Andy Gainey
Group photo of the Watchmen:  The Comedian, The Silk Spectre II, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, Nite Owl II, Rorschach

Watchmen, the 2nd Generation of Masked Crime Fighters

Watchmen, a 2009 movie directed by Zack Snyder and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore, is without a doubt my favorite super hero movie, and easily ranks among my top movies of any genre. The action is good, the cinematography is well done, the script is compelling, and the acting is effective. But what really draws me in are the characters, as is true for most great stories. In particular, how strongly I could relate to so many of them in a variety of ways. Each character reflected a different facet of my own experiences in a profound way.

Dr. Manhattan, with his highly rational thinking style, suppressed emotions, and somewhat alien perspective; I only wish I had his powers. Rorschach’s dedication to principles and to authenticity, and his willingness to take action even if he does so alone. The Comedian, with his absurdist outlook on life, though not the extreme cynicism and impulsivity which accompanies it. Both the second Nite Owl and Silk Spectre for their struggles figuring out who their true selves really are, and how they can fit with society, or not. As for my relation to Ozymandias, I wouldn’t want to be that much of a narcissist and I won’t claim to be the world’s smartest person, but I take great pride in what intelligence I do have, and value it deeply.

Since last years’ undertaking of research and reflection around the subject of autism, and my consequently more nuanced self-understanding, I decided to re-watch the movie again, this time paying close attention to some of the themes that really impact me. The following is likely to make more sense to those who have watched the movie (or read the novel), but it should still be moderately coherent even if you have not.

Note: Vague spoilers included, along with the occasional bit of strong language and mature subjects.

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I recently watched the movie The Imitation Game, about the computer scientist Alan Turing and the defeat of the German Enigma encryption machine during World War II. (This post isn’t really about the movie, but I’ll take a quick detour to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was emotionally moved throughout; I highly recommend it.) It has been posthumously speculated that Turing had Asperger’s syndrome, and this speculation seems to me to have had an obvious influence on the direction, writing, and acting of the movie. While I don’t want to get bogged down in controversies over historical accuracy, cliche methods used to win movie awards, or any attitudes or comments of the director, writer, or actor concerning autism, there is one facet of how Turing was presented in the movie that I do wish to discuss. I came out of the movie having strong but mixed and confused feelings about the portrayal of Turing in relation to his possible autism. It has been a little tricky to sort out those thoughts and feelings, but here’s my best shot at it. (more…)

Since July, when I started to truly become aware of the autistic elements of my nature, I have been rewatching a lot of movies that include characters exhibiting some of the outward traits of autism, or who are otherwise socially awkward or social outsiders. These have often been the characters to which I could relate the most, and I wanted to re-explore these characters and plots from the perspective of my new self-understanding. I was initially motivated merely by a desire to extract a little extra comfort from watching something relatable, but it turned out to be a great method for assisting with personal reflection. Not only were there nuances to the characters that I had never noticed before, but by thinking about the characters and plots, I began to discover nuances in my own thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that I had never noticed before, or of which I had only dimly been aware. This process has also helped me think about and refine my understanding of how I relate to society around me, the expectations that are subtly placed on me by society and myself, and my reactions to those expectations. (more…)