Fairey Tales 

Thursday, Dec 1 2011

Since last Thursday was Thanksgiving, casual observers might imagine that you, L.A. Weekly's loyal readers, whiled away the hours thanking God over a slice of pumpkin pie — or perhaps channel-surfing in a haze of booze and residual L-tryptophan. That's what holidays are for, right?

Wrong. Rather than go through the motions of giving thanks, you spent the holidays logging onto laweekly.com. And rather than succumb to a TV-and-turkey stupor, you found the energy to blast the hell out of Shepard Fairey.

As Simone Wilson reported on the Informer blog ("Shepard Fairey Designs 'Occupy Hope' Poster, Replaces Obama's Face with V for Vendetta Mask," Nov. 18), the L.A.-based street artist recently tweaked his famous color-blocked "HOPE" poster to support the Occupy movement. The new poster, Fairey's second Occupy-related effort, features the sinister Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta. "Mister President," it read, "We HOPE you're on our side."

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You were, suffice to say, underwhelmed. Some readers hated that Fairey seemed to have confused the Occupy crowd with Anonymous, the hactivists who first appropriated the Fawkes mask. "Did anyone tell him where the V mask came from in relation to Anonymous and what it stands for?" writes Bridget. "I mean, this is cheesy as hell." Others, including Derrick S., found the work derivative: "He lost any street cred a long time ago, and this latest attempt to try and acquire some screams L-A-Z-Y!"

Adds a reader identified only as "guest," "Where talent and imagination are extremely lacking, I guess extreme pandering helps most when it comes to staying in the limelight."

And then there were the astute readers pointing out the irony of the true origins of Guy Fawkes — and the mask that bears his visage. Reader plnative points out that Fawkes actually attempted to firebomb the House of Lords on behalf of that great leftist cause: Roman Catholicism. "The Occupiers might think they're borrowing from Moore's graphic novel (or a massive Hollywood blockbuster film), but the history of this symbol runs in exact opposition to much of what they stand for," he notes. "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, though...."

Fawkes wasn't just a Papist. As Kthompson1346 explains, he also was a screw-up. "I love Fairey but, really, Guy Fawkes? Not only was Fawkes a bumbling idiot; he was the ultimate role model in failure. I really wish people would do their homework before they wear these masks. I'm quite frankly shocked that Shepard Fairey, with all of his resources, wouldn't know what he is representing. Such a misuse of talent in a time we could really use his help."

Adds Phoenix Lomax, "The true irony of the Guy Fawkes mask lies in the fact that it's Warner Bros. movie merch. Nothing like railing against corporations while paying them for the mask you use to appear 'countercultural' and 'edgy.' "

All the criticism appears to have gotten to the artist. He subsequently rolled out a redesign of the poster. It still features Guy Fawkes, but there's no longer any message to "Mister President." Instead, it says, "We are the HOPE."

Unfortunately for Fairey, L.A. Weekly readers won't be appeased. No, sir! After Wilson posted an update with the new design Monday, some of you returned to blast the concept some more. "Now that Shepard Fairey has redone the Occupy Hope poster for the 10th time, can he please go back and redo the Obama poster?" asks reader Frawsty. "All he needs to do is change the word 'Hope' to 'Dope.' "

The Big One

Some of you also disliked Ryan Deto's cover story about what would happen if a major earthquake hit L.A. ("The First 15 Minutes," Nov. 24). Reader Ted E. applauded the choice of subject, but called Deto's story "extremely poorly written." He writes, "The fictional accounts are cumbersome to get through, and a lack of creative continuity and talent make it a trudge to have to suffer through to get to the information."

And while reader @cupcakelvr had nothing bad to say about Deto's execution, she seemed freaked by his conclusions: "OMG, leaving L.A. this instant. Way to keep it happy, L.A. Weekly," she wrote on Twitter. Others thought the story served as an effective wake-up call: "If you live in L.A. or other parts of California, this might be the scariest thing you read today," tweeted @michaelpilla.

Occupier, Occupy Thyself

On a more uplifting note, we received a suggestion from reader Jerry Rubin of Santa Monica. Rubin tells us he supports the Occupy movement — but he thinks we should all take things a step farther.

"I'd like to suggest 'Occupy Yourself' as a broad added theme or slogan," he writes. "It would encourage personal introspection and political activism while reminding people everywhere of the individual responsibility we all have in helping to make a better world." A succinct new slogan? Somebody get Shepard Fairey on the phone, stat!

You Write, We Read

Please send letters to Comments, L.A. Weekly, 3861 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA, 90230. Or you can write us at ReadersWrite@laweekly.com. Full name and contact information preferred.

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