Study Guide

Watchmen Patriotism

By Alan Moore

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“They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men, like my father, or President Truman” (I.1.4).

Yes, parents influence their children’s politics. But how do children influence their parents’?

“He stood up for his country […] if that makes him a Nazi, you might as well call me a Nazi, too” (1.17.6-7).

Maybe there is a right way and wrong way to be a patriot.

“But the country’s disintegrating. What’s happened to America? What’s happened to the American dream?” (II.18.6).

You can take that line straight out of 1985 and bring it to the 21st Century. We’re still working on it.

“American love; like coke in green glass bottles, they don’t make it anymore” (II.25.3).

Being a good American and being a good consumer—sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart.

We all had to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and were all forced to reveal our true identities (Chapter C.11).

The First Amendment? Freedom of Speech. Nothing more to say here.

“We repeat: the Superman exists, and he’s American” (IV.13.1).

Dr. Manhattan isn’t the messiah, but this all-American quote sounds more than a tad religious.

“Frankly, isn’t it time we reassessed Rorschach, as a patriot and American?” (VII.12.1).

The man has his principles, there’s no doubt about that. Still, a little tolerance never hurt anybody.

“You go out and grab lunch, and no Gunga Diner s*** […] Get me a hamburger. An American hamburger!” (VIII.10.6).

How can we have patriotism without xenophobia (a fancy word for fear of foreigners)?

What about the Boston Tea Party? What about the spirit of the Lone Ranger? What about all those occasions when men have found it necessary to go masked in order to preserve justice above the letter of the law? (Chapter H.2).

This New Frontiersman article also includes the Ku Klux Klan on its list of masked American heroes. What are some of the reasons this is really problematic?

“Seymour, we do not dignify absurdities with coverage. This is still America, god damnit! Who wants a cowboy actor in the White House?” (XII.32.4).

Remember, in Watchmen, Nixon has been president for 16 years. That “cowboy actor” line might wink at Ronald Reagan, but it’s literally about Robert Redford, another R.R. actor, who unlike Reagan is at the left end of the political spectrum.

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