Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel series Watchmen is widely considered to be the moment comics grew up. The series took on themes that were far more serious and complex than the superhero stories that came before. Its iconic run dripped with the fear and disenchantment that echoed the era’s prevailing sentiments. Moore’s depiction of comic book heroes as violent and unstable individuals with problematic political leanings was novel for its time and was a warning about a dystopian future.
Themes that strike a chord
When HBO approached Damon Lindelof to develop a sequel series to Watchmen, he wanted to include contemporary issues that would resonate as deeply with today’s audiences as the 1986 threat of nuclear war did with readers of the original comic.
Life imitating art
Lindelof decided to make a spiritual successor to the comics heavy with elements of racial tension and police brutality. It seems like this approach really worked. Besides the fact that the show was nominated for 26 Emmys and took away nine, the show runner’s Instagram posts show real life literally imitating specific incidents from the show. Take for example these police officers wearing yellow masks similar to the ones worn by cops in the show.
This Fox News article about a Sheriff found with a KKK robe in his home is exactly what happens when Angela Abar (Regina King) investigates the home of Tulsa Police Chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) in the show.
Art reflecting life
These incidents that could be written off as simple coincidence aren’t the only ways in which art and reality converge in Watchmen. Many themes seen in the HBO show echo the views of The Black Lives Matter movement, especially the depictions of systemic racism and police brutality. Those, however, are deliberate ideas presented to viewers by the show for contemporary relevance. The show’s inclusion of a self-serving celebrity president ruling over a society that seems ready to boil over from racial tension isn’t exactly a subtle parallel to current events in the US. Watchmen isn’t trying to sugarcoat the fact that the situation it presents to viewers is not an optimistic one. As bleak as the outlook is, the show couches the scenario in a narrative that’s both hugely entertaining and powerfully thought-provoking.
The show is compelling, entertaining and strange. It’s not to be missed. Check out our recaps of every episode of the show here.