How Dystopia Relates to “Watchmen”.

Alan Moore’s graphic novel “Watchmen” presents the reader with a fictional dystopic world, where dour writing coupled by with intense graphics by Dave Gibbons, pull the reader into a world where life is depressing and its people constantly live in fear. Now famous, Watchmen was first published by DC comics between 1986 and 1987 as a twelve part series. Set in an alternate reality that resembles our world circa 1980, one of the main differences is the presence of super heroes. The Watchmen do not stick to the conventional image of the superhero; that of patriotic protectors, with the nation enjoying their servitude. While the heroes do serve the nation, their views of the world are largely cynical, as if they realize that a Utopia could never exist and have since given up on the idea.

The world created in “Watchmen” is dystopian in nature, challenging the many preconceptions of the classic hero tale that the reader might harbour. “Through this unconventional superhero story, Watchmen troubles readers’ conventional reading of superhero comics and simultaneously problematizes the conventions of reading per se- more exactly the conventional interpretation of text and reality.” Song, Ho-Rim. Text’s Resistance to Being Interpreted: Unconventional Relationship between Text and Reader in Watchmen. Practicing Science Fiction: Critical Essays on Writing, Reading, and Teaching the Genre. McFarland & Company. 2010. The conflicts emerge when the reader is forced to let go of their own personal interpretations of a comic book hero and are instead confronted by the often morose and unconventional hero archetypes presented by Allan Moore.  “A team of masked heroes saves mankind, but everything changes when someone begins killing them one by one.”Leo Gilbert, Whitney Young “ Who watches the 'Watchmen?” Chicago Tribune. March 05, 2009.

The dystopian mood is presented in “Watchmen” through many mediums; the drawings are done in a graphic and uncensored manner, the  subject matter is brutal and uncompromising, and moral makeup of the characters is complex and often anti-heroic, bringing the gritty content into a more tangible and accessible reality. Sucking the reader in, the text furthers this darkness through the superheroes’ fall from grace as the public becomes increasingly wary of them, eventually outlawing them as their actions blur the lines between hero and villain. The narrative present in “Watchmen” also contributes to the anti- Utopian sentiment of the graphic novel. The narrative being very cynical and anti-humanitarian, exploring the cost carried with decisions made where the end is used to justify any means.

“Watchmen” was written in 1986 by Allan Moore, born November 18th 1953 in Northampton, England, the son of a poor family. His works were influenced by his expulsion from secondary school. He did not find happiness in conventional employment and so began to work as a cartoonist. Eventually, and after many jobs, in 1986 he came out with Watchmen and has since set a new standard for the medium of graphic art. As one of the first writers to question the motivations of the superhero. Moore’s characters become fully human in ways that typical heroes, as portrayed in mainstream comics and even literature, are not. They vacillate all over the moral spectrum, they have human foibles; are at times greedy and selfish, disconnected and downright evil, while at others being altruistic and seeking redemption.

Watchmen is a gritty narrative which does not hesitate to wade through both ends of the human moral pendulum, where the answers are often anything but easy and the colours anything but black and white, forcing the reader to challenge their own ethical assumptions. The dystopia present in the graphic novel saturates the narrative, graphics, and plot as a means to counter the ideals of a conventional superhero.

Song, Ho-Rim. Text’s Resistance to Being Interpreted: Unconventional Relationship between Text and Reader in Watchmen” Practicing Science Fiction: Critical Essays on Writing, Reading, and Teaching the Genre. McFarland & Company. 2010. Pg 117.
Leo Gilbert, Whitney Young “ Who watches the 'Watchmen?” Chicago Tribune. March 05, 2009
 “The Ethics of Courage”
“The ethics of courage” by Taiaiake Alfred is a persuasive essay declaiming his ideas on indigenous unrest and how to turn it into a productive nationwide movement for resisting, what he terms, colonial white oppression. His argument reaches out to indigenous minorities and proponents of social justice. Alfred discusses a few of the many nations who have resisted colonial power; citing in detail the Vietnamese revolution against French colonial power. He notes that while the people of Vietnam appreciated many of the advances brought to their country by the French, such as advanced transportation, education, and communications, the tipping point that led to revolution was the racism endemic in the colonial system. The French Indochinese colonists and their governing policies were essentially racist towards the Vietnamese people, implementing advantageous taxes and passing legislation that gave the upper hand to French business interests seeking to exploit Vietnamese resources. In addition to this, the French undermined the Vietnamese social institutions outraging the Vietnamese intellectual community of the time. In short, two “patriotic scholars” Ho Chi Minh and Nguyen Thuang Huyen decided based on the  Marxism/Leninism theories that the only way to get the Vietnamese peoples needs met was to try to spark a revolution. With a similar ideology, Che Guevara also fought against the “colonial enemy” and his influence on South America is still being felt by the people of the world today. However, Alfred suggests that there was a problem with Guevara’s logic in discussing how a violent revolution should be prescribed to the oppressed people trying to stop capitalism. In almost all places except Vietnam and Cuba uprisings have failed. Continuing on, Alfred discusses the apparent attractiveness of violent resistance, despite how frequently it fails to achieve lasting results in that it easily channels that anger of the oppressed and it is often one of the easier means to gain attention and feel as though one is contributing to a cause. He further states that besides the obvious dangers of violence that there are other factors associated with violent resistance that are usually detrimental to reaching the social ameliorations sought by the revolutionaries, factors such as violence begetting more violence in an ever expanding cycle, and the polarizing effects of violence, often causing possible adherents to disavow the cause because of its violent nature.

Alfred calls the people fighting what he considers the colonial Canadian government, or better put, the people seeking self-determination outside of the current political structure, warriors of the Onkewehonwe tribe, naming them  “Onkwehonweneha”, calling to mind the courage it would take to wage a revolution. Alfred coins the term “Anarcho-indigenism” to describe his ideals, likening them to Valclav Havel’s utopia, in which the people of the world would take responsibility for their own world and relinquish private interests of their own to favor the worlds greater need. Alfred connects the ideals of this utopia to his own ideals regarding Anarcho-indigenism; taking responsibility for what the colonization did to indigenous culture and striving to live as they once did. Alfred glorifies the “Oka stand-off” in which his tribe defended their village from the police and government of Canada who wanted to impose their authority on them.  In addition to this he also mentions the “Gustaven lake stand-off” in which his tribe defended their sacred ceremonial site from a settler who wanted to settle their sacred land.  Alfred exemplifies the non violent approach that his people took, it could have escalated but because they kept their calm, no one died and they won. Alfred continues his persuasive essay by further examining the options for and against a violent revolution. Mentions of a suicide bombers thoughts on how to win a war are brought into the pro-con debate of a revolution. The suicide bombers plan was not so much a plan of violence but more of striking fear into the hearts of their enemies, to make their lives unbearable, so as the opposing party will retreat. Alfred continues to discuss how the anger of his people is a possibly good thing as it can drive people help his cause. He likens this anger and go getter attitude to courage contrasting stating: “For sure, this is different from do-nothing passivity and the total loss of confidence that is cowardice.” -Page 264 Paragraph 3
Alfred continues onto a new point in which he states that; “ Oppression has become increasingly invisible; no longer constitutes in the conventional terms of military occupation, onerous  taxation burdens, blatant land thefts etc”- Page 267 Paragraph 2
He later contrasts his own tribe the Onkwehonwe people with the indigenous Mexican groups. He strongly states that the difference between his tribe and the Mexican groups is that they Mexican groups cannot win because of the lack of a cultural base for action, and a lack of strong people to support their actions and stratagise. However in contrasting that of the Zapatista group in Mexico he furthers his own agenda suggesting that there is no way that there should not be a revolution in Canada as his tribe has all of these things. This leads him to the conclusion previously stated in his ideals of Gandhi's pacifistic revolution that violence while an attractive idea is not the answer. He contrasts the ideals of Gandhi with the ideals of Ward Churchill’s “libratory praxis”. Churchill believed that the opposition to violence was an “illness” and tried to re-program people so that they would be okay with the tools of violence.  In summary Alfred states “ So Gandhi's more moderate sounding but more attractive and viable ideas can be seen for that they are in comparison; truly dangerous and really revolutionary.” - Page 266 Paragraph 3.

Alfred concludes with a strong statement about racism, and how his people can over come the while colonization. He calls them forth to act against racism. “ In doing so, they will be truly living the ethic of courage as warriors for the next generations.” He provides a sudo-focus for the indigenous unrest in Canada and calls for a productive movement for resisting the colonial oppression.
          “A modest proposal” written by Jonathan Swift author of Gulliver’s travels, proposes an idea for preventing the poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country, and how to make them beneficial to the public. Swifts voice is both ironic and sarcastic, although at the time a modest proposal was written many people believed he could have been serious. Written in nineteen twenty nine a modest proposal sheds light for us today on how dire the circumstances were, that a pamphlet about eating children was so well received. Swift wanted to call upon his intended audience, the poor and rich people of Ireland, to open their eyes to the future of Ireland and how much things needed to change. In this essay I will illustrate the irony or satire in Swift's idea of eating children to make Ireland a better place and the consequences of this practice.

Children as food solves the problem of raising the young. It frees the poor mothers to work and thus contribute to society. " These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants, who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbados." -Paragraph 1 lines 4-8. This is very sarcastic because Swift would know of a mothers love for her children either through watching his own wife with their children, or through experiencing that love through his own mother. In knowing this Swift does not actually think that the mothers would feel more free or happy with out their children, especially when knowing what would happen to their children after being sold.

Another consequence of the idea of eating children would be there would be little cost to raise young. This is ironic because if you only have your young for a year, and after that have no young, there is no cost at all for the remainder of their lives as they would be dead. This point is thus circular in its reasoning as to why the cost is so little. " I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child ( in which list I reckon all cottages, labourers, and four firths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive value, when he hath only some particular friend or his own family to dine with." - Paragraph 12.

Swift further states that the young would be bought by the rich of Ireland; the landlords. This would aid the poor because they could barter their young against living costs. It is ironic however because the rich would have little need of the meat of children because they are rich and are able to buy the food they require. They have no need for the carcasses of infants to feed upon, other than for variety. 

Swifts proposal of keeping a portion of the children for breeding and talking about them just like livestock helps the reader to clarify the sentiment of satire already present in the essay. It is an outlandish statement made by Swift ( the proposal of eating children) and more so when he continues on to describe how one man may service four females to increase the stock of children for eating." I do therefore humbly offer it to the public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, where of only one fourth part to be males, which is more than we allow sheep, black cattle, or swine; and my reason is that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male with be sufficient to serve four females." 

In addition to this the idea of marriage would become more attractive to men as they would have another income just by marrying. The men, states Swift, would become more fond of their wives because of this new found income. Becoming pregnant would no longer seem like a burden or an outrage to the fathers, they would see it as an investment. " Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat of kick them ( as is all to frequent a practice) for fear of miscarriage." -Paragraph 23 line 6. Swift uses irony here to address the issue of domestic violence against the poor women of Ireland. By stating that selling children for marriage would increase the fondness or love of the husband.

Finally Swifts conclusion stating that he is not opposed to another idea on how to prevent the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country, and how to make them beneficial to the public. Rather he states he would welcome another idea as he is not very keen to put his ideas into practice. This is perhaps the most satirical part of his essay because it exposes that however "good" an idea he doesn’t have the means or the want to follow his own ideas. "I profess, in the sincerity of my heart that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other notice than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. i have no children by which i can propose to get a single penny;the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child bearing."-Last paragraph.

Swift's satirical take on how to remedy an ever increasing problem had many elements of irony and satire while addressing how he wanted the poor Irish to stand up for themselves and the rich landlords to see the problems they were causing with their greed.
In Ken Dryden’s essay “ The Game” he amply covers many topics of the game of hockey while also branching out to discuss the celebrity status those same hockey players reach. I believe that Ken Drydent was often talking about more than hockey; how his game became more than just hockey. How the game of hockey became his life’s game of celebrity status.

By using a casual if at times ironic voice, Ken reaches out to the reader as if the reader were his own friend, a person with whom he could easily converse. He knows how to address the public because I believe that the tone that he uses to write the essay speaks to what he was taught by his life as a celebrity. He can’t get away from the status. “The modern player must be articulate ( or engagingly inarticulate, especially southern style).”(paragraph 5 line 1)

The flow of the essay is story like following the triumphs in his life from before he became a celebrity, having to wait in line, to the after the fact glory of being asked to step out of this line; to step out of the rat race. The audience, the fans, who bought the book, may find that this essay surprises them and is not how they originally thought of the life of a hockey player, especially as the hero Ken Dryden claims to portray. “We lose because you think I’m better than I am.” (Paragraph 18 line 1)

Like the ancient Greeks who’s athletes lives became totally dedicated to their profession. The fans cheering them on, giving away free food and many cheers, in times of competition so do most Canadians when hockey season starts up. We place so much importance on our favorite teams winnings or loosing, as most recently stated by the 2011 Vancouver riots. It is so important to Canada and to many countries to have a hockey, baseball, soccer, or football team who is the best, in the world. To be internationally renowned. But how does this effect the lives of the players? The ones who do not capture the crowd’s attention don’t make it to the finals. No, not the finals as in the Stanley cup, the finals of the game, of celebrity. As Ken Dryden wrote in his essay “ The Game”.
“ Once I used to wait in line like everyone else. Then one day a bank teller motioned me out of the line, and I haven’t been back in one since”- paragraph 1 line1. This was the begging of his new life in the game of celebrity. Ken mentions the many hoops needed to jump through to make it to celebrity status. The commercial he did, the book he collaborated on, the need to be in the spot light. The many helpers he has had a long the way, the journalists , commentators, biographers, and award givers. This is how Kevin Dryden was able to stay in the spot light, to continue his game of hockey through the fans and enter into his game of being a celebrity.

To continue receiving the special treatment in the game of celebrity Ken needed to play into the peoples psyche. To play into their want to celebrate a hero. Ken went after what most people want. They want the free things, the autonomy, the fame. “What others buy Rolls-Royces and votes and hockey teams for,what others take off their clothes for, what others kill for, we have. And all we have to do is play.” ( Paragraph 3 Line 5) No longer does Ken need to play just hockey, he needs to play the game of celebrity. He has what most people desperately want. He continues to play using his image to get people to buy into his heroic status.

For Ken playing hockey led to his celebrity status through his fans. It led to the game of celebrity and the need for him to play it. It led to his glory.


Sep. 9th, 2011 11:01 am



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