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Guy Fawkes mask

Who's this guy

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SHOT AT FAME: James McTeigue's 2006 film adaptation made the mask larger than life

A mask made by Rubie's Costume Co has become a bestselling item on Amazon. Made famous by the film V For Vendetta (based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore), the Guy Fawkes mask is now a potent symbol of protest after members of the hacktivist group Anonymous embraced the accessory.

In writer Alan Moore and illustrator David Lloyd's graphic novel V for Vendetta, 1982, the mask is worn by the protagonist V who is an anarchist vigilante. Lloyd styled the mask after Guy Fawkes, a leading light of the Gunpowder Plot, 1605. The plot resulted in a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England by a group of provincial English Catholics fighting against the persecution by the Protestant Church of England.

When developing the idea, Lloyd wrote a handwritten note: "Why don't we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier-m?chê masks, in a cape and a conical hat? He'd look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he's deserved all these years. We shouldn't burn the chap every November 5, but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!"

The mask, however, left the niche of comic books and took over mainstream headlines when it was appropriated by some members of the hacktivist group Anonymous in 2003. The mask guarantees the group anonymity but it also enables them to announce their intentions of taking up the fight against censorship.

Sometime between 2003 and 2008, James McTeigue's 2006 film adaptation of the graphic novel arrived at cinemas and the bizarre mask, literally became larger than life.

It became the face of protest in 2011. At Occupy demonstrations from Wall Street to St Paul's, people choose to wear the same mask, with its sinister grin frozen over a devilish goatee.

In India, although the mask has held some currency over the years, it made big news only recently when Anonymous extended its reach to censorship-riddled India. This weekend Anonymous is putting itself out there for sure;the turnout at their peaceful protests in cities across the country will surely be indicative of their local clout.

If you're headed to the protest don't forget your mask. Online tutorials will give you the gyan on DIY masks because for now the masks are unavailable locally. But that could change.

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