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March 12, 2009

Watch Now!
Posted by Teresa at 02:30 PM * 286 comments

Jim Macdonald, pasted straight from my chat window:

Have you found the opening credit montage from _Watchpersons_ on line yet?

Warner is apparently hunting ‘em down and C&Ding ‘em as fast as they pop up, but it’s all over the place, and it’s brilliant.

It was originally posted on the site of the effects house that did it (they have the opening titles from all their films on their site, so it shouldn’t have been a suprise that they’d post this one too).

When you consider that the opening is worth the price of admission all on its own, and is far better than any of the official trailers, and when you figure that Watchpersons opened far below what Warner had expected over the weekend, why they’re doing this baffles me.

http://www.businessinsider.com/watchmen-opening-credits-are-on-the-internet-forever-now-clip-2009-3

The opening credit sequence made my head explode. It made me urgently desire to go out and see the movie as soon as possible. Warner is crazy.

Just watch.

[UPDATE]: The sequence is now available here. (Thanks, Sumana Harihareswara.)

Comments on Watch Now!:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:36 PM:

URLs for other instances of that sequence will be appended to the main entry.

#2 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:39 PM:

It is stunning.

Best piece of advertising for the mover. Ever.

Sill Warner.

#3 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:41 PM:

I watched it when Serge posted it on the open thread -- it's already convinced me to see the movie.

Warner is a pack of imbeciles, but we already knew that.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:43 PM:

The link Serge posted on the open thread has already been removed due to a C&D from Warner.

(BTW it is my policy not to read any reviews of a film prior to seeing it. So I didn't. This is a good movie, purely as a movie. Red Mike says check it out.)

#5 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:45 PM:

Oh, I was sure it would be. 's why I watched it immediately. And it did convince me to go see the movie -- just as soon as I have time, which unfortunately won't be this weekend.

It opened today in Puerto Rico.

#6 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:50 PM:

Damn, that was amazing.

#7 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:55 PM:

I am laid up with a profoundly screwed up back, and that title crawl made me want to rise up despite the pain and go see the movie.

Warners is working from, um, an outdated paradigm, I think.

#8 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:06 PM:

I had zero intention of seeing this movie anytime soon; I'm pretty broke and it takes a hell of a lot to make me want to see a movie in any case, as I don't do well with sitting still and just watching unless I'm really, really, really interested.

But the opening credit montage made me want to see it ASAP. Wow. Warner needs a reality check.

#9 ::: Geoffrey Kidd ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:16 PM:

Incredible. That's the FIRST thing I've seen or heard about the movie that's substantive enough that it makes me *want* to see it.

Warner, and for that matter, the rest of Hollywood, are certifiably insane. They would rather lose money than give up absolute ironfisted control over how/when/where people see any portion of what they have to offer.

The only things keeping Hollywood in business are that they DON'T have complete control, so people do end up finding out what's worth seeing, and we the public are still stupid enough to give them money instead of finding entertainment that doesn't require us to say "mother may I?"

#10 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Oh WOW.

And Warner, the times they have a-changed. Get used to it.

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:18 PM:

James @ 4... This is a good movie, purely as a movie.

Yup.

That whole opening montage is so full of love and respect for comics, even the silly old stuff.

#12 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:30 PM:

Saw Watchmen this weekend (only didn't see it Thursday at midnite because I suspected that work would have problems with me calling in movie, when we already had two people out that Friday - my lament to one of my college-age friends was "I've been waiting to see this movie since before you were born." :-)

It's very, very good, imho. Where it deviates from the comic, it (usually) does for good reason. the cast is pretty spot-on, looks wise (acting was good, overall - a few places I could have hoped for better).

I was impressed. This was, barring a twelve-hour miniseries on Showtime, or something, probably the best interpretation of the Watchmen comic that I can probably hope for (except maybe the super-deluxe 5 hour Director's cut).

And yes, the titles sequence to the movie is simply astounding.

#13 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:32 PM:

Oh. Oh WOW. And now I want to go and see it, in the hope that the film will be even a tenth as good as that sequence.

#14 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:40 PM:

I hereby register my own personal sense of underwhelm.

#15 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:44 PM:

Yeah. Watching that, one wonders "can the entire film top it?"

The number of cultural icons in that sequence is amazing.

#16 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:52 PM:

"The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it." - Paul Atreides

#17 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:06 PM:

Alas -- I found that opening sequence to be one of the only things I loved about the movie, whether because I was too squicked by the violence to see the bright spots (and, yes, I DID know what I was getting into) or because I thought the heart of the original was missing. But I sure did love the opening sequence. (And I intend to watch it a couple more times when I get off work.)

#18 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:13 PM:

Watching that sequence reminded me of how I felt coming out of the theater after watching Mr. Holland's Opus. Comic-book tropes and alternate history aside, it's got that same feel of the tides of history rolling over you in a way that you don't get just by living thru it.

#19 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:22 PM:

It's an excellent opening sequence, but sadly, the soundtrack to the rest was too grating for me. The song choices were slightly heavy-handed, but my biggest problem was that when deployed, they were too loud and too much in the foreground, instead of complementing the onscreen action.

As for the rest of the movie, I really liked it. It was about the best adaptation I could have hoped to get, much like the Lord of the Rings movies. Sure, there were departures from the source material, but mostly, they were understandable changes.

There wasn't much in the way of concessions to viewers unfamiliar with the source material, so I wonder what someone unfamiliar with the comic would have made of the movie.

#20 ::: Andy W ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:27 PM:

Could I just ask what people who've seen the film thought about age suitability for teens? To provide a little context, my son meets the film's lower age limit here in France, reads/socialises above his age, had no problems whatever with Dark Knight, and is in no way going to be phased by bad language or the nakedness of Dr Manhattan. I think he might really enjoy the story, but based on the graphic novel, I can see how you could film it as anything from Spiderman to Seven. Is it just noir-styled/cartoon violent, or is it really disturbing?

#21 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:36 PM:

Considering the sexual and ultra-violence involved, it's way closer to SEVEN than SPIDERMAN.

Cartoon-violent IT IS NOT.

And I'm only talking about the heroes.

#22 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:36 PM:

Andy W @20:

In New Zealand it is a R16 movie, and IMO it deserves the rating. The violence is graphic (not really cartoon violent but quite gory in parts), there is nudity (Dr. Manhattan's genitals are shown several times, and there are bared breasts too). I wouldn't take anyone under the age of 16 to it.

#23 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:40 PM:

The irony of Warner enforcing an outdated paradigm involving the playing of "These Times They Are A'Changin'" is, well, comic.

I'm glad you linked to this, because it really made me notice the commentary being made here about media, violence, spectacle, and history. The sequence is literally framed through a camera lens. It closes with "Who watches the Watchmen?" (answer: we do!) but throughout, critiques the entire idea of media as the keepers of history, and of passive "watching" in general, symbolized with the camera, rifle scope, and television. Not only is this pertinent to the franchise's subject matter, but it's fairly daring for a film that many wondered about the utility of in the first place. In effect, this sequence questions how effective film is, what it exposes and what it hides, and whether our "watching" of an image can ever reveal the whole story. Which dovetails with the story's themes pretty nicely.

#24 ::: Jason Wodicka ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Andy W @ #20 - The violence is brutal in places. I don't recall any place where it was more violent than the comic, but it was certainly as violent, and in a few scenes it made me squeamish. As I think it was supposed to do, but it's still noteworthy. Certainly, I'd consider carefully before taking a teen to see it, and be prepared to talk about the issues and context raised by some of the more violent scenes. If you need an indicator, read through the middle section of the original, and consider having some of the more viscerally awful scenes translated very faithfully to film.

#25 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:54 PM:

I loved the film. My non-comics-background colleague liked it less. The only real downside for me was the girls in the row behind me on continuous chatter: "Ooh, what's with all the nakedness?" "Oh, why do we have to see his penis?" "Ooh, yuck".

Now I have to go see it again without the commentary.

#26 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:01 PM:

Mind you, if Warners were smart, they might still play it this way. Being shocked, shocked that the trailer has leaked out and squelching it in one place is, after all, the best way to see that it pops up in at least three other places. Repeat until saturation is reached, and laugh all the way to the bank.

Seriously - if they wanted this to go viral, they are doing exactly the right thing. But I suspect that they are just being outmoded and silly. Still, it's an object lesson for next time.

#27 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:11 PM:

Re: #20, why not purchase the graphic novel omnibus, instead? That'll give you the best indicator of whether or not the violence or sexual content is within your personal parameters, because the film reproduces those sequences faithfully, down to the snap of every bone. Besides, if you give the book to the teen, he can put it down and think about it if things get a little heavy (or devour it instead, as I did).

I will say this: if you've read the book, the violence no longer comes as a surprise. What makes the violence shocking in The Dark Knight is not blood, but the element of surprise. I was prepared for every blow. A virgin viewer might naturally experience the film differently.

#28 ::: Zed Lopez ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:12 PM:

The credits montage was one of my favorite parts. They are indeed nuts to not take advantage of publicizing it.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:12 PM:

The violence? Depends on how you feel about open fractures and exit wounds.

My suggestion? Go see it yourself first, to determine if this depiction is suitable for your kid.

BTW, I was completely unfamiliar with the source material.

#30 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:31 PM:

In case people haven't seen the two viral videos that were released:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd5cInmK6LQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5WsciSNVS0

Both also excellent. I wish there was more of this sort of re-imagining rather than trying to wrestle Moore's vision onto the screen. I know I'm not the only one who is ready for a Silhouette movie.

#31 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:32 PM:

I got a call earlier today - I finally have a friend who wants to see it with me. 10:10 tonight somewhere in Queens. (He has the car, so I don't need to remember where.)

I'm incredibly psyched, but I will force myself to wait until I see the movie to see the opening (four and a half hours to go.)

Also, why is by blog URL the only thing I can type correctly on my first attempt every time?

#32 ::: Beth Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:37 PM:

The link posted in the main text is of better quality, but the intro is also available on YouTube, here.

#33 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:44 PM:

The credits sequence definitely makes me want to see the movie.

Is it possible that there were contractual obligations with the director that restricted what parts of the film may be used in the trailers? Also, there may have been MPAA ratings issues on some of the scenes in the credits.

#34 ::: Kirilaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:53 PM:

Andy W @20:

I'm very familiar with the source material, and although the violence is pretty much identical to that in the graphic novel, I found it much more disturbing to see it played out with live actors on a screen. In fact, that was one of the first things my sig. other and I talked about when we walked out of the movie -- the degree to which the violence felt much more extreme, even though it was, objectively, "the same".

Now, I'm pretty sqeamish about violence, and your average teen is probably much more comfortable with it than I am, but I found it quite disturbing.

#35 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:56 PM:

I am probably not a good barometer for What's Suitable For A Teen, as I am more likely to err on the side of "let the kid see it" than "keep away." My own teen wants to read the graphic novel first before seeing it, and I'm okay with that plan.

That said, the violence was fairly gory in places (I liked Elizabeth Bear's analysis of the different styles used in different parts of the movie) and I averted my eyes a good bit, but the scene that affected me most was not visually violent and probably wouldn't freak out anyone under 35 to the extent it affected me.

#36 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 06:21 PM:

I just got back from seeing the movie. I've never read the book so I went in cold. It was okay, but I thought it moved very slowly, and the only character I found interesting was Rorschach. Dr. Manhattan was flat out annoying, to the extent that I wished he would just up and die, and the hawkman guy and the woman with the bad haircut (never did learn their names) seemed to have no personalities at all. But the movie was beautifully made, and the opening credits were very nearly worth the price of admission.

Warner is insane.

#37 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 06:22 PM:

This is probably a good place to mention this. Wow, I can hear Alan Moore's head asplode from here.

Well, if it was real, anyway. He did guest on a Simpsons that featured Watchmen Babies in 'V for Vacation'. (And who knew Art Spiegleman was that buff?)

#38 ::: Troyliss ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 06:42 PM:

I read Watchmen issue-by-issue when it first came out, and I really enjoyed the movie. My wife went in cold, and thought it was a great piece of film. She found it funny that some reviewers thought people wouldn't be able to follow the story.
As far as violence goes, she thought it was appropriate, although the main diffrerence between the film and a comic is that she can't skim over the more disturbing parts when watching a movie (looking at you, Rorschach Origin Story…)

#39 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 07:11 PM:

If you're familiar with the comic book, I can't recommend the movie.

[minor book spoiler] In the back of the first issue was an excerpt from Hollis Mason’s book, where he talks about practical-joker Moe Vernon, owner of the garage Mason’s father worked, playing Wagner in his office and trying out a pair of joke-breasts. Then he learns his wife cleaned out their savings and ran off to Mexico with one of Moe’s mechanics. Everyone on the floor sees him burst out of his office, shouting, crying, and busty, music blaring. They break up in laughter. He’s found the next morning dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. Mason’s point was that fighting crime in costume was also an occasion in which everyone laughed at you while your heart was breaking. [/minor book spoiler]

America is maybe the last country that nurtures naivete throughout our lifespan. Alan Moore is English, so his account of the meaning of Watchmen is that, whether he likes them or not, superheroes are inherently perverse. The opening sequence did what even Moore couldn't do, which was portray the 1960s as a big disappointment to the naivete the US went through post-WWII, and then the disappointment that followed 1960s. And by making movie an alt-history period piece, I thought it handled the suspense over the threat of nuclear war much better than the book.

But the movie is ultimately a failure because it stripped out all the other Moe Vernon-like moments from Watchmen, and tried to make Sin City with what was left. Big missed opportunity. Big disappointment.

#40 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 07:21 PM:

I saw the movie last weekend.

It is just slightly more violent than the comic books. They slightly altered a few scenes and then dwelt on the additional violence in a way that the comic books didn't.

On the whole, I agree with the assessment that it's about as good an adaptation as one could hope for. It has all the Easter eggs and gets the characters and story right. Even slightly improves the "main villain"s evil plot. But it's not a story that's really meant for film. It's just too damned much in too short a time.

#41 ::: Terry Floyd ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 07:45 PM:

I saw it last week and enjoyed it immensely. I knew they couldn't include all the layers and layers of backstory and subplots that I enjoyed so much in the book (I especially missed the Black Freighter pirate comics and the disappearance of writer Max Shea), but I was impressed that they were able to put so much of the story on screen. The opening credit sequence was particularly memorable, for condensing much of the Hollis Mason chapter into a four or five minute montage. The rest of the film never quite hits this peak again, but I still enjoyed it.

At the theater I attended, they were checking ID cards and were turning away some teenagers who were under 17, but were allowing some clueless parents to bring pre-teens into the auditorium. Big mistake. Apparently, these folks didn't really know what they were getting themselves into, and a group of them left in the middle of the movie when the sex and violence became more explicit than they felt was healthy for their children.

#42 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 08:07 PM:

Never read the graphic novel. Had no real interest in seeing the movie.

Until now. That opening sequence is AWESOME!

#43 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:11 PM:

I'm not familiar with the comic, and this isn't the kind of thing I usually see. But damn, that opening sequence is a fine pioece of filmmaking.

(Hi, Terry!)

#44 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:21 PM:

Now if Warner was really smart, they'd be doing this exact thing anyway, knowing that the thrill of watching something illlicitly would attract far more viewers than just another promotional video.

Actually, that would make for an excellent viral marketing campaign. Have the production team keep leaking videos, with the studio's representatives threatening lawsuits for NDA violations; the artists defiant in classic "Can't keep me down, Man, can't stop the signal" form and the studio in perfectly stuffy, impotent, corporatist glory.

#45 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:27 PM:

Whoops--vian beat me to it @ 26. Sorry, vian!

#46 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:37 PM:

#22 Andy W

I don't think a mature teen would have much of a problem with it, but I would make sure to see it with him. There is a fair amount of violence in multiple formats on hero and villian alike. One of my friends called it "a distopian history."

I have not read the comic, but now I'm curious about it.

#47 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:42 PM:

Great minds, and all that, heresiarch.

I was once diagnosed pathologically cynical, you know. Like it was a bad thing.

#48 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:22 PM:

Haven't seen the movie yet, but I've watched the opening credits twice. Great, but this last time through, I noticed a timing problem: We briefly see a scene originally presented in Chapter 9 of the comic, described therein as Laurie Juspeczyk's earliest memory, at age five, seeing her parents argue and break up. In the movie credits, the camera then pans over to a television, showing news footage of Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation in Vietnam in 1963.

In Chapter 4 of the comic (pg 19), Dr Manhattan states that Laurie's 20th birthday was in 1970, which would have made her 13 in 1963. The girl we see in the credits scene is definitely younger than 13.

If Laurie's five in 1963 in the movie, than she's only eight years old in 1966 when she and Jon first go "on patrol" together shortly after the first meeting of the Crimebusters!

(For those of you who've seen the movie, but not read the book: In the comic, there's no group called the "Watchmen". This, minor as it is, is probably the change that will annoy me the most.)

#49 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:10 PM:

The movie places the Crimebusters meeting in 1970. It also says Walter Kovacs is 35 in 1985, which means he was partnered with Nite Owl and sending Big Picture to prison just out of his teens.

Also, the meeting was run by Ozymandias instead of Captain Metropolis. In the movie, he's the smartest man... in a Sin City-like world.

If Laurie was 8 or 9 in the clip, then she would have made 16 in 1970. The critics who complain about the movie taking from the comic frame-for-frame aren't really acquainted with the book. It's a comic book. It places with the larger events of the story more-or-less into your bloodstream.

I also didn't like the Dirty-Harrying of a character who revealed so well the inherent horror of a Ditko-inspired purity.

#50 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:13 PM:

Also, the Laurie of the movie is definitely too princess-like to be the daughter of Sally Jupiter.

#51 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:42 PM:

"The violence? Depends on how you feel about open fractures and exit wounds."

I don't know, I think some folks might be extra squicked by the "improvement" to the scene where Mike kills Larry to take over the job of menacing Rorschach. In the graphic novel, Mike does it off-screen with a razor. In the film, he does it on-screen with a power tool.

Altogether, my take on the film is that it's about as good as I could have hoped it would be, but then— I'm the sort who prefers the big change to Veidt's macguffin.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:57 PM:

One of the reasons I prefer the movie, as opposed to what I remember from last reading the comic-book 20 years ago is that the main characters come across as flawed here too, but not so flawed that they come across as embarassing, especially the Nite Owl.

Watching the credits again, it makes me wonder if it'd inspire someone into the madness of trying to do something with Kurt Busiek's AstroCity

#54 ::: JamesK ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 12:19 AM:

My husband -hates- "The Times They Are A'Changing". It played at the funeral of one of his dearest friends and it's guaranteed to make him almost suicidally depressed. When he heard me watching this and was told it was from Watchmen, he declared we'd never see the movie until he had a mute button. Then he settled down and watched it with me and now he's trying to figure out how to cancel Saturday plans so we can go and see it.

Seriously, Warner. WTF?

#55 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 01:16 AM:

The nearest IMAX theater is quite a drive. I mean, not hours, but far enough to be a production rather than a five minute trip down the road.

So, is it worth the extra money and time to see it on the bigger screen?

#56 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 01:44 AM:

Andy W - every member of cast or crew I've seen interviewed, without exception, answers that question with "(beat) it's not a kids movie".

Rikibeth: *?

vian, heresiarch - I like the brilliant, subversive, viral way you are spreading that idea.

#57 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 02:01 AM:

Andy @20 - I would not take my teen to see it, and this is a kid who I let watch George Romero movies. It's not the violence or the Infamous Sex Scene; it's the very intense, very grown-up subject matter. Okay, it is the violence, a little. This is not squibs and gravity-defying fu; it's very bloody, very real and ugly.

On the opening credits - I love all the little things tucked away in them. It took me watching it twice before I really got that in the "disco club opening scene" with Ozymandias, ur fgbcf gb pynfc unaqf jvgu Qnivq Objvr. That little scene added to his character. And yes, I was inordinately pleased to see that gur thl va gur Naql Jneuby fprar jub ybbxrq yvxr Gehzna Pncbgr jnf, va snpg, fhccbfrq gb or Gehzna Pncbgr.

#58 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 02:48 AM:

Oh noez, the next thing will be a Watchmen parody based on the Baby Looney Tunes. (shudder)

#59 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 03:39 AM:

I'd say that it is significantly less troubling and disturbing than the Dark Knight was, both the violence and the subject matter. However, that's just my opinion. I came out of the Dark Knight thinking "that movie was a trial. I'll probably never watch it again." I came out of Watchmen thinking "I'll probably end up seeing that again soon."

The only thing that might be troubling are some fairly explicit sex scenes.

As you can see from the rest of this thread, mileage may vary. But I'm mildly squeamish and easy to bother, and none of this really got to me, except possibly small bits of the Rorschach Origin.

#60 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 04:04 AM:

My views on Watchmen the movie here

The titles sequence: the best bit about the film, though you have been warned, every significant piece of action takes place in slow-mo from here on.

Warners. Stop listening to your lawyers, start listening to your marketing people.

(Related: heard yesterday an interview with a pop-star complaining about Spotify "Playing music to people FOR FREE! Which can't be good for the artists!" Bonus points for irony: the interview was being boradcast by the UK's most listened to music station, BBC radio 2. The one that's paid for by a tax on the populace. Who pay royalties.. As opposed to, say a commercial station, which runs on adverts. That pay royalties. Like Spotify. Who pay royalties.)

#61 ::: Andy W ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 05:34 AM:

Thanks for all the views on teen suitability.

Kirilaw @ 34: this was very much my worry, that the artwork in the original heavily underplays the gruesomeness of what's actually happening in the story. I can see how you could do the same thing in film, but it doesn't sound like that's what they went for. I think I'll probably go with Jim's suggestion @ 29 and see it for myself before deciding.

#62 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 07:01 AM:

re 37: Well, that's the fate of serious irony in this post-everything world: it gets run over by the irony of not being taken seriously.

#63 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 07:04 AM:

It's rated "18 or over" in the UK, and for once I agree with the censors. Apart from Dr.Manhattan's (Billy Crudup's?) "family jewels" being unashamedly on display (don't really care, tbh), there's also explicit (and quite gratuitously graphic) sex, and loads of violence.

On credits: Warner doesn't want you to see them because they know they're the best part of an otherwise long and wordy film. The soundtrack is simply bad and too "in your face", casting was good but acting overall is very sub-par. I thought I'd certainly see it twice, but now I think I'll just wait for the DVD, which will give me the opportunity to spot references frame-by-frame. I suspect the DVD will be a long-seller and perform much better than the actual theatrical release.

As a Watchmen fan, I liked it because it respected the source material, and my geeky friends liked it too (and will now read the graphic novel), but it's not a masterpiece.

#64 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 08:10 AM:

myrthe @ 56, I grew up in the Boston suburbs, 3 miles from Hanscom AFB, and was 15 in 1985. There were some realities of which I was *acutely* aware.

In the scene where President Nixon says "Jr tb gb Qrspba 2," I froze up in my seat, enough so that my 21-year-old companion leaned over and asked if I was okay. I could only nod.

#65 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 09:56 AM:

Watching the sequence confirmed me in my lack of desire to see the movie (I am definitely NOT the target audience). Still, it's a lovely piece of work, and I'm glad to have a clearer idea of what I'm missing.

(BTW, the Flickskinny hated it. "The last 2 hours felt like 'Solaris' on pause.")

#66 ::: Mike B ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 10:19 AM:

A different Mike (there are many of us!) at #49 says:

I also didn't like the Dirty-Harrying of a character who revealed so well the inherent horror of a Ditko-inspired purity.

Before I saw this movie I said to my friends: "I used to think that this movie would be insufficiently faithful to the details of the book, but now I hope the movie is different from the book, in the same way that a Batman movie is different from a Batman book." Because the thing about the book that I most admire is that it's simultaneously a compelling superhero comic and a comprehensive deconstruction of the superhero-comic genre and what that genre implies about our society.

But for a movie to aspire to the same role it needs to reference movies. It can't just transpose a literary comic to the screen. That's not what comic-book movies do: Comic-book movies take comics characters and plots and alter them in predictable ways. Certain edges get filed off; literary references are replaced by cinematic references (Doctor Strangelove, David Cronenberg, The Matrix, Cosmos); short sketches take the place of long backstories; the characters get younger and better-looking, and their personalities tend to gravitate toward stock movie roles: Villain, hero, rogue, ingenue, femme fatale. And the costumes get darker (because, if they don't, the whole thing looks like a convention of circus clowns -- those bright colors that work so well on paper look like a riot on the screen). If a Watchmen movie doesn't do some of the same things, it can't be a commentary on the movies from within. It can only be a transplanted comic.

So I thought the obvious references to Dirty Harry were fine. Because Dirty Harry is a movie thing -- from the Cold-War 1980s, even. Meanwhile, some of the movie's biggest mistakes were caused by uncritically following the book (e.g. "All Along the Watchtower").

#67 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 10:58 AM:

So I'm going to see the film this week, but out of curiosity I watched the first half hour or so of a 'cam' on one of those dastardly movie streaming sites. What struck me was that it's definitely been put together by a director with a great deal of respect for the source material, but who (sadly) isn't that great a director.

One of the best features of the comic is the structure, the way Moore and Gibbons play with the nine-panel grid and create all kinds of effects out of the rhythm and the framework they've set up. Snyder's pacing, on the other hand, is all over the place. It's kind of sad to see him fumble important scenes when you know he's trying his hardest to be faithful to the original...

#68 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:34 AM:

Mike B @ #66:

Because the thing about the book that I most admire is that it's simultaneously a compelling superhero comic and a comprehensive deconstruction of the superhero-comic genre and what that genre implies about our society.[...]

So I thought the obvious references to Dirty Harry were fine. Because Dirty Harry is a movie thing -- from the Cold-War 1980s, even.[...]

You've highlighted why the James Bondishness of the Incredibles worked. But that movie wasn't an adaptation from something in another medium. And perhaps in some subtler way, why the Watchmen comic may have benefited from DC making the characters they bought from Charlton unavailable to Moore.

You seem to be making the case that the only virtue of adapting the comic is for branding and, as observed in the lead-post, the outcome is that the effort has been sabotaged by it. Warners should have labored to disassociate the movie from the source material.

The Matrix is another good example. The final battle in the third movie looked like an adaptation of the final showdown between MiracleMan and Kid MiracleMan. Moore's retconned MiracleMan emerged from the virtual reality of the Golden Age continuity, and the Matrix ended showing Neo with the powers of a superman. But if the first Matrix had been an out-and-out MiracleMan adaptation, it probably would have been as well regarded as the third movie, with the budget of the last Planet of the Apes movie offered for a sequel.

#69 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:50 AM:

Another URL for it, in case one stops working:

http://tvcalling.blogspot.com/2009/03/watchmen-opening.html

#70 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 12:36 PM:

Glad I saw it here--I screamed out loud at the end of the Pentagon protestor sequence. Yipes.

#71 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 02:26 PM:

The Business Insider is making me laugh, and not in a good way. The headline of one of their articles is "WATCHMEN FLOPS". Because it didn't equal 300's take of 70million, which was the single largest March opening in history.

I see Jim echoes this a little in the post, calling the $55million take "far below" what WB was expecting. That doesn't match my understanding, which is that tracking was calling for 50-55 million, and Watchmen came in right at the top end of that range.

It's true that after the huge midnight showing numbers some people on friday morning were wondering if it would hit 70, but that was a fanciful wish at best, and lasted all of 12 hours. And Watchmen is almost 3 hours long, while 300 was under 2 hours, which means there were 50% more showings of 300 over the weekend.

Any actual evidence that 55million was far below Warner's expectations?

#72 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 02:41 PM:

Jorge Garcia (Hurley from Lost) went to see it and enjoyed it despite theater projector problems.

#73 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 03:27 PM:

Dumb Question: Are any fluorospherians in the DC area (especially Montgomery County) thinking of going to see the Watchmen movie anytime soon? This seems like it would be a good occasion for a realspace meet-up....

#74 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 04:10 PM:

I've been resisting seeing the sequence, because I'm already committed to seeing the movie with Avram at some point, and I worry that seeing the opening will put me off seeing the rest.

This is not an idle concern; I read the first section of Kavalier & Clay, and decided that was satisfyingly complete in and of itself, and I didn't need to read any more.

Avram read me the Rorschach mask origin from the comic last night, and I understand they soft-pedal the Xvggl Trabirfr angle in the film? I suspect it's because the incident in question requires some explaining this far on, and they didn't have the time to set aside for it.

#75 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 04:32 PM:

Stefan, I saw it in IMAX. I didn't personally think the movie benefited from the extra big screen (although my husband said it was rather nice to see a 30-story Dr. Manhattan portrayed at actual size). But then I tend to be underwhelmed by IMAX in general. When I saw Fantasia 2000, I was a little distressed at what the unblinking gargantuan eye of it did with Angela Lansbury's clasped hands.

I saw the movie without having ever read the comic book. My reaction to it was much like my reaction to the most recent Batman movie: What a spectacularly well-crafted nightmare that was! I certainly didn't sign up for that level of violence and gore, but it made a certain sense in light of the story being told. And I rather appreciated the extra on-screen nudity from a sort of "Wow, how'd that make it on screen without the Puritan Censors' heads goin' asplodey? Are we getting less prudish in Hollywood? Cool!"

I did follow up the movie by surfing around for reviews to explain me why some comic book purists hated it. Edge of the American West explained it well, and seemed to temper the complaints with respect. It was neat to go from a "Watchmen sucks!" review to several "These other reviews of Watchmen suck!" defenses, paging back through the archives.

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Nicole, I also noticed kid bitzer's poem there.

#77 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 05:38 PM:

I have been earwormed on and off all day, usually with snatches of accompanying visuals. I think it's very *effective* viral marketing, whether the suits like it or not.

#78 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 06:51 PM:

Giacomo@63

It seems to me that if the credits really are the best part of the film that that would be an extra incentive for Warner to WANT the credits to be seen as widely as practical.

The whole point of publicity for a movie is to get people to want to see the movie. If the credits are the best part of the movie, then that's what'll make them want to see the movie and that's what you want to use for publicity.

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 08:32 PM:

Mike @ 68... I was wondering when someone was going to bring up Miracleman. I was bummed when Neil Gaiman got to write so few issues of what happened After Everything Changed.

#80 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 08:50 PM:

I am ashamed and dismayed at being so far behind the curve with the Watchmen Babies. Ah, well....

#81 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 10:26 PM:

mythago @ 57: "I would not take my teen to see it, and this is a kid who I let watch George Romero movies....This is not squibs and gravity-defying fu; it's very bloody, very real and ugly."

I kind of feel that if you won't show kids nasty, real violence, then you definitely shouldn't show them sanitized violence. It is not a good thing, and showing it as clean and fun is worse than showing it as it is.

#82 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:43 PM:

Madeline Ashby @27 (and others):

I disagree; the fight scenes were some of the least faithfully adapted parts of the movie. The violence in the movie is far more visceral, detailed, and extended than what is shown in the original book.

For example, Qna naq Ynhevr'f svtug jvgu gur xabg-gbcf va gur nyyrl is only eleven panels long in the book, and only five of those panels show actual violence. In the book there are no closeups of obarf fgvpxvat bhg bs bcra senpgherf be xavirf tbvat guebhtu arpxf.

Likewise, in the book, Avgr Bjy naq Fvyx Fcrpger guebj bar chapu rnpu va gur ragver wnvyoernx frdhrapr; in the movie, gurl tyrrshyyl jnqr guebhtu n jubyr unyyjnl shyy bs rarzvrf.

The zheqre bs gur Pbzrqvna and the nggrzcgrq nffnffvangvba bs Bmlznaqvnf are also much less graphic in the book.

In all fairness, though, the end of the book shows many more qrnq obqvrf in graphic detail than are seen in the movie, and most of the violence in Ebefpunpu'f backstory was eliminated.

I'm not saying the movie was bad; I rather liked it, even though I'm more squeamish about violence than I once was. It's just that the book is not at all an accurate guide to the level of violence in the movie.

This reminds me that one of the biggest problems I had with the movie is how "super" the human heroes were made to seem. One of the points of the book is that these are just people; trained and experienced, yes, but still subject to human limitations. I think far too much of that was dropped in order to amp up the fight scenes.

#83 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:46 PM:

Have you folks all already seen this Watchmen spoof by Elan Rodger Trinidad? Nite Owl & Rorschach in "Presidential Trouble!"

#84 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:18 AM:

Well, foo. I can't find it. Warners got all the ones I turn up.

Then again, my search-fu is weak.

Halp?

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:29 AM:

elise... I found a link to it on Rixosous. It's still working. Here it is.

#86 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:58 AM:

Thank you! That was lovely.

#87 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:26 AM:

re 58: What it really needs is a Warners production, like this. Gur Oenva trgf gb or Bmlznaqvnf, naq Cvaxl trgf gb or gur Ovt Oyhr Thl.

re 81: I don't think I agree with this; at least, I'm not convinced that it's true. Does sanitized violence inure one to the real thing? Probably not as effectively as a more graphic depiction. It is perhaps true that the sanitized kind makes violence in the abstract more acceptable.

#89 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 10:59 AM:

C Wingate #87: Also, sanitized violence is probably less likely to lead to the movie being immediately too scary for the kid, or to nightmares. Even if you're not worried about numbing your kids to violence (I'm not sure movies really have that much effect), you still don't want to ruin the experience of going to the movies with your kid because you had to take him out of the theater or whatever.

#90 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:06 AM:

It seems to me that if the credits really are the best part of the film that that would be an extra incentive for Warner to WANT the credits to be seen as widely as practical.

Well, yes. Which is why all the best stunts for action films and all the best jokes for comedies appear in the trailer.

I'm off to see the film this evening. From 300 and the credits though, Zack Snyder looks like he's becoming quite an interesting director. I look forward to seeing what he might do with some original material.

#91 ::: Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:08 PM:

I was on the fence, and the credits didn't actually do much for me.

The screenwriter's plea for people to watch it, definitively convinced me not to, however: http://www.watchmencomicmovie.com/031109-watchmen-movie-david-hayter-open-letter.php

"Trust me. You'll come back, eventually. Just like Sally."

What a creep.

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 02:01 PM:

#91 What a creep.

What an amazing example of the ABM.*


(Author's Big Mistake.)

#93 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 02:17 PM:

Oh no he didn't.

Okay, change of plans. I will not ever watch this in the theaters, nor will I buy any version of the DVD when it comes out, as long as David Hayter believes that I am like a woman waiting for the right moment to admit her secret crush on the man who raped her. I feel dirty just thinking about how little he thinks of me.

#94 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 03:10 PM:

I read the Watchmen comics back in the '80s, then got the book when that was released and wore it out over the next few years until it stolen in the late '90s. I hadn't replaced it up until yesterday, a few days after I saw the movie.

The Watchmen series was one of those works that stuck in my mind for years. Like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (of which the only version in my mind is the original BBC Radio broadcasts — all other media versions are just pale shadows of that original), the Illuminatus books, 2001 (the book and the film), Blade Runner (the theatrical release beneath the barbarous voiceover and before the final out-take from The Shining), and others. A work that opened up my head and poured great thoughts into it until it overflowed. I loved it.

I went to the movie not expecting it to duplicate the comic, no more than I expect a photograph to duplicate a loved one. With luck, I thought, it would be a good photo, but even a bad photo of someone you love is something to treasure. If it's a picture of a loved one, sometimes you can't even say, objectively, that it's a bad picture or a good one.

I liked the Watchmen movie. It has its failings, but it was competently executed, I think. There are some things which are the same as the comic, some which are greater than the comic, a few which are worse, but on balance, I liked it. I may go and see it again, which is something I rarely do.

#95 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 03:33 PM:

I saw it last night. I would not have, had I seen David Hayter's letter.

Nel C (#94) pretty much captured my thoughts. I thought that some of the acting and dialogue could have been more compelling - what works on the page may not work on the streen. And, of course, movies aren't the best vehicle to capture the density of ideas in a book, but I thought that the visual density was high.

I do find it pretty telling that everyone's making a big deal about the nudity and not the ultra-graphic fight scenes, which I thought were much more porn-like than the sex.

#96 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 03:59 PM:

Lynn, 91: Allow me to add some tasty, tasty context.

"All this time, you’ve been waiting for a director who was going to hit you in the face with this story. To just crack you in the jaw, and then bend you over the pool table with this story....You'll come back, eventually. Just like Sally."


OH DAVID HAYTER NO.

#97 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 04:06 PM:

Jeremy, #83: That was... interesting. I like the way the writer uses the language of the entitlement-rapist in that context. It might make some of the guys reading it think about that the next time they see a glorified media rape elsewhere.

#98 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 04:26 PM:

Well, shoot, me too.

I'd been planning on re-watching this film in Imax format tomorrow when I go down below the Notch to take my daughter back to college.

But Mr. Hayter changed my mind. Not when Coraline (in 3D and based on a book by Neil Gaiman!) and Gran Torino (directed by Clint Eastwood!) are showing, both unseen by me.

Sorry I recommended the film.

#99 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 05:32 PM:

I've been on the fence, but I think I'll skip Watchmen. I've downloaded the episodes of "Pushing Daisies" I hadn't been able to record, and a few hours of catching up with that goofy, amiable show sounds a lot more palatable.

#98:

Coraline was a real treat. The 3D was used to very good effect, not to poke you in the eye but to make the puppet world more depthy and engrossing.

#100 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 06:56 PM:

Re #91: Damn. Now I wish I'd been planning to see it, so I could change my mind.

What an asshat.

#101 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 07:29 PM:

Yeah, I thought it was odd the movie devoted any time to characters openly expressing affection for the Comedian. In the comic, Laurie mentions Blake's attack when she chastises Rorschach for investigating his murder (setting up the Sally's flashback in the next issue), and another flashback shows her at a function with Jon confronting Blake over it. Sally never tries to explain her lapse, except in Laurie's vague memory because she and Laurie's stepfather arguing.

I think it's interesting to note Hayter has worked in Hollywood since he was 9 as a performer. This is in contrast to Alan Moore, who was kicked out of school for dealing lsd, his headmaster sabotaged all efforts for Moore to sign up at any other school, and he spent most of his twenties scrubbing toilets, and the like. Hayter's history gives no indication his experience was up to handling this kind of incendiary material for public presentation.

I think it's also interesting to note Hayter's draft of the screenplay was set in contemporary times. It's probably a writer's guild technicality giving him as much credit as he's getting, he probably had nothing to do with the opening that's getting such a good reaction, and this is an instance of him just as happy to take credit for the success of the movie anyway.

#102 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 07:59 PM:

This isn't the first time I've seen a thread change tone between one comment and the next, but it's in my top five.

#103 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:09 PM:

WTF, Hayter. WTF. I'm kind of sorry I saw it at all now. Way to ruin everything I enjoyed about that film.

#104 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:09 PM:

Yeeeah, I'm not going to spend any of my few euros on this now. Ugh. What a disappointment.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:14 PM:

Teresa @ 102... I shudder to think what the other threads are where you saw this happen.

#106 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:41 PM:

Serge, I'm trying to remember. I know I've seen the phenomenon before, but I'm fairly sure it happened in slower-moving threads.

#107 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:54 PM:

Wait wait, everyone! Hayter says he gets no cash from box-office! This is your only chance to see it without that creep cashing in.

Just don't buy it on DVD.

#108 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:08 PM:

Wow. I'll admit, I wouldn't seriously consider *not* going to a movie because I found out that some major player in making it was a monumental asshole. I think the movie probably needs to be judged on what happens on the screen. Sometimes, artists are jerks, yet they produce something wonderful. In the case of a movie, hundreds of artists of different talents and with different roles had a hand in creating it. It is inevitable that some will be jerks, for almost any desired definition of "jerk."

#109 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:09 PM:

Saw Watchmen. Liked it. Am bad person because of it; no problem, used to being wrong, fading heat. Rorschach portrayal precise, compelling. Jackie Earle Haley supporting actor awards justified.

#110 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:24 PM:

Left Hayter to discuss his heroin and child pornography. I have business on another website, with a better class of person.

#111 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:33 PM:

Albatross, I have my personal limits on what kind of jerk I'm willing to have my money go toward, especially when said money is quite scarce. I might be a little less begrudging if I weren't to the point where 9 euros is a fair chunk of money.

Then again, I might not, as that kind of offhanded 'joke' statement Hayter made pushes some really bad buttons for me.

#112 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:36 PM:

C. Wingate @ 87: "I don't think I agree with this; at least, I'm not convinced that it's true. Does sanitized violence inure one to the real thing? Probably not as effectively as a more graphic depiction. It is perhaps true that the sanitized kind makes violence in the abstract more acceptable."

Depends what you mean by "inure." Depicting sanitized violence is, I think, more likely to leave people feeling that violence is a good thing when done for good causes, that violence is often a force for righteousness and equality. Depicting realistic, bloody violence will inure people to the sight of blood, to the facts of what happen when terrible force interacts the human body. I am far more concerned with teaching kids that hitting that other person as hard as you can is okay if they deserve it than with teaching them what humans look like on the inside. The latter is arguably a survival skill: people who are familiar with the consequences of violence are probably more able to cope with it when it does occur. It's hard to see what good outcomes the former leads to.

After seeing a scene of violence, the first thought that runs through people's heads should be "By everything sacred I hope that never enters my life" not "Wow! Cool! I wanna do that!" Violence is traumatic; it should be presented as such.

albatross @ 89: "Also, sanitized violence is probably less likely to lead to the movie being immediately too scary for the kid, or to nightmares."

I'm not a parent, and so I've never been in that position. I can see why, given those options, you would choose the sanitized violence. However it's worth asking: why is it that when we go to the movies the choice we have is between sanitized violence and gory violence?

#113 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 10:03 PM:

I'm with Albatross. Hayter's a jerk but there are around 800 names in the IMDB full credits listing for the film. Is all the work done by all those people now worthless because of that one man's jerkiness?

#114 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 10:04 PM:

Follow-up on me @ 107:

Here's the relevant quote from the Hayter letter.

"In the interests of full disclosure, let me also point out that I do not profit one cent from an increase in box office, although an increase in box office can add to the value of the writers' eventual residual profits from dvd and tv sales."

#115 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 10:14 PM:

rm #110: Left Hayter to discuss his heroin and child pornography

Eh? Where did those come in?

#116 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 10:18 PM:

Heresiarch:

Well, there's also cartoon violence and sexualized violence. So we get *lots* of choices, really....

#117 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:01 PM:

I think I can add something new to the debate about depictions of violence. This past year there was a case where a couple of young psychopaths in the Ukraine teamed up to do random opportunistic murders in their area. They recorded some of these on their cellphone cameras and sent them to each other, which did wonders for their case when the police got hold of them. One of these videos escaped into the wild.

Over on Boing Boing, Xeni Jardin blogged some comments a friend of hers made about the case, and linked to a site that linked to the video. Some of Boing Boing's readers clicked through a little too quickly for their own good. They came back pale and shaky, and started a dust-up in the thread. I had to post a list of every unicorn chaser I had on file.

What I found interesting was that some of the upset readers who'd seen the video said they were fans of hardcore horror movies, and had no trouble watching what were theoretically much more gruesome and elaborate scenes of torture and death. For some reason, the video of the real thing got to them in a way horror movies never could.

I tried to get them to say more about it, but they were bellying up to the bar to put in urgent orders for a double shot of Tyson the Skateboarding Dog, with a Super Cute Red Panda Attack on the side.

#118 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:15 PM:

I went and did some poking-about after my initial posting, including going to the website where Hayter's letter was originally posted. I had presumed that this was an 'official' dispatch from the studio, that had been created and vetted by their PR people. It's not clear that it's the case - it does look like isolated jerkiness.

He did update the post with a pretty lame-ass apology that does prove that he kind of missed the point. The rational behaviour for Sally would be not to return to the Comedian; the complexity and controversy arises precisely because she did. To cite that complex relationship as the reason for the viewer to do the irrational thing (in this case, dropping more money to see a movie you already saw once and didn't like) is really confusing cause and effect.

#119 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:26 PM:

Saw Watchmen this afternoon, pre-Hayter revelation.

Positives:

--Never a dull moment.
--Dr. Manhattan's Martian flying Fortress of Solitude thingy was really cool.
--Violence so absurd that it didn't squick me.

Negatives:

--Never fully engaging; I always felt like I was skimming along the surface. Part of it was mediocre acting, part directorial overkill.
--"Hallelujah" abuse. When will the scourge end?
--Overly bombastic elements of original emphasized.
--Violence so absurd that it threw me out of the story.

#120 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:29 PM:

Y'know, when I was editing comics, I thought I was doing pretty well if I could keep characters from delivering entire speeches in the split second before some giant toppling object fell on them.

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:32 PM:

Hate Hayter, not the movie.

#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:43 PM:

(cont'd)

I mean, if I were to refuse to watch any movie that had a blankhole involved in its making, there'd be very few movies left to watch.

#123 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:47 PM:

Hayter is dressing himself in borrowed clothes: As far as the story has power it's Moore's, not his.

Listen to him say, "You'll come back, eventually. Just like Sally." And listen to hordes of the film's natural audience say, like Wes Craven heroines, "Not in my movie."

#124 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:49 PM:

#108, albatross:

I'll admit, I wouldn't seriously consider *not* going to a movie because I found out that some major player in making it was a monumental asshole. I think the movie probably needs to be judged on what happens on the screen.

That's true - it does. But we make decisions about what movies to see based on publicity, word-of-mouth, and so on. And often advertising either is targeted towards a particular demographic, or it's designed to elicit a particular response.

Viewed as advertising, Hayter's "Go see Watchmen - it's like sexual assault!" is spectacularly unsuccessful.

Of course, as I wrote above, it looks like it was just isolated jerkiness, not a studio-sanctioned ad campaign.

#125 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:55 PM:

James D. Macdonald, #123:

Hayter is dressing himself in borrowed clothes: As far as the story has power it's Moore's, not his.

Hear, hear. And Hayter is trying to co-opt that powerful story for something as quotidian as Friday night social planning.

#126 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:00 AM:

Tim Walters #119: "Hallelujah" abuse. When will the scourge end?

I think that k.d. lang made that song her own the same way Johnny Cash did with "Hurt".

#127 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:11 AM:

Earl Cooley III @ 126: my issue is more with the current cliche of using it for love/sex scenes rather than with any version of the song. It's great that such an outstanding song is so popular, but the downside is that it gets tossed into films rather thoughtlessly.

Watchmen uses Cohen's original from Various Positions (edited to just the first and fourth verses, with truncated choruses), which would add cred except that the original lyrics make even less sense for a sex scene than the revised ones. And yes, I'm the sort of person who can take note of all that while watching a sex scene.

k.d. lang's version is indeed amazing, despite using the two-from-column-A-two-from-column-B lyric set that's become standard.

#128 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:14 AM:

A short history of "Hallelujah", for anyone who has no idea what I'm on about.

#129 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:16 AM:

I was looking forward to seeing the Watchmen movie. Not necessarily soon, there are a lot of other movies I'd like to watch before they leave the local theaters, but some time. Because of that, I'm going to pretend I never heard about Hayter's (dumbfounding, jawdropping, and just plain frickin' stupid) plea for attention for "his" movie except in the context of discussions like this one.

(The Watchmen story doesn't belong to Hayter, of course. It doesn't really belong to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons anymore either, nor does it belong to DC Comics. The Watchmen story is out there for people to appreciate, mull over, argue about, and otherwise interpret as they will, and if it belongs to anybody it belongs to all those people who claim it as part of their mental landscape. I look forward to seeing what these particular filmmakers made of it, no matter that at least one of them is a demonstrable jerk.)

David Harmon @115, rm is paraphrasing part of Rorschach's journal in the graphic novel. Speaking of which...I have a vision of Hayter getting a visit from Rorschach, who warns him that a dire fate awaits his typing fingers if he doesn't refrain from discussing the Watchmen movie publicly.

(Disclaimer: Rorschach is crazy, I don't really want this to happen to Hayter, and I really don't want anybody to put any version of this vision into action. It just seemed an appropriate event in a universe that contained both Hayter and Rorschach. And that universe ain't this one, are we all clear on that?)

#130 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:18 AM:

I forgot to mention another positive, which is that the preview for the forthcoming Star Trek reboot got me interested in ST for the first time in thirty years or so. In the trailer, at least, it's a bitchin' space opera. Planets imploding are way cooler than planets exploding.

#131 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:21 AM:

Teresa @ 117: Bloom County, Dec. 7, 1983. Yaz Pistachio is watching TV with the rabbit and the groundhog.

-----
Rabbit: Hey, this looks good... a war movie!

Yaz: Uh, actually I think it's an ABC documentary on Lebanon. I think.
-----
Rabbit: Oh phoo. Looks like an old "Rat Patrol" episode.

Yaz: No... no, it's just the 6 o'clock news. I think. Those look like real grenade launchers.
-----
TV: BLAM! BLAM!

Rabbit: YEAH! BLAST THAT SUCKER! OO! THIS IS GREAT STUFF!!
-----
Rabbit: Well. I mean if it IS fake.

Groundhog: WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHETHER I SHOULD BE ENJOYING THIS OR NOT...
-----

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 01:03 AM:

Tim Walters @ 130...

"Your father was captain of a starship - for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives, including yours."
- Captain Pyke to young misfit James Tiberius Kirk

#133 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 01:36 AM:

I'm in a mixed mood about the violence. On the one hand super-hero and (very often) movie violence is, well, cinematic. We regularly see people getting tossed twenty feet through the air in movies, for example, hitting a wall or the ground, and then getting up, looking a bit stunned but showing no evidence of even contusions, let alone the broken bones or serious concussion that would almost certainly follow such an impact. Hollywood violence is as stylised in its fashion as wuxia and perhaps should be viewed with similar filters.

On the other hand, the movie almost lost me in the opening scene where the unknown assailant beats Blake. I could swear I saw Blake's head being smashed against a marble counter-top an inch-and-a-half thick and the counter-top disintegrating. That should have crushed Blake's skull like an egg-shell, torn the skin off his face at the very least. (I told myself that perhaps it was just meant to be expensive-looking chipboard, and the movie moved along fast enough that I quickly forgot it.) And, again, later, when Rorschach is thrown through the air against a stone wall, and he gets up a moment later showing no obvious signs of injury and launches himself back into the fight (only pausing to cvpx hc uvf ung).

But the gripping hand, for me, was the attempted rape. Up to then, I'd been going along with the pretty pictures, but the violence in that scene finally drew me into the characters. It seemed an awful amount of violence to me, but also utterly realistic. It seemed to be the amount of violence a strong man would have to use on a strong woman. And vice versa. Perhaps I haven't been seeing enough of the wrong kind of movies, but rape usually gets treated, I think, with a different stylization. The victim is menaced a lot, there may be a bit of running, but there's usually only a brief struggle before the rapist does his ghastly deed (or the fade to black). There isn't usually a lot of hitting and throwing. In a way the violence was as stylized as in any of the other scenes, maybe it was the context that made it seem more real, I don't know.

#134 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:14 AM:

Serge, #122: My initial feeling about the movie was that it wasn't something likely to interest me, because of the violence quotient. Watching the BRILLIANT opening-credits sequence caused me to consider changing my mind. Hearing about this only pushed me back toward my original position.

Tim, #127: Love/sex scenes? That's not what I've been seeing it used for at all. Much more to underscore something that's kind of a downer -- a painful breakup, or the aftermath of making a decision that had no right choices. The reason I don't like it is that to me, it's the writer* jumping up and down waving a flag that says IRONY HERE!!!, when I'm perfectly capable of figuring that out all by myself.

OTOH, we're currently working our way thru Season 3 of NUMB3RS on DVD, and I have to say that backing Larry's takeoff in the Space Shuttle with Elton John's "Rocket Man" was perfect given the dynamics of the situation in the show. So some people get it right.

* Or whoever it is that makes the scoring decisions.

#135 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:30 AM:

Does anyone remember which issue and page the attempted rape is depicted on in Watchmen?

#136 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:37 AM:

heresiarch @ 135: Sally is attacked in chapter 11, page 6.

#137 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:53 AM:

Hurm, I think perhaps enjoyment of the Star Trek reboot is probably going to involve a "count the heresies" drinking game....

#138 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:59 AM:

Lee: I'm thinking specifically of Shrek, and now Watchmen. i've heard that it's been used a lot in other films/TV shows, but haven't heard it with my own earballs, so you may well be right about the overall trend.

#139 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 04:28 AM:

Earl @ 137: For me, it'll be a case of wanting to get drunk if there aren't a whole bunch of heresies. Trek writers and producers taking the show too reverently is what turned me off it in the first place. This trailer and the previous one give me hope but they're still only about 5 minutes of out-of-context footage.

#140 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 04:46 AM:

Aha, found it.

So why was I looking for the attempted rape scene? In his apology, Hayter writes: "All this time, you’ve been waiting for a director who was going to...just crack you in the jaw, and then bend you over the pool table with this story."

Classic rape fantasy imagery, right? He says not.

In his addendum, he writes: "My sole intent was to reference one of the most complex, controversial and interesting issues in the story imho -- The nature of the relationship between Sally and the Comedian..."

He wasn't employing a generic misogynistic power fantasy, oh no. He was just making a poorly chosen reference to the source material! This is good strategy for him: poorly chosen analogies are much more defensible. But is it true?

I wasn't sure. The "crack on the jaw" part accorded with my memories of the scene, but I couldn't remember any pool table. If it wasn't there, then it would pretty conclusively disprove the claim that he was thinking about the specific scene from the book, not his own twisted fantasies.

So I went back and found the attempted rape scene. No pool table. Verdict: the rape metaphor he employed in his original letter has nothing to do with the text, and was no more than a standard issue rape fantasy where he, the writer, bends you, the audience member, over a pool table and rapes you. And you like it.

(One disclaimer: I haven't seen the movie, and if the scene includes a pool table, then he might be referencing that. Is there a pool table in the movie?)

#141 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:00 AM:

There is a pool table in the movie.

#142 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:08 AM:

FWIW, the addendum heresiarch mentions is at http://www.hardcorenerdity.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2239098%3ABlogPost%3A40658 and Hayter uses the word "apologize" several times when referencing the reference to Sally so I'm prepared to trust that he doesn't actually want to rape me.

I haven't seen the movie either, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of the barroom interrogations involves a broken cue over a pool table, or if it's part of The Comedian's complex, controversial, and interesting relationship with the Vietnamese woman who scarred him. I'll grant that his point is that fanboys like to be mentally challenged by their media and the ensuing debates about them, stimulated to the point that your brain feels like it's been worked over and the lingering questions haunt you over twenty years later.

However, I'm still not going to watch the movie and it's because of the letter. First, it demonstrates that Hayter doesn't have strong literary and communication skills if he could FUBAR an idea as badly as he did here. Second, I think that it shows that Hayter believes that Watchmen is a story about sex and violence and not a story about how "saving the world" means eight different things to eight different costumed heroes over the course of a forty year arc. He wants to make a scene from the story a metaphor the kind of healthy exhaustion you feel from finishing a marathon, but all he comes up with are examples where the writer and viewer are antagonistic and the viewer is brutalized. Why wouldn't it have made you feel like you had rescued people from a burning building or trekked across the Antarctic plains on a hoverbike? Ye gods, even if it had struck him that watching a tough thoughtful movie is like having your intrinsic field ripped away and forcing you to piece yourself together one atom at a time, he'd have demonstrated to me that this is, at the core, a movie about Watchmen and not just a vehicle for expressing his rape and vigilante fantasies.

At the end of the day, I'm not boycotting the movie because the scriptwriter is an ass. I'm eschewing the movie because the scriptwriter has not demonstrated that he grasps the source material as well as I do. Perhaps he does, but I'm not inclined to invest my time and my money just to exonerate him.

#143 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:19 AM:

Matthew Daley @ 142: "At the end of the day, I'm not boycotting the movie because the scriptwriter is an ass. I'm eschewing the movie because the scriptwriter has not demonstrated that he grasps the source material as well as I do."

I have the same feeling, but I'm borrowing a page from Peter Watts and hoping that even if he didn't understand the source material, he was able to rotate its informational topography faithfully.

(btw, your "watching a tough thoughtful movie is like having your intrinsic field ripped away and forcing you to piece yourself together one atom at a time" metaphor is really quite brilliant, and an accurate description of what reading Watchmen is like.)

#144 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 08:40 AM:

Matthew @ #142:

...I think that it shows that Hayter believes that Watchmen is a story about sex and violence and not a story about how "saving the world" means eight different things to eight different costumed heroes over the course of a forty year arc....

My understanding is that it's completely fair to say Watchmen is about sex and violence, and is a story about how saving the world means we will continue to have sex and violence.

Sex and violence is the soil (an image Moore used in his American Gothic storyline in Swamp Thing, as well as an image that seems to fit in with Joseph Campbell's explanation of the grail myth) from which whatever we consider holy reaches skyward.

It's the movie making the violence and action beautiful that's antithetical to the book. The Hostess ad parody is a truer to the rape scene in the book, so it's a wonder why they felt the need to make the changes they did for the movie.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 08:42 AM:

Lee @ 134... it wasn't something likely to interest me, because of the violence quotient.

Yes, it is an extremely violent movie, but that's not all there is. There is sadness too, in the Nite Owl's inadequacies, and when Laurie pleads with remote Manhattan to save humanity.

#146 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 08:44 AM:

Paul Duncanson @ 139... writers and producers taking the show too reverently is what turned me off it in the first place

Me, I'll be happy if they pay more attention to the spirit of the original than to its specifics.

#148 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 09:52 AM:

Matthew Daly @142:

He wants to make a scene from the story a metaphor the kind of healthy exhaustion you feel from finishing a marathon, but all he comes up with are examples where the writer and viewer are antagonistic and the viewer is brutalized. (...)watching a tough thoughtful movie is like having your intrinsic field ripped away and forcing you to piece yourself together one atom at a time

I saw the movie last Monday, before I was aware of Hayter's screed. I love your descriptions of varying emotional reactions. My own reaction is that the movie doesn't reach the level of "intrinsic field" thoughtfulness, and that it was somewhere between "marathon" and "brutalized." I definitely walked out of it feeling shaken, and some of it was from stretching my mind around the tough questions that the source material asks -- but some of it was also just from the sheer violence and grimness.

I have to say that My Chemical Romance's cover of "Desolation Row" during the end credits was, for me, a VERY good music choice -- it pulled me out of the period-piece AU feeling of the movie, and back into the present day. I needed that.

#149 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:22 AM:

Teresa @ #120: that caused me to flash back to my favorite moment in all comicdom: first page of an X-Men comic (the return of the (mk II) Sentinels).

Beast: "Bobby! Something's smashing thru the wall! Grasping me with steely tendrils!"

Good thing he avoided spelling "through" correctly, or he wouldn't have had time to get the whole comment out before being dragged off the sofa by the Sentinel.

#150 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:52 AM:

If Hayter's getting no share of the box office, but is getting a share of the DVD sales, doesn't that suggest that nothing on the big screen is his, but perhaps he's got some material appearing in the longer cut that will be on the DVD? Maybe even just the Black Freighter sequence, which I understand will be a separate item on the disc.

There may be some good reasons to dislike the film on seeing it, but it'd be shame to not see it just because one of the writers, and not the one most responsible for what's on the screen, is a boor. I mean, of the scriptwriters; Alan Moore is the writer most responsible for the story, of course.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:57 AM:

Lila @ 149... So 'thru' is not an acceptable spelling? I blame the COBOL language for that orthographic lapse of mine.

As for comic-book characters stating the obvious... There was a scene in Jim Starlin's Warlock where the floor comes alive and 'hands' come out of it, reaching for Adam Warlock, who exclaims "Hands! Coming out of the floor! Grasping at me!"

#152 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:36 PM:

Serge, it's bad when they state the obvious. It's ludicrous when the duration of the action shown in the panel is necessarily limited by the speed of falling objects, but the time it takes to deliver the dialogue would have to be several times longer than that.

#153 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:48 PM:

Serge, #151: I consciously use the "thru" spelling in casual writing, and yes, that's a COBOL influence. But it's also one of the words for which I'd like to see official spelling reform; the shorter form is easier to write (or type) and less likely to be misread or typoed as "though", and it loses no clarity of meaning in the process.

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:53 PM:

Teresa @ 152... This reminds me of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's scene where Indy and the annoying cabaret singer are trapped in a cellar where the already low ceiling is coming down lower and lower and lower and lower and never seems to get down to squishing anybody.

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:57 PM:

Lee @ 153... On the other hand, 'throughout' reformed into 'thruout' looks like Edgar Rice Burroughs's name for a Martian trout. I wind up using 'thru' and 'throughout', inconsistent as it may be.

#156 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 01:11 PM:

James Macdonald @ 147: Bingo. Thanks for the link.

#157 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 01:22 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, #117: For some reason, the video of the real thing got to them in a way horror movies never could.

My taste in horror movies runs more toward Don't Look Now than Saw--in fact, much as I love horror movies, these days I'm hesitant to give new ones a try because there are so many I just can't watch--but I suspect the difference was merely that it was real. No matter how involved the audience is with a movie, no matter how well they've suspended their disbelief, the knowledge that it's okay, it's just a story, those are actors and when the scene was done they got up and washed off the fake blood and went home to their families still sits in the back of their heads.

You can get the same phenomenon with horror films that aren't filled with gruesome scenes of horror and death. Cat People, for instance. (The original, not the remake.) There's a scene where Irina's psychiatrist tries to seduce her, and the camera goes out of focus and pans away, and you never see anything but you know what's going to happen. Now--ignoring for a moment the fact that Irina's a werepanther--imagine you have the same footage, but it's a security camera tape that ends five seconds before a patient shredded her therapist. That footage could be frame-for-frame identical to the movie. It would still be a completely different experience.

#158 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:05 PM:

My taste in horror movies runs more toward Don't Look Now than Saw--in fact, much as I love horror movies, these days I'm hesitant to give new ones a try because there are so many I just can't watch--but I suspect the difference was merely that it was real

This is exactly right. I can watch HOSTEL or SAW 'til the cows come home and sleep like a baby. (Whether I'd want to watch them is another story... but I can). I mean, it's not real. Why would something that isn't real bother me?

It's not even a fictional depiction of something real. I can't easily watch fictional depictions of the Holocaust because it actually happened, even though the actual footage is not real. But some fake person getting their fake arm fake cut off in a fake movie? Whatever. It's barely different than watching someone in a movie fake cross the fake street.

I'm actually having trouble coming to grips with the idea that some people find it surprising that many folks are not bothered by fake things but are bothered by real things.

I am quite tempted to posit a facile theory that people under a certain age, who grew up with these sorts of special effects and with huge amounts of violence on film and television, are much less likely than their elders to be bothered. I rather suspect that is the case but I don't have any evidence for it, so it doesn't reach the level of "theory".

But it's fake. It's not real! Why would it bother me?

Horror movies that rely on tension, atmosphere, and suspense rather than shock are much more problematic.

#159 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 04:20 PM:

No, what Hayter said doesn't invalidate everyone else's work on the film, which I really liked and have been recommending. But it is a really "shit in the punchbowl" kind of remark. The amount of jawdropping wrongness and offensiveness to that is hard to get out of my head.

#160 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Yeah, somebody didn't learn the lesson of John Romero. No, a print ad stating that John Romero was about to "make you his bitch", and ordering you to "suck it down" didn't prove to be a good marketing strategy. What are these people thinking?

#161 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 08:00 PM:

In no particular order:

Hayter, for whatever flaws he may have otherwise, did an incredibly tough job of taking what might be the one comic you really couldn't deviate from. It's easier to tell your own version of an origin story from an ongoing serial, and many people have. Doing Watchmen has been a tough go-- trust me, I read the earlier scripts. Eeeeeek. Claiming that he's just appropriating the power of Moore's work is like claiming Peter Jackson just appropriated Tolkien, or Frank Darabont just appropriated Stephen King. If you think it's easy, go watch "The Spirit".

Moreover, anybody making this film in the wake of 9/11 shows an act of cojones not seen since someone mounted a Broadway show of Chicago right after the OJ Simpson murder trial.

Re: I think that it shows that Hayter believes that Watchmen is a story about sex and violence and not a story about how "saving the world" means eight different things to eight different costumed heroes over the course of a forty year arc-- No. The entire question of Watchmen is "How far will you go to save your world?"
Quoting myself:

Would you kill a child molester who fed his victim to his dogs? Obvious sexual deviancy, right? What about killing lesbians, then?

Would you break into prison to release a criminal? What if you knew he wasn't a criminal, but couldn't prove it?

Would you shoot police officers who were getting in your way of saving the world? How about if they were just preventing you from beating up on crooks?

Would you lie to bring down a presidential candidate, perhaps by accusing him of being a Muslim (like that's bad in and of itself) in order to save the country? If character assassination is okay-- how about stealing an election? Or assassinating the President outright? Is that cool? Or assassinating reporters who might bring government misdeeds to light?

Would you kill a person to protect the world? How about killing someone in self-defense?

How about more than one person? How about three? Thirty? Three thousand? Three hundred thousand? Three million people? How many people is it okay to kill in order to protect the world? Would you fly a plane into a building? Would you invade a country? Would you nuke a city?

Who appoints themselves to make these decisions? And who watches over them?

Violence is certainly going to be a factor in your answers to those questions.

Oh, and just to drag it back to the original point of the thread: my suspicion is that Warner Bros. can't use the piece for promotion because I doubt Bob Dylan would license "The Times, They Are A'Changing" for commercials.

#162 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 09:12 PM:

I'll to read this thread soon, but as one who started with the series when it was coming out (irregularly), I think they did between 75% and 85% as good as it should have been. Considering my high opinion of the source, that works out to what I regard as a solid movie. I may transplant my scribbled-in-the-dark notes here later. They're at my LJ (linked to my name in the sidebar here).

#163 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:33 PM:

Glenn Hauman @ #161:

No. The entire question of Watchmen is "How far will you go to save your world?" Quoting myself:

Would you kill a child molester who fed his victim to his dogs? Obvious sexual deviancy, right? What about killing lesbians, then?

The comment you are replying to is referring to the comic. In the book, the kidnapping was a ransom gone wrong. The molestation angle was fabricated for the movie.

But for your question, children cannot consent to sex, so there's no hypocrisy in the selective application of principle you seem to be referring to.

Would you break into prison to release a criminal? What if you knew he wasn't a criminal, but couldn't prove it?

This dilemma isn't exclusive to Watchmen. The X-Men beat them to the tagline "Sworn to protect a humanity that fears and hates them."

Would you shoot police officers who were getting in your way of saving the world? How about if they were just preventing you from beating up on crooks?

Rorschach shot the cop in the book and the movie to help himself.

In the movie, Laurie didn't need to knock out the cop, and exchange smiles with Dan over it, when she demonstrated she was capable of easily disarming him. The scene was goofy.

Would you lie to bring down a presidential candidate, perhaps by accusing him of being a Muslim (like that's bad in and of itself) in order to save the country? If character assassination is okay-- how about stealing an election? Or assassinating the President outright? Is that cool? Or assassinating reporters who might bring government misdeeds to light?

I'm guessing your point is that even villains consider themselves the heroes of their own stories. Again, Watchmen didn't make this a first.

Would you kill a person to protect the world? How about killing someone in self-defense? How about more than one person? How about three? Thirty? Three thousand? Three hundred thousand? Three million people?...

US policy has provisions for declaring war. This is another example that Watchmen hasn't made a first.

...How many people is it okay to kill in order to protect the world? Would you fly a plane into a building? Would you invade a country? Would you nuke a city?

I'm guessing this is reiterating the point about how villains consider themselves the heroes of their own stories. Again, Watchmen doesn't make this theme a first.

Who appoints themselves to make these decisions? And who watches over them?

I'm guessing your point here is about where to place the line were we decide to reserve for ourselves the privilege of making ourselves judge, jury, and executioner over another person's fate. Again, Watchmen isn't the first to do this.

My point in replying the way I have is that as far as you make the question "How far will you go to save your world?" your observations don't seem to demonstrate Watchmen is the place to go to see this issue explored and dramatized.

If you want to make Veidt the center of the book, which is where your comments seems to be leading, well, the comic provided enough panels showing Veidt very gleeful over eliminating the Comedian to demonstrate his unconscious motivation was primarily revenge against Blake, on top of which he conveniently stacked the salvation of the world.

You also can't make Veidt the center of the book without considering the role "Tales of the Black Freighter" played in the story, since Veidt never cracked like Lady MacBeth, and the pirate comic gave the only indication of what his personal experience was in implementing his plan. The pirate comic ended with the protagonist causing bedlam in the name of saving the town he's terrorizing.

I think what makes Watchmen enduring more than asking "How far will you go to save your world?" is maybe the thesis "The superhero-pretense is no lipstick to make a pig something you date in public."

#164 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:41 PM:

I went to the first show I could manage -- not midnight, but 11:30 the next morning, when I would be awake and ambulatory. I didn't want it ruined (the movie, that is. I know the book). If it's possible, I'd actually recommend seeing the movie first, then reading the book. That way, you get two sets of surprises, and the best experience is saved for last. The movie's fine; the book's better. In the book, Moore had lots of time to make it clear that Rorschach was not actually 100% consistent about his absolutist philosophy.

Things I wish they'd left in: Hollis Mason; the glimpse of the words "In Gratitude" on the statue's base seeming to run together. The psychiatrist; Rorschach's nihilist summation and the subsequent statement that closes with "We are alone. There is nothing else."

If Moore had based the original on characters from ACG comics instead of Charlton, then the obvious choice for Rorschach would have been Herbie Popnecker. They have the same inflexible morality, and then of course...

#165 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:51 PM:

Glenn, #161: You do a lot of conflating of unrelated things in trying to set up your "uncomfortable questions".

Would you kill a child molester who fed his victim to his dogs? Obvious sexual deviancy, right?
No, nothing to do with "sexual deviancy" (which is a WAY subjective term to begin with) and everything to do with (1) consent or lack thereof, and (2) murder. Equating that with lesbianism is a WTF.

Would you break into prison to release a criminal? What if you knew he wasn't a criminal, but couldn't prove it?
Again, the two halves of your argument are unrelated. Unless you were trying, clumsily, to make the point that "knowing something without being able to prove it" is the basis on which religious fanatics act regularly.

Would you shoot police officers who were getting in your way of saving the world? How about if they were just preventing you from beating up on crooks?
The first half of this can only be argued in the comic-book universe and has no bearing on the real world. The second half, you're talking about living in a third-world thugocracy. If you had asked "Would you shoot corrupt law officers who were protecting crooks?" you might actually have a discussion-worthy item... especially in the wake of BushCo.

Would you lie to bring down a presidential candidate, perhaps by accusing him of being a Muslim (like that's bad in and of itself) in order to save the country? If character assassination is okay-- how about stealing an election? Or assassinating the President outright? Is that cool? Or assassinating reporters who might bring government misdeeds to light?
All of this -- yes, ALL of it -- boils down to, "Do you believe in the rule of law?" And there's an important corollary that you don't mention: "What kind of consequences are YOU PERSONALLY willing to take if you think a law needs to be broken?"

Would you kill a person to protect the world? How about killing someone in self-defense?
Again with the conflating. Self-defense is a response to a direct attack, and there's generally little doubt about what's happening. "Killing a person to protect the world" is a comic-book cliche; anyone who thinks that way in real life is mentally ill.

How about more than one person? How about three? Thirty? Three thousand? Three hundred thousand? Three million people? How many people is it okay to kill in order to protect the world? Would you fly a plane into a building? Would you invade a country? Would you nuke a city?
Finally, you get to something that makes for a good discussion -- because this is about what makes sufficient grounds to declare war, and what kinds of actions are permissible once war has been declared. But I still don't think you need a comic book or a movie to address these things; we've been living with them for the past century (or the past couple of millennia, if you want to take the long view).

Heh. Firefox's spellchecker doesn't recognize "millennia". It appears to believe that the plural should be "millenniums".

#166 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 12:16 AM:

Hayter's statement seems to be:

"If you go into that dark room you should expect to be beaten bloody and raped."

He seems to expect that the reaction to this will be, "Yes, yes! Beat me bloody and rape me! I love it! I'll come back for more!"

The reaction from normal people is, "In that case I'm not going into that dark room."

#167 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 06:28 AM:

109/110: the world desperately needs a regular culture/politics column by Rorschach.

Or a blog; Rorschach would be a great blogger.

#168 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 07:04 AM:

re 161: Perhaps the biggest problem I have with your questions is that when I'm looking at a superhero comic, particularly when we have the kind of alternate history we have in Watchmen (and the same issue arose for me with The Dark Knight Returns), I'm semi-conscious of also operating in an alternate moral reality. Dr. Manhattan particularly sets this off, because he operates almost entirely as a moral deus ex machina; in particular, his decision is utterly essential to the ending of the comic, but it is also essentially arbitrary, because Dr. Manhattan doesn't have a nature except insofar as Moore gives him one.

It's funny, because my anti-enlightenment cynicism about human nature leads me to reject the cynicism of the story-- because it's really cynicism about other people. And my powerlessness makes the questions the story is supposed to be raising irrelevant, because in reality I don't have to make them. Indeed, looking at presidential politics (which is what seems to be the real subject) what I see is a succession of variously flawed politicians who mostly have seemed to fail to rise to the occasions presented to them-- but on the other hand, the dire colors with which they are painted verge on propaganda. For all of Nixon's faults, he nevertheless did resign and fly away. It is comforting to some to think that he would have established a police state given enough powers, but that's a sort of perverse wishful thinking.

#169 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 08:21 AM:

ajay, have you seen rorschachsdiary.livejournal.com?

#170 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 09:03 AM:

re: James D. Macdonald @ #166:

In the excerpt of Mason's book in the back of the first issue, Mason talks about receiving advice to start his book with the saddest possible account of anything having to do with it, to secure the sympathy of the reader. So Mason provides Moe Vernon's tragic story, and makes it an analogy to going through heartbreak while everyone is laughing at what your costume.

I think Hayter was trying to adapt the advice the fictional Mason received to his own sales pitch for the movie -- and, not realizing he was unqualified to represent this material, failed in the spectacular manner we've seen. I think it's more a case of a little intelligence being a dangerous thing.

#171 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 09:50 AM:

169: *SNORT*

#172 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 10:14 AM:

...coming to the discussion a little late and a little scattered.

168/ C. Wingate: " Dr. Manhattan doesn't have a nature except insofar as Moore gives him one."

Maybe it's me. I feel like I understand Dr. Manhattan. His "nature" seems much like mine. Alienation and withdrawal are very human reactions. Recreating yourself a foot taller, with a really great body, is a very human reaction. (Pre-accident, Jon Osterman was shorter than his girlfriend...) Claiming that you're post-human, or ubermensch (sp?), or a Big Genius, or whatever, so other people's morality is unimportant, is hardly uncommon.

Hallelujah discussion: I agree. Good song. Didn't fit in Shrek, and doesn't fit here. I hadn't realized that Cohen did two utterly different versions.

Big Jerk Scriptwriter debate (mostly re Mike@101): I wouldn't put this down to Coddled Hollywood Boy against Real Working Class Genius. You have to take the person as an individual. I don't think Privileged Insensitive Upperclass Bigot is any better of a stereotype than Uneducated Insensitive Lowerclass Bigot, and Working Class Hero is not inherently better than Noble By Birth. (I'm overwriting that; hope it comes out coherent. ) Joss Whedon and David Hayter both fit the "grew up in Hollywood" stereotype, and they produce different work. Having said that, there is some amount of Hayter thought process- or people who think like him- that made it into the movie. Which leads to the next point.

Movie violence, etc: I think that the Watchmen movie has some really good parts, and not all of them were in the credits. There's a wonderful scene when Rorschach (spelling reference please? I beg mercy of thee) and Nite Owl hit the bar, and gur pebjq sybjf njnl sebz gur Bar Thl Jub Xabjf Fbzrguvat. The qrngu bs Ovt Svther was beautifully filmed. However, there were a lot of flaws that I think can be put under one umbrella heading. I'm going to call it "Zach Snyder is a Rorschach fanboy." It explains a lot of things. Everyone ELSE in the movie has their brutality level amped up and Rorschach has his slightly lowered. That bit with Ovt Svther I mentioned before stood out because it was subtle and elegant ... and because it was in the same movie and the same PART of the movie as n thl trggvat uvf nezf phg bss bafperra. Or ubg bvy va gur snpr, ba fperra.

In the comic, Rorschach stood out because he WAS the guy who would do that to Captain Carnage. In the movie... he doesn't quite stand out as much.

#173 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 10:39 AM:

"Rorschach's Twitter: Dead dog in alley. Reminded me of Mom. City fears me. Must remember sugar."

#174 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 12:01 PM:

Reading the graphic novel, I strongly felt that the point of Watchmen was that we don't get to draw that line between "justifiable" violence and that which isn't justifiable. As soon as we say, yeah, it's all right to step outside the law and impose your own personal version of justice on the world, it becomes almost impossible to say that those people deserve violent retribution and these people don't; or that it's worth destroying one life for a better world, but not worth it to destroy fifteen million. THAT is the pathology of the very idea of the superhero: not that these eight people are terribly flawed, but that even the best people would head down a terrible road if they pursued the ideal of superheroism (as Adrian Veigt does; and aside from that folder marked 'boys' on his computer, we have no evidence that he's not indeed a very sane, smart, well-adjusted person. Except that, well, he kills fifteen million people.)

That's where I felt the movie failed for me, especially where it played up Veigt's villainy and played down the pathologies of the "good" guys.

#175 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 01:05 PM:

Ticket sales down 67% in second week for Watchmen.

Purely from a financial standpoint, I think Warner screwed itself by not demanding cuts for a PG-13 version. One of the Ten Laws of Hollywood should be, NEVER MAKE AN R-RATED COMIC BOOK ADAPTATION ... at least, not on a major-release budget.

The sex scenes alone are going to keep me from letting my 13YO go to it, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

#176 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 02:11 PM:

I dunno, if you're adapting a 25-year-old comic for fanboys, you might as well make it R-rated.

(Then again, I guess you could argue that all the fans are old enough to have kids who are old enough to see a PG-13 movie, so that would be an audience-booster.)

But then you would have made a movie that the fans don't want to see, because you've watered it down too much, and so they don't bring their kids, and kids don't go see it on their own, because what the hell is the Watchmen? Isn't there another Batman coming out soon?

#177 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 02:55 PM:

But then you would have made a movie that the fans don't want to see, because you've watered it down too much

They can't resist -- they're bitching now, aren't they? -- and plus you get to market the "director's cut! unrated version!" on DVD.

I do wonder if the Blue Penis of Doom was why they had to get the R rating, which seems a bit silly. If ever there was non-sexy nudity, that's it.

#178 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 03:20 PM:

Anderson @ 177... the Blue Penis of Doom (...) If ever there was non-sexy nudity, that's it

Sexy has nothing to do with ratings otherwise the dream sequence's dance of Gene Kelly & Leslie Caron in An American in Paris would have gotten that movie into trouble.

#179 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 03:20 PM:

#165: All of this -- yes, ALL of it -- boils down to, "Do you believe in the rule of law?" And there's an important corollary that you don't mention: "What kind of consequences are YOU PERSONALLY willing to take if you think a law needs to be broken?"

Now we're getting somewhere.

One of the big themes of the story is vigilantism, and what you take on yourself to address "higher laws". The credits sequence has numerous examples of that in almost every shot, including the death scene of the Silhouette and her lover (my reference to "obvious sexual deviancy" above, and at the time portrayed, completely believable), the monk setting himself on fire, the shooting of Kennedy, and the riots of the 70's all being cases of people going above and beyond to save their idea of the way the world should be.

Yes, I'm conflating questions together because there are different people who hold these ideas, and they all live on the same planet, sometimes right next door to each other. There are people who hold contradictory answers to these questions in their own heads. Hence all the conflict.

#180 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:11 PM:

So who isn't a vigilante?

Speaking semantically (which seems to be what we're doing, since semantics is the net that holds our analogies together when we take a step back to relate them) when a parent justifies a rule with "because I said so," that literally isn't fair. When a parent prohibits behavior the parent engages in, it's literally a hypocrisy. But it's a tolerated hypocrisy, so most people don't bother to think to acknowledge this, or base a denial of this on anything other than their own insistence.

We engage in discretionary behavior every day. The core of vigilantism is the vigilante reserving for him or herself a subset of severe discretionary behavior. But the law itself protects tolerated hypocrisies in the form of commercial transactions. A car dealer may give out car keys to one person, but not another, based on meeting the condition of payment. The car dealer is providing a service that's literally applied selectively, yes?

We all engage in discretionary behavior, but we all aren't Travis Bickles. And who engages in completely conflict-free discretionary behavior?

#181 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:21 PM:

Emily H:

I think there's an underlying intractable question there. Because I'll agree that I'm not fit to judge my neighbors and sentence them to death, or even a beating, for their crimes. But neither are you, or the next person, or the next. And yet, that's all there is. Society and government and the legal system are all just collections of people like us. Our judgement, filtered through rules and organizations that sometimes improve our judgement through distance, and other times mangle it. Our values, filtered through elections and interest group politics and political dealmaking and coalition-building.

Rorschack is not fit to decide some horrible criminal deserves a horrible death, or even a clean one. Neither are you. Neither am I. And yet, there are folks sitting on death row, waiting for their clean death on the decision of people almost certainly no wiser or better than we are. And there are people subjected to the horrors of prison rape, or simply the grinding awfulness of losing years of their lives locked in a series of cages, again on the decision of people no wiser or better than we are, on the authority of us and a bunch of people like us. Even if you think the laws on which they're being punished are good ones, that certainly wasn't always true. Laws against the sale or possession of birth control devices, anti-miscegenation laws, and many others look insane and evil now, but were just as solemnly enforced as any number of now-sensible laws (like sending people to prison for marijuana possession) today.

Veidt is not fit to make a tradeoff that involves saving the world by killing millions of people. Neither is the president, any president. But in this world, where there's no Veidt, there's still a president who has the power, and in some cases the legal authority, to do exactly that. Under some circumstances that could really happen, president Obama would authorize the use of one or more nuclear weapons against some enemy, perhaps leading to millions of deaths. That's what it means to have a nuclear arsenal, and before there were nuclear arsenals, there were massive conventional ones that would also kill millions as needed, just more slowly. How many people died in the Civil War? No nukes there, no superheroes, just gunpowder and sharp steel.

The Watchmen raises the point you talk about, in ways that V for Vendetta sidesteps (because V is sure as hell a superhero). But I don't think there is a resolution there. In fact, some genuine heroes bucked their society's rules directly, going against the rule of law and custom--think of Oscar Schindler or the people involved in the underground railroad. Some even engaged in violence or revolution.

#182 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:07 PM:

Albatross, you meant "non-sensible" instead of "now-sensible", right?

#183 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:13 PM:

Teresa @120:
It's comic book tradition to the extent that the Champions RPG inspired by superhero comics has an explicit rule: "Soliloquies take no time".

#184 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:17 PM:

Glenn, #179: Okay, that makes more sense. But I really do get tired of people who bleat about "civil disobedience" while at the same time not being willing to take the consequences thereof. If you're going to deliberately break a law as a matter of principle, you need to acknowledge that you may suffer for doing so.

#185 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:18 PM:

re 180: Fairness is unachievable in life, saith the Christ and the Buddha. Besides, if one has no authority to make any of these other determinations, the response to "it isn't fair" is properly, "says who?" This is not unplowed territory, and if you insist on pursuing this, you will rapidly end up in Nietzsche's territory, and thence in Hell (populated entirely by "les autres").

#186 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:24 PM:

Capitalizing on someone's typo:

The Rorschack is a little old place where
We can beat some crim'nals
Avenge that bay-hey-be
Avenge that baby

Rorcha-uh-ack
Globs under hat
Rorcha-uh-ack
Globs under hat

If you see a faded stain on the side of his coat
That says 15 perps bled on... Rorshack!
Rorshack yeah yeah
Skipping down the unlit alley way
Skippin' on the cops to getaway
Skippin' on the cops to getaway, to getaway

I got me a lead, rapsheet big as a whale
He's not worth the space in jail!
Rorschack gave him a scar, stitches count about 20
You better hope that heist is worth the money!

The Rorschack is a little old place where
We can beat some crim'nals
Avenge that bay-hey-be
Avenge that baby

Rorcha-uh-ack
Globs under hat
Rorcha-uh-ack
Globs under hat

Muggin' and a pimpin', tradin' bills for lovin'
Drop a pistol in the bay, cause it's hot as an oven
The Rorschack shimmies
YEA! the Rorschack shimmies!
The Rorschack shimmies tossing everybody
Onto the ground to the ground to the ground!

Protection money's movin', graft to cops is groovin' baby!
Folks at the line up, outside Rorchack throws down
Protection money's movin', graft to cops is groovin' baby!
Make your pinkies snap! Funky little 'schack!

albatross @ #181:

The Watchmen raises the point you talk about, in ways that V for Vendetta sidesteps (because V is sure as hell a superhero)...

In the movie V was portrayed as a superhero, but in the book, he seemed to be categorically not a superhero. He was a man embodying a force of nature, The Norse Ragnorak, in contrast to the Aryan model of fascism. And he accepted the payment a man pays for embodying a force of nature by engineering his own demise.

#187 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:37 PM:

And the Hayter letter? Rectal millinery of epic proportions.

#188 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:44 PM:

C Wingate @ 185... Fairness is unachievable in life

Sez goddamned who? I hate that cavalier attitude. Just because something is unfair, it doesn't mean we can't try?

David Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that's an understatement. What you don't know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don't live in that world.

Ellie Arroway: Funny, I've always believed that the world is what we make of it.

#189 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:45 PM:

David Bilek @160: No, a print ad stating that John Romero was about to "make you his bitch", and ordering you to "suck it down" didn't prove to be a good marketing strategy. What are these people thinking?

Given the reaction in the forums at WatchmenComicMovie.com, he was thinking that his fanboys would be all "You tell 'em, Solid Snake. Woooo!" And that all of us liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers (perhaps homosexual?) who don't glorify Rorschach's and The Comedian's methods aren't the sorts who can be goaded to watch a movie again anyways.

#190 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 06:27 PM:

I do wonder if the Blue Penis of Doom was why they had to get the R rating, which seems a bit silly. If ever there was non-sexy nudity, that's it.

Over here in the UK it has an 18 certificate. I assumed that the 18 and/or R were going to be there for the sex and violence, and if you're going to have the high rating anyway, why not make Doctor Manhattan nude and, as inevitably happens when nude men wander around, have his penis visible.

That said, one of my companions noted that he appeared significantly better endowed in the movie than in the comic, and a quick look at the book afterwards confirmed this. I'm tempted to use this a metaphor for the whole translation from comic to film process.

#191 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 08:20 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 190... he appeared significantly better endowed in the movie than in the comic

The penis mightier than the word?

#192 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 10:12 PM:

heresiarch @81: please re-read my post for context, rather than using ellipses to change the meaning.

rm @110 wins the thread!

#193 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:13 PM:

Serge #188, C Wingate #185, There are many variations, like: “No, it's not fair. You're in the wrong universe for fair.” (John Scalzi)
but on the other hand, echoing Serge, I think it's part of society's and individual persons' task in promoting 'good' to tilt the universe towards fairness, unlike the attitude of a character in West Side Story that always really annoyed me:

DOC (shopkeeper): What does it take to get through to you? When do you stop? You make this world lousy!
ACTION (a gang member): That's the way we found it, Doc.

#194 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 07:37 AM:

re 188/193: The thing is that my kids saying "that's not fair" isn't a real moral assessment; it's a power struggle. What it really means in context is almost always a mixture of "I don't like the consequences of what I did" and "I'm denying your authority over me by dragging in some outside standard which I insist you have to accept." An even more blatantly bogus version is "But sibling's name...." which means "you have to let me get away with this because you let (in my eyes) my sibling get away with something else." The thing is, accusations of hypocrisy don't have weight as arguments about something else; they are ad hominem.

#195 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 08:33 AM:

re: 194:

"I'm denying your authority over me by dragging in some outside standard which I insist you have to accept."

It's only an outside standard if they're asking you to take their word for anything. Otherwise they're only insisting you observe reality as it unfolds, and are insisting you accept fairness.

But kids can't say yes to everything at their own discretion. Fairness is disasterous in raising children. That's why parental hypocrisies are tolerated. The only virtue of painting hypocrisies as fair seems to be to provide an example to them of how to shelter a predatory agenda (eg: the Bush Presidency, 2001-2009). It's more challenging to say there's such a thing as a tolerated hypocrisy, rather than erecting a pretense of invulnerability, but the pay-off is a lower tolerance of evil.

#196 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 10:26 AM:

C Wingate @ 194... You wrote "Fairness is unachievable in life" and that statement is what I object to. Your own response brought in your kids, which is something else. You skirted the issue. Then again, you often do that.

#197 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:17 AM:

Serge #196:

So, where would you suggest going to find lives that have been made fair? I can think of very restricted places where we can make something fair (for some value of fair), but I don't know how to make life fair.

Mike's original comment on (un)fairness used parents giving commands to children as an example (and C Wingate wasn't really dodging the issue, if you look at what he was responding to). The thing is, the only way to make that situation more fair is to take away the parent's ability to impose rules on his kids. That is pretty-much guaranteed to make the kids worse off. Improving fairness (by this definition) means the kids don't get enough sleep, can't find their toys in the piles of discarded clothes and trash covering the floor of their room, eat mostly candy and chips, never get shots at the doctor, etc.

I believe one reason life is not, in general, fair, is because this general pattern happens a lot. Making the world more fair is almost never free, and sometimes, the cost is very high. Inborn differences in intellectual ability, health, athletic ability, size, and beauty are huge, often cruel, and totally unfair. But I can't think of any way to make them substantially less unfair that wouldn't also be monstrous. (Harrison Bergeron, anyone?)

That doesn't mean it's a bad idea to make it more fair where you can. But fairness isn't the only value you care about, and it's easy to get so caught up in demanding fairness that you make the world a much worse place.

#198 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:31 AM:

"Fairness is unachievable in life" because we exist by consuming life, which is inherently unfair.

Also:

  1. Pursuing fairness is a subset of "keeping score."
  2. The taboo against talking about money is nurtured by the wealthy. Poor people won't tell you it's rude to talk about money. They shelter their privilege by denying its existence.
  3. Conversely, if you are wealthy, and you continue to "keep score" and engage in the active pursuit of increasing your wealth, you seem to be literally indulging in no privilege, or are refusing to enjoy it. Your wealth is wasted on you.
  4. If we apply 1, 2, and 3 to the issue of fairness in general, then leting everyone know you are the recipient of unfairness is an implicit confession that you're a loser (which I don't say as a judgment, but which is the worst sin to too many people).

...or so I'm inclined to interpret (in a way I am not exempt from) from peoples' behavior these days.

#199 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:36 AM:

albatross @ 197... I am very well aware that this subthread started as a response to Mike's comment about children and parents. Still, the comment by Wingate that I objected to referred to fairness in general.

As for your own comment that "...it's easy to get so caught up in demanding fairness that you make the world a much worse place..."

Indeed.

How dare people demand to be treated no worse than others, whether it's because of their reproductive plumbing or because of their pigmentation? How dare we ask for justice from those who have power over us?

The gall.

#200 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:52 AM:

re 195: I'd say that a flat statement of "that's not fair!" is exactly that argument from authority.

re 196: I will reply to your more general statement now; before, I didn't have the time. I'd also point out that this particular subthread has moved back and forth from the parental example; it was not unreasonable to address it solely.

At any rate, you already had the answer to "sez who?" in the very statement to which you objected. You call it cavalier, but I call it simply the truth. I did not say that all unfairness had to be accepted; but there is surely a balance in life between fighting unfairness and getting on with life. And besides, the whole notion of a struggle against unfairness leads immediately to the question of how such a struggle is to be accomplished-- one of the points which Watchmen considers. Resistance and acceptance are not absolute principles; they are situational responses.

#201 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:59 AM:

Wingate @ 200... You call it cavalier, but I call it simply the truth.

I guess I must bow down before your wisdom, full of crap as it may be. As for getting on with life... I'll keep that in mind next time my boss tries to once again metaphorically bleep me.

#202 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 12:02 PM:

Re: 200:

Can there be no account of "that's not fair!" that doesn't ask you to take its word for it?

From what you're presenting here, it seems reasonably plausible your answer is that all accounts of "that's not fair!" are asking you to take the word of the plaintiff only.

#203 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 12:06 PM:

That should be "Can there be an account of "that's not fair!" that doesn't ask you to take its word for it?"

#204 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 12:58 PM:

Nobody seems here to be wondering exactly what it means to say "that's not fair", or why it's taken as an unquestioned good. These days, the idea is embedded within our ideas of justice, but it's actually something more basic than that -- consider that even many animals have a basic sense of fairness.

That suggests that "fairness" is part of our social instincts, meaning that our evaluation of "what's fair" is often made at a level well below conscious awareness. It also suggests that "fairness" has a complex interaction with the pecking order -- possibly, that's what gives rise to ideas such as a leader's responsibility to their subordinates.

On the larger scale, a parent best serves the child by bringing them up properly -- not just protection, nutrition, etc., but socialization, acculturation, and moral development. This is not done by subordinating themselves to the child's whims.

#205 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 01:07 PM:

re 199: And who made anyone the arbiter of "no worse"? After all, my third child has an extra chromosome 21. How are you going to make him treated no worse than any others? In his existence he is already treated worse. You can talk about "reproductive plumbing" (and I'm wondering how many people would judge that such a phrase could come only from a man), but the truth that children are borne by women only has consequences. And while we're at it, the low-end white men who (as they see it) get shoved off in the name of "fairness" have every reason to struggle against it-- at least, you have so justified that struggle. And they especially resent privileged people such as ourselves selling them out.

I'm somewhat behind the argument that you can only fight unfairness by being fair yourself; there is always going to be a tendency for trying to compensate for unfairness to simply create new unfairness.

#206 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Serge #199:


Fairness is good, O fair Francophone
but too much is fairly certain
to leave the world buggered for fair.

#207 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 02:04 PM:

re 204: Well, when my children use it, it means three things. The first is that they are trying to get mercy under the guise of justice. They have, after all, already gotten justice, but they do not like what the judge (me or their mother) has determined. But the second thing is that they are trying to put themselves in the superior position in the relationship, by establishing the standards under which their parents deal with them. On beyond that, however, is the third meaning: it's simply a delaying tactic. Talking about consequences is a way of not having to suffer consequences.

#208 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 02:20 PM:

Mr. Wingate:
I'm astonished that your children, by your account here, apparently have no notion of what actual fairness is. I've found no serious difficulty inculcating a sense of fairness in kids, since a good deal of it seems to be innate.

#209 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 03:02 PM:

Indeed, there's good (like, scientific) reason to think that a sense of fairness is innate. Beyond the reason provided by our own innate sense and experience.

When my kids say something is not fair, they are not trying to place themselves in a superior position* but placing themselves in an equal moral position -- equal in the eyes of God, if you will, if not in authority or life experience. As moral equals but as lower-downs in the power relationship, they have a particular need to remind their elders of the basics of respect and fairness.

* that's what they are doing when they say "Get me some cinnamon toast!"

#210 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 03:12 PM:

Oh. For. Fuck's. Bleeding. Sake.

Serge, you read too much into C Wingate's comments. Leaving the thread was wise. Next time, abandon comments like 196 at preview.

C Wingate, don't play the "poor oppressed white man" card here until equal pay for equal work is an unquestioned reality, rape is considered a serious crime throughout Western society, and we are all judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. Just don't. It will not lead you places you want to be.

Examined in anything less than its entirety*, the universe is inherently and inevitably unfair. The purpose of society is to attempt to remedy that. The methods we use, and the degree to which we are capable of so doing, vary from society to society. But never assume that anyone on this thread is after anything other than a fairer world than Nature, red in tooth and claw, would provide.

Could everyone now begin to write more carefully and listen more generously in this thread, or I will be all too fair with all of you. I am not minded to watch this set of crossed wires boil over into a brawl.

----
* Perhaps it is unfair under all circumstances; I have not the omniscience to know

#211 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 03:42 PM:

rm #209:

When my kids complain about fairness, it's sometimes legitimate and sometimes not. And I do take their arguments into account. (I like the way you put that--there are times when your kids put themselves at your level and argue for something they want on the basis of mutually-agreed-upon reality and morality, and that's both right and worth encouraging.) But fairness isn't the only thing that matters.

Frex, my seven year old and three year old share a bedroom. It's not really fair, but the seven year old does a lot more of the work getting their room clean than does the three year old, when I send them to clean it. However, this is an almost inevitable consequence of the need for them to keep their own room passably clean, which has to happen for both their good and the good of the rest of the family. (I could clean it, or my wife could, or we could hire a maid to clean it. But none of those work out for the family as well as having them clean it.)

One thing I and probably all parents do is to try to keep anyone from getting the short end of the stick too often, despite the fact that this sort of thing happens from time to time. The older kid gets to do stuff the younger kid can't, the younger kid gets away with behavior that would get the older one in trouble, the baby gets less attention than she'd get if she were the only child, the parents are usually flustered and always sleep-deprived. (One of the great lessons of having kids, for me, happened when I realized that my wife and I needed to include ourselves in the short-end-of-the-stick minimization algorithm.)

However, my kids do sometimes make the fairness arguments for just the reasons C Wingate was pointing out--they don't like the decision we've made, they want to delay doing something unpleasant, they would rather argue than clean their room[1].

[1] The problem is, so would I.

#212 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 03:56 PM:

Right, mine too, but I had to note that the kid-response "that's not fair!" is not automatically illegitimate.

#213 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 04:15 PM:

Mike #198:

I don't think I buy #2. Wealthy people may not openly talk money, but most everyone is big on showing it around. Indeed, in many cases, the showing off is more impressive because you don't see the credit-card balances behind it.

There's probably something to #4, though. Adults who complain about how unfairly life has treated them often come off as losers. Partly, this is just selection bias--people who've been successful seldom complain about the unfairness of it all, or at least don't get much sympathy when they do. More importantly, though, just as most successes involve a fair bit of good luck, most failures involve a fair bit of bad judgement, and it's seldom easy to see how much of any one person's failure in business or academia or whatever followed from their bad choices, and how much from their bad luck.

I suspect all of us have seen people creamed by pure bad luck, and also people creamed by the consequences of their own massively bad decisions. I suspect most of us can think back to boneheaded stunts we've pulled that could have ended really badly for us; perhaps that would have ended badly, but for a burst of good luck, or some help given by a friend or family, or whatever.

And most of the time, there's a combination of bad luck and bad judgement involved in making a disaster: You don't exactly deserve the emphysema, but you did smoke two packs a day for 20 years; you sure didn't mean to run over that kid, but you did have four beers at the bar before you decided to drive home; your decision to impulsively marry the guy you've been dating a short time was unwise, but you could hardly have expected that this nice guy in your graduate program would be a drug-addict.

#214 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 05:49 PM:

re 210: Abi, you give society that mission, and many other people assign society that purpose, but society existed long before anyone assigned it that purpose. Only by working from some extrinsic moral system can I so obligate society-- and even then, I'm really obligating its members.

And you completely and utterly missed the point. If anyone is playing a card here, it isn't me. It isn't just the content of our character that we get judged on; there is, to (mis)quote Jack Sparrow, what a person can do, and what a person can't do. And those abilities are not meted out "fairly" (which is to say, evenly), and besides, there are other circumstances of time and place and class and what all else. The sense of injustice, centered on an individual, is heavily powered by personal anecdote, as to a degree it should be. When our hypothetical "poor white oppressed man" sees a black woman get a job which he could or did not get, it is going to be very hard to convince him that he nonetheless enjoys some privilege over her. We all, by default, see ourselves as deserving (which is a big factor in all those childhood demands). We are also all reasonably bad at that assessment; but surely we are better at it than people who don't know us, don't know are situation, and aren't at risk as we are. Or I should say, as they are, because after all none of us are poor white males.

#215 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:04 PM:

C Wingate @214:
Abi, you give society that mission, and many other people assign society that purpose, but society existed long before anyone assigned it that purpose.

I disagree entirely.

Even primitive societies survived, and outcompeted more solitary models, because they provided better environments for the nurturing of the young. They grew to address the intrinsic unfairness that the neediest among us (children) are also the weakest. More sophisticated ones then began to address the unfairness that the people raising the next generation of humans were expending more resources than the people who were not, though both sets of older adults benefited from the presence of young adults in the community.

As soon as a group of elephants, or lions, or ants, uses the strength of the adults to protect the young, you have society addressing unfairness.

And if you're not the one playing the unfairness of anti-racism actions card here, then it is not in play, and we're leaving it that way.

I really mean that.

#216 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:06 PM:

C. Wingate, #214: When our hypothetical "poor white oppressed man" sees a black woman get a job which he could or did not get, it is going to be very hard to convince him that he nonetheless enjoys some privilege over her.

You just blew up your own argument. The hidden assumption in your statement is that there is NEVER any merit-based reason for a black woman (or a black man, or a white woman, or...) to get a job that a white man wanted, which is almost the canonical definition of privilege. And what Mr. Poor Oppressed White Man is complaining about there is that, for once, this system of automatic privilege for him failed to work as it was supposed to. He's upset, not because someone else is privileged over him, but because he didn't get the privilege over them which he has learned to expect because he normally gets it all the time.

#217 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:09 PM:

Lee @216:
Crosspostz.

I don't think this is a very good idea right at the present moment. Please don't.

#218 ::: DominEditrix ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:52 PM:

Completely OT: Does anyone here know who wrote the filk lyrics to Great Fantastical Bum? The one that starts 'I was born about ten thousand years from now/When they land upon the moon I'll show them how'?

#219 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:53 PM:

Say, do I smell smoke? Here, in the gunpowder storage room? Naw, must be my imagination.

(Yes, this is Guy Fawkes calling the kettle black. Sorry. Apparently, God has a well-developed sense of irony.)

#220 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:58 PM:

rm @ 209/212 & albatross @ 211:

Exactly. Of course kids sometimes complain "That's not fair" to parents as a tactic, or because they don't like the cosmic order. ("I'm about to lose this board game for the third time in a row! And I wanted to win it!")

But also, they sometimes complain that something's not fair because it really isn't - they're about to face consequences for something someone else did, or for doing something they'd been given reason to believe was OK. I see part of my role as a parent as helping them learn and refine their sense of the difference between those three situations.

#221 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 07:00 PM:

DominEditrix @218:

Maybe this and this will help.

#222 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 07:12 PM:

DominEditrix @ 218: According to my copy of the NEFSA Hymnal, "The original writers of this song . . . were George Scithers, John Boardman, George Heap, Dick Eney, Jim Cawthorn, Karen Anderson, Bruce Pelz, Ted Johnstone, Ron Ellik, and Lin Carter."

A whole bunch of other folks have since contributed additional verses.

#223 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 08:19 PM:

Still not going to see the movie. But the discussion here makes me want to read a graphic novel for the first time in several decades.

#224 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 09:06 PM:

And the flip side of "That's not fair" is that when somebody (oh, a parent) replies with "It's the wrong universe for fair" or "Life isn't fair" or something similar, sometimes they mean "Kid, you're just whining and we both know it, so clean your room" (or whatever).

But sometimes it means other things, like

- That's right, and since it's unfair in my favor, I'm cool with that.

- I'm all hip and cynical about how gritty and cruel life is, and I want to jam this down your throat because your optimistic view of justice, right and wrong grates on me.

- Perhaps, but I'm too damn lazy to do anything about it.

Personally I find the best way to deal with "That's not fair!" is to ask, how, precisely, it is not fair. This tends to sort out the actual situations of unfairness from mere grumpiness, with the benefit of not conveying to the children that talking to adults on any subject is pointless because you'll just get some thoughtless, asshole response.

#225 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 10:28 PM:

albatross @ #213:

I don't think I buy #2. Wealthy people may not openly talk money, but most everyone is big on showing it around. Indeed, in many cases, the showing off is more impressive because you don't see the credit-card balances behind it.

But everyone isn't wealthy.

When you talk about everyone feeling free to show off wealth, that's mostly blue-collar labor who borrowed to buy what they own. Go to the housing reserved for enlisted families at a military base, and you'll see their debts parked in their alloted spaces. The generals, on the other hand, don't keep boats in their driveways.

I'm guessing someone who shows 10x as much is more likely to have borrowed 10x as much, or is more likely to be 100x wealthier, than be 10x wealthier.

#226 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 10:38 PM:

re 215: The choice isn't between life in society and life alone; it is between society perceived as a system and society perceived as a phenomenon. It is reasonable to suppose that human social behavior has evolved into increasing levels of interdependence and interconnectivity, if for no other reason than that in the last couple of centuries we can document it. I can also hazard a guess or two as to some of the instigating factors (e.g., the risk of some early humans of switching from collecting food to making goods was one that paid off). But I also see, for instance, that the majority of people need social interaction for its own sake, and that a minority suffer it as a necessary evil, and that some proportion need it in a predatory sense. For that last group social structures exist as a means for obtaining and using their victims, and a more subtle analysis would detect traces of this kind of interaction in almost everyone. Attributing the relative success (by some measure) of western more egalitarian societies to that egalitarianism is not, to my mind, justified; we would like it to be that way, but I don't think we can prove that it is that way. Indeed, I can imagine an argument that looks upon egalitarianism as a luxury which only the "successful" can afford-- not that one could prove that either. That's why I think it is more accurate to say that society's purpose is simply to exist, because people cannot refrain from doing it.

#227 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 02:47 AM:

mythago @ 192: "please re-read my post for context,"

You mean the part where you said, "Okay, it is the violence, a little" and go on to contrast Watchmen's violence with (presumably more acceptable) less realistic violence?

I said @ 112 to albatross: "I'm not a parent, and so I've never been in that position. I can see why, given those options, you would choose the sanitized violence." I say the same to you. You know better than I what your kid is ready for. But I don't take for granted the idea that "squibs and gravity-defying fu" is less harmful than showing "very real and ugly" violence. However, I've already made those arguments in this thread. You can find them if you choose.

albatross @ 197: "Inborn differences in intellectual ability, health, athletic ability, size, and beauty are huge, often cruel, and totally unfair. But I can't think of any way to make them substantially less unfair that wouldn't also be monstrous."

What is the practice of medicine other than an attempt to rectify the unfairness of ill health? Do you think medicine is monstrous? It seems to me that all the sometimes cruel differences can be--and are--dealt with in a number of ways: nutrition reduces differences in health, size, athletic ability, and even intelligence and beauty. Education further reduces differences in intellectual ability, minimizes the importance of size and health. Erase them, no, but we can lessen these inequalities. To the extent society is capable of ameliorating these inequalities, I think it has obligation to do so, and as society advances, its capacity increases.

C. Wingate @ 226: "Attributing the relative success (by some measure) of western more egalitarian societies to that egalitarianism is not, to my mind, justified; we would like it to be that way, but I don't think we can prove that it is that way. Indeed, I can imagine an argument that looks upon egalitarianism as a luxury which only the "successful" can afford-- not that one could prove that either."

My knowledge of history suggests that it is a sort of chicken-and-egg problem: increases in wealth increase egalitarianism, which increases wealth, and so on. Western societies are indeed more egalitarian because they can afford to be, and in being so reap further rewards. As such prosperity spreads, so too does egalitarianism.

"That's why I think it is more accurate to say that society's purpose is simply to exist, because people cannot refrain from doing it."

In attributing no more purpose to society than to a rock, I cannot help but feel that you are missing something important.

#228 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 09:45 AM:

heresiarch #227:

Some part of what medicine, dentistry, cosmetics, and education do is to flatten those inborn differences out to some extent, but I don't think that's even remotely the goal or main focus of them. And at least as often, the effect is to enhance those natural differences.

Consider medicine: The goal of a doctor who sees you is to improve your health/treat your symptoms to the extent he's able to do so, not to achieve some kind of fairness in the distribution of health. A doctor may think you a fool for eating two big macs and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, but he'll still try to treat your high cholesterol and COPD. And no doctor will ever try to make the really healthy people sicker, or the unjustly healthy people (the guys who eat the big macs and smoke the cigarettes, and yet are still healthy at age 75) sicker. (That can happen by accident, but the doctor isn't *trying* to make it happen.) If medicine's goal were greater fairness (whether this means equality of outcomes or outcomes in keeping with your deserts), it would look very different. So while some of medicine flattens out the inborn unfairness of the world, that doesn't look like its main goal.

Now consider education: I'm assuming that by the time a kid shows up in school, a lot of his potential is determined. (I think there's very good data suggesting this, but really ironclad proof would require Mengele-worthy studies on human children, so will hopefully never become available.) Now, Alice[1] shows up at school with the potential to learn a lot faster than Bob, whether because of genetics or upbringing or (more likely) some combination of the two. Ideally, the education system will help Alice excel, even if that means she leaves Bob in the dust and he never catches up. And that does happen, right? The kid who's reading independently at four and the kid who's still struggling with it at seven are reasonably likely to simply never cross in educational/intellectual pursuits again; the smarter kid's lead is likely to grow if the education system offers him challenges. Now, it may be that the education system in many places stunts Alice to cater to Bob. Even then, ISTM anecdotally that Bob never catches up to Alice. But note which case we'd like--at least I'd like for Alice to get challenged and taught at her level, even though this increases unfairness (in the sense of undeserved inequality). I don't think redesigning schools to enhance fairness by making sure the smart kids never get ahead of the dumb kids would make any sense at all.

It looks to me like education magnifies differences in potential. In a society with no education beyond eighth grade, the outcomes and learning of the smartest and dumbest people are somewhat close together. In a society where the smartest kids go off to college, and end up as doctors or lawyers or engineers or professors somewhere, the differences in outcomes and knowledge are magnified.

Similarly, cosmetics and dentistry and plastic surgery can make people born ugly look better, but they can also be used to make people born pretty look better. Plenty of movie stars use all three extensively, despite having started out in the top .1% of humanity in terms of appearance. I'm not sure whether this amplifies, flattens, or leaves unchanged the inborn differences.

And so on. Access to the internet, college scholarships for good students, college and professional sports, all those things seem to me to enhance inborn differences in ability--smarter people probably get more out of the internet, in a kind of feedback process; without professional sports, the apparent distance in ability between a Tiger Woods and a random local good golfer would likely be much smaller, and someone like Woods would have to support his golf habit working as a computer programmer or car salesman or lawyer or something.

[1] Yes, I like these simple-name-word-problem things.

#229 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 09:58 AM:

abi #215:

If a major goal of societies has been to decrease unfairness, then they've historically been quite bad at it, right? They've often been good at ensuring the well-being of the powerful members of society, sometimes at ensuring the well-being of most members. But fair? Really?

I'm thinking of slavery, the status of women in most of human history, the treatment of foreigners or religious minorities, the application of different laws (if any) to the powerful than to the weak, rigid caste systems, serfdom, massive importance of your family in who you are or may become, marriages arranged by family elders to cement alliances and preserve land ownership, etc.

I agree that we have an inborn sense of fairness. But that's constantly at war with our other inborn senses, like group-identity, valuing our children way more highly than other people, beliefs in taboos or laws whose violation merits death or casting out of the community, "cleanness" taboos that decide that some people (by race or caste or religion or birth or previous actions) are "dirty" and can't be associated with by "clean" people, etc. Those all tangle in holding a society together.

And as C Wingate points out, society isn't a thinking creature, with goals or desires. We individuals can decide we want our society to do certain things, and we have, to everyone's benefit. But that's not an inherent property of a society, and even now, it's not that there's some society-wide brain holding beliefs and making decisions--there are coalitions and interest groups and powerful and powerless people and governments and markets and custom and law, all bumping into each other, and driving us to certain actions.

#230 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 10:05 AM:

re 227: When I was pondering what I'd said when I woke up this morning it occurred to me that what I wrote had too negative a cast. Now, "purpose" is a bit ambiguous, but if we're talking about a rock, it is definitely something that cannot have a purpose of itself, not even existing; whatever purpose it may have is something that someone assigns it. Now, I personally hold God to be giving it a purpose, but I don't think that's an authority that I can invoke here. But a society has a certain kind of awareness, at least insofar as it does something that could be called "living"; it tries to perpetuate itself, however unconsciously it does so. That's what I meant about "purpose" on that level.

But to try to put it in more positive terms: it seems to me that when we start talking about fairness or other moral values, we are in general willing to push those values at the potential expense of society. It seems to me that Abi's position arises out of faith that pushing these moral values will in fact not harm society, but it easy enough to find Whiggish examples where that faith was not expressed, the classic case being the political dealings in the USA prior to the Civil War. Moral objections to the institutions of slavery were for decades set aside essentially because of the societal disruptions abolition would have entailed; in the end, American society was riven in two, and through war the north in effect attempted to destroy southern society and replace it with that of the north.

I think to some degree you are right in your "chicken/egg" analysis. But I think Western values of egalitarianism go back further than that, though they are pushed back by a variety of contrary impulses. Part of the difficulty of capitalism, as an aside, is that it relies upon the existence of people who have more money than they can use, so that there is a source of wealth to power investment. We have had to substitute equal opportunity for equality, but as various discussion here have brushed against, wealth and position are themselves opportunity, so that we have a tension over what and to what degree opportunities can be allowed to individuals. Anyway, the corollary of your thesis is that as wealth contracts, so may the impulse to egalitarianism. I think this may not be the case in the west, because I think the moral value is ranked so high that society as a whole is never going to let go of it.

#231 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 10:14 AM:

albatross @ 228:

Now, Alice[1] shows up at school with the potential to learn a lot faster than Bob, whether because of genetics or upbringing or (more likely) some combination of the two. Ideally, the education system will help Alice excel, even if that means she leaves Bob in the dust and he never catches up. And that does happen, right?

As it's designed now, the system is designed to get exactly that effect. The students who need the least help get gifted and talented programs, and those who need the most get roughly jack shit.

So there's where the discussion starts for me: The system is designed to discriminate.

It looks to me like education magnifies differences in potential. In a society with no education beyond eighth grade, the outcomes and learning of the smartest and dumbest people are somewhat close together. In a society where the smartest kids go off to college, and end up as doctors or lawyers or engineers or professors somewhere, the differences in outcomes and knowledge are magnified.

But that's not any society that resembles the one we live in now. The formal right to a high school education exists, but in practice it is a cruel, semi-deterministic function of race and class.

My father left school after second grade to pick cotton and support his family.

The path on to high school was certainly open to him, technically speaking. Even in the Arkansas Delta, there were public schools. Yet forces beyond his control pushed his life in another direction, and he was fortunate enough to enter a social democratic society, namely, the United States Army, where he thrived. Eventually, he was a small success.

The point is, until he encountered a system that gave some small shit about fairness, his life was stunted. He was right next to the bottom of the pile in life, the difference between being a black sharecropper and a white sharecropper being like the difference between Brutus and Judas in the ninth circle of hell. And like the Inferno, the place in which my father dwelt was built.

#232 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 10:20 AM:

C. Wingate @ #226:

re 215: The choice isn't between life in society and life alone...

That's why I think it is more accurate to say that society's purpose is simply to exist, because people cannot refrain from doing it.

I agree that cooperation (society) vs answering to no one isn't the core of why we need fairness (if that's what we're still talking about), because a cult can operate under a voice that answers to no one.

But cooperation does depend heavily on the suppression of common sense among individuals to create a temperament of some degree of evenness, to allow access among individuals. The more severe imposition is on those with a stronger intuition. (They have to be gotten rid of. [just kidding.]) Fairness is only a subset of this suppression of common sense, a subset of this waiving of our own personal discretion.

But I can't think of any social interaction that isn't indulgent because of how it reframes our identities to ourselves. That seems to be the pay-off you simply refer to self-evident.

And if the society is revealed to be unfair, then it brings to its participants the question of who they really are. (Eg. the persistent support of Rush Limbaugh and George Bush among diehards in the face of markets having been revealed to nurture theft the freer they are.) Thus the evolution of equality in society.

#233 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 10:26 AM:

C. Wingate @ 230:

But to try to put it in more positive terms: it seems to me that when we start talking about fairness or other moral values, we are in general willing to push those values at the potential expense of society.

That's an interesting and, I think, useful way to look at it.

When I see a society that resists fairness or justice, I see a society that is running up bills on the future. Rather than let the compound interest rack up and be charged to the future, I say call the bills due, immediately. This is the lesson I take from the failure of the first Reconstruction and the preservation of de facto slavery well into the twentieth century.

Oh, one other thing: Ozymandius and The Comedian are the heroes. Rorschach is the villain. Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre, and Dr. Manhattan are nothing but innocent bystanders. Discuss.

#234 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 11:17 AM:

I don't have much time for this in the next couple of days (houseguests, y'know), but there's one assumption that both C Wingate and albatross seem to be making that I'd like to highlight: that I see the current state of society as some sort of ideal.

I don't.

I think the societies exist because they level out some of the unfairnesses of a Hobbsean state of nature*. Those unfairnesses seem to me to have tremendously wasteful consequences, when (for instance) a child who could grow up to cure disease starves to death at the age of five. In other words, I think the cost of advantage to some people to reduce the unfairness to others is an investment that pays off for everyone in the long run.

But we're still hacking the details, finding the right balance between sacrifice and payoff. To tell me that society is not about leveling the playing field because it hasn't always addressed the unfair ways that women, or slaves, or the disabled have been treated doesn't tell me society is a failure at addressing inequality. It just tells me it's still a work in progress.

-----
* Yes, I know it's a thought exercise rather than an historical description

#235 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 02:39 PM:

Albatross @ 228, John A Arkansawyer @ 233:

It's not so much that "education magnifies differences in potential" as that an appropriate education helps people achieve some substantial fraction of their individual potential, whatever that potential may be, for that individual.

Alice is both personally better off, and more likely to become a valuable contributing member of society, if she receives the amount and type of education best suited to developing her degree and type of potential. Same for Bob, even though the type and degree of education that works best for him may differ from what works best for Alice.

Example: Alice may have the capability to become a very good aeronautical design engineer, given the opportunity, but would be hopeless as an actual metal lathe operator. Bob may have the types of coordination and judgement needed to excel as a skilled machinist, given proper training, but simply doesn't process information in the manner required to be successful as a theoretical design engineer. Neither individual is an effective substitute for the other, any more than the same educational program will be equally successful at developing the very different capabilities (of both type and level) of each individual.

Channeling either into an educational program that cannot develop their individual capabilities is both unfair (to Alice and Bob, and to their families), and (in the longer run) likely to cause serious loss to their society.

#236 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 03:39 PM:

re 234: I'm having trouble progressing here because the phrase "society is [not] about" appears to mean irreconcilably different things to different people. I think we do all agree that our societies do express certain notions of fairness because, by and large, the people in them conduct their social interactions according to these notions (or at least pay lip service to them). But those notions are not fundamental principles of societies in general.

re 231: As far as your first case, I'm going to vigorously object to your first section standard of fairness. It seems to me that you are saying, by implication, that it is OK to stick the really smart kids with dull stuff that doesn't elicit their full potential, because theoretically the resources can be diverted to bringing the least capable kids up. I am dubious.

And as far as your narrative is concerned, where do you fit into it? I gather that you aren't a dirt farmer. My father-in-law has similar origins: he escaped tenant farming in the Virginia tidewater by escaping to the Army, and thence to a job with the post office: he lives in decently comfortable retirement. His son (a public school graduate, BTW) is CEO of a major energy firm. My f-i-l did get a little help along the way: a reasonably well-off woman in the community made sure that he had glasses when he was growing up.

I went to a top-level private school, and so did a group of black kids who were, I learned decades later, picked out of the ghetto to be brushed against the top levels of society, not to mention the opportunities a name-brand education could afford. Meanwhile some of my cousins in NC were getting pregnant to try and trap guys into marrying them. Was all of this also this part of "the system"?

I'm not saying that plenty of people aren't exploited, because they are. But they are exploited by other people, not by a system.

#237 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 03:53 PM:

Leroy #235:

So, think about your example. Alice and Bob aren't close substitutes for each other at the end of their potential-maximizing training. However, it's almost certain that there are more people in the world who can become substitutes for Bob than for Alice, and this will probably be reflected in how well Alice is paid relative to Bob.

But in a world where there had been no advanced training/schooling available, perhaps both would be approximately equally-valued factory workers or farmers or whatever, just with lots of folks noticing that Alice was unusually bright.

This is a case where the goal of fairness (in terms of equality of outcomes or in terms of making outcomes match deserts) is contradicted by the goal of giving everyone an education that maximizes their potential.

#238 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 05:03 PM:

#231, John A Arkansawyer:

"As it's designed now, the system is designed to get exactly that effect. The students who need the least help get gifted and talented programs, and those who need the most get roughly jack shit."
I believe that there's tremendously more spent on "Special needs" programs than on gifted and talented programs. I will admit the only statistic I have right now is this, which isn't quite what I was looking for. Still, for every dollar the Federal government spends on gifted and talented students, it spends $3000 on No Child Left Behind. That's kind of a large discrepancy.

#239 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 05:21 PM:

re 233: Dr. Manhattan is certainly not an innocent bystander (at least not in the comic). His intervention in the end is crucial.

#240 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 06:07 PM:

Ozymandius and The Comedian are the heroes. Rorschach is the villain. Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre, and Dr. Manhattan are nothing but innocent bystanders. Discuss.

I don't think that Moore wrote any heroes into the book.

Rorshach and Ozymandias are indistinguishable. Each exercises the right to kill in the service of a higher morality.

Dr. Manhattan kills because he's increasingly detached from morality, leading to his decision to disengage entirely from humanity.

The other "heroes," who should by the lights of their profession seek to jail Rorschach *and* Ozymandias, team up with the former and acquiesce in the crimes of the latter. There are no innocent bystanders in Watchmen ... at least, not among those actively wearing costumes. The innocent tend to turn up dead.

#241 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 06:24 PM:

albatross @ 237:

"Fairness" is a highly emotionally-loaded term, with several distinct (and often mutually contradictory) meanings. One of the most important distinctions can, I suggest, be summarized as a difference between the nature of input into a process, and the output of that process.

One concept of "fairness" emphasizes equality of opportunity -- the idea than anyone who wants to try X is permitted to make the attempt, and (at least in theory) succeeds or fails on his/her own merits. A quite different interpretation emphasizes equality of outcome -- that everyone who makes an effort (of at least some identified minimum level, in most cases) should be rewarded with success. The former view looks at the input level of process X, the latter at the output level.

At this point, it should also be noted that, empirically, "fairness" (as equality of opportunity) at the input level usually has only a limited causal relationship with any observable "fairness" (as equality of results) at the output level. As other variables are controlled, the correlation between the two meanings of "fairness" increases. The greater the range of other variables at the input level, the greater the range at output. (I.E., individuals of similar ability, who also receive similar opportunity, tend to do similarly well in a specified situation. The greater the range of either ability or opportunity, or both, the greater the range of likely outcomes.)

If both Alice and Bob receive an absolutely generic education which does not address the individual capabilities (and weaknesses) of either, the chances are pretty good that both will be bored and frustrated (by different portions of the process), and neither will come particularly close to living up to his or her potential.

If both are in a program designed for people with Alice's level and type of capabilities, but which does not match Bob's capabilities, Alice is likely to do very well indeed, but Bob is more likely to get only frustrated and humiliated. Result: Bob drops out of school, never receives meaningful opportunity or encouragement to master any of the skills he would have been successful at, and makes minimal (or negative) contributions to his society.

Conversely, a program optimized for people with capabilities broadly similar to Bob's, but which includes little or nothing to engage the interests of someone at Alice's level, is likely to leave Alice bored, frustrated, and looking for something more interesting to do. (A status which is, I suspect, not entirely unfamiliar to many of the folks reading this, who remember their own elementary and high school days.) Result: Alice is more likely to complete at least basic levels of schooling, but is at least as alienated as Bob, and (compared to her potential) an even greater net loss to her society.

The optimum outcomes in each case do not derive any "fairness" from equality at the output level, but from the combination of "fairness" at the input level, with appropriate matching of the optimum available version of the educational process to the individual going through it.

#242 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 08:12 PM:

Sandy B. @ 238: You are quite correct that special needs kids do get a big slice of the budget. (Deservedly so, mostly, I'd say.) They're a special case, and not exactly what I had in mind.

I was thinking not of them but of the junior high students in my city whose schools don't have money to provide them all with textbooks, and who are still better off than many rural kids in my state. The cost of providing decent schools on a state-wide basis would not be so terrible, except that school funding is tied to local property taxes, which brings us back to class.

#243 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 10:43 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @233 First take (have read book once, this year): Ozymandius and Rorschach are the same. Two parts of the same elephant; two ends of the torc; the same object refracted through two facets of the viewer, whatever.

#244 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 11:06 PM:

OK, I've seen the film, and I enjoyed it. (I've read only a portion of the comic, and it was years ago and I forgot the details.) It's long, but eventful enough that I didn't mind the length. I even think a two-part Kill Bill- or miniseries-style approach would have been beneficial, though Avram tells me the DVD will probably have extended scenes.

I'm not sorry I waited for the big screen to see the opening credits, although I think it would have had no effect on my desire to see the movie if I had seen it ahead of time.

#245 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 02:23 AM:

albatross @ 228: "Consider medicine: The goal of a doctor who sees you is to improve your health/treat your symptoms to the extent he's able to do so, not to achieve some kind of fairness in the distribution of health."

The individual doctor's goals are irrelevant. Medicine helps the unhealthiest disproportionately more than the healthiest, moving the median of the population upwards and thereby increasing parity.

I'm sorry, but your argument that medical equality equals making the healthy sicker is a strawman. If you ever find a single person who advocates that view, I'll gladly join you in denouncing them. What we are actually advocating for is increasing equality by bringing the bottom percentiles up.

"I'm assuming that by the time a kid shows up in school, a lot of his potential is determined."

I dispute the validity of that assumption. It might be fair to say that by the time a kid shows up at school a great many of the non-academic conditions that nonetheless affect academic performance are largely established into the foreseeable future, but that's not quite the same thing. The negative academic repercussions of things like divorce, parental death, changes in economic status, and so forth suggest that academic outcomes are plastic long after kids begin their education.

Education debates make for a long tangents though, so we might just have to agree to disagree.

"It looks to me like education magnifies differences in potential."

Well, it magnifies potential. It certainly magnifies the differences between those who have it and those who do not, but that is a red herring: the problem there is the lack of education among some, not that the rest have it. Education, like epidemic disease, spreads through populations according to an S-curve, and we're not yet over the hump. Yes, the differences social improvements create on their way to saturation are stark and have lead to much abuse, but the path out of that is forward, not back.

Take a look at nutrition. While far from a solved problem, I'd argue that it's further along than education. Due to things like school lunches (and relatively cheap food), you no longer see the kind of endemic malnutrition that was the norm throughout most of history. The stunted mental and physical development among the lower classes that was simply taken for granted (and regularly attributed to heredity) in the past has largely vanished. Nonetheless, some people are still shorter than others. That's fine by me--the point isn't to ensure some factory-produced uniformity, but to ensure that there is no lost potential, sacrificed to economic necessity.

If that is seen as the goal--to avoid wasted potential--then we need to accept that some people require more to reach their full potential than others. It's not as simple as Alice needs more schooling than Bob because her potential is greater; quite possibly it's just the opposite, that Bob requires more help to reach his lesser potential. Maybe all Alice needs is a library card and someone to poke her with a stick every once and a while. Bob might need tutoring, specialized instruction and years longer than normal.

Alice and Bob both getting what they need to reach their potential, great or small, is the condition under which society will reap the greatest benefit. I'm not arguing that maximal fairness is an end unto itself; I'm arguing that maximal fairness is the model under which a society has the greatest chance of evolutionary success.

#246 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:12 AM:

C. Wingate @ 230: "But a society has a certain kind of awareness, at least insofar as it does something that could be called "living"; it tries to perpetuate itself, however unconsciously it does so. That's what I meant about "purpose" on that level."

If you accept that society attempts to perpetuate itself in some way, then you must accept that it is subject to evolutionary pressures--that societies that perpetuate themselves less well will be eliminated. Therefore, a purpose of every society must be to seek competitive advantage, as a corallary of its directive to perpetuate. In other words, it must seek to make itself better.

"It seems to me that Abi's position arises out of faith that pushing these moral values will in fact not harm society, but it easy enough to find Whiggish examples where that faith was not expressed..."

Well, yes. The reluctance of societies to accept the necessity of increased equality is the endless. As a result, the only way to achieve increased equality has been through violence. This is not evidence of increased equality's harmful effects on society; for all the damage that resulted from the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Civil War, the suffrage movement, the civil rights struggle, and the Stonewall riots, I still feel that the resulting societies are substantially better to the ones from which they emerged.

"But I think Western values of egalitarianism go back further than that, though they are pushed back by a variety of contrary impulses."

You may think so, but I must disagree. I see no affection for egalitarianism in pre-modern European culture beyond that of any other region.

#247 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:15 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @233: Ozymandius and The Comedian are the heroes. Rorschach is the villain. Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre, and Dr. Manhattan are nothing but innocent bystanders. Discuss.

Well, the first question that pops up for me is: If Ozymandias and the Comedian are both the heroes, how come the latter is horrified when he discovers what the former is planning?

Anderson @40: The other "heroes," who should by the lights of their profession seek to jail Rorschach *and* Ozymandias, team up with the former and acquiesce in the crimes of the latter.

But if they hadn't teamed up with Rorschach, they would have never learned about Ozymandias.

#248 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:08 AM:

Avram @ 243:

If Ozymandias and the Comedian are both the heroes, how come the latter is horrified when he discovers what the former is planning?

That's what makes it a tragedy, or would have, if Ozymandius hadn't succeeded in saving the world.

After that climactic success, the only question was the fate of the other four characters.

Rorschach's attempt to get the war back on was doomed to failure, as he, Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre were clearly outclassed by Ozymandius, and ain't nobody walkin' outa Antarctica, comic book or not. Dr. Manhattan may have regained some emotional connection by killing Rorschach, which (if I have my timeline straight) shortly preceded his decision to create some life.

I give Dan and Laurie maybe two years before the Midnight Lady (who turns out to be Silhouette's girlfriend's daughter) takes them out with a matched gift set of contracting leather bodysuits.

#249 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:03 AM:

RFC (Request For Correction): Should this be added to the spelling reference? "Ozymandias"

And I was an English major, too, but I always liked Byron better, so there.

#250 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:41 AM:

But if they hadn't teamed up with Rorschach, they would have never learned about Ozymandias.

Much good it did them. And "the ends justify the means" is Ozymandias's and Rorschach's moral, not Moore's.

#251 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:00 PM:

The only way I can read it is that Bernard (the newsman), Bernard (the comic book kid), and Dr. Whathisname, the unrealistically naive prison psychiatrist, are the heroes of the story. They are the ones who struggle with the real moral questions of life -- how to love others, how to do well in the world. Well, the younger Bernard mostly struggles with the storyline of his comic book, but he's likeable.

And Hollis Mason, the only hero whose motivation is to do good.

It seems to me the Tales of the Black Freighter diagnoses the problem of all the other "heroes." Take it upon yourself to save the world and become a monster, the abyss gazes also, etc. Richard Nixon and Ozymandias are really making the same decisions, using the same reasoning. But Ozy's action doesn't cause radioactive fallout.

I think Rorshach has a redemptive arc, symbolized by his taking the mask off before he dies. As a kid he writes in defends of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings using precisely Ozymandias's logic, and in the beginning he despises the people of New York. But in the end he rejects that kind of action and dies in solidarity with the people who were killed. Maybe the psychiatrist helped him after all.

The Comedian might have some kind of redemptive arc like that too; hard to tell. He understands that Ozy's joke is his own joke writ large, and sees how awful it is.

Ozymandias has been eaten by the abyss, and Dan and Laurie remain vigilantes who resemble the Comedian more and more.

#252 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:22 PM:

I think Rorshach has a redemptive arc, symbolized by his taking the mask off before he dies. As a kid he writes in defends of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings using precisely Ozymandias's logic, and in the beginning he despises the people of New York. But in the end he rejects that kind of action and dies in solidarity with the people who were killed.

Good catch -- I was wondering about the mask. Not sure we can credit the shrink however.

#253 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:56 PM:

re: Anderson @ #250:

Much good it did them. And "the ends justify the means" is Ozymandias's and Rorschach's moral, not Moore's.

Rorschach is motivated to behave "correctly," not motivated to achieve a "right" outcome, nor to enforce obedience. Without that motivation, he's just a guy working for a dressmaker barely surviving his abusive upbringing.

He'll set the boobytrap to punish you if your free will takes you where he feels justified in doing so (this is more apparent in the book, where he doesn't personally execute the child-killer [very Ditko]), but he's too personally disappointed to nurture an "ends justify the means" agenda to invest any effort to achieve an outcome.

re: rm @ #251:

But in the end [Rorschach] rejects that kind of action and dies in solidarity with the people who were killed. Maybe the psychiatrist helped him after all.

Solidarity with the people who died? If that were the case, he wouldn't have made Blake's murder Veidt's initial transgression in updating Manhattan when he shows up in Antarctica.

It seems more plausible Rorschach sacrificed himself because compromising would have required too radical an identity rebuilding for him. He couldn't take his own compromise into the life he'd been living up until then.

#254 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 07:50 PM:

albatross @237: So, think about your example. Alice and Bob aren't close substitutes for each other at the end of their potential-maximizing training. However, it's almost certain that there are more people in the world who can become substitutes for Bob than for Alice, and this will probably be reflected in how well Alice is paid relative to Bob.

I've been a machinist, I've also done some CAD work. I don't know that this is such a valid thing. They are different things, yes, but the fact of needing more machinists doesn't mean they are easy to come by. I've seen lots of people who had zero aptitude for the job try it (my boss was really willing to let people try; he took on lots of entry level people, myself included).

It takes a couple of years to turn out a journeyman level machinist, and two-eight more for someone to master the craft. If you take the computer out of it, well it's probably easier to make an Alice than a Bob. One has to have a feel for the metal, and the machine, to keep parts in tolerance.

I recall having to make a jig, to manufacture a knotted rope, which had to meet spec. It takes a certain sort of problem solving to figure out how make something the right size, and be tightened to the correct ft. lbs. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone can be taught to do it.

Yes, one can teach a lot of people how to do production, once the kinks are worked out, but a lot of design is actually pretty much the same sort of thing.

#255 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:06 PM:

I might have become a pre-CAD drafter if I hadn't had such a heavy hand with a pencil. heh.

#256 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 01:01 AM:

I saw it tonight, on Imax. On balance, I enjoyed it, and there were parts of it (Dr. Manhattan's trip to Mars, particularly) which were flat out brilliant.

But I can't say it's a great movie, though I really wanted it to be great. And the primary reason for that is the weakness of most of the characters.

I thought the only fully realized character was Rorschach, even though they came close with Dr. Manhattan.

Also, I thought there was some unevenness in tone. A great movie, like a great book or symphony, has all the parts supporting the whole. There is counterpoint and remembrance. This movie was an assemblage of some dynamite scenes that didn't quite mesh.

The rebuilding of historical figures felt flat to me. It felt like caricature rather than re-imagining. Nixon was an impressionist's joke.

I don't know -- maybe Mike Snyder was trying to recreate the primary colors of comic books. But what made Watchmen a work of literature rather than a comic book was subtlety. Perhaps there wasn't room for it in two hours and forty minutes.

I'll be curious to see the DVD.

#257 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 02:45 PM:

Glenn Hauman @ #161:

> Oh, and just to drag it back to the original point
> of the thread: my suspicion is that Warner Bros.
> can't use the piece for promotion because I doubt
> Bob Dylan would license "The Times,
>They Are A'Changing" for commercials.

Quite possibly, though FWIW "Blowing in the Wind", sung by Dylan, is used in a TV commercial showing in England right now.

I've seen the film twice now. I liked it. And I loved the credits and I loved the choice of soundtrack songs. They all fit in context. The Dylan songs are in the book already of course.

I even thought "Hallelujah" was appropriate. Especially because it is Cohen's original and best version. Its the first time I've seen it used in a way that is relevant to more than one layer of the actual lyric, rather than just as a signifier of some vague post-modern cognitive dissonance, or (even worse) as a rather sad soppy love song.

The song is (on one layer) about adultery and murder. If you haven't ever read the book of Samuel in the Bible all the way through in one go as a story, try it. David, the king, is abusing his power to at best seduce and at worst rape Bathsheba. He murders her husband. Their baby dies. David is plunged into depression and despair from which he never quite recovers and the whole thing kicks off a cycle of family breakdown and revenge that leads to David's sons murdering each other, one of them raping his own sister, and a bloody civil war. David clearly fails as a king. At the end he doesn't even want to be king any more, he is forced to keep it up by Joab and the others. It and ends up with the near-senile David drooling incoherently in a corner while all around people are plotting what to do when he dies. His last wish is for his survivors to kill his old consiglierie Joab (who could be the Comedian of that story, the man who kills his bosses enemies without being ordered to, and seems to enjoy it) And yet there is a clear sense in which this total wreck of a man David is the hero of the Tanakh/Old Testament - after him everything looks back to him. As is made clear all through the story and in the rest of the Bible especially the Psalms, the Lord loves him, and he keeps on repenting and being forgiven, and "... even though it all went wrong I'll stand before the Lord of Song..."

In context, it sort of fits.

If you think it has been done to death its the other you should blame all the other films. And Simon Cowell.

It might not be a great movie but its a very good one. It nicks some of the visual cross-referencing from the book and adds some of its own. For example I think the Comedian is given the some of the same scars that he caused to others.

The way the visuals of the flashbacks are in the styles of the times (vacillating between comic-book and film styles) made me think that someone involved in the production was paying attention to Moore's Tom Strong comics which do exactly that. And also deconstruct superhero comics in a different way from Marvel Man or The Watchmen.

I also liked the way that the spearcarriers are so often real people known at that time. As someone said the film has become about America in a way that the book wasn't quite. And perhaps because of that it has become a little less about comics than the book was.

Alan Moore's objections would be a better reason not to see the film than David Hayter's scumbag drivel. The film isn't the book (what film could be?) But I think it is the best I have seen of all the blockbuster films based on superhero comics, better than any of the X-men or Spiderman or Batman or Superman films. (and as for the Hulk and Fantastic Four, how could anyone do that to the story? :-()

I'm glad I saw it.

#258 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:14 PM:

re 246; Actually, I don't accept that. In fact, I think I want to back off somewhat from what I said. Societies do not survive which engage in behavior that is so destructive or counterproductive that their members die off. However, that's an extreme limit case, and no society of any real interest here is at any risk.

Do societies compete for resources? Well, what resources could they compete for? On one level, a lot of them do not and cannot be said to be competitive: as long as there are people in Japan and people in Britain, there will be British and Japanese societies. On that level, there's no competition between the two.

#259 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 07:43 PM:

John Arkanswayer @248, yeah, I've always wondered just how Rorschach planned to get back to civilization. Best I can figure is he planned on figuring out how to fly the owlship himself. Or he plants a fake trail, doubles back, and stows away on either the owlship or whatever transportation Veidt uses to travel between NYC and Karnak (presumably a private jet or personal airship).

Anderson @250, but you're saying Dan and Laurie should have punished Ozymandias. How, and for what, if they never learn of his crime? Or if they perish in the attack on New York?

#260 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:31 PM:

C. Wingate @ 258: "Societies do not survive which engage in behavior that is so destructive or counterproductive that their members die off. However, that's an extreme limit case, and no society of any real interest here is at any risk."

First of all, that very few societies are under threat of destruction from without is a very new situation. For the vast swathe of history, every society was surrounded by bordering societies that would gladly exploit any weakness to displace and destroy them.

Secondly, the threat from without can't hold a candle to the threat from within. The society of Victorian England is as dead today as the Romans, but it was destroyed not by foreigners but by its own children. Same for the feudal society of Tokugawa Japan--it died because it was unwilling to adapt to modernity, and other Japanese were.

So no, there is not necessarily any competition between Britain and Japan. But within each society there are countless different visions for what that society should become, and which triumphs is determined by which is able to attract/create the most support, either by clever salesmanship or demonstrations of concrete advantages.

#261 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 07:06 PM:

I've been a little frustrated for the last couple of weeks because while I could have sworn we owned two or three copies of Watchmen, it appears we loaned them all to people whose identities we forget. And I really wanted to re-read it before seeing the film.

However, Abi and Martin have a copy on their shelves, so today, deep in recuperation mode from the previous day's Desperate Tourist Fun, I re-read it for the first time since the 1980s.

And I have to say, rm's comment #251 hits me right between the eyes, particularly the observation about Rohrshach's "redemptive arc": "As a kid he writes in defends of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings using precisely Ozymandias's logic, and in the beginning he despises the people of New York. But in the end he rejects that kind of action and dies in solidarity with the people who were killed. Maybe the psychiatrist helped him after all."

#262 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 11:31 PM:

I am truly proud.

That'll be $100.00.

Also, I just remembered something I thought years ago, but forgot -- that the name "the Comedian" is surely a Graham Greene reference. In The Comedians some comically inadequate reformers, revolutionaries, and weirdos imagine they can save Haiti from the grip of the Duvaliers, never realizing that this is the way of the world, and ain't nothing changing.

#263 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2009, 02:26 PM:

albatross (#229)
If a major goal of societies has been to decrease unfairness, then they've historically been quite bad at it, right?

Since the thread is related to Moore's work, I have to quote this passage you reminded me from Top 10 (probably issue height or nine, if I'm not mistaken), when a dying alien speaks of his religion, it being the fight between darkness and light, and how the night sky is a representation of it, and then someone points out we must be losing, as there is so much more darkness than stars in the sky... his answer: "No. Once there was only darkness. We're winning".

Best summing up of societies' achievements in fairness I ever found.

I hear I'm making less and less sense these day, which is why I generally stay in lurker mode. If I don't make any once again, please ignore this I guess.

#264 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2009, 08:07 PM:

Some bits from my quotefile:

"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe." – Marcus (Babylon 5)

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." – Elie Wiesel

"use every man after his desert and who shall 'scape whipping?" – Hamlet

#265 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2009, 08:50 PM:

as long as there are people in Japan and people in Britain, there will be British and Japanese societies. On that level, there's no competition between the two.

Um.... No. There will be societies there, but it isn't clear they will be British, or Japanese. There are still people in Italy, but it's no longer a "Roman" society, just as there is no longer an Ainu society in Tokyo, nor an Olmec one in what is now Mexico.

#266 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2009, 09:23 PM:

MD² @263: If I don't make any once again, please ignore this I guess.

I liked Top 10. One of the delights of the first series was looking for all of the fantasy and SF references in the street scenes and the backgrounds (off the top of my head: Dr Who, Futurama, Asterix, Land of Oz...).

#267 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2009, 02:49 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @248:
That's what makes it a tragedy, or would have, if Ozymandius hadn't succeeded in saving the world.

But that's how I see it. The world is briefly saved but for how long? Rorshach's journal's ended up in the ticking slush pile of New Frontiersman. As Jon/Dr. Manhattan says, "nothing ends".

BTW, The Doomsday clock still stands at 5 to midnight.

#268 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2009, 04:51 PM:

Terry Karney #265: there is no longer an Ainu society in Tokyo

Um, actually....

#270 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2009, 05:25 PM:

You're welcome, Teresa.

One reason I Creative Commons-license my work, when I can? Is in the hopes that EVERYONE can make recontextualizations (mashups) as powerful as these opening credits, not just people with millions of Big Hollywood dollars behind them.

#271 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2009, 02:15 AM:

Re Ainu in Tokyo: Yes, and no. There is still a Micmac one in Massachusetts, but Massachusetts is no longer a Micmac (or pequot, or, or, or) place.

They are there, basically, on sufference. Tokyo is Japanese, the Ainu are just living there.

#272 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2009, 04:10 AM:

Terry Karney@271: Well, I think that was a major point of the Ainu documentary project elsewhere on the site I linked to above: the struggle of the Ainu to find acceptance and still maintain their unique culture heritage.

I'm not sure why you mentioned the Micmac, though.

#273 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2009, 10:32 PM:

BTW, The Doomsday clock still stands at 5 to midnight.

I am less surprised by that than by the National Terrorist Threat Level still being at "orange". Scratch that. By it still being reported as "has been raised to orange" and described as "the heightened security level".

The Doomsday Clock may still be at 5 til midnight, but at least we aren't constantly subjected to 30-year-old voice recordings insinuating that it has just now been adjusted to read thusly.

#274 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2009, 12:44 AM:

As a dead-ender that will sit to the end of the credits given the opportunity ( i.e, no one hustling me along), I noticed a notice near the end of the credits to the effect that (paraphrased) 'no one involved with the production of this movie has taken any money to promote tobacco products'.

1) The Comedian was still shown smoking cigars, as that fit with the macho personality.

2) In the comics, Laurie smoked cigarettes, and first hit the flamethrowers of the Owlship thinking she had found the cigarette lighter; as opposed to the movie version 'I was just pressing buttons at random' (hitting the same button later in the movie was a gag unique to the movie).

3) In the comics, Jamie Slater was shown smoking cigarettes through her interview, because 'what the hell, I have incurable cancer, I may as well'.

Apparently, the movie couldn't do away with 1. I agree that 3 was unnecessary. Cutting out 2 blunted the gag (seriously, does anyone hit buttons at random to see what is going to happen?).

#275 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2009, 03:18 AM:

Rob, #274: Only in filk...

Now, Freddie was precocious; he liked to poke and pry,
And stick his nose in anything that moved.
His parents often warned him, "Be careful what you try!"
And his incautious conduct disapproved.
But if it had a button, a lever, or a knob,
Just like a magnet it attracted Fred;
I wish I had a nickel, a farthing, or a bob
For every time his dear old mother said,

"Don't push that button! Jeezus, Fred, don't push that button! Use your head.
You don't know what it's hooked to, you don't know what it does --
You start that foolin' round and we'll be worse off than we was.
Don't push that button! Jeezus, Fred, don't push that button! Use your head.
Your luck won't last forever, as everybody knows;
I just hope I'm not with you when it goes."

- "Don't Push That Button", words and music copyright by Duane Elms

#276 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2009, 09:23 PM:

Earl: I mentioned all of those because it was said that so long as there were people in places like Britain and Japan, there would always be British, and Japanese, societies.

I was pointing at places where there were previous societies; which are no longer the cultural identifier. Britian is no longer a Pictish (or Celtic/Saxon/Danish/Norman) society.

Japan is no longer an Ainu one.

There may be pockets of preservation of the older societies, but that's not how they are seen today.

And someday the same will happenn to all the places we presently identify as, "x-ish". There will not, "always be an England."

Micmac was an example. I could have used Olmec, Aztec, Scythian, Frankish, Hunnic, etc.

#277 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2009, 10:19 PM:

"Where are the Hittites? Show me one Hittite in New York City." --Walker Percy, "Message in the Bottle"

#278 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2009, 02:18 AM:

Rob @274: Apparently that choice - and possibly the line in the credits as well - had something to do with the head of the studio being fanatically anti-tobacco.

#279 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2009, 03:04 PM:

I remember when I was a kid watching Batman on TV with all the other kids, one reaction a lot of them had to the fight scenes was "it's so fake!"

So is this better than Batman because the violence is less fake?

How realistic should movie violence be?

Too realistic and it's not entertainment any more, I guess. But then I suppose that it is necessary to know that violence has consequences instead of just thinking that it's fun to watch things explode.

I haven't read the book, nor seen the movie, but I remember when I was younger the way I saw the difference between DC and Marvel: DC was more law-and-order, from a point of view where good guys are that which is on the same side as the cops by definition, and Marvel examining moral dilemmas inherent in that, from the point of view of the misunderstood loner guy who everyone thinks is the bad guy, for instance. So is Watchmen taking that kind of thing a few steps further?

#280 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2009, 03:12 PM:

Who watches the watchmen?

Who hates the Hayters?

#281 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Terry Karney @276, Ok, I see now that I was being too literal when I mentioned that there was indeed an active Ainu Society in Tokyo.

#282 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2009, 02:10 PM:

Erik @ 279: Yes.

#283 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2009, 10:48 AM:

Erik #279:

The violence in _The Watchmen_ was comic book violence in a lot of ways. I have very limited experience with real violence, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't it.

Now, various scenes were pretty graphic, showing more of the impact of the violence. (The rape scene was quite well done, conveying the level of violence that had to be there, and also having not one drop of sexiness in it.) But honestly, a lot of movies do the blood and gore thing in the NPCs they kill/beat up. And relatively little of the long-term impact of violence on anyone shows up.

That said, the portrayal of Rorschack was absolutely amazing and perfect. Nite Owl was almost as good--morphing from a hesitant geeky balding guy as Daniel to a bad-ass ultraconfident superhero by putting on a mask. I also thought the portrayal of Dr Manhattan was very good, and that the plot changes (particularly the ending) made the movie much tighter and the story better.

One amazing thing about the movie, to me, was the amount of exposition they crammed into it without skimping on the action. The music video/intro thing was extremely good for that, and they managed several other times to put in enough background in flashbacks to fill in the necessary blanks.

#284 ::: TexAnne calls shenanigans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 12:26 AM:

Shortened URL and a comment claiming that Watchmen is a universal pick-me-up.

#285 ::: Xopher agrees with TexAnne, but uses the word SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 12:36 AM:

I think our mods scan for the actual word SPAM, so I'm using it in my byline.

This is probably being spammed to old comment threads anywhere movies are discussed. And the shortened URL is definitely a red flag.

#286 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2010, 03:03 AM:

It's safest to use the word "spam"* in your name so it jumps out at one in the "last n000 comments" list. I know that's how Jim manages things.

When I'm on-form, I'm reading everything posted, and comments on old threads do catch my eye. But when I'm not tracking so closely, the S-word really helps me do the gardening.

-----
* any capitalization scheme works for me

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