"That you may ruminate"

Posts Tagged ‘Watchmen’

…On Betrayal.

Posted by Steve on March 15, 2009

Last night I finished reading the second volume, Day Watch, of Sergei Lukyanenko‘s Night Watch series (the translator for his website is clearly not Andrew Bromfield, who translated the novels, since it spells his first name “Sergey” and calls the books “Night Patrol”. Bromfield did a damn fine translation, let me tell you.) The series tends to be a downer – although the protagonist of the first volume does get happy endings in both the first two volumes (I’m into the third, Twilight Watch, now). But the thing is, the protagonists of Day Watch all get unhappy endings, since they’re treated as disposable pawns by those they trust.

Today, I watched Watchmen again with a guy from work. And rewatching it, it became clear to me what about it was most disturbing to me: You’re in the way of my revenge. Nothing personal, big guy. Other parts were more revolting, other parts were more depressing, but that was the most… I guess I’d say the most outrageous, as in the most causing of outrage. And it’s not because of the specifics of what and how happens. No, it’s the who does it, the why they do it, that bothers me. In my mind, trust gets betrayed there. It gets betrayed later, too, of course – and with colossal treachery. Those other betrayals, though, I think are less severe in that they weren’t so… cold, so purposeless, and so unconcerned for the person betrayed.

And that’s the takeaway: betrayal is an awful thing to do. It can be justified sometimes, by more important causes, but if you do betray somebody, you’d damn well better have a good reason to do it.

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…On watching Watchmen.

Posted by Steve on March 6, 2009

I watched the 12:50 showing of Watchmen today. I haven’t ever read the comics (written by Alan Moore and some other guy who actually let his name be put in the credits), so I don’t know how good an adaptation it is.

I just know what sort of a movie it is.

It is an amazing movie. It is a human movie. It is a beautiful movie.

Oh, its world is grimy and dark, its superheros are a mix of the bloodthirsty, the callous, and the apathetic. In its world righteousness and cruelty are inextricable. It insinuates that people’s love for each other is rarely more than just lust’s lee from an Arrakeen storm of isolation and despair. The Pandoran hope it holds out for humanity is based upon lies and slaughter.

Oh, this superhero movie is human!

And watching it played havoc with my emotions. I should have been able to feel the full measure of disgust at its more gruesome and twisted moments. I should have been able to feel the full measure of awe at its more awe-inspiring moments (on an aside, it makes wonderful use of Koyaanisqatsi with a brilliant splicing of “Pruit Igoe” into “Prophecies”. It never hurts to borrow from the single greatest film score ever. Actually, in general this made great use of music, including Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). I should have been able to feel the full pathos at its declaration of the one true miracle in the universe. But for the most part, I felt a feeling of failure. A particular, individualized failure, not the ever-present low grade “toothache” sort of failure felt from believing that the characters Rorschach (who is as much an Avatar of idealized justice as he is a man) and Ozymandias are both to significant degree philosophically right. No, this is a feeling of personal failure. The sort of bone-deep sense of inadequacy that comes from answering questions about envy: Who do you envy? What do you envy? Why do you have to envy it?

When Batman Begins came out, I watched it several times in the theaters because it was a spectacular movie. But, much as I loved it, I went home afterwards feeling bad about myself every time. In comparison to Batman, well… Batman is not someone I could compare myself favorably to then, and he isn’t someone I can compare myself favorably to now. Batman is strong. Batman is inspiring. Batman is motivated to push himself successfully in the service of a great purpose. When you get right down to it, Batman is someone I would much, much rather be than be me.

Batman is a far nobler superhero than the superheros of Watchmen. Far more deserving of the “I wish I were that. I should be that.” sort of respectful envy that I feel towards so many fictional characters (and believe me, that sort of embarrassing admission, far more than any concerns over potential professional, legal, or interpersonal consequences, is the reason I avoid personally identifiable information and the use of my last name with this blog). Of course, though the Watchmen are so much less pure than Batman, I’m also less now than I was then. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

Perhaps it’s wrong of me to watch superhuman feats of martial arts and condemn myself for the inability to replicate them. But then, I am morbidly obese, and in the past few weeks where unemployment’s given me far too much time on my hands I haven’t corrected that. Surely, then, my condemnation is deserved.
Perhaps it’s wrong of me to watch suicidally unwavering commitment to a cause & course of action and condemn myself for lacking such dedication. But then, I’ve never finished any of those books I started writing, and in the past few weeks where unemployment’s given me far too much time on my hands I haven’t corrected that. Surely, then, my condemnation is deserved.

Strange thing about it is, these characters I compare myself to so unfavorably, well… unlike several of them, I have never murdered innocents or passively witnessed such. Surely that makes me a better man than they. But what of it? To paraphrase Chris Rock, “Whaddya want? A cookie? You’re not supposed to murder innocents, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!” Or to quote the Confiteor, “I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do.”

The characters of Watchmen deserve opprobrium for their sins of commission. I, for sins of omission. The absence of power is every bit as unworthy of respect as the misuse of power. These characters intersperse power used for ill with power used for good. I just don’t have any power, for good or ill. I lack will-power, and watching Watchmen required me for a few hours to stop burying that in my mind and trying to avoid it – and its implications – in my consciousness.

Soon enough, that will pass. Like the masses in Watchmen, I will bow my head to the weight of my inadequacy and shoulder on through the life of my own making. For as this movie tells us, to those great enough, the world’s smartest man might as well be the world’s smartest termite – and I am not the world’s smartest man.

I am, however, rambling. So to take away: Watchmen, good movie and accurate portrayal of the essence of humanity. Me, real person – but not one I’m proud of.

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