Study Guide

Watchmen Patriotism

By Alan Moore

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We are not Cold War kids. We don’t do duck and cover drills to prepare us for nuclear war. We don’t keep gas masks hidden in the basement. Okay, maybe at Shmoop we do, but we’re just weird like that.

The point is, for forty years patriotism in America was easy to define. It was West vs. East, Democracy (and Capitalism) vs. Communism. Stars and Stripes vs. Hammer and Sickle. Rocky vs. Drago.

And yet in 1985, a decade and a half before 9/11, Alan Moore invents a villain (Veidt) who destroys New York City, not in order to create terror, but to stop it. Does that make him an American hero, or one of the sickest mass murderers of all time? In some ways, Watchmen’s patriotism is even more complicated than our own today.

Questions About Patriotism

  1. In Watchmen, how is patriotism different from a national religion?
  2. What has more effect on popular opinion, President Nixon’s government, or newspapers like Nova Express and the New Frontiersman?
  3. How does the rampant advertising in Dave Gibbons’ artwork (Veidt’s perfume, action figures, self-help programs, etc.) connect to patriotism? What are some differences between the American and Soviet ways of life?
  4. Is the opposite of a patriot an anarchist? If so, what are some of the forces for anarchy in Watchmen?

Chew on This

The formula for patriotism is half fear, half pride; it’s natural to fear the other and take pride in the familiar. Throughout Watchmen, Rorschach is governed by fear and hate, while Veidt is bottled up with pride and arrogance.

Patriotism is a worthy cause when there’s an enemy or boogieman worth fighting. That’s why Moore sets Watchmen during the Cold War.

Watchmen Patriotism Study Group

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