Yesterday evening an HE reader accused me of “wanting to hate Watchmen all along.” No, I haven’t been wanting to hate it all along, I replied. I have hated it all along. But what exactly do I mean when I say “it”?
Not the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons-John Higgins graphic novel, which is actually a fairly deep, teeming-with-inner-realms thing with offbeat flavors and weirdnesses — a story about alienation and aloneness and being adamant of mind, and well told with rich noir flavoring and a nice use of time-shuffling imagination. “It” means the vast multitudes of superhero movie fans going into this thing…anticipating this thing, I should say…and practically levitating off the ground about it with eager-beaver fanboy erections.
Yes, I read Watchmen wanting to hate it because of my deep loathing of the superhero conceit — the idea of the much-bolder-of-spirit and more powerful “other” who lives within and is unleashed under another identity or in another psychological realm, in the guise of a masked and musclebound gay-nippled spandex-wearing vigilante-outsider crimefighter. The Watchmen novel lifts itself out of this, yes, because of the imaginative ways it gets around or builds upon and/or goes the other way regarding the superhero bullshit, but I have a very strong aversion to the wimpy overweight dweeby-loser belief system that fortifies (in a commercial-consumer sense) the superhero mythology.
Real men don’t need outfits or superpowers. Nor, more importantly, do they have time for that shit. If I needed the fortification and was feeling badly about myself (which I’m not), I could make myself feel pretty damn good every day by saying, “Hey, man, at least you don’t nurse pathetic fantasies about your secret hidden self that’s much cooler than the one that gets around every day and rides subways and groans as he buys stuff in Whole Foods and tries to take care of things in the real world…at least you’re not living in that sad little realm.”
But that said, I do respect the Watchmen graphic novel as much as I’m able to respect it, which is…you know, fairly genuinely, as far as it goes. For being a seminal deconstructivist superhero deal as it were.
After reading the above a guy named Chicago Dad asked “how is a review coming from a perspective that is clearly invested in hatred of the culture that produced the work any less skewed and more reliable than one that comes from a perspective that loves that culture? Both will probably fail to separate the film experience from their feelings about the larger culture that spawned it.”
My point is that a positively-invested fanboy saying he loves Watchmen means nothing. But if a hater like myself says he loves, likes, or admires Watchmen (or even if he acknowledges there are elements in the film he can roll with), then that, ladies and gentlemen…that means something, I think. I’m not saying you can take a Hollywood Elsewhere rave of Watchmen to the bank because the bank is already well-stocked at Fandango, but a thumbs-up from a hater is always a significant thing.