Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Cinema Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 12 September 2016

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Cinema

Both the films Braveheart and V for Vendetta explore the issues of insurgent and counterinsurgent behavior but do so in slightly differing terms. As an important note, we have to take into consideration that the time periods in which both films are set cannot be even more different. Braveheart, the struggle of the legendary Scottish figure William Wallace, is set amidst the trials and tribulations of Middle Age England. On the other hand, V for Vendetta takes place in a not-too-distant version of modern day England.

From this understanding comes the realization that while both films attempt to characterize the power struggle between those who have it and those who do not, there is a curious discrepancy in the way that the characters within those films view their plights. Mel Gibson, who directs Braveheart, chose to present insurgency as the morally apt option against the tyrannical rule of England against the Scots. It is heavily implied in the film that because the English has continuously abused its authority as against their constituents, that it is but proper for the beleaguered Scots to rise up and protect themselves from further maltreatment.

The most striking characterization of this abuse happens early on when the lord of the land uses his authoritarian privilege of primae noctis, allowing him to take the virginity of a newly-wed. It is of course the wife of William Wallace in the film that fall victim to this exercise. Braveheart thus sets forth the idea that the collective abuse wrought on by an alien authority or figure upon a group of people is enough justification for a moral uprising, which in this case an armed one.

William Wallace’s merry band of Scottish insurgents is clearly the “good” ones whereas King Edward I of England is the very facade of evil as his method of counterinsurgency is singularly fueled by his belief that his authority is supreme. V for Vendetta takes quite the different approach. Foremost, the insurgency presented in V is primarily lonesome, with the titular character going on a one-man crusade against a tyrannical party authority in 2027 England when it seems the rest of the world has succumbed to the “flaws” of democracy.

In this film, the subjugation of freedom by the central authority is not necessarily carried out for the purposes of vanity or glory. Unlike in Braveheart’s Edward I, V for Vendetta’s Chancellor Sutler, while still very clearly presented as morally corrupt, actually believes that his party’s style of governance is for the greater good. Meanwhile, the film’s protagonist, or antihero as the case may be, V, appears to be as morally corrupt as the figure he is struggling against, resorting to the use of kidnapping and outright murder. This is a far cry for Mel Gibson’s interpretation of William Wallace, who is portrayed almost like a sword-saint.

Clearly, both films attempt to portray their central characters as victims of circumstance, with Wallace as the distraught husband and V a survivor of governmental subjugation and that both are somehow motivated by sentiments of revenge. In a simple conclusion however, it is very interesting to propose the notion that Braveheart’s version of insurgency is more akin to a moral rebellion while V for Vendetta’s version edges closer to terrorism with a cause. Bonus Question: Of Cinematic Appeal I found V for Vendetta as more cinematically appealing than Braveheart.

While Braveheart is an epic adventure that has a very satisfying “good vs. evil” template powering its message, V for Vendetta’s morally ambiguous structure is far more interesting. Just as the Alan Moore graphic novel original, the film adaptation of V for Vendetta is not only a visual masterpiece, but it is a prime subject for further discussion. In a way, I find that while V for Vendetta is very clearly easy on the eyes, it is not so easy on the brains. This is a complimentary observation for me because viewers, depending on their pre-conceived notions or biases, can take on differing sides of the moral dilemmas presented.

As I watched V for Vendetta, I asked myself several times, “Isn’t V just a terrorist? ” Then I realized that for V, maybe that wasn’t the case at all. Mid-Term Questions: 1. Compare and contrast the following concepts: a) Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: Insurgency constitutes an armed uprising by a group with no apparent vested authority against a duly-recognized power. Meanwhile, counterinsurgency is the means by which the besieged authority attempts to quell the insurgency normally by way of combat. In casual terms, insurgency is the act of rebel forces while counterinsurgency is the act of government.

b) Insurgency and Terrorism: While insurgency covers the broad notion of an armed struggle following a somehow systemic way of combat against an opposing force, terrorism is likewise the use of lethal force with no apparent target. In a way, terrorism is a way to inflict terror, possibly to incite fear and paranoia amongst a populace, leading to concessions by the governing authority. c) Insurgency and Guerilla Warfare Guerilla warfare is a style of combat characterized by small groups using non-conventional means of warfare such as ambushes, hit-and-run tactics, but rarely acts of terrorism.

Most insurgent groups prefer guerilla-style warfare early on in their struggles as they lack logistical support and manpower. 2. Briefly outline the four-stage model created by Dr. Polk in the book entitled, “Violent Politics,” to study the insurgency movements around the world. William Folk basically argues that any foreign occupation provides for the necessary ingredients for insurgency in the occupied land. This insurgency tends to favor the use of terrorist acts as a means to convey its struggle which in turn merits the response of the occupying power.

As the cycle of terrorism-counterterrorism continues and builds up, a point is reached wherein the initial insurgency evolves into full-blown rebellion. 3. Briefly discuss Foucault’s concept of power; and its impact on how people view what is normal and what is deviant. (15 points) Foucault’s concept of power is the exercise of intention. He claims that as power is everywhere, that intention is likewise everywhere. The ubiquity of intention influences the perceptions of the everyman, does giving birth to socially-agreed definitions or norms regarding deviance and normalcy.

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