HBO Watchmen: Woke as they say?


It didn't take long for fans of Watchmen to collectively raise a skeptical eyebrow at HBO's planned series once plot details started leaking. The great majority of the criticism centered around race, which is only logical as Episode One began with the massacre of Black Wall Street in 1930s Tulsa. This tragic outrage occurred in real life as well as the alternate timeline we experience in Watchmen. Also within the first two episodes are the revelations that a white supremacist group has taken inspiration from the masked hero Rorschach (who was NOT a white supremacist, let it be noted) and that President Robert Redford enacted sweeping slavery reparations which forcibly extracted wealth from white Americans and gave it to Black Americans.

With all the early focus on race and the touchy politics surrounding it, there was very little attention paid to that other ubiquitous form of identity politics, third-wave feminism, and how the writers used it to conceal a massive plot twist. For those of you who have not watched the series and intend to, I recommend clicking away now, as there will be massive spoilers for the whole series. The main character in the Watchmen series is Angela Abar, played by Regina King. Like all of the masked heroes in the legacy graphic novel, Angela has no super powers. She is a fit woman in her mid-40s who serves as a masked detective on Tulsa's police force. Why masked, you ask? Because several years ago, the Seventh Cavalry, the aforementioned white supremacist group, tracked down every Tulsa police officer and either murdered or badly injured them, including Angela. So publicly, she quit the force and opened a bakery. But she's still a cop and quite the tough one at that. The show has all the normal physical feats we've come to expect, the ones that are, in real life, ridiculous, but are so over used in film and television that we don't even blink. The audience doesn't flinch when we see Angela chase down a thin young man in a foot race. Neither do we question when we see her triumph in fisticuffs over a burly older man, but still younger than she is. The third-wave feminist obfuscation of plot points enters in the very first episode in the form of Angela's husband, Cal. We are introduced to Cal early on and it is immediately apparent that this younger, very fit man who embodies a certain masculine ideal... has somehow landed himself in the homemaker role. He stays home and cares for their three adopted children while Angela fights crime at all hours. This is unusual, of course, but not entirely unheard of. But then at the end of episode one, the phone rings at Angela's house, late at night, interrupting a vigorous marital performance by Cal. When Angela answers the late night call, a male voice informs her that he has taken her police captain. If she wants him back, she must come to an isolated road... by herself. Of course she tells her husband about the call. She tells him she's going to the rendezvous and that he needs to stay at the house to protect the children. And this vigorous, masculine man just nods and watches his mid-40s wife with no super powers, drive off to a certain ambush. He doesn't insist on coming as backup. He doesn't call any of her fellow officers after she pulls out. He just does as she says, something no man would ever do. Ever. Gay or Straight, American, Arab, African, or Asian, no man would ever allow such a thing. Yet there is Cal. Doing it. Something similar happens in a flashback to the White Night, when the Seventh Cavalry came to kill all the police officers. Two men burst into Angela's house and shoot her in the gut. Cal is nowhere to be seen during the attack, even though there was no indication he was injured, and at this point in the story, they had no children in their care. Angela was left alone to deal with the home invaders, though initially, we're not sure how she survived the ordeal. In watching these plot points and the show's treatment of Cal, it was hard not see the heavy hand of third-wave feminism. You could almost hear the lefties cheering about how stunning and brave it all was. But in that raging leftism was the core of the show's strength. If the show's detractors had bothered to watch past episode 2, they might have been surprised by how good the show was and how the lefty show runners actually used their intended audience's liberal bias against them. This bias was first used to conceal the plot point that Cal was, in fact, Dr. Manhattan all along. The reason for his ineffectual manner, his complacency, and his odd affect was because Dr. Manhattan had used a device to wipe his own memory, to live as a human, as a linear being. No one saw that one coming and even with the rough start to the show, it was one of many things that worked perfectly, not just within the series, but with the graphic novel as well. Even with the racial axe to grind, the series just worked. It "felt" like Watchmen, albeit starting on Episode three. Though we've all been subjected to cringey woke TV like Batwoman, Watchmen avoids cringe by respecting its source material and the intelligence of its audience. Instead of recasting a traditionally white character as a person of color, as many films and series have chosen to do, Watchmen simply revealed that Hooded Justice, one of the original Watchmen from the graphic novel, was actually a black man. The character never took off his hood in the graphic novel, never revealed his true identity. And the costume... let's face it everyone, there has never been a more clear invocation of lynching with that imagery. The story of Hooded Justice is reasonable, heartbreaking, and perfectly in line with the existing lore. The show also made an excellent point by showing how the American population violently resisted the intentions of the elite. Though Adrian Vight aka Ozymandeus took insane measures to "save humanity," he was disappointed to find that people just didn't fall in line with the idea of redistributing their wealth or with globalism. All those beautiful plans by rich and smart people and the common folk still insist on their paltry freedom. How annoying. It is through Adrian that the writers demonstrate their self-awareness of the dark side of their own political leanings. In the final episode as he is helping Angela stop Dr. Manhattan from being destroyed, he is asked why he is helping Angela. To which he replies, "Anyone who seeks the power of a god must be prevented from achieving it at all costs." As a megalomaniacal narcissist himself, he can easily recognize the threat Lady Tru poses. All of her platitudes about fixing the environment and stopping war are nonsense. She wants the power of a god. And it has nothing to do with reducing CO2 levels. The writers understand this. And so do we. The show, in my opinion, was excellent. But before I sign off, I'd like to render a verdict on the issue we began with, that of race. The criticisms of the show centered around the idea that it was entirely anti-white. This condemnation can be dismissed out of hand because we have several white characters who are not vicious racists. There is of course Laurie and Adrian, legacy characters from the graphic novel. But there is also Wade Tillman AKA Glass, a tru-blue country bumpkin with deep paranoia and the ability to see when people lie to him. Actor Tim Blake Nelson actually is an Oklahoman and has the accent to prove it. He is what you imagine when you think of the stereotype of a racist. But he is not. He is brave, self-sacrificing, and deeply sympathetic. And he is not portrayed as the exception to the rule. The main problem I had with the race issue... wasn't really about race at all. It was about Communism, which has often been the trojan horse in discussions on race in America. In the second episode, Angela returns to her home to find an old white man on her porch. Through flashbacks, we are told that the three children Angela and Cal are raising, three white children, are the orphans of her old police partner who was killed during the White Night. This old man on her porch is the children's grandfather and he is there for his normal visit. Visibly put out, Angela sighs and asks if she can take a raincheck, as she has just had to cut her boss down from a tree. The old man says, "You can cut me a real check," and snidely takes payment in lieu of seeing his grandchildren. The scene is played in such a way to make us think badly of the grandfather, that he is a greedy man, an unfeeling man. And he doesn't deserve our sympathy. Maybe it was because the grandfather was played by Jim Beaver, who normally plays loving paternal characters in shows like Deadwood and Supernatural. Or maybe it was because we had just seen the absolute squalor the majority of white Tulsans live in thanks to the wealth redistribution. But that one scene made clear the writer's intent regarding race. This old man's child was murdered by white supremacists for the crime of being a police officer. And then, because of his age and financial straits, he could not raise his orphaned grandchildren. Instead, he must rely on a woman he does not know. A woman who is being paid by the government. With his tax dollars. No one feels sorry for the members of the Seventh Cavalry. The people who founded the organization were violent racists long before reparations and in looking at the police chief's house, they all seem to be doing just fine, even with the heavy taxation. It's the common man who suffers. The ones who actually did the violence and profited off it, it seems their only suffering is brought on by their own black souls. So No, not all white people are racist according to the show's writers. Just the ones who object to their money being taken from them and given to other people who they have not wronged. So is Watchmen better dubbed Wokemen? No, I wouldn't say so. Though its politics are clear, I'd say this is a clear example of leftist propaganda done right, if there is such a thing. Not a cringe in sight, fabulous production value, and, most importantly, self-awareness. Good-hearted people can disagree and should, if we're to have a healthy society. It is awareness of one's own overreach that keeps us all honest. As well as an accountability to others. Who watches the watchmen? We do. And best believe we are watching closely.


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