Guy Fawkes vs. Louis Riel: Who’s The Better Rebel Icon?

Guy Fawkes vs. Louis Riel

Guy Fawkes vs. Louis Riel

Both of them were tried for treason and sentenced to hang, and both of them are now considered rebel icons of a sort, but really, who does it better? Louis Riel, the spiritual leader of the Metis people, or Guy Fawkes, whose plot to kill King James I of England has been iconized and commodified for the modern era.

Screw You To The Government
Riel: Was elected to Canada’s House Of Commons on three separate occasions, though he never assumed his seat for fear of assassination.
Fawkes: Plotted to blow up the British House Of Lords and assassinate King James I.
Verdict: Blowing up a building’s pretty coarse and obvious, but not being able to show up for work because someone’s gonna shoot you in the head? That’s being a rebel.
Point Riel.

Video Games
Riel: Somebody took the time to make this.
Fawkes: There’s a character named “Fawkes” in the post-apocalyptic shooter, Fallout 3.
Verdict: Clearly gamer nerds are more engaged by Fawkes than Riel.
Point Fawkes.

Chester Brown's Louis Riel

Chester Brown's Louis Riel

Graphic Novel
Riel: Chester Brown’s Louis Riel.
Fawkes: Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta.
Verdict: Moore’s work is the better known, better crafted treatise on rebellion, but Brown’s captures all the complex realities of Riel’s life.

Badass Death
Riel: When he was hanged it took four minutes before he slowly and painfully choked to death.
Fawkes: To avoid being drawn and quartered while alive, he jumped from the scaffold from which he was to be hanged, breaking his neck.
Verdict: One’s first instinct is to give it to Fawkes for the drama and beating the system, if only a little. But going out in the most ugly, painful way makes the best act of defiancance.
Point Riel.

Riel: Thee Headcoats and Grand Archives have recorded songs about Riel, but the Canadian Opera Company also have a popular opera about the Metis leader.
Fawkes: John Lennon references Guy Fawkes Night on the song “Remember” from the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.
Verdict: In the cosmic scheme of things, there’s no scenario where the Canadian Opera Company will ever be more counter-culture than Lennon.
Point Fawkes.

Religious Conviction
Riel: Thought he was creating a new Christian order.
Fawkes: Was a really, really passionate Roman Catholic.
Verdict: Both felt the God in them pretty strongly, but for sheer loopy-ness, Riel’s new Christian order takes it.
Point Riel.

Riel: There was a CBC-sponsored made-for-TV movie back in 1979.
Fawkes: V For Vendetta made $132 million worldwide, starred Natalie Portman and has been adopted by libertarians and anarchists alike.
Verdict: Until Brad Pitt does a starring turn as Riel this one remains a lock for Fawkes.
Point Fawkes.

Riel: A jailer cut off Riel’s ‘stache prior to his execution, some of the clippings of which are now in the St. Boniface Historical Museum.
Fawkes: Those hacker kids in Anonymous think Fawkes’ moustache makes for perfect desktop wallpaper.
Verdict: There can be no winner in the battle of iconic soup-strainers.

Official Celebratory Day
Riel: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan used to hold an annual Louis Riel Day, complete with tug-of-war and cabbage roll eating contests. The city stopped celebrating it in the ’90s.
Fawkes: Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night, happens Nov. 5 in Britain and is basically built on the premise of children burning effigies of Fawkes.
Verdict: Cabbage roll eating vs. sinister indoctrination of children under the guise of playing with fire? Hmmm.
Point Fawkes.

Symbol Of Rebellion
Riel: The Metis Sash. Generally red, and worn around the waist, it symbolizes that, yes, since a Supreme Court Of Canada ruling affirming it in 2003, Metis’ have the awesome protected Aboriginal right to hunt for food, regardless of season or licence.
Fawkes: The Guy Fawkes Mask. Adopted by G20 protesters, Occupy Wall Streeters, and computer hacking activists, the moustache mask popularized in V For Vendetta is now the brand of counter-culture.
Verdict: Until Metis sashes become as commodified on Amazon as Fawkes masks, this one’s locked in for the Brit.
Point Fawkes.

And your better rebel icon is… Guy Fawkes. Congratulations. Now go burn or blow up something.

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