My Watchmen Experience

You know those days where you can’t do anything wrong? Not like you’re all super righteous and above reproach or anything, but you’ve just woken up on the right side of the bed and things go right. So it may not exactly be a case of “can’t do anything wrong,” but days that are just born good. It doesn’t even have to be anything incredible or momentous, like winning the lottery or saving somebody’s life. No, you have all your homework done ahead of time. You have just enough cash on you for a donut with coffee and a sandwich for lunch. You find that thing you thought you lost. A ton of small, tiny, happy moments that make for a great day.

That’s the kind of day I was having one time as a senior in high school. I couldn’t miss. Woke up easy, had a good hair day so I was feelin’ pretty, got to school early, smoothly hit all green lights when I longboarded to that donut shop, finished the book I was reading that free fifth period, The Works.

“Hmm,” I sighed as I got off the bus that afternoon to walk home, “I think I’m gonna finish reading Watchmen today.”

If you somehow aren’t familiar, Watchmen was a graphic novel written by Alan Moore from the 1980’s. The short version is that it was set in a world wherein the caped-crusader, masked crime fighter phenomenon struck, but in a gritty, noir setting. And when I say gritty, I mean that sh*t was dark. One of the story’s most recognizable characters Rorschach’s – a vigilante type, so named for the psychiatric ink-blot test his mask is designed after – famous speeches goes as follows:

“The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.

The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘SAVE US!’

And I will look down and whisper ‘No.”

No kidding, when it’s described as an edgy (like unto a razor), harsh take on the costumed heroes, it means it. Near the beginning, there’s a newspaper clipping describing a story wherein one hero catches his cape in a bank’s rotating door during a robbery, so the criminals, reasonably, brutally gun him down. It’s not long into it either when another of the main cast exposits his backstory to reveal his joy at raping his way through Vietnam.

Being an angsty, “edgy” (like unto a butterknife) teenager, it was right up my alley.

To that point, I’d read it in bits and pieces over the course of a couple of weeks, and was about halfway through with it. That speaks both to my traditional, savory reading speed, but also to just how freaking dense of a story Watchmen is. I’d sipped my way through the first half and, feeling full of myself that particularly happy day, decided to gulp down the rest of it that afternoon and evening.

So I got home, unloaded my backpack, sit on the couch with a coffee like a sophisticated individual, and got enthralled with the grimdark story until the sun had gone down…

…then I went to bed early and cried myself to sleep into my pillow.

Emotionally, I can be a bit of a tenderfoot, I admit that wholeheartedly. But Jesus Christ guys, that book did not f**k around, especially for my young, virgin mind (in a literary sense – mind out of the gutter, kids). Children are murdered, dogs get cleavers to the dome, throats get cut, loved ones are betrayed, people explode, heroes question meaning in and of reality – The Works.

I don’t remember clearly, but I may have been a bit out of it the next day, too. That thing took a toll. But if you’ve somehow made it this far into life without seeing either the movie or spin-off HBO show, do yourself a favor, steel yourself, and check it out. This is one of those rare exceptions where the film is perfectly just as good as it’s written counterpart.

Just grab some consolation cookies and a hanky beforehand.

Be a Part of a Secret History

Had a thought that just occurred to me.

Do you remember in History class, or Social Studies, or whatever it was called where you went, and in the lessons you might be told, “People of this time thought ‘X’,” or “Members of this culture believed ‘Y’,” right?

I took a college course called ‘History of God,’ as well as a number of other religious studies curriculum, and one thing I will love my professor for forever was a distinction he drew: no matter what time period or culture you’re talking about, it’s not 100% true of all its members. Which is to say, it’s inaccurate to assume ALL people of a given time, given movement, or given culture can be attributed a given attitude or belief.

Many of us are familiar with the popular myths of the Egyptians, Greeks, Babylonians, Norse cultures, so on and so forth, but you can’t declare that those beliefs were held by all members of that time. Did many believe a stroke or seizure was a person being struck by an arrow of Apollo? Maybe, but were also many who heard that and thought, “Eh, I doubt that?” Yeah, totally. Were there Norse folk who thought the clouds in the sky were the brains of a frost giant? On record, yes. But might there have been those who saw the rain and quietly disputed that explanation? Of course.

Now, this is going to be a rough segue, but bear with me.

Was there a massive outcry following the finale of Game of Thrones, calling it garbage, full of ‘bad writing,’ and character abandonment? Yes. Are there also millions of us who acknowledge some of its flaws, enjoyed it massively regardless, and hold a lot of the outcry to be a bandwagon bit o’ bitching but just didn’t feel like shouting about that. Yes, God, and please remember that.

Was ‘The Last of Us’ a fantastic video game experience, whose sequel has fallen under fire with an enormous amount of controversy and outrage? Yes. Are there those of us who recognize the work, skill, creativity, and direction that went into it and are wondering why there’s so much hate? You bet your butt.

The sad thing is that the outrage is the louder voice, and so will be the one that’s heard and remembered. But, there’s an opportunity in that.

Imagining the future, where the archeologists and historians of tomorrow will look back on the records of today, they’ll see and know the hordes of angry fans, they’ll hear the desperate braying of upset followers, and recognize those things as the attitudes of the time…

But the astute among them will know there was another side of that time. A secret society of those of us who knew the true worth of those creations, whose job was to quietly safeguard the integrity of those arts, to hold them and keep them through the turmoil and the chaos until a time when they no longer need hide; and that they may fall into the hands of truly worthy, respectful recipients.

I literally stood by a window looking out at the sky while rehearsing that block. It brought me peace, breath, and probably an undue sense of importance; and I hope it can bring you the same.

Go in peace, brothers and sisters.

This is the way.