I just watched the pilot episode of HBO’s Watchmen hoping for a compelling extension to the comic book classic. I was quickly disappointed when the opening scene was the 1921 Tulsa race riots, where Black Wall Street was massacred by white supremacists. While I’m no fan of forgetting history, we don’t need yet another story about how awful whitey is, especially since it’s irrelevant to the content of the real Watchmen comic book and film adaptation.
While Watchmen is about the human foibles of publicly idolized superheroes, how in spite of being demigods they are morally no better than any commoner one might find at a bus stop, the television show that uses its name has no such theme. Instead of superheroes, the viewer has masked police officers with superhero-like code names. The villains also apparently have masks, aping Rorschach from the comic book and film.
The white supremacist Seventh Kavalry is unambiguously portrayed as bad, and they are deliberately made to use language that sounds very reminiscent of the alt-right or 4channers. The speech they offer is so corny that it almost hurts to watch it:
Soon, the accumulated black filth will be hosed away, and the streets of Tulsa will turn into extended gutters overflowing with liberal tears. Soon all the whores and race traitors will shout ‘Save us!’ and we will whisper… no. We are the Seventh Kavalry. We are no one. We are everyone. We are invisible. And we will never compromise. Do not stand between us and our mission or there will be more dead cops. There are so many deserving of retribution and there is so little time. And that time is near. Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock.
Not long after the viewing of this propaganda clip from the Seventh Kavalry, the strong, independent black woman who don’t need no man presents her captured member of that organization, where he is subsequently interrogated and tortured. This is of course presented as entirely justified because he’s a white supremacist terrorist, meaning he has no civil liberties and he’s therefore completely fair game for police abuse. But it gets worse.
This idea that the physical abuse of white males who step out of line is not unique to that scene, either. Apparently the physical assault of children is okay as well, as long as they are perceived as “racist” by the other kids. In a scene a bit earlier on, the heroine of the show explains how she “got out” of the police force (she didn’t really, but this is her front) and is now opening a bakery instead. One of the young boys asks if she paid for this with “Redfordations,” a colloquialism for “reparations” passed by President Redford. One of the other kids attacks him, and faces no consequences for this. No suspension, no detention, nothing of the sort is even alluded to. The only thing suggestive of punishment is when the teacher shouts out “Tommy!” in shock that he would utter such a terrible, terrible slur.
Why HBO would find it a good idea to make a show that uses a brand name like Watchmen only to corrupt it with left wing identity politics is beyond me. HBO has a reputation for making quality content. The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and The Wire are television classics. It would be a shame to flush that reputation down the toilet just to go woke, but so many other companies who have made wonderful things have done exactly that, and are paying the price for it.
All-in-all, this series is off to a terrible start, and there’s no way for it to recover from this without it directly subverting our expectations and making the Seventh Kavalry explicitly the good guys while the police and everybody trying to suppress them explicitly the bad guys. I highly doubt such a role reversal will take place, which to me places this series squarely in the cringe bucket. This is not kino and you shouldn’t bother watching it, but because I’m a masochist, I might continue doing exactly that.