As Bonfire Night approaches, images of Guy Fawkes proliferate as part of a trend not related to the anniversary of the foiling of the gunpowder plot.
Guy Fawkes masks as worn by ‘V’ in the comic book series V for Vendetta have become the facewear of choice for Occupy Wall Street protesters and Occupy protesters worldwide. Julian Assange was recently seen wearing one in London, but was asked to remove it because of British public anonymity laws. Protesters in Hong Kong strapped the mask on the bronze bull outside the stock exchange.
Plastic Guy Fawkes masks have been widely available since the 2006 film version of V for Vendetta, but they gained added anti-establishment symbolism when the ‘hacktivist’ collective, Anonymous, started to wear the masks at public demonstrations to protect their identity.
Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic who, with other conspirators, attempted to overthrow the Protestant monarchy by assassinating King James I. Fawkes was found guarding a stockpile of gunpowder under the House of Lords and arrested on 5 November 1605. Fawkes, along with some co-conspirators whose identity he revealed under torture, was charged with and found guilty of high treason for which a punishment of hanging, drawing and quartering was meted. Fawkes avoided excruciating pain of being drawn to death by a horse by jumping from the gallows where he was to be hanged and breaking his neck. His dead body was quartered anyway to keep the crowds happy.
On the commemoration of the failure of the gunpowder plot, effigies of Guy Fawkes are often burnt on bonfires along with other, more contemporary hate figures like Margaret Thatcher and Osama bin Laden.