Guy Fawkes’ has claimed international fame as a symbol of anarchy. The renowned “Anony- mous,” a powerful group of internet hackers, post their videos wearing the famous Guy Fawkes’ mask, popularized by the dystopian film, “V
for Vendetta.” Most recently and disturbingly, a series of attacks throughout the Middle East, spe- cifically anti-American in nature, were perpetrat- ed by groups of people wearing the same mask.
Traditionally, Americans tend to see rejection of authority and anti-establishment in a positive light; ideas like “rebel without a cause” are romanticized and youth are drawn to anarchy’s promise of no rules, no restrictions. As the dystopian film brought the mask into popular- ity, it raised some questions for Americans. We began to associate Guy Fawkes’ once again with this heroic sense of rebellion, perhaps forgetting that the act that made him famous was an attempt
to blow up the whole of parliament, inspired by Catholic pride. The time period was wrought with religious turmoil, as Protestants and Catholics struggled to establish power. As an act of murder and an act of symbolic destruction of the British political system, no self-respecting Brit, Catholic or otherwise, would admire that.
That is the common refrain one might receive
if they spoke to someone over the age of say,
50. Speak to any young adult, however, and
the responses are far more varied. Quite a few were even unsure of who Guy Fawkes’ was until prompted by the infamous words, ‘Remember, re- member, the fifth of November.’ Familiarity with the holiday, more often referred to as ‘Bonfire Night,’ is common, but the historical and political significance of it is sometimes lost. And it is hard to blame them for that; the event occurred over 400 years ago, in 1605. Commemoration has
evolved throughout the decades as well. Origi- nally, an effigy of the pope was the fodder for the massive bonfire stoked, but the clear religious offense of that eventually stopped the practice, replacing it with an effigy of Guy Fawkes’ him- self. Even now, Catholics spokespersons tend to blanch at the holiday, claiming its roots are based on religious intolerance.
The holiday lost its significance entirely for some time, overwhelmed by Americanization.
As Halloween took off and became a more wide- spread practice throughout the U.K., it is now far easier to find costumes and garish makeup than
it was to find fireworks. The Fifth of November
is not the same holiday it once was, similar to public perception of Guy Fawkes. Once vilified as a violent madman, the popular view tends to be leaning towards a sense of admiration at his bold scramble to dethrone a theocracy that oppressed
him and his people. Ignoring his own religious motivation and his desire to return the British throne to Catholic royalty, he has been praised by some as a promoter of democracy and the people’s rights.
Jack Saynor, 20-year-old from West Sussex, said, “You get told about him when’re ten, about treason.” Harry Mitchell, 19, also from West Sussex, chipped in, “But he’s made out like a hero… it’s really just novelty and an excuse to celebrate.”
A local man from Surrey laments the loss of the holiday, as it is overrun by what he terms the “rubbish American holiday” of Halloween, con- firming that Americanization is still occurring. The trend seems to be that the tradition is fading in favor of Halloween, making a lot of tradi- tionalists feel regret for the loss of their beloved holiday.