The Watchmen: Can a superhero stop rape? Not if she’s a woman.

Trigger warning
(Crossposted + Full Review at RIOTgamer)
Feminist Critique of The Watchmen
Despite the inclusion of women superheros, including lesbian superheros, The Watchmen somehow managed to exclude any real possibility of anything feministically sound. Near the beginning of the movie, I was at first taken with the two (yes, two) lesbian superheros. Their on-screen kiss was later redeemed for heterosexists, however, when an image was presented of them both murdered, lying next to each other sideways on a bed. Their positioning on the bed and the tears in their clothing implies (intentional or not) that they may have been sexually assaulted. From this view of their corpses, the camera pans up to show “LESBIAN WHORES” scrawled on the wall in blood above the headboard. Their murder is never really addressed other than a later comment from Rorschach’s narrative that they were “Killed by their own depraved lifestyle”. To me, this would be an interesting area to address. While the film did show the dead bodies of other superheroes after their “fall”, I have a hard time understanding how two superhero(in)es could be killed (and possibly raped) by what appear to be ordinary men.

Another moment in the film which I found to be particularly disturbing was the attempted rape of the female superhero, Silk Spectre. At one point, her and her fellow superheroes are walking through a hall on their way to a newscast(?) when she states that she is going to “freshen up”. Super-creep, “The Comedian” lags behind as the rest keep walking and she meanders to another room. After noticing him staring at her disconcertingly, she tells him that she’ll catch up and proceeds into the room. He follows behind after a quick check down the hall. I won’t go too far into detail here, but, he tries to “put the moves on her”, making such charming comments as “No as in Y-E-S?” after she refuses his advances. To this she replies, “No as in N-O”. When he proceeds to go for her, she punches him in the face – a punch which sends him flying across the room. For the sake of shortening the details I don’t wish to recount: he then proceeds to beat her up, and then, in a scene shot in a disturbingly sexualized manner, moves in to R her. During this time, two other male superheroes walk in and stop him.
Although she is also a superhero, capable of punching so hard that it flings The Comedian across the room, she apparently needs to be saved. This is so implausible that it’s insulting. Never-mind the sexualization of rape which is, in itself, disturbing. The fact that she is shown to be helpless, that even though she is super-strong he is still able to easily “dominate” her, is ridiculous. To add further insult, the rest of the story comes through later, showing her to have fallen in love with him after this happens and to have sex with him, producing a daughter which he later appears to flirt with. This scene takes place as a flashback during The Comedian’s funeral – which everyone still attends. Other flashbacks show him killing random innocent people, including a very pregnant woman in Vietnam who wishes for him to take care of his baby. Such an audacious demand, apparently, merits shooting. I understand. I understand that it paints him in a negative light. But this is never truly grappled with later. They still attend his funeral, still appear sad, still care that he is dead. He has his redeeming moment – his death and a pre-death confession in which he mentions, crying, the “things I’ve done to women…” Oh, well, all is well, then.
The daughter of this union becomes a superhero as well. She has a couple of good scenes in which she kicks ass. Mainly, though, her entire purpose in the film is to be the object of male affection. In this way, she helps to save the world (sort of). Her power is largely, then, derived not from her own bad-assery, but from her sexuality. Great.
Rorschach, of course, is caught up in hatred for women because of his mother.
The only people of color in the movie are criminals other than one greedy prison psychiatrist.
Overall, I found the message in the movie to be astoundingly shitty. Lesbian “whores” should be murdered for their “depraved lifestyles”, women, no matter how strong, have no hope of defending themselves, a woman’s true power comes from her as a sexual/emotional object, and people of color are all criminals. Thank you, Zack Snyder, for ruining my day.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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