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The Watched Should Watch the Watchmen: Watchmen Review

I do not like Watchmen, pretty cinematography and fantastic opening considered. This whole idea of “Who will guard the guardians?” with the superheroes being shown as significantly troubled—and therefore misunderstood when they do not fulfill the requirements of the pristine superhero typically portrayed—is for me a sort of ideological apparatus that serves as a sort of apologetic for the crimes of authoritarianism and elitism, which is to say: Can you not see that even those in power are troubled like yourself? You, the suffering worker, the tired peasant, the oppressed, should not judge them, your suffering is not special, even the guardians have troubles; and whatever mistakes they make, realize that they are people of depth, and their mistakes are just that, mistakes—so feel sorry for them; take time to rationalize their actions. Give them concessions. Ultimately: If it is too inconvenient for you to resist, don’t. Life is difficult for them as it is. (cf. Žižek’s reading of the film Munich in In Defense of Lost Causes).

Ultimately, the question “Who watches the watchmen?” is already a strange self-forgetting of what it is to become the subject of a society, for it must be those being watched that watches the watchmen—it is The People whose gaze the authority must fear, and the other way around. It is a dialectic of power, not a strict hierarchy with the “poor” superheroes on top, in solitude. The statement, itself, therefore betrays a strict authoritarianism presented as an ontology of power, that someone is “at the top,” and it is, as it were, “lonely” up there, and from this height one may do things “ordinary” people may not find correct, or simply outright wrong or evil. Here the apologetic nature of the work is most glaring.

Further, however, we have, again, a distinct fixation upon the Imaginary dimension in attempting to explicate the “interior life” of people, and how their crises affect the world around them; when, in fact, is it not the other way around? It is the material conditions of the world that affects how people act. The derelictions of these superheroes (“costumed vigilantes”) are therefore merely reified material relations within a capitalist system; and the entire opus therefore misses the point. Whereas it attempts to understand the difficulty of having power, the problem lies not in the reformation and errors of personal life but in the economic structure which formulates the subjectivity of its subjects, hence the myopic treatment the matter receives in the graphic novel and the film, and its unintended consequence of being an apologetic for tyranny under the guise of “mistakes in governance” by otherwise benevolent heroes with personal failings.

In focusing in this way on the particularity of the subject, rather than the structure in which the subject is given consistency, we fall in the trap of truly missing the actual significance and consequences of actions done through power, especially acts that are truly horrible; and in this way risk obfuscation, mystification, and, ultimately, repeating mistakes by overlooking the actual causes of the systemic catastrophes we have, for quite some time, understood as merely the common usage of the word "politics."

A six out of ten.


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