The Guy Faux mask has been a symbol for many things! The mask and the Name Guy has a history. Did you know the history? Well happy fifth of November time to learn something!
On November 5th, 1605, a group of conspirators attempted to blow up the British House of Lords and assassinate King James VI. Guy Fawkes, a British-born rebel, was caught guarding a stockpile of Gunpowder and was later hanged.
Following the failed assassination attempt, burning effigies of Fawkes on November 5th became a yearly tradition. The day became known as Guy Fawkes Night, and it was common for children to dress up scarecrows with a grotesque depiction of Fawkes on the head. Among the earliest known mentions of the Guy Fawkes mask comes from the weekly, peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, which attributed the death of a two-year-old to the horror of seeing another boy wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. They write,
“Elizabeth S–, residing at 1 Stephen’s-place, Somerstown, aged two years and three months, and previously in good health, was on Friday, the 2nd of October last, carried by a little girl into a “sweet-shop,” and whilst there a little boy, in a red “Guy-Fawkes” mask, made his appearance at the window. This she told her little nurse was “Bogie,” and it greatest such an alarm in her mind, that on her return home she was described by her friends to have been in a state of great excitement, trembling violently, and unable, from agitation to explain the cause of her distress.”
On December 31st, 1863, an artist published an illustration entitled “Procession of a Guy.” The image features a parade on Gunpowder Night.”
V for Vendetta
In 1982, the comic book V for Vendetta was published in Warrior, a British anthology comic. The book, which features a character who is an anarchist activist, wears a Guy Fawkes mask is a symbol of violent protest against the British government. The depiction of the mask was developed by artist David Lloyd and writer Alan Moore. Lloyd wrote of the design at the time, “paper-mâché 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 Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!”
On March 17th, 2006, after a four-month delay, the feature-film adaptation of V for Vendetta. The film opened to generally positive reviews and grossed more than $130 million worldwide.
Epic Fail Guy
On September 30th, 2006, the Guy Fawkes mask became associated with a 4chan stick figure character known as Epic Fail Guy, after a comic thread was posted on an unknown board showing the character finding the mask in a trash can (shown below). After this, the character, known for his inability to successfully complete any task, continued to be depicted wearing the mask. In addition, the phrase “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November” was also used on 4chan throughout 2007, including a June 2007 thread on /b/ (random) discussing overused memes on the site.
The following month, YouTuber Chainsaw09 published a video animation of Epic Fail Guy dancing. The post (shown below) received more than 40,000 views in 12 years.
In January 2008, posters from both 4chan and 711chan, in addition to several other websites aligned with Anonymous, decided to launch a campaign against the Church of Scientology known as Project Chanology after the Church issued a DMCA takedown on a video containing material from an interview with actor Tom Cruise about the religion. Real-life gatherings were organized, taking place on February 10th, 2008, when more than 7000 members of the hacktivist collective from more than 100 cities globally protested in front of Scientology churches, marking the first offline action of Anonymous. Many members chose to wear a Guy Fawkes mask to the protests as a way to conceal their identity and show their alliance to the collective.
The mask has since become one of the overarching symbols for the Anonymous group. In the group’s videos, which act as their main form of communication with the general public, the anchor who delivers the message wears a Guy Fawkes mask to protect their identity.
Wherever you know where the history of the Guy Faux mask comes from it all ends in a symbol of the oppressed. The symbol is used widely today and sometimes in jest.
Remember, remember, the fifth of November Gunpowder treason and plot. We see no reason. Why Gunpowder treason. Should ever be forgot.