“There is a face beneath this mask, but it’s not me. I’m no more that face than I am the muscles beneath it, or the bones beneath them.”
– V, V for Vendetta
When V says this, he’s saying it to a woman who has become very dear to him. We know almost everything about Evey Hammond, but very little about V, which is most unusual for most stories, leaving their leading protagonists with such a mysterious, unexplored background. As Evey has come to mean much to him, so has he come to be important to her. In fact, she’s one of the most important things that will have ever happened in her life, yet she doesn’t know his past, or even what he looks like. She wants to take off his mask, to see him as he is, to see who is beneath that mask.
But V does not want her to see the ugliness, the horrid mess of his burned, scarred face, or whatever it is that lies beneath the mask. He explains that his appearance matters very little. He has a face, yes, but that’s not who he is.
It’s such a simple truth: our appearance is not our identity. What we appear to be is not who we are. We are more than what we look like.
Our identities are made up of our choices. Who we are not who we appear to be, but who we choose to be. It’s what we think, what we say, what we do. It’s our accomplishments and our failures. It’s what we choose to be when people can see us, and especially what we choose to be when we believe no one can see us.
Evey may not know much about him, but, in fact, she knows V very well. She knows his pain, his scheming, his strength, his cunning. She knows he is driven and powerful, even obsessed. She knows his flaws and weakness. She knows his mind and soul. She knows his good and evil. That is who he is. She knows him very well.
What he looks like… that is insignificant by comparison.
Some of us obsess about our appearances, and that, not our appearance itself, is who we are. Some of us are profiled because of what we look like, but that’s not who we are. Some of us profile others based on their appearance, but that’s not who they are either. To know who someone is, you have to look past their appearance.
What we appear to be, that is just a mask. Who we are is, quite simply, the sum of our choices.
…and since V, who has no appearance of his own, is a hero because of his choices, what does that say for all of us? Perhaps it means we can all be heroes, if we simply choose to be, eh? 😉