Greg and I have been emailing about Watchmen. Greg started off by saying that he'd read it and then we talked about it a little, at the end of which I responded that I would read it again and get back to him. Here's the email:
On 5/3/06, Nathan Spears <email@example.com> wrote:
I read Watchmen again. So mention a couple things about it that you find
interesting and let's talk about them.
I'm interested in your statement that Moore dissected the idea of the superhero so
much that it should have impacted everyone after him. I reread the book with that
in the back of my mind, so now I have a response of sorts. But I should probably
start by asking what exactly you mean, and I'll hazard a guess.
I think that you mean that Moore looks at motivations, origin stories, costumes,
toys, adolescent fantasy perpetuation, psychological problems, etc, for these
costumed crusaders, in such a humane, grounded kind of way that it would be
difficult to go back to the "noble teenager afflicted with powers" kind of story.
Is that a good starting point for what you meant?
Something I found interesting about the story, whether it was intentional or not,
was an aspect of Jon. Let me give a little preface. So, if we take everything in
Watchmen at face value, then I think the book becomes cheaper. For instance, the
discussion we had about whether or not the book's "greater good" philosophy adopted
by the characters at the end, except Rorschach, was presented as something we ought
to emulate or not. I don't think I had a clear word from you on that, so you might
chime in at this point. Or you could read on. Actually I have more to say about
that now. The first time I read the book, I definitely sympathized with Rorshach's
POV at that point; that this psychopathic killer's no compromise mentality made more
ethical sense than Veidt's arranged peace. Now I think that was probably just my no
compromise mentality vibing with Rorschach's, but having read more about Moore, I
think that he probably felt that way too. He tends to have a very "no compromise"
mentality in his personal life, and his contempt for power structures and moral
wheeling and dealing makes me think that he rejects Veidt's ideas as fiercely as
Rorschach. Adding to all this speculation is the very concrete moment in Watchmen
when Veidt asks Jon if Veidt has done the right thing, in the end; to which Jon
replies, "Nothing ever ends." You could start up there with a talk about how
happiness founded on lies is not real happiness, and how things are bound to come to
light in the long run, Rorschach's journal, etc.
I was also curious why Veidt let Dan and Laurie live. Perhaps he thought he needed
to do so in order to keep Jon from disintegrating him.
Ok, so back to this aspect of Jon that I found interesting. So we are presented
with this vision of Jon, very powerful, very smart, god-like. I think that this is
one of the surface aspects of the novel that we can reject. For instance; humans
(not Jon) have many of the same powers of observation and interpretation; vision,
hearing, interpreted by thought. But we differ in how we make use of those things.
Some people look at numbers and calculations and perform complex mathematical
operations mentally; other people are less capable of using similar biological
machinery to perform the same operations.
So Jon is presented as, or appears to the people around him, as being god-like. My
contention is that Jon is very poor god. Using the machinery available to him, he
seems to be a sort of idiot-savant god. He can barely influence the events around
him; the best he seems to be able to do is continue in the role he lived in as a
man, with his increased powers at his disposal. He is obviously shown to be
inhuman, incapable of caring sufficiently about human affairs, but he doesn't seem
to have acquired anything particularly interesting to replace those human interests.
He can see backward and forward in time but these abilities paralyze rather than
enable him; it's as if he's observing his life instead of creating it. I'm not sure
how to spell out this feeling I had any further . . . the essence is that Jon is
kind of a retarded god.