The women of Watchmen rambles

I love Watchmen. Love it to pieces. My boyfriend bought me Ultimate Watchmen(basically the novel but with some extra material at the end) and I turned to the character profiles. Each described the character and noted underneath what their ‘way of viewing the world’ was. I turned to Laurie’s profile, and she didn’t have one. She had no way of viewing the world, while all the men did. I couldn’t help but be a little annoyed, but then I forgot about it.

Then I remembered it again.

I think Alan Moore is good at writing female characters- actually, he’s good at writing any characters, but the female ones always seem to particularly stand out. Mina from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Evey from V for Vendetta generally outshinethe men in intelligence and leadership.

Then you have Laurie, the Silk Spectre, and her mother- two of only three female superheroes in the whole book. I like Sally a lot, and think she is far more complex than Watchmen could explore- Sally could have a whole novel of her own. Laurie’s my favourite character- why does she not have a world view, an opinion?

I don’t think Watchmen is anti-feminist. But let’s take a look. Comment with your thoughts if you like- there’s no way I’ve analysed everything.

Laurie

Ran across this post on the site Undomestic Godess: A Watchmen Concern. It’s worth a read, but there’s one part in particular I take issue with, regarding Laurie:

“In the book she is also ALWAYS CRYING. Maybe “adventuring,” as they refer to it, is too tough for girls.” -the Undomestic Godess

On copy-and-pasting this I decided it might be time to fetch the book. Laurie cries when:
-she’s at Dan’s house after leaving Jon (her boyfriend of many years)
-she finds out the Comedian, a rapist, is her father
-she witnesses the horrific destruction of New York (I’m counting everything after that in the same chapter- shooting Veidt and viewing
the news and so on)

So that makes three times, and all are life-changing events- you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t cry on viewing the gory, bloody corpses of thousands of people.

Perhaps this is an uncharitable reading of the Undomestic Godess post, but if crying makes you anti-feminist, I’m screwed. I’m also reminded of something Neil Gaiman said on his blog, about the heroine of his book Coraline:

“…he [Clement Freud] didn’t like the bit where she cried in the night in the empty bed. He thought that, as a hero and a brave girl, she should not have cried. And I thought that she was a hero and a brave girl because she cried in the night and kept going anyway.”
-Neil Gaiman on Coraline

I reckon that says it all.

What sort of person is Laurie Juspecyzk? She’s bitter about her mother forcing her into a career- there’s one line in Watchmen I noticed where Laurie mentions her childhood ambitions: “…that was my fantasy, when I was a kid: to work with animals.” (page five of A Brother To Dragons) Obviously, though, this never happened, and Sally shaped her daughter into what she herself wanted to be, and indeed had been before the pregnancy.

She smokes (something left out of the film for some reason), she appears to be a pretty competent fighter, she’s rude and pushy with people at times (she’s rather snappy with the people saved from the tenement fire), she’s easily bored, she embraces the heritage her mother rejected. She actually seems the most ordinary of the Watchmen- Jon’s one remaining link to the world, and with Dan, the audience’s link to the world as well.

She’s also the daughter of a rapist- a rapist her mother had consentual sex with. Her mother never told her about this, and yet Laurie still at the end forgives her and tells her she loves her (I could be wrong, but I think this is the only time ‘I love you’ is said in the whole book.) She gets a happy ending, too- one far happier than Adrian’s or Rorscarch’s. Furthermore, she’s no-one’s ‘reward’- or if she is, Dan is as much hers as she is his.

Sally

“What else would she have done?” Sally tells an interviewer who asks her about her daughter. “…been a housewife?” Sally seems to be one who thinks being a housewife is demeaning for a woman. (Laurie seems to agree- at the end she rejects, at least temporarily, the prospect of motherhood for a life of adventuring again.) Sally herself seems to have been a housewife while married to Laurence Schnexader, and that, as we know, didn’t turn out all too well.

Sally seems to me to be a woman desperate for her daughter to have a better life than she did- I wonder if she pushed Laurie to train so hard because this way Laurie would never be vunerable, could take on any Comedians that might come her way. Even though her relationship with her daughter is strained because of this, they still have a pretty civil relationship- perhaps a sign that for a long time, all these two women had was each other and they’re not willing to let that go.

Sally had consentual sex with a man who had previously tried to rape her- this is a part of the plot which isn’t explored quite as much as it perhaps could have been, but that’s understandable. Possibly even intentional- Watchmen does after all explore the idea that humans are incredibly complex and often do things that don’t make sense.

Perhaps she was honestly in love with him- the last frame that features Sally seems to hint at that. Why? There’s no way he deserves it, but love doesn’t really pay attention to that sort of thing. Plus, hey- people, readers, they do love the Comedian, he’s the favourite character of many people. Maybe Sally was drawn to the same things- he was funny, and charismatic. She couldn’t sustain the anger, maybe she wanted to understand him, maybe she wanted to change him…it could be anything. Yet…she’s no victim, not really. She lives a mostly happy life and the past doesn’t haunt her.

I don’t know if she’s a good role model or not. I’m not sure she’s supposed to be, any more than the men are…she’s just human.

Gloria

Gloria Long is probably the most problematic of the Watchmen women- she is the only woman of colour in the book with a speaking part (apart from one of the staff at Sally’s nursing home) and in a way she’s a bit of a stereotype- the sexual black woman, a Jezebel. She objects to her husband working so hard because that means he hasn’t time to have sex with her, and this sexual frustration leads to her leaving him. In fact she seems quite fundamentally selfish- “You got a nice life, I got a nice life, nobody else matters,” she says to her husband at one point. But when her husband behaves in a way she doesn’t like, she rejects him almost straight away.

I quite like Gloria and don’t really like to think of her as a negative stereotype, but her characterization is a bit problematic. She’s the only black woman I remember having a real role in any of Alan Moore’s books (that I’ve read, anyway). If I was going to have a discussion with Moore about this, I would respectfully suggest he worked a bit harder next time.

But I still quite like her as a character (possibly because I plan to write about her, thus developing her more than she was developed in the book), so I’m not really sure where that leaves me. Or her for that matter.

Joey and Aline

Joey is seen tearing the “Knots” book in two- breaking the Gordian knot, as Alexander The Great and Ozymandias did. She’s taking the easy way out instead of working through problems.

Curiously this makes a parallel between Adrian and Joey, although I doubt this was intentional. Perhaps it is meant to say that whether you’re dealing with a broken relationship or with World War Three, most people will take the easy solution.

Joey is what most people would call a ‘butch’ lesbian, I suppose- does a ‘man’s job’, wears a man’s clothes. Aline is a political person,
putting up posters and so on. Neither of them get much character development or many lines, but they could be a lot worse- both of them seem like real people.

Janey

Curiously I can’t really think of much to say about Janey. She doesn’t get much character development really- although I think it’s probably quite impressive that she’s suceeding in a male-dominated field in the 1950s. (We never find out if she continues to be a scientist, though.)