B3.Eddie-caseworkerEric Berlatsky (that’s my brother!) suggested that William Leung’s post about Before Watchmen may have been (a little) too harsh. I thought I’d reprint his comments here.

I do think that, based on this, that Minutemen looks like a pretty awful piece of garbage filled with wrongheaded decisions, and aesthetic missteps. StiIl, I do think some of William’s claims here don’t stand up to scrutiny (like Irrelevant’s above). The scene where Comedian calls his colleagues a “bunch of fags”, threatens to kill them, etc. (and is then followed by the “ironic” cartoony “hero” panel-“What a Man!”) really doesn’t make Blake look positive. Rather, it suggests he is the monster we remember from Watchmen (if anything, more monstrous, since Blake has his human moments in the original). The scene in which Dollar Bill is homophobic doesn’t suggest much more than that he is homophobic (incredibly common stance at the time…and even now, believe it or not). The fact that the Minutemen cover up the rape doesn’t mean that Cooke is doing so (in fact, I think he probably assumes we read Watchmen and “saw” what really happened, etc., so any counter-claims by characters come off as patently false. Sally talks about the cover up for PR purposes in the original, I think.) I haven’t read Minutemen, am unlikely to, and don’t want to defend it, but some of the arguments made here aren’t actually supported by the evidence William himself presents, which then makes me somewhat suspicious of the other criticisms.

I can’t speak to Cooke’s portrayal of HJ and CM, and if it’s as negative as William says, then it’s an atrocity that deserves to be critiqued…Moore’s portrayal of HJ really isn’t pleasant though. In Watchmen, HJ is a sadist who gets off on other people’s pain (and not only in a consensual, we-all-agreed-to-it-beforehand kind of way), something Eddie has figured out and exploits. As William notes above, his brutal beatings of criminals is as disturbing as Rorschach’s. Is his sadism and brutality associated with his homosexuality? Maybe not directly, but it treads kind of close to some invidious stereotypes. Captain Metropolis comes off somewhat better, but is the ineffectual, passive, stereotypical “bottom” who rarely, if ever, has any depth to his character beyond that.

If anything, it would have been nice had Cooke countered these stereotypes in some way rather than deepening and exacerbating them…but I don’t think Moore’s portrayal of either of these characters is especially nuanced…and it’s often not very positive (restaurant scene notwithstanding). To be clear, I’m not saying that all portrayals of gay life need to be positive, but the gay male characters in Watchmen tend to be both shallow (drawn with broad strokes) and verging on the negatively stereotypical. The other example is Sally’s husband, whom she implies may be gay at one point in the text pieces.

The choice of having Laurie wearing smiley-face earrings, and re-enacting some of her father’s moves/actions even makes sense in some ways, since the “like father/like daughter” theme is definitely part of Watchmen (particularly in the clothes she wears…the yellow pajamas, and, at the end, the shift to black leather…reflect her father’s similar shift). Obviously, Laurie is formed by her mother and their reconciliation is touching…but the influence (genetic and subconscious) of Blake is also important to her character.

The choice of having her kung-fu moves reflecting Blake’s sexual assault of her mother is just terrible, though….even repulsive.

For these reasons, I kind of feel like Cooke IS trying to use/deepen the themes and subtleties of the original, but that he is incapable of doing so, is incredibly clumsy, etc…which leads to both a lack of subtlety and offensiveness. Moore investigates sensitive and complex issues and treats them, for the most part, with respect and insight. Based on the examples above, Cooke’s attempt to deal with those same issues seems incredibly ham-fisted, but I’m not sure I’m willing to buy the claim that it turns Blake into a “good guy”–or even an attractive anti-hero.

Maybe I’ll read it if my library gets a copy…if I can stomach it

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