from those who took it away, but Evey stumbles hesitantly into it when her boyfriends get killed. She can only become someone else, she can only be reborn through hell, when her sex and gender are removed. The character being tortured is hairless and utterly androgynous, unrecognizable as a female. And as she is reborn in the rain, as her life becomes something utterly and fantastically (sorto) different, the language to describe her experience is some of the clunkiest sex metaphors I have ever read.
Her constrast, her opposite, number, a woman who wields her sexuality as a weapon, who bends men to her will and refuses to be anyone’s victim, is the villaness. Of course.
The other women characters are minor but important: Valerie, whose death and love are the driving force behind V’s actions. A woman who is above all else “beautiful.” “The Widow,” who is so grief stricken by her terrifyingly abusive husband’s death and the life it led her to that she kills the Leader.
The world of V for Vendetta is a hard one, and in it feminine qualities like, say, emotion, are weak. Women are weak, are repeatedly victimized and devastated when that victimization ends. V’s actions are reprehensible, and while the men rage and scream at him the women thank him.