I’m Really Not That Bad Once You Get To Know Me

Ozymandias_01One of the most striking aspects of Watchmen is its deconstruction of the superhero genre. On the first glance, the final two chapters seem play out like every other superhero story. Our heroes Night Owl and Rorshach set out to stop the villain Ozymandias from carrying out a nefarious plot from is Antarctic base. We might be shocked when it appears that Ozymandias’s plot is successful, him having subdued our heroes, carrying out his crime, and getting away unpunished. The bad guy wins, right? In class we touched on the idea that Ozymandias may not be a bad guy. Although he murders three million people Adrian Veidt does, technically, save the world. The U.S. and the Soviet Union put aside their differences and imminent nuclear war is averted. So if we read it as Adrian Veidt being the hero, wouldn’t Rorshach and Night Owl be the villains? If they had stopped Veidt, the world would almost certainly have ended in nuclear fire. In my opinion, this is probably the enduring aspects of Watchmen. It’s a superhero story without heroes or villains. The psychological nuances of the characters are too complex to be lumped into these neat categories. Despite all the bodies he was responsible for, Ozymandias believed he did the right thing. His ending, like the rest of the book, is ambiguous. He might be showing doubt, yet this could be just a fleeting pang of conscious, easily forgotten the next moment when he views the unity of the world. The characters of Watchmen are all trying to come to terms with what their costumes stand for. Edward Blake believes it means nothing, and becomes a hired gun for the government. Rorshach will not compromise, even if that means his own death or nuclear destruction. Even the Top Knots believe they’re doing the right thing when they beat Hollis Mason to death in his own home. That old guy is causing civil unrest by dressing up in his underwear and fighting crime, right? There are no heroes or villains in Watchmen, just men and women grappling with a morally grey world.

  1 comment for “I’m Really Not That Bad Once You Get To Know Me

  1. clairejmerenda
    September 30, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Hey! I really liked your post; it pointed out some of the most interesting aspects of the ending of Watchmen – the moral ambiguity. I personally was so frustrated by the ending. I love how realistic it is — in real life, people don’t identify as a “villain” out to destroy the world. Most people believe they’re doing what’s right or best. It’s when people disagree about what’s best that moral debates occur. The ambiguity surrounding the morality of Ozymandias’ decision certainly mirrors life. However, I found myself identifying with and rooting for Rorshach in this scene. Although we see him engage in immoral behavior (torturing, even killing criminals) his transgressions are somehow much easier for me to forgive than Ozymandias. In my eyes, Ozymandias is undoubtedly the villain. When you compare a couple broken fingers to several million murdered men, women and children, it’s very difficult not to draw conclusions. Rorshach is admirable to me in that he refused to back down from what he believed — that senseless shedding of blood was unnecessary and wrong, and that wrongness couldn’t go unnoticed or unpunished. Because of the strict nature of his black-and-white morality, his death was perhaps inevitable. But I certainly wish that he could have been spared that fate.

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