With a 96% critic score and a 46% audience score, the public opinion on HBO‘s Watchmen is noticeably divided. Critics applaud Watchmen for the artistic and creative avenues Damon Lindelof travels down. They like how it confronts racism, corruption, and gun control — things that are all top of mind in 2019.
So why does the audience think Watchmen is 50% worse than the average critic?
They Are Comic Book Purists
Ever since press releases came out for Watchmen, a chunk of Alan Moore loyalists have canned responses to why the HBO sequel is a “disgrace”. They say things like:
“There’s a reason Alan Moore didn’t put his name on this project. The movie was horrible. So why bother with another lame attempt? The comic was very specific to when it came out in 1986…what makes you think it can be adapted today?”
They Didn’t Read the Comic
Watchmen is a complicated comic. Morally messy, symbolic, and political, it’s the kind of literature that leaves a lasting impression on readers — whether they love it or hate it.
Watchmen series creator Lindelof is a loyalist to the comic book, and he’s directing the show from that perspective. He tries to fill in the gaps for people who haven’t read the comic. There are newspaper headlines like “Adrian Veidt Confirmed Dead.” There’s tributes to Richard Nixon in classrooms and trailer parks. There’s ads for a TV show about America’s first vigilantes like Hooded Justice and Silk Spectre. It’s established early on that Vietnam is a state.
But these clues come in quick flashes on the screen. Without reading Watchmen before watching Watchmen, the average viewer is walking into a surprise party where everyone in the room is naked. The show (like the comic) is too surreal or too subtle for their taste.
They Can’t Handle Political Debate
The most significant group of people who don’t like Watchmen can’t properly debate about political or social issues. These people have extreme political beliefs on opposite sides of the spectrum, yet they’re one-and-the-same.
Both kinds of people in this one group agree that political correctness goes beyond being respectful to marginalized people. But to one side, it means shaming people who have controversial or (as they deem it) unacceptable opinions on social media. To the other side, political correctness is a symptom of an overly-sensitive generation of people, and an unconstitutional constraint on their speech.
These people can’t debate about politics. They can’t listen and respond to those with different beliefs. Instead, they lose their temper and hijack the conversation.
They can’t sympathize with the masked police in Watchmen who have to request permission to use firearms during a life-threatening situation. Or they roll their eyes at how the show has another female protagonist — especially a black one.