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 Post subject: Ethnicity in Watchmen
PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 9:22 am 
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Why are all of them white? Is this a social statement of sorts? The whole "minority superhero" thing is the one element Alan Moore didn't quite explore in his deconstruction of superheroes. That and sidekicks.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 10:28 am 
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I'm of the opinion that race is central to Watchmen, but part of my reading hinges on understanding Dreiberg and Kovacs as Jewish American - not practicing, evidently - and there are ambiguities in the text that keep that part of the reading from gaining too much traction in this context: to develop the interpretation takes more words than a forum permits.

Still, assimilation to Anglo-Saxon American identity is a key topic in the novel and is announced quickly, when we learn that Sally has changed her Polish name to Jupiter, and her daughter changes it back. One of the ironies of the novel is that Laurie begins with a proud assertion of her Polish past, and ends by abandoning it under the pseudonym "Sandra Hollis," a name borrowed in part from Hollis Mason and in part from Alexander - Veidt's hero.

The death of Rorschach and the changes in Dreiberg and Juspeczyk's names and appearances are all part of an erasure of difference in the novel. And that's in keeping with the early history of comics, where writers like Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Stan Lee all, and for different reasons, changed their names to disguise their "Jewishness." The blond and blue-eyed Captain America, created by two Jewish-American artists, is the perfect symbol of the assimilationist veil that early comics writers drew over their own identity. I see the Sam and Sandra Hollis personae in relation to this part of comics history.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:14 am 
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It's a social statement. Moore is very mindful of racism in the superhero genre: Captain Metropolis is racist, Hooded Justice is a Nazi sympathizer, the New Frontiersman favorably compares masked vigilantes to the KKK--so non-white superheroes are meant to be conspicuous in their absence. Moore's very critical of the typical WASP superhero ideal, as members of the all-white Minutemen still have to suppress their nationalities, sexual orientations, or political affiliations (poor Mothman) to maintain public approval. (As for sidekicks, Moore possibly said all he wanted to say about them in Miracleman.)

It also reflects trends in the actual comic industry at the time periods in which the story takes place. All the masked vigilantes in Watchmen are active by the early 60s, and non-caricatured (though still stereotyped) minority superheroes like Black Panther, Shang-Chi, and Storm weren't created until the late 60s/70s.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 12:03 pm 
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I know ethnicity is explored, to a point, and that racism is touched on. Still, I always found it odd that there wasn't a "Black Lightning" archetype.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 12:05 pm 
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The Guard wrote:
That and sidekicks.


For economy of space, he condensed everything he had left to say about sidekicks (most of which he said in Miracleman, as noted by Triple Ronch) into the character of Wally Weaver, "Dr. Manhattan's Buddy."

I'm a big fan of RLS's take on the "Watchmen as history of comics" reading, by the way.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 12:30 pm 
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There's some irony at the end when the German/Aryan man lets the Jewish man and woman live.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 12:39 pm 
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If you wanted to, you could look at Dan Dreiberg as a very belated sidekick . . .

Although, he was really more into the image of Nite Owl rather than the man behind it, I guess.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:31 pm 
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I'd like to understand why all of them except doc have got brown eyes...is that an expression of their kindness? (brown = kindness in a standard chromatic scheme for comic books)

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 8:32 pm 
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Mere Being wrote:
I'd like to understand why all of them except doc have got brown eyes...is that an expression of their kindness? (brown = kindness in a standard chromatic scheme for comic books)


Comedian and Rorschach aren't exactly kind.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:58 pm 
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As far as I can see it, Dreiberg, Kovacs and Osterman are all jewish names and I read on Wikipedia that Silhouette is also jewish. So there seems to be a lot of jewish people in Watchmen at least.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:09 pm 
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Veidt, Osterman, Muller, those are all German names.

clearly, everyone comes from some ethnic background, even though they're all "white."


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:58 pm 
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I always thought Kovacs was more slavic or sor some reason Polish rather than Jewish.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 11:29 pm 
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MadeManG74 wrote:
I always thought Kovacs was more slavic or sor some reason Polish rather than Jewish.

Kovacs is a Hungarian name. Rorschach's mother's maiden name, Glick, is Jewish.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 2:47 am 
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Given Moore's involvement with western mysticism and magickal practices, and his inclusion of this symbology throughout Watchmen, I'd say there's a strong-ish chance for this having had some influence over his cast of characters. It's white man's magick, drawn from jewish kabbalistic practices that reference western European motifs. Alexander the Great's story is one of subjugation of the Eastern oriental arts to the will of the West. I brought this up elsewhere in another thread in response to comments about female character's roles in Moore's work, where the women are often conduits, or focii, of the will of men rather than motivated forces of their own, which is also in line with these ideologies.

All a bit heavy, and open to some negative interpretations if you look at it from a purely racial viewpoint. I ain't no expert either. Personally, I'm inclined to agree (and more comfortable with) the reading of Watchmen as comics-history. Just thought I should bring it up, is all.
:geek:


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 3:13 am 
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About the Jewish allusions (not illusions . . .):

Superman was created by two Jewish men, his real name, Kal-El, is vaguely Hebraic, and he is oft-regarded as a metaphor for immigrant assimilation. Since Watchmen is meant to be commentary on the medium, Moore making some of his characters flawed reflections of that sentiment makes sense. Failures of social integration.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:09 am 
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Seinfeld is an arduant Superman fan.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:27 am 
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Tada wrote:
As far as I can see it, Dreiberg, Kovacs and Osterman are all jewish names and I read on Wikipedia that Silhouette is also jewish. So there seems to be a lot of jewish people in Watchmen at least.


well... it is new york.

for those who may be interested - http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:03 pm 
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Heh... that comicbook religion page always cracks me up.
Perfect response to that aspect of this thread.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:38 pm 
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I think the reason there are no black crime fighters in Watchmen is simple enough. It is very doubtful, I think, that in 1930's-1960's America, a black man or woman would willingly run around the streets of New York, in costume, with a mask on. Think about the potential risks involved. Imagine what might happen if "Black Lightning" is about to thwart some bank robbery, when the police show up. He puts his hands up and says casually "It's OK, everything is under control!". And he's standing there in a ridiculous getup and wearing a mask. And it's the 1930's. And these particular cops aren't too cool with them "colored folk". It's just a potential for disaster if you ask me.

Also, with the possible exception of Rorschach, crime fighting seems to be a hobby for those with time and money on their hands. That might also weigh on Black Lightnings mind. "Well I'd love to get out there and clean this town up, but I have to work a second job at the shipping docks. And I only got so much time with the wife and kids, so I guess that's that".

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:25 am 
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t3cii wrote:
I think the reason there are no black crime fighters in Watchmen is simple enough. It is very doubtful, I think, that in 1930's-1960's America, a black man or woman would willingly run around the streets of New York, in costume, with a mask on.


Unless cops had somekind of x-ray vision back in the 30's, I doubt they'd be more suspiciousto a black man in a costume than of Hooded Justice. However I think that most of the superheroes are really those that don't have any real problems, like Silk Specter or Nite Owl, or serious mental problems, Rorschach and Mothman. Minorities tend to have social problem like not being able to get employed, racism, etc., not something you solve by kicking ass.


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