Study Guide

Watchmen Rules and Order

By Alan Moore

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Rules and Order

The first rule of Shmoop Club—do not talk about Shmoop Club. The second rule of Shmoop Club is— oh no, the police.

Like the TV show that’s been around longer than Watchmen, America loves its Law and Order. So much so that we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners.

But who makes the laws? The government. And what exactly is the government? Some would say it’s whoever has a monopoly on violence. We’re not talking Uncle Moneybags here; this is no kid’s game. In Watchmen’s universe, it’s illegal to even be a masked hero, and has been ever since the Keene Act of 1977.

Still, for characters like Rorschach and Nite Owl, the choice is clear. They must break the rules in order to preserve order. It’s a thankless job, but as far as they’re concerned, the powers that be aren’t doing such a hot job.

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. Between the Comedian, Rorschach, Veidt, and the Night Owl, whose take on justice most resembles your own?
  2.  If Watchmen took place today instead of alt-1985, how might things look different, in terms of crime and punishment?
  3. There are supervillains in the world (Osama bin Laden, Charles Taylor, etc.), but no agreed-upon superheroes. What does that say about the true nature of law enforcement?
  4. This question is a choose-your-own-adventure: Let’s say you’ve decided to fight crime outside the law. Like Rorschach, you have no superpowers. You design a costume and pick a name for yourself. When Doug Roth from Nova Express asks you why you do it, what do you tell him?

Chew on This

Moore is a cynic when it comes to politics and government (five terms of President Nixon?), but he doesn’t glorify anarchy either.

Watchmen becomes truly scary when it points out America’s own fascist tendencies.

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