Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Deconstructing "The Watchmen": The Comedian

Well not entirely. I could probably write a whole fucking dissertation on that movie and its intellectual content, but I like to keep things relatively short here. So I want to make this a multiple part series, not in successive order, but I’ll periodically revisit the subject to go over some ideas represented by the characters of the universe. The first in this series is going to focus on The Commedian.

He’s a fairly fucked up character. It’s odd because he’s supposed to be a hero, since he fights on the side of the Watchmen who generally fight for justice in a perpetually unjust world. He hurts civilians, he blew away some Vietnamese chick he impregnated (while she was pregnant with his child), and he tried to rape the original Silk Spectre (another member of the Watchmen). Why the hell is he considered a hero?

His whole purpose is to portray the irony of imperfect justice in an imperfect world. He’s a gritty, nasty, and unsavory person who is tasked with protecting people from injustice, even if that means protecting the people from themselves. As he’s firing canisters of tear gas at rioters who are revolting against the authority granted to the Watchmen, the Night Owl, almost pleading for him to stop, asks “what happened to the American dream?”

“It came true. You’re looking at it,” he responds.

The unintended consequence of liberty is that eventually society becomes so free that even the slightest infringement on liberty is seen as an aggregious affront to freedom.  Machiavelli knew that the only way one could avoid civil unrest entirely was to repress the people.  The American Dream, the idea that democracy and a sovereign people is realized in a society, means that unrest will eventually foment, even for the stupidest reasons.  The freer we are to allow human nature to surface, the uglier it manifests.

“The Comedian saw the true face of human nature and chose to be a parody of it,” opined Rorschach. The Comedian knew that human nature was an ugly thing, capable of perpetrating horrifying evil. And to deal with that, perhaps to prove a point, he personified that and lived that irony. We often glorify those who fight for justice, sometimes not realizing that they might be just as awful as the people they’re putting away, and that’s the joke.

You have people who say they love America and everything we stand for, but then they shit on every Muslim they see because in their mind “every follower of Mohammad is a terrorist.” We have some who say that although people ought to be free, ultimately they’re too stupid to make the right decisions, so government needs to just make the decisions for them; who cares if they don’t like it? Who cares if they don’t agree with it? They should be made to agree, and if they don’t then they must be stupid.

We have some people who swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and then they go off an waterboard people in secret prisons, torture inmates in Abu Ghraib, or shoot civilians in cold blood without provocation.

The Comedian came to the conclusion that the world is hopeless.  How can there be hope when even the heroes are villains, when the saints are sinners?  That's a conclusion that I came to myself not too long ago.  For a long time I agonized over the state of humanity, and I lamented the fact that I brough two beautiful and innocent children into this evil.  It's a pill that not many are willing to swallow, and even fewer are willing to do so with a smile.

It’s all a joke, and what can you do but laugh? I said that to a friend of mine—a good bleeding heart liberal—in a discussion we were having about politics. I was trying to convey the idea that it’s all one big ass joke, and she frustratingly scoffed at me, “well it’s not a joke because it affects people’s lives!”

“Yes,” I replied, “and that’s what makes it sad.” Laugh or cry: that’s all you can do. Like The Comedian, I choose to laugh.


Silverfiddle said...

Yes, we are human and we are flawed. All you can really do is carve out a space for yourself to keep the Hobbes-goblins at bay. Do we go to far? Always.

KP said...

Really enjoyed reading this.

Jack Camwell said...

Thanks =)

Alexan said...

This got to be the first time someone agrees with me. I'm young, but I think it wouldn't be a good idea to bring children to this world.

Thanks for the reading, but the Comedian is not my favourite character, I just don't understand what my friends see in him.
I get along with Roscharch. That's way more helpless.

Jack Camwell said...

Thanks for visiting Alexan.

The world is a horrifying place, but we shouldn't necessarily let that stop us from bringing children into the world.

The whole point is to enjoy life and be happy even in the face of unspeakable horror. THat's what makes human life so precious.

Floresx said...

Stunningly put, bravo!
I just found your blog and for a strange reason it's matching perfectly with the political scenario in USA (actually, everywhere) in now 2016.