Today is Guy Fawkes Day, the 406th anniversary of British folk hero Guy Fawkes and his cohorts’ foiled Gunpowder Plot to blow up part of the British Houses of Parliament and assassinate King James I. Guy Fawkes is one of those figures that the public can’t seem to decide about — was a he a hero for fighting what he deemed to be tyranny or a villain for trying to kill a bunch of people? Perhaps he’s a little bit of both, which only adds to his appeal as a folk hero. To celebrate the holiday, we’ve collected a list of Fawkes other cultural icons, from pop stars to presidents, that have split the public opinion on whether they’re heroes or villains. Be sure to let us know which you think are which in the comments.
Despite the fact that Guy Fawkes was essentially an anarchist terrorist, and that Guy Fawkes Day traditionally involves burning the man’s effigy around a bonfire, the likeness of Fawkes has been taken up by many to stand for protest in the face of tyranny all over the world. For instance, if you’ve been in the lower half of Manhattan in the past few weeks, you might have seen quite a few replicas of the sinister, smiling Fawkes mask was worn by V, the leader in the comic book (and then film) V for Vendetta on the protesters at Occupy Wall Street, and the Guy Fawkes costumes were certainly in full force this Halloween. In America especially, he has become a sympathetic figure, though the crowd is still split: no matter how good the intention, that mask looks pretty sinister to us.