Derrida should have written about super heroes

February 11, 2007


I’ll start by saying that Watchmen is pretty cool and by far one of the most enjoyable things I’ve had to read for a class assignment.  Having said that, I have no clue how to relate what happens in Watchmen to anything written by Jameson, Derrida, Williams, Saussure, or anyone else.  But maybe, had they included super heroes in their works, I may have better understood what they were trying to say.  So it may be a long shot, and most of it may not make sense, but I’ll try to relate some things from the writings of literary theorists to what I read in the comic book.

I believe there is an example of pastiche in Watchmen, and that comes from the formation of the Crimebusters.  The Crimebusters form following the example of the original super hero team The Minutemen.  This is pastiche because the Crimebusters are going off of what has already been established, without the mocking aspect that goes along with parody.  Also with Jameson, on page 1962 he writes of postmodernism, “It is also, at least in my use, a periodizing concept whose function is to correlate the emergence of new formal features in culture with the emergence of a new type of social life and a new economic order”  On page 10 of chapter 2, Captain Metropolis tells the Crimebusters that “new social evils emerge every day.”  So where postmodernism comes into play from the formation of new fads and concepts in society and culture, the Crimebusters must come together because of new evils and dangers to society.  Did any of that make any sense?

I can see Derrida liking the pharse “who watches the watchmen?”  He wanted to show that there are flaws in the concept of universal structure and there can never be a clear center.  In Watchmen, the people were not  comfortable leaving the job of their protection and safety in the hands of an unchecked group of heroes.  Thus, they saw the flaws of having a definite center and structure.  How about that, did that make any sense?

The character of Rorschach, the attitude of The Comedian, the man with the sign proclaiming the end of the world, and what happens with Doc Manhattan at the end of chapter 3, these are all things that I find interesting but as of yet cannot tie them with any of our readings.  Maybe it will come with further reading in Watchmen.


3 Responses to “Derrida should have written about super heroes”

  1. joei5 said

    Hey Ryan,
    I really liked the part of your blog where you said, “I can see Derrida liking the phrase ‘who watches the watchmen?'” I really agree with that statement. Derrida lost me when he tried to explain a lot of his concepts, so I’m sure he would love that question being that it’s so hard to answer.

    I also found a lot of things interesting throughout the three chapters of the comic book, but I too had a lot of trouble tying the super heroes to our past readings.

  2. Ryan, I have to tell you, I had the same experience in having the story, and then having the theory a few miles away. It was hard to find a way to connect them and make it all flow, since I don’t normally read using such a lens. With the Crimebusters/Minutemen example, I’m there with you. Moore is not mocking the Minutemen in any way, and he is definitely gesturing to the past to find an answer or explanation for the present. To go a little further, there is a clear sense of the postmodernist metonym that Jameson discussed in the ‘biography’ that is interspersed with the graphic elements, and this biography is being used to substitute for true history.

  3. brett glasser said

    Ryan, Your perspective on Derridas view of the Watchmen was dead on. Derrida is still beyond comprehension to me so I was unable to include him in my piece. Therefore, I was glad to see you did. We agree that Jameson definitly can be seen in the novel through pastiche. I kinda think that with a stupid name like The Comedian we can get a small taste of parady but thats up for arguement. Check out my Superman arguement for Im sure you will enjoy its connection to the way The Comedian begins to enforce his own justice,

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