After going to the theaters and viewing Watchmen on opening weekend, it was clear that there’s a definite issue with how the movie was received and understood based on the generation gap.
Taking place in 1985, (which in reality was still during the Cold War and before the Berlin Wall came down), the fear of nuclear terror was a real and constant threat. But, the enemy who was getting ready to push the button to nuke the world was clearly identified à Communist leaders predominantly in Russia.
For those who were at least 13 or older in 1985, dealing with communism and nuclear war was a strange but real lifestyle. Enemies were identified, however, and the lines were clearly drawn, (more or less minus the political muck). Viewing the images from Watchmen brought back that nostalgic sense of activism and terror, along with a sense of urgency and panic from an era not so long ago.
My generation, who are those born between 1980-1990, watched these scenes from the movie, but we had a different understanding. For most of us, we were children living in this era and didn’t have a real concept of what would happen if the bombs went off. True, we saw our parents and our family members in their panicked state, and we sympathized with them, but that’s different from truly understanding the situation. Looking back at this recreation of the era fills my generation with those sympathic emotions from childhood, but not the same sense of fear and terror.
Today’s younger generation, those born between 1990-2000+/-, are even more detached from this age of communism and nuclear terror. Where my generation was raised with the ideology of a face behind every enemy, this new generation has been taught to live in constant fear since the enemy no longer has a face in the sense of countries or ideology. Today’s terrorist groups fight amongst themselves, remain in the shadows, and/or blow themselves up without ever revealing their identity. Our youngest generation is now instructed to live in a constant state of paranoia and to be suspicious of every one.
Taking the view of these three generations into consideration, I feel the message behind Watchmen may have been lost or not completely understood. Without giving away too much of the story, I’ll try to explain this point.
The older generation watched the movie and understood the motives behind the actions to preserve peace. My generation could sympathize due to how we were raised, but aspects of the movie’s resolution bothered some of us.
Beyond reasons of a good plotàWhy did certain characters have to be so discreet? Why couldn’t they have proposed the ideas to others instead of playing it so close to the chest? My generation asks these questions because we were among some of the first generations to be publicly psychoanalyzed as children, and raised by parents reading books about the mental development of children into adults. We tend to be an inquisitive bunch.
The younger generation watching the movie may not have understood the sense of seriousness and urgency behind the nuclear fear in the mid-1980s. Most of them were not socially cognitive until more than five years after the Wall came down. Furthermore, living in an age of terrorism, the idea of watching the news to see country’s debate about pushing buttons to launch nuclear weapons must seem rather surreal to them. I would truly like to hear an opinion from this younger generation about the plot and the outcome of the movie, in relationship to the solution for peace, but I’ve yet to have the opportunity.
Most of the older generation respect that avoiding nuclear war by any means necessary was what needed to happen. Granted, the movie pushed the envelope on the term “by any means necessary,” but it definitely brought into perspective how serious and how devastating the results of nuclear war could have been worldwide. The plain and simple fact is that when nukes are fired nobody wins.
My generation views the resolution as a necessary evil to uphold peace. Being detached from it, I’m not certain if my generation upholds the “by any means necessary” ideology. Personally, I’d like to believe that we would use different negotiation tactics, but it is difficult for me to say such things when the ideologies of the US and the Communists were so aggressively opposed to each other. Because of which, they were most likely beyond the point of listening, let alone negotiating.
I worry most about our younger generation. Being raised in a post-9/11 world, a part of me wonders if they would feel justified in reacting to a Communist-like enemy by bombing them before they had a chance to retaliate. While our political structure and our ways of dealing with foreign countries is hopefully changing for the better with the new presidency, a part of me is curious if the damage has already been done with the ideology of terror and paranoia in the minds of our younger generation.
Our world still lives with the threat of nuclear war, but we’ve added new atrocities to our weaponry closet. I would hope that Watchmen at least made it clear to each generation that using such weapons of mass destruction will cause a chain reaction of events affecting every one, not just one enemy in one location.