It’s a superhero show, but really, it’s an anti-superhero show. One unafraid of questioning the utility of a mask or poking fun at the absurdity of the whole charade. Where the novel dealt with Cold War anxieties, the TV series is dealing with the reality that America was founded on racism, and seeks to examine what reckoning with that history could look like.

Culture Crash 19-48


Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture – what’s new and old in entertainment.

When showrunner Damon Lindelof announced that he was going to be making a sequel TV series to the 1980s classic graphic novel, “Watchmen,” he released a letter explaining why he took the job to the novel’s die-hard fans.

Famously, Alan Moore, who wrote the novel, has spoken out against his work ever being adapted, and Lindelof, who previously served as showrunner on ABC’s “Lost” and HBO’s” The Leftovers,” wanted to make his intentions known. He explained that he was a die-hard fan of the novel himself, that it served as a major bonding point for his relationship with his father, and that he felt he had an idea worth exploring within the Watchmen universe.

The graphic novel of “Watchmen” is a hugely influential piece of literature that was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 best novels of all-time. The show, set 30-some years after the events of the novel, is as loving a tribute as may be possible. The series references the novel extensively, but never runs into retread territory. It isn’t re-telling or adapting the story, so much as bringing its sensibilities into the modern world. It is laced with oddball flourishes – like rain storms of alien squids – that harken back to the graphic novel without ever feeling cheap.

One thing that is evident with every moment of the TV series’ runtime is that Lindelof was true to his word on loving the source material, and wants to respectfully and inventively explore the universe without cheapening what came before. It’s a superhero show, but really, it’s an anti-superhero show. One unafraid of questioning the utility of a mask or poking fun at the absurdity of the whole charade. Where the novel dealt with Cold War anxieties, the TV series is dealing with the reality that America was founded on racism, and seeks to examine what reckoning with that history could look like.

If you like capes-and-heroes stories, but need something totally different from cookie-cutter Marvel movies, HBO’s “Watchmen” might be just the thing. It’s short on superpowers, but it packs plenty of zany comic book punch into its examination of a world where grown adults wear costumes to fight – and perpetuate- crime. It’s a loving tribute to a beloved novel and a worthy deconstruction of society’s strange obsession with grown men and women with silly crime-fighting names.

“Watchmen” airs Sundays on HBO.

I’m Evan Rook. 


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