Study Guide

Watchmen Genre

By Alan Moore

Genre

Mystery; Dystopian Literature; Science Fiction; Satire and Parody; Postmodernism

Mystery

Watchmen begins with two detectives investigating the murder of Edward Blake. Good cop, bad cop, right? Nothing unusual here. But Moore quickly twists the mystery genre by making the real private eye eyeless— you can’t see Rorschach’s face with his mask on. Look at the rest of his getup, though. That’s a man who to lives to solve capers, see?

Dystopian Literature

In an America where Woodward and Bernstein are killed before they blow the lid on Watergate, and where President Nixon guts the Constitution to become a twenty-year dictator, let’s just say there’s trouble in paradise. Sure, Dr. Manhattan makes electric cars and airships a reality, but have you checked the Doomsday Clock lately? It’s practically midnight. Sounds like dystopia to us.

Science Fiction

Teleported monster squid with the cloned brain of a psychic? Check. Atomic blue giant who doesn’t wear clothes and heads to Mars when he’s in a bad mood? Check. Just a day in the life, if you’re living in a science fiction story. Think how Dr. Manhattan drives the plot, even if he doesn’t actually do that much, besides killing Rorschach in the end. Likewise, Watchmen has the trappings of sci-fi, but its main concerns lie elsewhere.

Satire and Parody

These caped crusaders are anything but cool, and that’s how Moore intends it. Their flaws are our flaws on a much larger, more grandiose scale. Why else would you have retired superheroes living in old folks’ homes or above auto repair shops? Or superheroes who resent their parents, who are nervous around the opposite (or same) sex? The Comedian gets it; sometimes, life is a joke with no punch line.

Postmodernism

Flip to Chapter V, pages 14-15. Notice how the right page is a mirror image to the left? Well, the whole chapter matches up like that. To give you a heads up, the title is “Fearful Symmetry.” Page 1 flips page 28, page 2 flips page 27, etc. And here at the exact halfway point, the “V” in Veidt Enterprises splits across pages 14 and 15. Nothing in Watchmen is an accident. Everything is an experiment, a way to deconstruct everything you thought you knew about comics, superheroes, time, and the American dream.