>“WATCHMEN” for the Aesthetically Challenged

Posted: 10/03/2009 in Debbie Schlussel, Movies, rants, watchmen

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Initially, with this blog entry, I thought that I’d just run my review of it and compare to the novel, but yesterday on Theologyweb I came across this soapbox by Debbie Schlussel, whoever she is. Instead of doing a standard review, I think I will review her review. Hopefully, after this we can all learn how not to understand a film –especially an adaptation.

Schlussel begins opens her review with “If you take your kids to see ‘Watchmen,’ you’re a moron.” She says it is marketed to kids since it has action figures, and has a heroic looking trailer. Throughout the review, she complains of scenes clearly not good for children, such as the lesbian kiss, Dr. Manhatten’s male member, the sex scene, and the bloodshed.

To borrow the catch line of different internet movie pundit, ”I’m confused.”

Who claimed that Watchmen was intended for children? I don’t think Alan Moore ever did. Action figures mean it is marketed for kids? But adults, specifically eccentric and geeky ones, purchase those too. In fact, those action figures are advertised to have ”presentation bases”. Something like that indicates that these are more collector’s items for the early 20s eccentric, not toys for your fifth grader.

What about a “heroic trailer”? Did we watch the same one? The mood, the music, and Rorschach’s misanthropic quote (“I’ll look down and whisper ‘no’”) indicated to me that this wasn’t a normal hero movie. I don’t think there is a lot of reason to believe that Alan Moore or Hollywood thought this was a movie (or book) for kids. I have a hard time believing that Watchmen was marketed as such, besides (as Schlussel mentioned) it had an “R” rating.

In summary so far, Schlussel’s complaints about the movie stem largely about it being inappropriate for children. Yet neither the book nor the movie is intended for children. From here, I must invoke a largely controversial, a little esoteric, and difficult to understand principle of interpretation:

Artistic works not intended for children, should not be evaluated on whether or not they are “good for children.”

Everyone understand? Good. Moving on.

The next complaint leveled against WATCHMEN is that it “isn’t a superhero movie at all.” Also, she apparently thinks that if it might be a “conservative movie” as 300 was, but the movie still falls short of that standard. She explains:

A few lines of dialogue by the character “Rorschach” deriding “liberals and intellectuals” doesn’t excuse the nearly three hours of poison here. In fact, the movie kind of has a peacenik-themed ending and “message” regarding nuclear weapons. If this move is “conservative,” who the heck needs liberal?

Again, ”I’m confused.”

Who said that this was a traditional super hero movie? This movie and book are intended to be a dark parody of the super hero concept. Creator Alan Moore explained:

“I suppose I was just thinking, ‘That’d be a good way to start a comic book: have a famous super-hero found dead.’ As the mystery unraveled, we would be led deeper and deeper into the real heart of this super-hero’s world, and show a reality that was very different to the general public image of the super-hero.”

It was supposed to break the expectations of the genre. Her whining in this matter is therefore part of the work’s merit. This complaint is about as a bad as the gripe that “The Village” wasn’t a horror movie.

And what’s this about WATCHMEN not being conservative? Sure, Rorschach was a conservative character, but again she is judging the movie by something other than its intentions. If someone doesn’t like a movie because it grates with your political ideology, that’s fine. But how does it make sense to evaluate a story by not supporting politics it never claimed to endorse?

Finally, Schlussel gets to the movie’s alternate history. There are plenty of things that are changed, such as an American victory in Vietnam, Nixon’s fifth term, and Ronald Reagan running for president in 88. She slams all of this with, “I’m so amazed at this “high-brow art” of deliberately getting dates and timelines wrong, you know, just to be ‘artistic,’ and get the drooling of the critics.”

WATCHMEN is not a history book. WATCHMEN is a work of fiction. What next? Complain about Lord of the Rings because wizards aren’t real? I remember when 300 came out in theaters. I didn’t go see it because, historically speaking, I hardly think that the Spartans had a society worth defending. Later, I saw the movie and realized “Oh, this isn’t supposed to be a by-the-book, historical dramatization. It’s a movie based on a comic book.”

So basically what has happened in this review is that someone saw the movie with the wrong expectations. The movie is not supposed to be anything she demands that it should. It is not a kid’s movie, a traditional super hero movie, a conservative movie, or a historical movie. Rather, it is supposed alternate history, a critique of “Reaganism,” and the death knell of super heroes –all of which are themes for adults.

On a personal note…

It should be said that many people have already emailed Schlussel explaining that she doesn’t understand the background, and otherwise didn’t understand the story. After even admitting that she has not read, and does not intend to examine the source material, she goes on a hateful, name-calling rant (complete with a reductio ad hitlerum):

You’re a bunch of dummies with no moral compass, but liking this stupid comic book which pretends violence and the depraved is “edgy” or “sophisticated,” makes you feel smart. When you’re actually quite stupid. But now, with this movie, you’ve got pretentious stupidity. You don’t realize you’re still just as dumb, your IQ just as low and probably lower.

While I didn’t email her myself, I have to take some offense to being compared to one of the future members of Idiocracy, a Roman who watched the Christians (my team!) fight animals, or otherwise getting called barbaric and/or “fanatic.”

Schlussel says, “It’s frankly hilarious to read the arrogance of the ignorami.” Somehow, in reading her review, I wasn’t laughing.

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Comments
  1. Q says:

    >Wow. What else is there to say? I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so completely miss the concept or purpose of a piece of art. It’s like reading a phonebook and complaining it had no plot. Moron.

  2. Paul says:

    >I was not shocked by this film, which continues along the path of desensitization which is part of Hollywood's mandate to bring about sympathy for antichrist and his mark. Notice Dr. Manhattan bears the symbol of an atom on his forehead… this fulfills the prophecy that the mark of the beast will be the number of a man (adam = atom = ATM). Also notice he goes to Mars, in line with antichrist's worship of a 'god of war' (Mars). Then the more obvious usurping of the role of creator of life, etc. Some have remarked his character is gentle, but recall his blowing various people to smithereens in the film. The whole bent of the vigilantes is lawlessness. I think the watchmen are representative of the fallen angels mentioned in Genesis and Enoch ('The Watchers'), who sinned by going into women and teaching humanity about technology and drugs. Note how slick Hollywood makes hand and face scanning seem, to pursue the theme of desensitization, even to the point now that Americans think it part of 'peace and safety' (read security) to cause people at borders entering to have a retinal and hand scan… we are like the frog, slowly being boiled…

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