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Guy Fawkes Day and Cultural Identity Shifts

“Remember, remember the fifth of November.” Along with the crackling of massive bonfires, the bursting of fireworks and consumption of assorted ales and ciders on Guy Fawkes Day in Britain comes an interesting study in cultural shifts in perception and significance. Guy Fawkes, a domestic terrorist associated with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 that was intended to blow-up the House of Lords, is traditionally viewed with vitriol across the pond; but globally, Guy Fawkes’ image has morphed into one of a romanticized anti-hero. These perceptual changes often accompany individuals who are lightning rods for criticism, and it’s a testament of how your legacy can transform over time.

The image of the Guy Fawkes mask reached meteoric popularity after 2006’s V for Vendetta was released. A symbol for protest against perceived tyranny, the mask was utilized in the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring revolutions across the Middle East, and has essentially become a brand for popular revolution. While in Great Britain his likeness is customarily burned in effigy on Guy Fawkes Day, his visage is prominent in protests across the world.

These types of historical revisions have taken place since the advent of intelligent thought. Elapsed time often dictates legacies, and one’s own place in the cultural context isn’t often determined until further down the road. For many years, Columbus Day was a source of pride in the hearts of Americans, and as the actual facts and events became clearer, many in the United States have soured on a holiday that seemed to celebrate colonialism and the eradication of the Native American population.

In the ever-evolving publicity spectrum, the lasting impact you have on your audience may not be determined until further down the road. A steady stream of attention aids in crafting your permanent niche, but one misstep or poorly-executed performance can sully even the most air-tight of publicity campaigns. Remaining mindful of the public’s shifting perception of you, as it may also indicate a shift on your legacy.

As the mortars illuminate the London skies this evening and the crowds gather to celebrate the foiled plot of 1605, many will be aware of the evolution of Guy Fawkes in the international view. A traitor, brigand, conspirator, inspiration and political symbol; all these labels all apply for many. The mark you leave on your audience will likely undergo many changes; do your best to ensure they are favorable. 

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

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