Postapocalyptic movies are rather masculine places. “Feminine” qualities like love, community, beauty, and peace are often suppressed and/or eradicated in dystopian futures. In the great dystopian stories, this is the great tradegdy of the world in which the characters are trapped.
The movie V for Vendetta is one such story. The setting is a fascist future in which England is the last man left standing, in which her government is run by conservative white men and her people live in fear of fingermen, who will happily gang-rape any vulnerable woman they meet. And onto the stage walk our two protagonists: Evey, a young woman whose family perished bringing her world into being, and V, a terrorist without a face or a name.
Evey is saved from a brutal sex crime by the terrorist, who happily unmans the men attacking her, launches into an impressive monologue, and invites her to hang out with him for a while. Evey cautiously accepts, and the next day pays for her interest.
Evey chooses to side with V, attacks a police officer who’s cornered him. This is a radical difference from the comic book, in which V carries Evey off without asking and she ends up crying on his shoulder. Evey is quite freaked out and angry about this whole situation, and not cool with being held a prisoner.
V’s character, a terrorist who could easily be utterly unsympathetic in his merciless actions, is humanized thorugh his interactions with Evey. Clearly feeling guilty and rather lonely, he throws on a pink apron and makes breakfast. He shows nervousness and almost adorable childishness when caught fighting a suit of armor, re-enacting his favoritie movie. And when Evey formulates a plan of escape and asks him to include her, he accepts, and even gives her the opportunity kick a sexual predator’s ass. Evey makes the decision to bail and go to a friend’s house direcly inverting the comic in which V abandons her on the street.
And then we get to the redefinition of the term “tough love,” when V tortures Evey for several scenes. The goal of this torture is for Evey to discover who she really is, for her to feel love for Valerie and to find the inch of herself that no one can ever take away from her. But the methods V uses to bring Evey to herself are unforgivable, and Evey doesn’t forgive him. What was done to V was monstrous, and it created a monster. Evey leaves him, and agrees to return to him only once, per his “last request.”
Evey’s rebirth is directly contrasted with V’s rebirth, but the two experiences are intensely different, and they make two very different people. V was reborn in fire and hate, was fueled by rage and lonlieness towards vengeance. Evey was reborn in rain, from the love of V and Valerie, in the middle of a city filled with people. She gloried in “God,” in the rain, while V raged in the fire. And she walked out into the world, while V walled himself off and wallowed in his pain and his plans.
When V decides that Evey is the one who has to pull the trigger, the one who has to decide to change the world, he recognizes this difference. When he leaves Evey on the train platform after she asks him to choose her over his revenge, it is a reconition that he can never be a human being again, that he can never go backwards. V can never take his mask off, can never escape the world of bloodshed and pain in which he was born. But Evey can.
The future V gave everything he had left to create belonged to people like Evey, to people who could take off their masks. Evey is beauty and she is light, she is the heart of humanity that cannot be destroyed. And she is what survives after all the rest is gone, and in the world that V could never have inhabited, the world in which he would have been lost, she carries the human part of him with her.