Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who Watches The Watchmen?

Alan Moore's The Watchmen is a precautionary tale about the fallacy of heroes. It came out at a time when the United States was obsessed with the hero Ronald Reagan and Britain was obsessed with the hero Margaret Thatcher. By asking "Who Watches the Watchmen", Moore challenges us to consider whether our heroes really help us or not.

The series didn't have much impact on Reagan or Thatcher. At the time, its audience was pretty small and its readers were more concerned with what it said about Batman and Superman than any real world application. Since 1986 though, the audience for The Watchmen has expanded considerably. Time magazine included it as one of the one hundred most important books.

I've written before how people's reception of Barack Obama reminds me of the way people responded to Ronald Reagan. Without question, he is the first super man of the twenty-first century. It's Ironic how, not two months after Obama's inauguration, the first film adaptation of Moore's novel opens around the world, to a considerably larger audience than it had the first time.

Considering the state of the world, Moore's question: "Who Watches the Watchmen" is as important now as it ever was. I voted for Obama and I believe he'll be a good president. Watching the Watchmen isn't so much about our heroes as it is about how we respond to them, how we turn responsibility for our lives over to them rather than doing it ourselves, and that begs the question: "are we better off without them?"

I can't answer this. I've followed heroes my whole life and it's only now that I've learned to question it. Maybe this is how it's supposed to be. Maybe we can't function in life without heroes, but I open the question to you: "Who Watches the Watchmen?", not in a paranoid, conspiracy theory sort of way, but in a more fundamental way: can our heroes do for us what we won't do for ourselves?

When you see The Watchmen, consider this: who best serves the people of that world? Is it Rorschach, The Night Owl, or is it really Ozymandias?

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