The Cost of the American Dream

This post will contain major spoilers to the plot of the Watchmen, please read it or this summary before reading this.

 

            One of the most striking attributes of Alan Moore’s Watchmen is the gritty truth in the effects of people gaining the ‘American Dream’.  The gritty-side of America that people wish to ignore; to believe, with an almost desperate fervor, to look only at their lofty  aspirations to move ahead in the world and achieve their  dreams. But most people try to forget that their dreams can come with a price, and they do pay in the end with either their morals or their lives.

This is most prevalent with the super heroes that preceded the current Watchmen, the Minutemen. First, Hollace Mason otherwise known as Nite Owl tried to reach his dream to fight crime and be a true hero to the public and himself. But that sours as time progressed and he went against his morals, he decided to retire and attempted to tell the truth about his adventures with the Minutemen; the good and incriminating, but that too failed as opposition and threat of lawsuits caused him to stay silent thus muting his dream until his death.

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Another Minuteman who tried to reach her dream was Ursula Zandt or the Silhouette. Though briefly mentioned in the Watchmen comic and movie we see her desire to live with her lover, another woman, in times after America had won Vietnam War (in the comic), when there was relative peace in America. But unfortunately in the times they lived in their love was not accepted, violently so as both of them were brutally murdered by one of Ursula’s former enemies. She died in her search for her American dream.

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The last and perhaps most tragic drive for his American dream is Edward Morgan Blake better known as the Comedian who from the beginning of the comic was one of the pivotal characters throughout the story. From his death snow balled the events that nearly wiped out the east coast and nuclear war not to mention the millions of lives lost in the ‘Alien’ attack. Throughout the comic small pieces are revealed about the Comedian’s life; ritzy parties with famous people and violent actions he used in the Vietnam War. But the most telling moment of the Comedian’s broken dream was his encounter with the terminally ill Moloch. In which the Comedian recalls all of the deeds he performed for the government to advance his aspiration of money and fame but realized after he was in far too deep that it was a mistake and that the world we knew was a ‘joke’ later crying and desperately asking for someone to explain the world he tried to live and advance in. (the entire scene here)

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These heroes and the generation after them dreamed they could reach their dream but perhaps in their reach for it they forgot that everything comes with a fee.

 

Images from:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/03/01/a-year-of-cool-comic-book-moments-day-60/)

http://shehulk.sliverofice.com/queer-comic-book-characters-the-minutemen-oct-6th-watchmen-1-of-3/

http://whatculture.com/comics/before-watchmen-minutemen-6-review-and-mini-series-wrap-up.php

  4 comments for “The Cost of the American Dream

  1. Tara McCrone
    February 5, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    I found your blog very interesting, because when I have always felt there is an element of old fashioned American patriotism within certain genres of comics. The comic art of the 1950s and 60s inspired one of America’s most famous artist, Roy Lichtenstein; and Superman always said he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way.” We even have our very own Captain America. I couldn’t agree more that the ‘American Dream’ within Watchmen portrays the “gritty truth.” Personally, I believe the ‘American Dream’ within the world of comic books has been skewed. More often than not Superheroes come out triumphant, the day saved, everyone goes home safe and sound. Watchmen creates a completely different insight into the world of superheroes. By playing on the psyche of characters such as the Comedian, as well as presenting obstacles, such as social conformities, that even superheroes cannot overcome, Alan Moore has developed characters that appear more human. Personally, I have noticed as shift from flat, black and white, good and evil characters within comics and graphic novels. For the most part, these characters – even when they have super powers – are boring. I think this can relate back to the fact that the American culture has always been infatuated with comic stripes, comic books, and superheroes. However, the difference is nowadays the ‘American Dream’ is becoming harder to reach. We no longer want to read about the man that can lift a car with one arm, or the woman that is bulletproof. Instead the comic book world is turning to more realistic heroes that give us simple humans inspiration. I think Moore’s Watchmen was a perfect example of the ‘American Dream’ portrayed in this more realistic light.

  2. bleuskeyes
    February 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I found this interesting because I, too, have always felt that many comics have had the element of the American dream. It’s interesting in Watchmen how different some of their “American Dreams” are though, especially the Silhouette’s. The characters in Watchmen, although not entirely realistic, have more elements of realism in their psyches than a character like, say, Captain America. They have problems that people have faced, and face, today and make them easier to relate to. Minus the fact that I’ve never felt the urge to join a group with a guy who wears a hood on his head…

  3. rpatters
    February 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I also found this blog quite interesting. I can agree with both posters before me. I do like how the comic industry is indeed branching out. Before it was mostly comics like the ones from DC and Marvel. An almost perfect hero fighting against the evil villain. But now these days, writers like Robert Kirkman, who is the writer of The Walking Dead, seem to be branching out much more. For example, like in The Walking Dead, the characters are seen to have many flaws, and weakness, both physically and mentally.

  4. Raven
    February 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    I’m glad you decided to start a conversation on this subject. I’ve read Watchmen six or seven times now for various reasons and every time I am struck by the image of “the American dream” as you put it, sort of folding in on itself. It resonates because it’s a reality that we like to ignore. From what I gather a good bit of popular media serves as a kind of escapism (as opposed to insightful reflection). Even in the alternate realities of science fiction the bad guys get what’s coming to them and the good guys come out on top. It’s so much easier to deal with than reality. Stepping back and actually examining the state of the world for what it is means looking at the messy, unfair, and often ugly thing that is mankind. So when I read something like Watchmen in which there are no black and white, clear cut boundaries between what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong; it’s uncomfortable. It’s powerful.

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