Philosophy

Rorschach Doesn't Shrug

The Watchmen's hero as Objectivist saint

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SPOILER WARNING: This article contains significant plot and denouement revelations regarding the graphic novel and movie Watchmen.

The moral center of Watchmen, both the original graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and the new, much-discussed movie based on it premiering today, is a curious and prickly masked vigilante who goes by the name Rorschach.

The surface meaning of the name is visually obvious—his mask contains swirling black blots on white that remind one of the psychological testing mechanism. But applied to his character, the name is both appropriate and ironic.

It's appropriate in that the character is obsessed with stark duality—black and white—and ironic in that the mushy "it's whatever you see" vagueness opposes his very definite vision of what's what in the world: There are good guys and bad guys, and the bad guys deserve to get it, good and hard. Rorschach's mission, from which he will not diverge, is to give it to them, no matter what the demands of law, government, or social mores. He lives by his objective understanding of right and wrong.

In the original conception of the comic book Watchmen, the characters were going to be old Charlton Comics second-string superheroes that D.C. Comics had won the rights to. In that conception, the Rorschach character would have been The Question—a character created by Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man.

Ditko was a huge fan of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. After getting out from under Stan Lee's thumb at Marvel Comics he decided to let his Rand flag fly, first with Charlton's Question and later in his self-published "Mr. A." That's A as in, A is A, the essential statement of Randian Aristotelianism. Reality is what it is, Rand held, and an objective set of moral imperatives follow from that. Thus, Rorschach is Moore's vision of an Objectivist superhero.

Ditko's Mr. A is far more dispassionate than Rorschach—he's a purer representation of a perfect Objectivist as opposed to what a real one might actually be like. (And unlike Rorschach, he doesn't work in the slightest as an actual believable character one could care about.) When Mr. A refuses to save a kidnapper dangling above certain death, he informs the little girl (who Mr. A succeeds in rescuing, unlike the kidnapped girl central to Rorschach's character arc, who ends up food for vicious dogs) that "I won't help anyone who believes he has a right to hurt you!…I only care what happens to the innocent and the good people! I treat people the way they act toward human life! I grant them what their action (sic) deserve, have earned!"

Both Rorschach and Watchmen's villain (who I'll avoid naming, for slight spoiler protection purposes) are willing to kill in the name of what they think is a higher good. Indeed, given Rorschach's contempt for what he sees as the moral stink of the Watchmen world, it's easy to imagine that he might have been willing to accept that each and every person killed in the movie's central scheme might have actually deserved it (as Rand did in a smaller-scale disaster; Atlas Shrugged's train wreck scene).

But Rorschach would deliver that as a personal, individual judgment—breaking what bones needed to be broken with his own hands—not from a world away with indiscriminate techno-gimmicks and no sense of actual individual guilt. The opposition between Rorschach and the villain is easy to read as that of individual, true justice versus the state's collectivist version. In every single war ever waged, governments make the kind of moral judgment that Watchmen's villain does, and the movie and comic, with Rorschach's help, make us wonder whether those decisions that governments—and superheroes—often make really are tolerable. Rand would have been proud.

When you think of Rand's aesthetic, it seems appropriate somehow that Rand should have invented the superhero. If the idea of the costumed vigilante, superpowered or not, hadn't already been a pop cliché by the time she was writing Atlas Shrugged, it would fit Rand's sense of romantic symbolic imaginative power to have, say, Ragnar commit his piracy-for-justice under a colorful masked identity; similarly, John Galt's science-fictional invention could have turned him into a Dr. Manhattan type.

Rorschach's sense of justice may make him hate most of humanity—he brags to himself at the beginning that if mankind begged him to save them, he'd justly say "no." But by the end he sacrifices himself in the name of avenging the deaths of millions who he doesn't know. He does it for another reason as well, one of particular holiness to the Objectivist: the truth, the facts of reality. Whether or not the villain's scheme might result in some "higher good," it did so at the cost of Faking Reality—a cost no Objectivist will bear. We don't know if Rorschach's attempts to set the record straight will do any good—but he's willing to bear any burden, let the very heavens fall, to stay square with reality.

To be the kind of man whose highest value is to "have lived life free from compromise," as Rorschach says, makes that man "unreasonable" in the colloquial sense—that is, you aren't going to be able to talk them in or out of much. You are going to find them abrasive, aggravating, and in circumstances like those the characters in Watchmen find themselves in, mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Moore's conception of what an Objectivist hero would be like in "real life" (or at least in his realistically detailed fantasy) is both respectful and disrespectful to Rand's vision in interesting ways: Rorschach seems driven to madness by his ideology; a radical Objectivism forges a character that seems obviously damaged in unpleasant ways.

Yet he's also the only man around who stands up for everyone's right to be judged individually on the basis of their character and actions, their right not to be a means to someone else's higher end—no matter what one might think of that end. He knows what it means to be human—that's why he has to condemn those he kills as having betrayed the essence of man qua man, relegating them to the status of dogs to be put down.

But always, Rorschach judges as an individual mind, and judges individual minds. Rorschach is no handsome Rand hero as she imagined them; but he's still probably the most vivid and well-thought-out Objectivist hero that Rand didn't create.

Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man (BenBella), Radicals for Capitalism (PublicAffairs) and Gun Control on Trial (Cato Institute).

NEXT: Freeman: "Iraq Is Not a Flimsy Construction"

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  1. Speaking of Objectivism and Comics I remember reading a LSF catalog in the 1990s and seeing a graphic novel called “Elvis Shrugged”. I didn’t buy it at the time but I have never seen it elsewhere. Has anyone read it? Does anyone know where I could get a copy?

  2. OK that’s like 3 in a row now. Did I miss the big announcement? When did Reason change from a libertarian thinker’s magazine into a comic book movie critic rag?

  3. “OK that’s like 3 in a row now. Did I miss the big announcement? When did Reason change from a libertarian thinker’s magazine into a comic book movie critic rag?”

    First of all Watchmen is a GRAPHIC NOVEL. One that won a Hugo Award no less. One that is deeply philosophical. Second of all, Reason often does stories on pop culture and their impact on society as a whole. Alan Moore, if you are unaware, also wrote V for Vendetta and is a self-described anarchist.

  4. I have a copy of Elvis Shrugged somewhere. The artist emailled me a while back. I’ll look and see if I still have the purchase info.

    As for Rorscach, he fails the Objectivist test.
    In the comic he clearly dismisses moral lapses and says so explicitly. He allows moral relativism in small batches. It’s a throwaway scene, but important.

    Watchmen was a 12 issue miniseries. It’s chapters are self-contained and designed as single issues. It’s a comic. Graphic Novel was a phrase invented when books like Watchmen began getting attention.

  5. Fitting that Rorschach is the closest one objectively comes in “heroes” to a true psychotic.

    Yeah, that’s right. I brought the Ayn Rand hate.

  6. HAY GUYZ WHATS GOIN ON?

    Oh, Ayn Rand again. Right.

  7. Jeff P, thanks, I would love to get a copy.

  8. Correlation doesn’t mean causation, but why is it that so many stupid people are discussing some comic book I’ve never heard of and that those who are older than middle school probably have no interest in?

    Is Brian Doherty one of Reason’s child laborers?

  9. “Fitting that Rorschach is the closest one objectively comes in “heroes” to a true psychotic.”

    I would love to have Thomas Szasz’s take on Rorschach.

  10. “Correlation doesn’t mean causation, but why is it that so many stupid people are discussing some comic book I’ve never heard of and that those who are older than middle school probably have no interest in?”

    As Ayn Rand might say “check your premises”. Seriously, even if, as Jeff P says it technically fits the definition “comic book” it is not your average comic book. It is one of the finest works of literature of any genre. This is a work that will be remembered and studied in 200 years. It is that classic.

  11. There are good guys and bad guys, and the bad guys deserve to get it, good and hard.

    Funny, I’ve always thought that about bad girls. I’ll be leaving soon to try to put that philosophy to work.

  12. I agree with PIRS here. Graphic novels and comics can be art forms. Dismissing an entire medium strikes me as the foolish thing to to (like people who dismiss TV in total, I mean they miss out on the Sopranos, Twin Peaks, Deadwood, etc).

    Also, culture influences politics and politics influences culture. That’s rather obvious. So discussing a movie or book or comic that has great influence seems right for a political magazine.

    Last, this is a libertarian site and Rosarch has widely been seen as a libertarian figure, and you just don’t see that very much in movies and comics. So it makes sense that a libertarian magazine would devote quite a bit of time to it.

    I will say though that while Watchmen is certainly growing on me I don’t think it is the best comic ever. I think Moore’s The Killing Joke or perhaps his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen takes that title (though some of John Byrne’s Fantastic Four issues were great stuff from a sci-fi view).

  13. [I]t’s easy to imagine that he might have been willing to accept that each and every person killed in the movie’s central scheme might have actually deserved it (as Rand did in a smaller-scale disaster; Atlas Shrugged’s train wreck scene).

    Not exactly. For instance, the children who died in the train wreck were certainly innocent, but:

    The woman in Bedroom D was a mother who had put her two children to sleep in the birth above her; a mother whose husband held a government job enforcing directives, which she defended by saying, “I don’t care, it’s only the rich that they hurt. After all, I must think of my children.”

    The paragraphs like the one above, describing the various passengers who perished in the wreck, are preceded by this one:

    It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet were not guilty or responsible for the thing that happened to them.

    Rand isn’t saying that those passengers deserved to die in a train wreck. She’s saying that they shared a common philosophy which, after a long chain of events, made such a disaster inevitable. It’s poetic justice in the extreme, but justice is often cruel.

  14. Baked
    LOL!

    Between you and Episarch, I almost always get a good laugh before the week is over…

  15. If you want to see a couple of REAL Objectivist heroes, here you go: http://is.gd/mcJW.

  16. Oh, and in case anyone hasn’t seen them, here are some reasons why Lonewhacker hates cartoons.

  17. You’re way off. Rorschach bears the same relationship to an Ayn Rand hero as Atlanta Hope in Illuminatus! does to Ayn Rand. Come on, Rorschach formed his opinions from a joke or lame excuse his mother made about his father to him as a child too young to understand such things. Moore was, if anything, lampooning Objectivists.

    And as to the dogs, there was no indication they were vicious. They even looked friendly to me. The kidnapped girl was killed first and fed to them in bits. Rorschach apparently killed them for catharsis, or possibly to keep them from alerting their owner, or so they wouldn’t suffer in the fire.

  18. Is LoneWacko serious? Or is he a parody of the “Conservative Crazy” like Steve Colbert and Ann Coulter?

  19. PIRS
    Dude, whatever else you can say about Lonewhacko, the guy is serious…

  20. Anyway, as I’ve written elsewhere, and have done so for years, Watchmen has already been adapted for the screen. The adaptation is called Lost, and it’s much more than an adaptation of Watchmen; it reproduces the theme and style, albeit not the mood, of the graphic novel as one of the many things it accomplishes.

  21. MNG, I suppose you are going to tell me Ann Coulter is serious too?

  22. LOL, is Ann Coulter the best example of Poe’s law in conservative commentary?

  23. This is pretty funny if you are a Watchmen fan and grew up watching Saturday morning super-hero cartoons…

    http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/485797

    PIRS
    I don’t take Ann Coulter seriously, but I guess she is serious about what she says. You think she’s just selling red meat?

  24. “I don’t take Ann Coulter seriously, but I guess she is serious about what she says. You think she’s just selling red meat?”

    I’m not sure, before I read Rand & Heinlein I thought of myself as “conservative” but even back then I would have laughed at someone like Ann Coulter. For one think her arguments lack any sort of substance, it is all ad hominem. Whether you agree with someone like William F. Buckley or not at least he had logical arguments to back his view up. Coulter lacks those. She also fills her columns with the worst sort of straw-man arguments imaginable. And she lumps all liberals together. She reminds me of a (much) less intelligent and thoughtful Bill O’Reiley (and without O’Reiley’s vocabulary).

  25. Anyway, as I’ve written elsewhere, and have done so for years, Watchmen has already been adapted for the screen. The adaptation is called Lost, and it’s much more than an adaptation of Watchmen; it reproduces the theme and style, albeit not the mood, of the graphic novel as one of the many things it accomplishes.

    It’s possible I stopped watching too soon, but I think I missed the deconstruction of superhero comics. I can’t speak to the apocalyptic elements, because I know I stopped watching too soon for that.

    Either that or you’re confusing “adaptation” with “spiritual succession.”

  26. thx, MNG – btw, Underzog is over on the Moynihan thread if you feel like arguing with that nutter.


  27. Watchmen was a 12 issue miniseries.

    I remember taking multiple copies of the first 4 issues in partial trade on some agricultural product back in the late 80s.I quickly skimmed them and was less than impressed.I was kinda surprised how much I flipped ’em for at the time.

  28. Brian Doherty notes that the Watchmen’s controversial hero is as great an example of an Objectivist saint as you’ll find outside the pages of an Ayn Rand novel.

    Well, sure, if by “great example” you mean “a leftist Brit’s presentation of a unbalanced, obsessed right-wing paranoid.” Moore designed Rorschach as more-or-less an attack on Ditko’s Objectivism. 🙂

  29. I saw the movie last night and looked through some reviews today. I think the whole thing is like a Rorschach test. One review thought it was anti-conservative, another the opposite. One called the “villain” a neo-nazi, another called him a liberal stereotype. What you read into it seems more dependent on who you are than the characters. I think it’s plausible to see Rorschach as the Uber-mensch and the Comedian as the Lez-mensch.

    I liked the movie, the violence in particular. Actually I did not like the violence, it made me uncomfortable, I liked the use of the violence. It was effective.

  30. Dude, whatever else you can say about Lonewhacko, the guy is serious…

    He does crack a joke from time to time. You can always tell when it happens, ’cause that’s when he stops being funny.


  31. Yeah, that’s right. I brought the Ayn Rand hate.

    How bold of you, standing out from the H&R crowd like that.

  32. Don’t forget Moore took this Randian character and infused him with a great deal of Nietzsche. Rorschach reminded me of Allan Bloom’s/the Straussian’s interpretation of Nietzsche because Bloom insisted that Nietzsche was a right winger. Bloom also claimed Ayn Rand exemplified Nietzschean assertiveness (admittedly, he wasn’t the first to make the Rand-Nietzsche connection).

    And Rorschach certainly had Nietzschean assertiveness in a rudderless world.

  33. Was Allan Bloom any relation to Judy Bloom?

  34. Fitting that Rorschach is the closest one objectively comes in “heroes” to a true psychotic.

    *** SPOILER WARNING ***

    I think it’s very much open to debate whether Veidt and the Comedian are not closer to true psychosis. Certainly, they are less humane characters than Rorschach.

  35. I don’t think Allan Bloom was related to Judy Bloom. And I know he wasn’t related to Harold Bloom, because Harold complains about folks confusion them for the same person or otherwise thinking they were related.

  36. “thx, MNG – btw, Underzog is over on the Moynihan thread if you feel like arguing with that nutter.”

    Thanks for the update, but I’m not going there. Even I’m sick of talking about Israel lately…

    But I am looking forward to taking off work early Tuesday and catching Watchmen.

  37. Judy Blume (nee Sussman) is not a resident.

  38. “But I am looking forward to taking off work early Tuesday and catching Watchmen.”

    Tuesday is my Saturday so I am going to go watch it on Tuesday too. IMAX if I can. I think this the type of film that should be seen in IMAX if possible.

  39. Thanks Bloom County!

  40. I think it’s very much open to debate whether Veidt and the Comedian are not closer to true psychosis. Certainly, they are less humane characters than Rorschach.

    The Comedian I wouldn’t call a hero, and Veidt’s main problem is that he is a megalomaniacally arrogant. Sociopathic psychosis is a different thing altogether.

  41. I would call The Comedian “amoral”. And anyone who has read both “The Killing Joke” and “Watchmen” can see the similarity between “The Commedian” and “The Joker” as Moore spins the backstory.

  42. Hey, you should also put a spoiler warning for AS in there was well. I didn’t know there would be a train-wreck scene.

  43. Watchmen was serialized, but had a well-defined arc, even if the issues work as self-contained stories. I still say it’s a graphic novel (apparently novels were often serialized, too until the 20th century). Please don’t make me provide a link.

    I can’t praise Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ work enough. And that someone as dysfunctional as Rohrschach actually ends up being perhaps the most humane character is fascinating to me (also that Moore manages to make a character like the Comedian even halfway sympathetic is quite a feat).

  44. PIRS: check the Mile High Comics site, they should have Elvis for sale.

    Rorschach has know Comedian long enough to know he’s a brute and a thug, yet stands up for him anyway and vows to bring his killer to justice. This is relativism pure and simple.

    Point of order: There were plenty of comics that didn’t fit the stereotype before Watchmen. In fact the “mainstream” comic is a relatively new entry in the artform. Then again, as Warren Ellis pointed out, a mainstream comic means huge men in tights wrestling, just about the pinnacle of anti-mainstream in every other aspect of culture.

    As for morally-centered “objectivist” characters not written by Rand (a misnomer as all of her fiction pre-dates objectivism as a philosophy, albeit a trademarked one) see Heinlein, Pournelle, a good chunk of Van Vogt, the carmaker Tucker from the Coppola movie, William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck in Executive Suite, Humphrey Bogart at the end of Sabrina, Jose Ferrer in The Great Man, the first three seasons of Hart to Hart, and all of Spenser for Hire, off the top of my head.

  45. see Heinlein, Pournelle, a good chunk of Van Vogt, the carmaker Tucker from the Coppola movie, William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck in Executive Suite, Humphrey Bogart at the end of Sabrina, Jose Ferrer in The Great Man, the first three seasons of Hart to Hart, and all of Spenser for Hire

    For some reason, this also works as poetry.

  46. Maybe Watchmen is a Rorshach test (I haven’t seen the movie yet as I’m in the desert)…the comic, too. I guess you could see Rorschach as a satire of Objectivism…or just a damaged badass, or both. To me, Moore actually depicts him sympathetically.

  47. Nerds.

  48. LAWLZ @ FM. There seems to be a fair amount of ‘nerds’ who spend a lot of time on Libertarian websites. Who’d’ve imagined?

    But I guess if Evangelical Christians have Chick’s Tracts, Evangelical Objectivists have Steve Ditko comix (particularly Mr. A). An interesting parallel I’m sure somebody else has made somewhere else.

  49. I really don’t believe Moore actually read any of Rand’s novels, so he badly misunderstood what Ditko was trying to do with the Question and Mr. A. He writes Rorschach as a rather standard right-wing vigilante, and Rorschach really departs from an Objectivist viewpoint too many times throughout the series to be considered even close to an Objectivist.

    I’ve soured on Watchmen over the years, especially since I’ve been able to read the source material after DC put Ditko’s work on Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and the Question back into print and scans of some of the Mr. A stories have become available on the internet. So many of the plot points came directly from Ditko’s stories, such as the space alien attack bringing peace to Earth happened in a Captain Atom issue and the Mr. A story where he saves the young girl from the kidnappers. I admire Moore’s form and the detail in each panel of Watchmen, but too much of his work throughout his career centers on just haphazardly reinterpreting other creators’ characters and not necessarily creating much of his own.

  50. Famous Mortimer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    *shakes fist in air*

  51. I had to look at The Fountainhead. I have to say I found Ayn Rand’s philosophy laughable. It was a “white supremacist dreams of the master race,” burnt in an early-20th century form. Her ideas didn’t really appeal to me, but they seemed to be the kind of ideas that people would espouse, people who might secretly believe themselves to be part of the elite, and not part of the excluded majority.
    Alan Moore on Ayn Rand

  52. The more I read H&R threads on Watchmen, the less I want to see the movie. We through the theatre stage now and renting the movie on Blu-Ray now hangs in the balance.

  53. My mother dropped me on my head when I was young, and my daddy drank too much. Rothbard is a genius. I’ve finally come to my senses.

  54. Wow, way to go dude, way to go!

    RT
    http://www.privacy.at.tc

  55. Lefiti,

    I am very glad you have come to your senses. If you would like to read some of Rothbard’s work online for free you can here:
    http://mises.org/literature.aspx?action=author&Id=299

  56. cool vid interview with Dave Gibbons over at wired.com

    http://www.wired.com/video/latest-videos/latest/1815816633/how-2000-ad-influenced-watchmen/14885639001

    2 hours till i go watch it!!!
    That gives me an hour in the Pub first!

  57. Laura Roslin smokes the ganja. Medicinally. Adama partakes to be good company.

    News at 11.

  58. I really don’t believe Moore actually read any of Rand’s novels, so he badly misunderstood what Ditko was trying to do with the Question and Mr. A. He writes Rorschach as a rather standard right-wing vigilante, and Rorschach really departs from an Objectivist viewpoint too many times throughout the series to be considered even close to an Objectivist.

    I think this misses an important point — and it’s not just you. Yes, the original Question and Mr. A from which Rorschach was based were Objectivists/Randians. However, it’s not at all clear that Moore was trying to make Rorschach into a pure Objectivist or Randian, rather just some type of right wing crack, which he regarded Ayn Rand as.

    In reading the chapter on Rorschach you see Moore cites Nietzsche, not Rand. And that’s exactly what Rorschach is: a Nietzschean hero with the perfect sense of Nietzschean assertiveness in a rudderless nihilistic world. Moore wasn’t trying to “get” Rand. But he perfectly “gets” Nietzsche with Rorschach.

  59. Why no love for Peter Bagge’s The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man?

  60. As ol’ Fred wrote:

    Lo, I teach you the Superman! The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman shall be the meaning of the earth!

    So, Randian vigilantes aside, it is kinda hard to get all intellectuloid about the long underwear crowd without bringing Nietzsche up.

    Moore’s conflation of Ayn with Fred isn’t particularly new. That dates at least to Whitaker Chambers slam-job in National Review

    Kevin

  61. Kevin,

    But what of the notion that Rand was indeed greatly influenced by Nietzsche?

  62. But what of the notion that Rand was indeed greatly influenced by Nietzsche?

    To the extent that she misunderstood him, she was influenced by him.

    And honestly, on reading that Moore thought Rorschach was Nietzschean, I’m pretty confident in saying he didn’t get Nietzsche either.

  63. Elemenope,

    Did you read the chapter on Rorschach in Watchmen, Chapter VI entitled “The Abyss Gazes Also”? If you didn’t, I don’t think you can make an informed judgment.

    BTW: I think Moore gets Nietzsche better than most left wing Nietzche scholars in the academy do. Moore at least understands Nietzsche was a right winger.

  64. If you didn’t, I don’t think you can make an informed judgment.

    You are right about that. It isn’t an informed judgment on that end. On the other hand, I’ve read *quite a bit* of Nietzsche, Kaufmann, et al.. And I don’t see much of Rorschach in there.

    I think Moore gets Nietzsche better than most left wing Nietszche scholars in the academy do.

    Possibly.

    Moore at least understands Nietzsche was a right winger.

    ROFL. You can’t be serious.

  65. LMNOP – You don’t think We The Living is basically Neitzschean?

  66. I happen to think Spock from Star Trek is arguably an Objectivist hero.

  67. I saw Watchmen last night, having never read the graphic novel.
    Given his complaints against “liberals and intellectuals,” and his judgmental attitude toward sex, most people are going to take him as a right wing sociopath. That being said, he’s the character nearly everyone identifies with most.

  68. I’ve soured on Watchmen over the years, especially since I’ve been able to read the source material after DC put Ditko’s work on Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and the Question back into print

    Watchmen was originally going to be a revival of the Charlton characters DC bought a few years before.

    Dr Manhattan = Captain Atom
    Rorschach = The Question
    Ozymandias = Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt
    Comedian = Peacemaker
    Nite Owl = Blue Beetle

    However, DC editorial changed their minds and decided to integrate those characters into the regular DC Universe, so Moore and Gibbons created analog characters, and the project became Watchmen.

  69. I happen to think Spock from Star Trek is arguably an Objectivist hero.

    The same Spock who altruistically sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise after saying “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”?

    1. Yes, this was a sad day when I heard him say that. But, of coarse it goes against Gene Roddenberry’s original intent. Someone had to take down a great symbolic character of objectivism is about.

      1. How was Spock wrong for doing what he did in the Wrath of Khan?

  70. Well I associate leftism with egalitarianism. Nietzsche was probably the most inegalitarian philosopher I can think of. His call was clearly from the “right” in that sense.

  71. You don’t think We The Living is basically Nietzschean?

    I never read We The Living (I read the Fountainhead in school and Atlas Shrugged for “pleasure”, and had about enough). So, I can’t say with any degree of authority about the “Nietzscheness” of the book’s characters. From what little I gather, Rand’s affection for Nietzsche centered around their mutual dislike of Kant and of Christianity, and decreased steadily with time, with the dawning realization that his philosophy did not in any way support her own. As I understand it, she edited her earlier works in later reprints to remove some of her flirtations with her understanding of Nietzsche.

  72. Allan Bloom I think accurately described Rand’s approach as sub-Nietzschean assertiveness. Though he meant it as an insult. I would take away the “sub.” The biggest difference between Rand and Nietzsche was that she was a rationalist and he was an anti-rationalist. That’s no small difference.

  73. And by the way, I don’t get from Watchmen Ch. VI that Rorschach like Rand was a “rationalist” who believed objective Truth could be ascertained from Reason.

    Rorschach certainly believed in his own version of black and white Truth (hence the assertiveness). However, as to the ultimate nature of reality Moore has him saying:

    Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night. Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning it’s illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world. Was Rorschach. Does that answer your questions, Doctor?

    This is Nietzsche not Rand.

  74. Let me note I copied the above from Wikiquote and notice the grammatical error in the text — “it’s” as possessive. I double checked the original and Moore uses the possessive correctly.

  75. [First of all Watchmen is a GRAPHIC NOVEL. One that won a Hugo Award no less. One that is deeply philosophical.]

    I read the issues of the comic book as it came out, so I have a hard time thinking of it as a novel. More importantly, I am not sure how calling it a comic books is somehow an insult to the authors. It smacks of silly high-art/low-art snobbery.

  76. PIRS,

    Would you be more comfortable with the term ‘manga’?

  77. Icastico,

    Manga is a particular style of graphic novel. Ranma ? is Manga but Watchmen is not. I do love Manga and the term is fine for many graphic novels (mostly Japanese but some Western ones as well) but the term does not fit the style of Watchmen.

  78. “I never read We The Living (I read the Fountainhead in school and Atlas Shrugged for “pleasure”, and had about enough).”

    Dude, you should give We the Living a try. I think Atlas and Fountainhead and Anthem to be laughable stuff, but I think We the Living is one of the best 100 novels of this century. It’s a disgrace that it is not revered by English profs (especially ones looking for novels with strong female characters written by, well, strong female characters).

    I think there is a pretty dramatic dpearture from We the Living to the later stuff…

  79. This is Nietzsche not Rand.

    Sort of. I’ll agree it’s *definitely not* Rand. However, the values that Rorschach eventually picks to assert are derivative, not original. And, he enforced them (when superheroes were good business) on behalf of the society, not himself. After superheroes were outlawed, his clinging to that *role* (and his strong nationalist and reactionary sympathies) makes him rather not a Nietzschean. Also he was fueled by the emotion of vengeance, which is about as far from the Nietzschean ideal as you can get.

    Nietzsche characterizes the generation of political freedom as the struggle to achieve liberal structures (as opposed to the achievement of those structures, at which point they no longer provide freedom), a struggle that Rorschach makes fun of at several points.

  80. MNG —

    I’ll have to give it a shot, then.

  81. Rorschach’s sense of justice may make him hate most of humanity-he brags to himself at the beginning that if mankind begged him to save them, he’d justly say “no.” But by the end he sacrifices himself in the name of avenging the deaths of millions who he doesn’t know.

    I haven’t seen the movie, and after reading Doherty’s description of it, I have no intention of doing so. Rorschach isn’t an Objectivist. Objectivists don’t “sacrifice” themselves for “millions who [they] don’t know”. They don’t go around altruistically playing vigilante for strangers. They don’t DO altruism, at least in the careful sense in which they define altruism, i.e., sacrificing something or someone you value highly for something or someone you value less highly for the sake of others. Objectivists look after their self-interest, and the interests of people they care about and admire and love.

    Doherty seems to have a shaky grasp of what Objectivist principles are.

  82. I got about 1/4 way through of ‘we the living’. It’s Gore Vidal meets Judy Blume meets DC Fontana meets George Orwell. Which is not a bad thing, but wasn’t my thing.

    Anthem’s greatest asset is that it’s short and gets to the point. It’s a worthwhile dystopian novella.

  83. I don’t think Rosarch “gives his life for millions of others” he simply refuses to a lie that he is told will save millions. He dies for his own integrity.

    “It’s Gore Vidal meets Judy Blume meets DC Fontana meets George Orwell.”

    That line itself justifies the hour or two I’ve wasted on H&R today! lol

    But as to Anthem, when the character named “Equality” (get it, they think everyone is equal!) renames himself “Prometheus” and ends the book by writing Ego (get it, he’s an “I” again, an individual) I was howling out loud with how sophmoric it all was…It was like some teen-age boy comics fan’s Nietzschean wet dream…

  84. Zamyatin’s We is much superior dystopian novel with in some sense the same message as Anthem…

  85. MNG-
    You must not be a fan of Hawthorne either.

    anyhoo, remember the context of when Anthem was written. Everyone was neck deep in the depression when socialism wasn’t a dirty word and for many mainstream intellectuals neither was Communism. Unrestrained collectivism was a real threat. Maybe in retrospect overblown, but that’s only with the benefit of hindsight.

    Animal Farm & 1984 would not come out until a decade later. I think the only dystopian work that came out previously to Anthem was Brave New World. (unless you count something like Frankenstein)

    (Post preview edit: I forgot about We, but I have never read that one – wikipedia does cite it as the central influence for Orwell, Rand, Le Guinn and Vonnegut)

  86. We is pretty close to Anthem in setting, you should check it out.

    LMNOP
    You know all those over the top unnatural 30 page speeches made by the characters that make so many people here make fun of Fountainhead and Atlas?

    That’s absent from We the Living.

    It’s a good read.

  87. This is pretty funny if you are a Watchmen fan and grew up watching Saturday morning super-hero cartoons…

    http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/485797

    I laughed so hard I had to start over to hear it.

  88. It’s possible I stopped watching too soon, but I think I missed the deconstruction of superhero comics. I can’t speak to the apocalyptic elements, because I know I stopped watching too soon for that.

    Either that or you’re confusing “adaptation” with “spiritual succession.”

    When you get to the end you’ll understand what I mean. You still might disagree, but you’ll understand.

  89. I saw the movie last night and looked through some reviews today. I think the whole thing is like a Rorschach test. One review thought it was anti-conservative, another the opposite. One called the “villain” a neo-nazi, another called him a liberal stereotype. What you read into it seems more dependent on who you are than the characters.

    That’s how viewers react to They Live.

  90. MNG: Um…Zemyatin’s WE blames human reason for totalitarianism. Kinda the anti-Anthem.

  91. Just got back from the movie. Rorschach does NOT sacrifice himself for millions. He is acting like a samurai living by a code (whatever label you want to put on it). When faced with defeat, he chooses to fall on his sword rather than surrender it for the prospect of living on with the disgrace of having compromised his principles.

    I wish I could remember the exact quote, but basically as he goes out to his execution he tells Night Owl that the difference between them is that he would never bend even in the face of armegeddon.

  92. …basically as he goes out to his execution he tells Night Owl that the difference between them is that he would never bend even in the face of Armageddon.

    Which makes exactly one of them an idiot. And it’s not the guy in the goofy looking helmet.

  93. Not saying whether it makes him an idiot…just trying to clear up the idea that it was some sort of self-sacrifice for the millions.

    I thought that scene was pretty well done, actually. It isn’t easy for him…the actor does a great job portraying the guy as part crazy, part heroic…he screams for Dr. M to hurry up and get it over with. He’s been screwed by his “friends” and enemies and I think just wants an end to it.

  94. Not saying whether it makes him an idiot…just trying to clear up the idea that it was some sort of self-sacrifice for the millions.

    I know. I was just throwing in my two cents on the wider issue of how the character should be valuated.

  95. Nite Owl should have been way fatter. That’s how that character should be evaluated.

    And why do people consider dark, nihilistic despair as Nietzschean? A lot of the stuff I’ve read is pretty uplifting.

  96. And why do people consider dark, nihilistic despair as Nietzschean? A lot of the stuff I’ve read is pretty uplifting.

    It’s called the “abyss.”

  97. Elemenope,

    Fair enough. Rorschach isn’t pure Nietzsche. Nothing is pure Nietzsche except Nietzsche. Nietzsche himself argued anything that imitated the original would be less “authentic” than the original. One could argue that Heidegger was the last close to “authentic” Nietzschean or perhaps Max Weber.

    But when it came to what Moore “borrowed” from Nietzsche for Rorschach — the abyss — Moore absolutely nailed it.

    Most of the leftists who “borrow” from Nietzsche (for instance the French Deconstructionists) leave out the abyss, which makes Nietzsche into a joke.

    Allan Bloom argued much of “feel good” psychotherapy was really Nietzchean German relativism without the abyss. Nietzsche to make you “feel good about yourself” which terribly betrays Nietzsche’s authentic message.

    I don’t think Moore knew of Bloom, or the Straussians, or read “The Closing of the American Mind” which coincidentally came out around the same time as Watchmen. Further, Moore would have despised their Nixonian “mainstream” conservative politics.

    But the way he wrote book VI of Watchmen perfectly paralleled the message Bloom posited in “Closing” about how Nietzsche’s ideas had been coopted by the egalitarian, political left, with the abyss left out. AND how modern psychology/psychiatry exemplified this Nietzschean nihilism sans the abyss. Bloom, I’m convinced if he read it, would have loved that chapter where the psychotherapist administering the Rorschach blot test was humilated.

    I blogged about this in detail in 2004.

    http://jonrowe.blogspot.com/2004/07/greatest-existentialist-hero-in-modern.html

  98. That Nietzsche is misused by the left-wing (and I agree, sometimes they sort of airbrush over the unsightly parts), it doesn’t make him of the right wing.

    Nietzsche did have a profound effect on Strauss, but I would say it is also dangerous to call Strauss right-wing.

    I would say that Moore nailed the Abyss (falling unto the end of values; nihilism) but to be fair the concern with creeping nihilism doesn’t begin with or belong exclusively to Nietzsche. What makes a character Nietzschean must follow at least as much from the reaction to the Abyss as the awareness of it. Rorschach’s resentment, vengeance, narrowing is symptomatic of what Nietzsche illustrated as a crappy way to react to loss of absolute value.

    ———-

    On an entirely different note, I would call Denny Crane the most authentic Nietzschean.

  99. Heh. I guess I should start watching Boston Legal (haven’t seen an episode yet). Re Shatner himself, I love his authentic prickery. His roast on Comedy Central was awesome. Highlight:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXlDrU7AVxA

  100. I may be one of the few people on this site that both *likes* Rand, fundamentally, but who also would not consider himself an Objectivist or pretends that Rand’s philosophies don’t have any problems…

    The thing is though, I view the “problems” as being fundamentally that of her not entirely understanding or recognizing the complexity of human motivations & emotions. Real people struggle to be perfectly consistent in their ethics most of the time because we all have such extreme competing interests within ourselves. I think most people on the Reason boards would agree that people are primarily self-motivated, but Rand also believed that it was possible to be 100% cognizant of what those motivations are all the time.

    What happens in the real world is more complex than any Rand novel allowed it to be… and I think Alan Moore got that. Moore is a little bit (ok… a lot) of a nut himself, but I do believe he considers himself an Anarcho-Capitalist. Ever since I first read Watchmen, I’ve always considered Rorschach an Objectivist hero the way they really turn out.

    …Yes, you can incorporate a hell of a lot of Nietzsche as well, and no, Rorschach gave the Comedian a pass… he also should have probably known that Veidt was trying to assert authoritarian/collective judgment on humanity back when they’d known each other from before, but he also viewed the Watchmen as possibly the only group of people with whom he ever felt any kinship and *mostly* common aims with.

    Plus, maybe Rorschach simply believed that the other “heroes” were just out to exact individual justice same as he…

    Personally – I agree emphatically with Doherty. I think Rorschach is exactly what an essentially objectivist character turns into when they are A. real, and B. not amazingly wealthy from the beginning.

  101. I guess I should start watching Boston Legal (haven’t seen an episode yet).

    This may sound odd, but I would recommend that you start with the third season first, and then work your way around from there.

  102. Watchmen jokes here and here. You’re welcome.

  103. Feckin dug that

  104. While we’re comparing Watchmen to Rand, I’ve always noted similarities between the main architect of Watchmen’s central conspiracy (avoiding spoilers, here) and John Galt.

    Both are men of great intellect, ability, and charisma who perceived a critical flaw in the world, and then went about repairing that flaw.

    You could say that in many ways, both John Galt and ****** ***** both “stopped the world.”

    So how would an actual Objectivist (capital O) react in Rorschach’s position? Would he be so hidebound to “the truth” that he would let the world end, rather than live a lie? What would John Galt have done in Rorschach’s shoes?

  105. still waiting for the film adaption of Lobo Vs the easter bunny

    clearly the best comic written

  106. “[Lonewacko] does crack a joke from time to time. You can always tell when it happens, ’cause that’s when he stops being funny.”

    Good one – have you been reading G. K. Chesterton?

  107. ‘On an entirely different note, I would call Denny Crane the most authentic Nietzschean.’

    Yeah, Denny Crane is like Nietzsche himself, except Denny Crane scored with chicks.

  108. Clearly the Rorschach bloke

    rocked

    and I reckon any normal person watchin the film would be like he rocks

    but I’ve been smonking teh old morocan ciggies anon the glenmorangies so its like

    its dumb to like say the cool bloke in a film is like me cus evryone probably watches the film and finks that

    and then like latex rocks

    and latex does rock especially when its stuck to hot chicks

    right basically if youve got a latex fetish

    buy this shit for your womant

    http://www.highglossdolls.com/shop/index.php?cat=c15_FRAeULEIN-EHRHARDT.html

    German latex is like th ebest rock on latex

    and th ewatchmen

    good film

  109. ah man latex stocking rock about as hard as anything could do

    and comics rock too

    right

    joint fuck it

    great film

  110. Do you really need me to spell out Rorschach for you? A boy’s mother tells him his absent father disagreed with her politically as the reason they weren’t together, clearly a lie for the boy’s sake. Over some years the boy becomes disappointed with his mother and fantasizes a father as someone who must be a better person. The father was said to like Truman so the boy comes to idolize that historic figure. The atomic bombing of Japan is taken by him to represent the epitome of a good guy’s thinking — that is, one can do no better than to sacrifice other persons for the greater good — as he does when torturing people for information.

    But a thought process on such a basis must be thin & unstable. Sure he gives The Comedian a pass, just as people give a pass to important figures in large political parties because they impute them to be largely on the same side. The Comedian represents law, order, and cruelty — actually Rorschach’s jokes tend to be more cruel than The Comedian’s — so he thinks of him as an ally.

    Ultimately Rorschach’s hypocrisy is proven by his condemnation of Veidt’s very Truman-like action.

    So WTF is supposed to be Randian about this character? Apparently the mere fact that he’s defiant and flamboyant, even stinking on purpose.

  111. Saw the movie. Rorschach didn’t sacrifice himself for the millions lost. He sacrificed himself, the same as the comic, because he refused to be part of a great lie. He is the anti-Nazi, one who refused to be part of an evil that may or may not result in a greater good.

  112. “Last, this is a libertarian site and Rosarch has widely been seen as a libertarian figure, and you just don’t see that very much in movies and comics.”

    I’m not really seeing how Rorschach is a libertarian figure. Plus, he wasn’t really the “hero” of the original Watchmen graphic novel. While Alan Moore deliberately referenced Objectivist ideas with Rorschach, it was largely pejorative. In other words, he thought Objectivists were nuts, so he imputed Objectivist ideas to the character that was also nuts.

  113. Rorschach is hardly an Objectivist though. For one, his thinking is hardly consistent (see Robert’s comment on the contradiction between his commendation of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki versus his condemnation of Adrian Veidt’s actions). He is largely a caricature. Not really my favorite part of the novel.

  114. Rorschach is more like a cool, ass-kicking version of LoneWackOff than anything else.

  115. “Famous Mortimer | March 7, 2009, 1:16am | #

    Nerds.”

    Bugger off, Morty.

  116. “I happen to think Spock from Star Trek is arguably an Objectivist hero.”

    Given that his philosophy, as stated in Star Trek, is that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, I think you might need to check you premises.

  117. “MNG | March 7, 2009, 3:22pm | #

    I don’t think Rosarch “gives his life for millions of others” he simply refuses to a lie that he is told will save millions. He dies for his own integrity.”

    My ass is feeling petty tonight, so I wanted to point out, before anyone says what I said upthread, that I said it first!

  118. “Rosarch has widely been seen as a libertarian figure, and you just don’t see that very much in movies and comics.”

    I’m not really seeing how Rorschach is a libertarian figure”

    Economist, I said “has widely been seen as a libertarian figure.” You may disagree but the fact that many see him that way is just true, and thus this makes it a proper subject for Reason, that’s all I was trying to say …

  119. Rorschach’s views on morality are represented by his mask. At any given time, something is either absolute evil or absolute good to him, but it changes constantly, hence his self-contradiction.

    Yeah, I can do literary bs with the best of ’em.

  120. Sorry, MNG. You did say that, and I did read it, but forgot to quote it once I got to the end of the thread to comment. We’re in agreement on this point.

  121. MNG,
    What I’m saying is that I don’t know the reason why Rorschach is seen as a libertarian figure. Half the novel he spends ranting about homosexuals and fornication. And he steals, tortures, and kills with impunity. He might be a caricature of libertarians or conservatives, but he is most definitely not a libertarian figure for anybody with even a cursory knowledge of libertarian ideas.

  122. “Plus, he wasn’t really the “hero” of the original Watchmen graphic novel”

    My favorite character was Veidt. But I liked him because he at least tried (in a way) to take on Dr. Manhattan. I hated that character. There was no seeming limit on his powers so there was no drama around him imo. If you are going to bring in a character that powerful, you have to give him some exploitable weakness (a la Supes and the green stuff).

    It’s like a God-man cartoon.

    Cop: “Hey, it’s some robbers, they’re getting away.”
    God-man: “Not so fast, I’ll just use my omnipotence to stop them. In fact, I’ll use it to reverse time and have them never born.”
    Cop: “Jee, thanks God-man…So much for another potentially exciting day…”

  123. Oh lord John-David, your politness makes me feel even more petty…It’s like when you honk at someone and then realize they really just made a most honest mistake…

  124. I actually agree with Rorschach’s attempted actions at the end of the novel, but his thought processes are all screwy. Ie, it’s okay to kill thousands of Japanese civilians with the rationale of saving more lives, but it’s an unforgivable evil to kill thousands of New Yorkers to save millions (or billions).

    Inconsistent, you see.

  125. economist
    Good points…

    I did not read the article because though I’ve read the book I want to see the film and am holding out that it may be a little different and did not want to spoil it.

    I’m not sure why many think Rosarch is sort of libertarian or objectivist…Maybe it has to do with the fact that he was modelled on Ditko’s more obviously so versions?

  126. economist
    Maybe he really, really hated JAPS?

  127. My biggest question reading the graphic novel was:
    Shit, don’t any of these guys have any powers other than the blue naked guy? WTF? I want to see somebody fly or bend steel goddammit.

  128. “Maybe he really, really hated JAPS?”

    That was my guess. My point is that it’s not a valid basis for his reasoning.

  129. MNG,
    Does Batman have powers? Does Iron Man really have powers? There’s lots of “superheroes” sans the powers. Dr. Manhattan is just there to have the “Got powers by being in a freak accident” element represented. And to be the god-like figure (though ultimately not the deus ex machina).

  130. Agreed, but I’m betting his character thought like I said…

    But I do think he is the “hero” of the book, he’s the one trying to solve everything, he’s the one who takes a stand concerning the ending, which is obviously supposed to disturb us. Moore doesn’t like to deal in traditional hero figures, for sure (in fact I kind of tire of his constant deconstruction of that), but we follow Rosarch on his journey through much of the story…

    Let’s just say he’s the “dominant narrative figure” and that you can’t help but like that figure usually (hell most people like Alex in A Clockwork Orange just because he’s the DNF and tells the story).

  131. Yeah, I know econ, but Batman is like the only one in the Justice League without powers. It just seem strange to me, and also anti-dramatic considering there was one guy who had a veritable shit-load of powers.

    It’s like watching Holyfield beat on a midget for an hour…

  132. I also like it when a guy with no powers takes on a guy with a great deal of powers and gives him a run for his money. This may be why I like Lex Luthor so much, he has no powers, just his brains and cunning, and matches up with the most powerful superhero in the DC universe.

    Veidt’s best blow slows Manhattan down for about 4 seconds. It undercuts the drama…

  133. I haven’t read the Watchmen so I didn’t bring any real previous knowledge or context to the movie. That being said, I think the movie is a pretty dry well for anyone looking for deep meaning or universal truth…or a coherent political viewpoint for that matter.

    I liked it, but not as much as I hoped I would. V for Vendetta was much more interesting on the intellectual level.

  134. Half the novel he spends ranting about homosexuals and fornication.

    Which makes him a Randian hero! LOL, I’m wrong, she only disliked the queers…and evolution. Maybe she’d like that Oklahoman anti-Dawkins law?

    /cheap shot

  135. I’m not sure what kind of deep meaning or universal truth can be gleaned from V though.

  136. Don’t worry about it, MNG. My horn doesn’t work, so I’m relying on my middle finger to get my point across. Your honking is far more polite than what I do. Plus, I did rip you off. It was what I would have posted if you hadn’t said that, if it makes a difference. Just an honest mistake. I’m glad to be on a thread where we agree on shit.

  137. BTW, my wife cried when Rorschach met his fate. She knew it was coming because she kicks ass and read the graphic novel, but it still got her. I think we both had tears when the movie showed Rorschach’s childhood.

  138. Spoiler alert – movie. Haven’t read the comic yet.

    Rorschach had to die to have the truth get out. He sacrificed himself for the truth. By making that scene, he also made it more likely that they wouldn’t find his journal in time.

  139. I don’t know about the comic, but Rorschach doesn’t come across as that uptight about sex in the movie.

    He seems pissed about child pornographers and the in-your-face nature of public sex in that universe. I thought the scene with the street-walker was crucial. She goes from sweet to total bitch in .5 seconds. No wonder he is down on sex getting harassed by women like that.

  140. zoltan @ 10:52pm | #
    “I’m not sure what kind of deep meaning or universal truth can be gleaned from V though.”

    No universal truths in V either, but it tried harder. At least V grappled with the concept of what it means to fight and stand as an individual or even rebel against authority in an era defined by the War on Terror. It explored the line between freedom fighter/vigilante/terrorist. Can’t say Weatherman was as ambitious.

  141. All the comments on here aside, didn’t Doherty explain the character traits as to why he was a Randian hero?

    1. Completely morally uncompromising, black is black, white is white, nothing particularly intersects on an individual level
    2. Detective = intrinsically rational
    3.

    His problem is, as discussed at length here, that his fundamental sense of right and wrong didn’t entirely come from reason, but was born out of a terrible childhood experience.

    This makes perfect sense to me, because while he is in essence a Randian archetypal “hero”, in the sense that he seems to really have a singular motivation of dispensing what he believes to be justice against crime. I say again, it’s what Ragnar might have been if he hadn’t been goddamn amazingly rich and in the company of wasps his entire life.

    Strip the essence of guys like Francisco who would have rather destroyed everything they owned or themselves rather than submitting to something they believed was wrong or irrational, or a guy like Ragnar who’s life is spent exacting retribution for crimes perpetrated against the innocent (or at least, the people who share his world-view… a la Blake in Watchmen?)… Strip that essence down and place it in the body of a poor street-kid, son of a whore who was abused and in and out of prison.

    What does it produce?

    If you ask me, it produces Rorschach.

    Rand would have hated it because she wanted all her heroes to be perfect, flawless encapsulations of the ideal man… man qua man. But in reality, being as uncompromising as she wanted everyone to be makes people a little nuts when consistently applied.

    Hell, I’ve dated the elusive “Objectivist woman” even. And let me tell you… Of the girls I’d dated… if you’d supplanted their middle class backgrounds with an abusive, twisted, poor background, and given them a mission to fight crime………….. they’d have all been Rorschach 😛

    I think the question is really not, “Is he a perfect Randian hero?” but rather, “Is he how an Objectivist hero would actually turn out in the real world?”

    I think to a large degree yes. Incidentally – Rorschach, and the view of him I’ve expressed just now, was why I loved the Watchmen to begin with.

    (And btw, he is kind of down on sex/drugs, but he never attacked anyone for their use. Compared to his other means of fighting crime, “stern condemnation” probably doesn’t even count)

  142. Oops… I forgot “3”

    3. Judges individuals as individuals rather than as parts of collective groups.

  143. I think Rorschach is exactly what an essentially objectivist character turns into when they are A. real, and B. not amazingly wealthy from the beginning.

    Have any of you people spinning grand theories about the psychology of Objectivists ever actually, you know, met one? Not counting psycho ex-girlfriends?

  144. I’ve met dozens – I met the one I dated, who was the most normal of all objectivist women I’ve ever met at a CLUB for objectivists, with many members.

    I met many then, plus belong to various meet up groups where I meet more and attended several meetings of New York University’s objectivist club as well…

    I might even call myself a “little o” objectivist, but don’t don the “O” title what for my various disagreements with Rand’s conception of the human psyche, which I think she gets somewhat wrong in a few drastic ways while managing to get a few of the big points right.

    And my ex-girlfriend wasn’t remotely a “psycho” either. But she was a very serious O-ist, and as such tried to deny herself a lot of the normal emotions that ordinary people tend to have in an extreme effort to stay “rational”.

    I would say in general I know the psychology of the Objectivist ideal pretty damned well.

  145. Elemenope | March 7, 2009, 12:00pm | #

    “But what of the notion that Rand was indeed greatly influenced by Nietzsche?”

    To the extent that she misunderstood him, she was influenced by him.

    Or, in Rand’s own words:

    “Nietzsche’s rebellion against altruism consisted of replacing the sacrifice of oneself to others by the sacrifice of others to oneself. He proclaimed that the ideal man is moved, not by reason, but by his “blood,” by his innate instincts, feelings and will to power-that he is predestined by birth to rule others and sacrifice them to himself, while they are predestined by birth to be his victims and slaves-that reason, logic, principles are futile and debilitating, that morality is useless, that the “superman” is “beyond good and evil,” that he is a “beast of prey” whose ultimate standard is nothing but his own whim.”

    Haven’t seen the movie or read the comic books so I don’t know whether this characterization of Nietzsche is Rorschachian as well, but Nietzsche was certainly no objectivist.

  146. I don’t know about the comic, but Rorschach doesn’t come across as that uptight about sex in the movie.

    He seems pissed about child pornographers and the in-your-face nature of public sex in that universe. I thought the scene with the street-walker was crucial. She goes from sweet to total bitch in .5 seconds. No wonder he is down on sex getting harassed by women like that.

    Did you miss his speech toward the beginning? He calls Silk Spectre I a whore for falling in love with the guy who tried to rape her, and Silhouette in his opinion died *because* she was a lesbian. Later he tells Nite Owl II that women are not to be trusted (ostensibly because of their sexual power and tendency toward fickleness and deceit).

    The guy hates sex when it in any way diverges from what he thinks it should be, and he hates women. That I thought was pretty clear in the movie.

  147. More to the point, the actor who portrays the inkblot face character, his dad’s sister’s roommate regularly used the same WC as Ayn Rand back in the early 60’s, so I reckon that makes him objectivist to the core. To the core!

  148. At first I was happy to be learning how to read. It seemed exciting and magical, but then I read this: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I read every last word of this garbage, and because of this piece of shit, I am never reading again.

  149. I don’t think this movie matters enough for anyone to be talking about it. Also, I would advise any self proclaimed Objectivist to keep their distance from it, since it was so unbelievably bad. The comic may have been “groundbreaking,” but that was over twenty years ago. Stick with the tried and true… Atlas Shrugged.

  150. …Um…. Ok. I’ll bite. What characters of my Dad’s do you think are particularly Objectivist?

    Puzzled,
    Alex Pournelle

  151. Dr. Manhattan is just there to have the “Got powers by being in a freak accident” element represented.

    Even that’s not completely clear. It looks as if his experience with watch repair and atomic physics was necessary too. Maybe that was sufficient? That it was all know-how, and that he was just never motivated enough before he was smithereened? That would make him just a more extreme example of what Veidt accomplished.

  152. It seems to me, although a lot of people say Rorschrache was the easiest to sympathize with, that Nite Owl II was a lot easier to sympathize with.

  153. I have to say I agree with Grant, in that while Rorschach was an *interesting* character, I didn’t find him even the least bit sympathetic, whereas Nite Owl II (the whole washed-up-nostalgia-for-when-I-mattered thing) was very understandable and sympathetic.

  154. Elemenope,

    I don’t know if that speech says all that much. Silk Spectre I was probably worse than a whore for falling for the guy that beat her up. Then again, I guess it’s not that exceptional…a number of women are into the guys who beat them (‘it shows they care!’).

    I don’t think ‘whore’ is all that bad a word. At least prostitutes are honest about what they are looking for. I’m less inclined to like the women and men who are less honest and seek to have money spent on them. See this article for a few illustrations:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/24/AR2009022403925.html

    As for the lesbian thing, I’m less sympathetic with him, but Rorschach might have been stating a fact. According to the opening credits, she was killed because she was a lesbian. Doesn’t make it right, but he might have been pissed she wasn’t more discreet in an era when it was frowned upon.

    From what I’ve heard, the comic is different (it’s in the mail). Still, many people have all sorts of prejudices including ones about sex. I don’t think the few statements in the movie take all that much away from the character.

  155. “…a number of women are into the guys who beat them (‘it shows they care!’).”

    It was not that long ago that little girls who got hit by a boy on a playground would be told “It’s because he likes you.” – by women no less! I always thought that was one of the sickest things any girl has been told in the history of Western civilization. If there is a Hell any adult who told that to a little girl will BURN there for eternity.

  156. From what I’ve heard, the comic is different (it’s in the mail). Still, many people have all sorts of prejudices including ones about sex. I don’t think the few statements in the movie take all that much away from the character.

    Oddly I think it adds to the character, insofar as it makes him more well-rounded as a human being. Often, characters in films (and even books) only have the flaws that are relevant to the lot or the overarching theme, whereas they only rarely have an unpleasant character aspect that is there just for color. Unlike the many people we meet in real life.

    My overarching point is only that these characters really can’t and IMHO really *shouldn’t* be read as Nietzschean or Randian or (God help us) Jungian archetypes. They are meant to be be people, albeit ones at the extremes of human experience. One of the reasons I think that Rand was a particularly lazy writer was that her characters were not characters at all in the well-rounded human sense. They were caricatures of something ideological or emblematic of a “type”.

  157. Saw the movie yesterday, so I finally read Doherty’s piece (haven’t read graphic book or whatever you want to call it* so everything below is strictly on the movie)

    *heck, I never even heard of it until the trailer came out during Batman last year.

    1) A good movie, worth seeing. Not a great movie, has too many flaws to be great – specifically the middle drags and the coda scenes (deliberate plural) are contradictory and not in keeping with the main storyline. Ebert I think said a great movie has three great scenes and no bad ones. There are at least two or three great scenes, but a least one clunker as well. On the other hand I was really drawn in by the opening credits sequence – lots of stuff going on the background and other assorted well crafted touches.

    2) the moral center of the movie is not Rorschach, as Doherty says; the moral center of the movie is Night Owl II and Silk Spectre II and their everyman bourgeois sensibilities. And lest these been seen as a criticism of the movie, I have the same sensibilities.

    3) Dr Manhattan is clearly a more than a superman, he is a god figure. That may make him boring, but that is rather the point of the story. Because it works both ways; a god would be rather bored by the antics of some mostly harmless east african plains apes because he has transcended his gelatinous orbs and can actually experience supernovae with his senses.

    4) Despite everyone beside Dr Manhattan not having mutant powers, they still have an element of Ubermench about them. Even out of practice, and without their normal toys, some are still able to accomplish tasks that indicate skills at the very upper tail of the bell curve.

    5) The morality of the tale hinges on ‘perfect information’. When the distinction between Good and Evil is clear, any excess on the part of Good is not only justifiable, it’s positively mandated. But when it is not, like certain portions of the film and pretty much the entirety of real life, the moral waters are significantly muddier. Sometimes to the point of inaction. And definitely with great doubt on the part of all involved.

    6) I don’t know enough about Rand’s or Nietchze’s philosophy to say whether or not any of the characters in the movie are their avatars or archetypes. All I wanted to say is that ‘A is A’ is the stupidest mother frakin phrase uttered in the 1000 year history of the english language.

    7) SPOILER (or at least more specific than said above):

    ****

    I agree with the nitpick above of the characterization that Doherty makes of Rorschach’s sacrifice is off. Rorschach is not willing to compromise on any level. This may make him and object of much respect, or it may make him a fool, or it makes it both, but ultimately it’s a major plot hole. Even if he was sacrificed so the ‘truth’ to get out – or even if he wasn’t and shouted it from the rooftops – who was going to believe him? The official story was agreed to by all world leaders, the richest man in the world, and everyone else that was there. Who’s going believe a guy who is on the record as being one fruit loop short of a balanced breakfast?

    ****

  158. LMNOP:

    “One of the reasons I think that Rand was a particularly lazy writer was that her characters were not characters at all in the well-rounded human sense. They were caricatures of something ideological or emblematic of a “type”.”

    That’s a big part of what I was trying to say – which kinda goes to the point that I think of Rorschach as a character that comes out of the Randist sense of uncompromising values and motivated action to shape the world – but which includes the flaws and honesty of a real character. This is why I agree with Doherty fundamentally but with the caveat that he is what her heroes would have been in real life. No one is perfectly uncompromising and not a complete outcast and perhaps a bit or a lot insane.

    As an aside, I recently re-read Atlas Shrugged, the first time was when I was 17 or 18, and it had a profound philosophical impact on me (well… the Fountainhead had more… but whatever). But upon re-reading, even though I find myself agreeing on a root level with many of her basic points, I almost could not finish the book because of the horrendous character-writing and dialog.

    Not to turn this into a Rand-bashing thread, but jesus christ she could not write a decent or realistic human to save her life.

  159. To call Rorschach an “Objectivist Saint” misses the important fact that the character is a dangerous sociopath and mentally unstable. Alan Morre took inspiration from Steve Ditko’s objetivist hero The Question (as well another Ditko character “Mr. A” but his depiction of Rorschach is actually designed as a critique of the faulty “logic” of objectivisim.

    oh, and dismissing ANY creative art form as a whole – be it comics, TV, rap music or opera is intellectually lazy and the mark of true stupidity – then again so is “objectivisim”

  160. All I wanted to say is that ‘A is A’ is the stupidest mother frakin phrase uttered in the 1000 year history of the english language.

    Speak it Brother, HALLELUJAH! One of the things that bothered me most about Rand as a philosophy student was that her methodology did not match her methods. For all the exaltation of human reason that she purported, a lot of her philosophical judgments seemed to flow out of non-rational emotive impulses (mostly hate) directed by her at certain figures like Kant. Remove her insistent indignation and occasional good skill at crafting a phrase and you are left with her actual philosophical contribution being a second-rate undergrad paper of derivative criticism, very little of which flows logically from her own premises.

    *SPOILER ALERT* This may make him and object of much respect, or it may make him a fool, or it makes it both, but ultimately it’s a major plot hole. Even if he was sacrificed so the ‘truth’ to get out – or even if he wasn’t and shouted it from the rooftops – who was going to believe him? The official story was agreed to by all world leaders, the richest man in the world, and everyone else that was there. Who’s going believe a guy who is on the record as being one fruit loop short of a balanced breakfast?

    I think they were worried because Rorschach is above all a resourceful monkey; he’s like a psychotic MacGyver. Once he focused on the task, it is possible that he would have found a way to introduce enough doubt (it honestly wouldn’t take much, especially in the beginning when the peace is fragile and people still haven’t gotten used to trusting one another) to destroy the multilateral peace. Once Ozymandias’ tachyon thingamabob was turned off, presumably Dr. Manhattan could see the future possibility of him succeeding and decided it wasn’t a certainty that Rorschach would fail.

  161. @ Sean Malone

    I see, and I agree. 🙂

  162. Not to bring on the Ayn Rand hate, but I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged for about five months [often quitting for a couple of weeks only to pick it up again] and I’ve found it to be horrible literature. I do agree with some of her points, but let’s be honest, the novel is horrible. I can find far better literature that does more to make people sympathetic with libertarianism than Atlas Shrugged.

    Ironically enough a democratic socialist [George Orwell] was probably the one who had the biggest impact on me becoming a libertarian. The book which did it was under 100 pages long, the plot was set on a farm, and the majority of the characters were animals.

  163. And my ex-girlfriend wasn’t remotely a “psycho” either. But she was a very serious O-ist, and as such tried to deny herself a lot of the normal emotions that ordinary people tend to have in an extreme effort to stay “rational”.

    This is a well-known and oft discussed problem among Objectivists, at least among the ones less prone to the kind of emotional repression you’re talking about. I’m open to the argument that it’s a common afflication among members of the Objectivist community, but the idea that it represents the “Objectivist ideal,” given everything Rand said the problems of emotional repression, overstates the case.

  164. I didn’t say it’s the Objectivist “ideal”, I’m saying it’s what they are in reality.

    The problem with Rand’s ideal is ultimately that it’s completely implausible if not entirely impossible. Take any of the characters from Atlas Shrugged:

    Not a one of them had any significant interests beyond their own career-fields, not a one was poor in any way shape or form – or if they may have been (like I think John Galt was essentially) it obviously didn’t prevent them from reaching their full potential… Most of them didn’t get attached to any one or anything beyond what was narrowly focused to meet their own specific goals. Hell, how Reardon ever got married at all with the level of indifference he obviously showed his wife was beyond me.

    It just goes on and on.

    Maybe, in some alternate universe, if you were mega-rich to start out with, had only 1 significant interest, completely single-minded, “perfect” focus on that interest, were never distracted, never injured or sick and had virtually perfect and unending good luck to boot, you might turn out to be Francisco or Dagny.

    Maybe…

    But seriously – can you imagine being at a dinner party with a Dagny Taggart?

    You: “Hey Dagny, what did you think of the Watchmen movie that just came out?”

    Dagny: “What are movies? Do they have anything to do with trains?”

    You: *Shudder. Walk away shaking your head*

  165. @ Alberta Libertarian:

    Yes, it’s bad writing… BUT… try to push through, it actually gets pretty good towards the end, when the mystery sort of unravels.

  166. *Spoilers*

    The movie definitely hilighted the fact that Rorschach was an unstable sociopath (let’s be honest though, none of those characters were very heroic, they did what they did based on some sort of neurosis). Also I think the movie pointed to HL Menken’s quote “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” Honestly, was Ozymandius going to give up “control”? If anything, he was probably intent on expanding his empire to “save the world”.

    I didn’t really get anything Randian from it. It was almost like a parody of what Moore would have deemed Objectivism to be, except he forgot the point about non-coercion. Everything these heros do is coerce humanity to their beliefs. Rorschach acts as his own judge, jury and executioner based on his own moral premises (which may or may not line up with any laws the “state” may have). The only thing even remotely seen as objectivist was his walking out to reveal the “truth” at the end. Even then, his motives for that path aren’t quite square with any objectivist. He seems quite intent on punishing Ozymandius for his crimes than any thought about the “right” path. He views them all at that point as “compromised”, “weak” individuals.

    While I would approve of revealing the truth to humanity, because these sorts of lies tend not to be overly effective in any case (give it another 20 years and another few world leaders and conditions will probably be ripe again for nuclear holocaust), the “Watchmen” were just fucked up individuals with good fighting skills/technology with Dr. Manhatten being the parody “God” figure who lost all credibility with me after the Mars scene with Lori (when I read the book, not watched the movie).

    I know alot of people are going to come away missing the dark bitter irony Moore was putting forth because things move too fast in a movie to absorb enough of the details, but that’s what made the book so good. The redeeming features of the characters aren’t nearly as good as their flaws and to a young cynic like myself, its the ultimate last laugh on the idealistic superhero fans, a “fuck you” from Moore that makes “Watchmen” as good as it is.

  167. I do find it rather interesting how many people posting here openly admit to watching the movie without having read the book. I’ve read the book, but haven’t watched the movie yet. (I’m just waiting for a convenient time for it to come up…) Here’s another oddity for you: I’ve never read anything by Ayn Rand, so I can’t say whether Rorschach fits her philosophy or how well.

    Concerning Rorschach, “hero” is rather too simplistic a description for him. I would definitely say that he’s the main character, whether you like his worldview or not. (I like it somewhat, though I strongly disagree with his theology.) Alan Moore, by all accounts, never liked Rorschach very much as a character, but it stands as a testament to Moore’s genius as a writer that I and many others can and do see him as the protagonist, albeit not a very pleasant one.

    As for Rorschach’s character and sexuality, I’m not sure how well the movie captures this point, but the book very conclusively indicates that he never had a single positive experience of any kind with sex. Indeed, it’s remarkable that he even entertained the notion that there could be any such thing as good sex (“American love”) at all, since he’d had nothing but negative examples all his life and an abundance of them. It’s even more remarkable that he stayed as loyal as he did to his fellow costumed heroes, given some of their own sexual misbehavior.

    There’s also considerable evidence given in the book that Rorschach is on the Asperger’s/Autistic Spectrum and that this, in addition to the horrendous abuse he suffered as a child, is why he has such a hard time being friends with anyone in spite of being very smart and athletic. His nasal tone, stilted speech, and casually impolite behavior are all rather characteristic of people with Asperger’s Syndrome, as are his disregard for other people’s requests and tendency to miss social cues.

    One might, based on his violent activities, even suppose Rorschach is a sociopath. However, though Rorschach does torture and kill a number of people, it’s always for the sake of (respectively) extracting vital information and punishing evil-doers, never merely for enjoyment; he’s a hot-blooded avenger, not a cold-hearted sadist. I am also convinced that a late scene in which Rorschach confronts his former landlady proves he still cares for some people enough that he does what he does for them, not merely himself: it’s the one scene in the book in which he demonstrates compassion, deciding not to press his point any further when he sees that the way he’s censuring his landlady is hurting her children. Evidently, protecting those children was more important to him than punishing their wayward mother for slandering him to the media.

    In short, I’ll concede what some contend: that the other characters are more likable and maybe even more heroic than Rorschach. Nonetheless, I contend that he is the moral center as well as the main character, since it is Rorschach who opens and closes the book and it is upon all of his actions that the final great moral dilemma hangs: whether he ought to be allowed to succeed in his quest to reveal the terrible truth, even though that revelation may bring about the death of all humanity.

    I, for one, am with Rorschach on this: a world as bleak and nihilistic as the one which killed him to preserve itself has no right to live. Adrian Veidt, a.k.a Ozymandias, is about as perfect a template for the Beast of Revelation (commonly referred to in popular culture as the Antichrist) as I’ve ever seen, suave, seductive, and as likable as he is evil. His mad utopian dream–bringing the USA and the USSR together the way it does at the end–is certain to lead to the ultimate dystopia, a worldwide totalitarian hell-on-earth worse than all previous incarnations put together, including Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. From the point of view of someone living in a world as terrible as that, destroying the whole world might even be the humane thing to do!

    This conclusion holds true, incidentally, even if Rorschach and all his atheistic colleagues could somehow be right about there being no creator God (although, their world being merely a concept contained in a comic book, that would necessarily mean they are claiming their creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons do not exist, a contention we readers know to be false). In an atheistic universe, nihilism is the only truly logical philosophy; no one has any right or reason to exist in the first place, and therefore no one has any right or reason to be allowed to go on existing. It would not be unreasonable for Rorschach to prefer the destruction of all the world to the scratching of his finger, let alone for all the cruelty and betrayal he endured.

  168. I never understood the criticism of Ayn’s writing. It’s simply a different style. I didn’t criticize the Batman films because the Joker was “unrealistic”.

    So frak off.

  169. The Joker isn’t *supposed* to be real though RWR… Kind of a crucial difference, don’t you think? Rand’s people don’t live in the comic book world, they live in what she conceived of as the real world.

    @ Rorschach Admirer…

    Most of your post I’m fine with… then you said:

    “In an atheistic universe, nihilism is the only truly logical philosophy; no one has any right or reason to exist in the first place, and therefore no one has any right or reason to be allowed to go on existing.”

    Speaking as an atheist… Bullshit.

  170. “Not to turn this into a Rand-bashing thread, but jesus christ she could not write a decent or realistic human to save her life.”

    Check your premises. She was writing ideals and archetypes and stated that.

    Maybe every novel you read has to have ‘realistic’ humans, but I don’t mind the diversity.

  171. Moore clearly intended Rorschach to show what he sees as the absurdity of objectivisim (I happen to agree with him). Rorschach is not realy a sympathetic character or someone any of us should wish to emulate (non of these characters are very healthy psychologically).

    Just found this quote from Moore:

    I have to say I found Ayn Rand’s philosophy laughable. It was a ‘white supremacist dreams of the master race,’ burnt in an early-20th century form. Her ideas didn’t really appeal to me, but they seemed to be the kind of ideas that people would espouse, people who might secretly believe themselves to be part of the elite, and not part of the excluded majority…Steve Ditko is completely at the other end of the political spectrum from me. I wouldn’t say that I was far left in terms of Communism, but I am an anarchist, which is 180? away from Steve Ditko’s position.[1]

  172. Brian Doherty missed the mark with this article. Many of his premises are wrong, and his conclusion is most certainly wrong.

    Additionally:

    Dagny: “What are movies? Do they have anything to do with trains?”

    Why fault someone, albeit fictional, for living in accordance with their values?

  173. Oh, I knew you atheists wouldn’t like my contention, but it is a conclusion I’ve found rather inevitable to atheism once you lose all faith in humanity. (I never had any, so this was a rather easy step to take for me.) Again, ’tis not unreasonable to prefer the destruction of all the world to the scratching of my finger. To go David Hume one better, I’ll contend it’s not even unreasonable simply to prefer the destruction of the world to its not being destroyed, never mind my experiencing or not experiencing a little finger pain!

    You can call BS on that all you like, but I have yet to see hurricanes, wars, or any world-shattering cosmic events be turned aside by someone’s contention that he has a right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and property. Nature evidently doesn’t grant us any rights, you don’t believe even in “Nature’s God” a la that pompous fool Thomas Jefferson, and humans are part of nature, so what rights can you possibly have?

  174. You’re kidding with this nonsense, right Doherty?

    The first time I come to Reason in months and I’m quickly reminded of why I stopped coming by in the first place.

  175. I’m sure others have said the same thing, but Rorschach is a much more complicated character than anyone Rand created. And definitely not a hero. Watchmen is about presenting different moral viewpoints and not lecturing readers on which is correct. Rand was, uh, slightly different.

  176. To follow up on a running digression: “Watchmen” is in fact a graphic novel. Just because it was originally serialized does not mean that it wasn’t written as an entire piece.

    If you say it’s not a novel, then you must also say that of most of Dickens’ work. I don’t think anyone would argue that “Bleak House” is a short-story anthology just because it wasn’t published as a single volume when first released.

    Serialization is irrelevant, literary intent is key. Watchmen is a graphic novel.

  177. Let me first just say what’s on everyone’s mind – ?u?b?? ??? dn p???n?s s?p?d??u?? s?? pu?? u??. Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach is brilliant. And that’s about it – the movie sucked blue-veined smurf-dong / atomic sausage. And making useless ideologikal links between a character from an anarchist’s awesome graphic novel, and the warped and soulless warblings of some dead bowl-haired bitch is stretching the thin, strangely patterned fabric of my designer Hollywooden reality to breaking point. Again. So don’t do it.

    “Ha ha only serious..”

    Peace, you crazy kids

    Henry

  178. Impressive. Not only do you not understand Rand’s Objectivism, but you do not understand Rorschach or the Watchmen as well.

  179. Just because it was originally serialized does not mean that it wasn’t written as an entire piece.

    The broad storyline was preconceived but, for example, book 9 was still being written as 4 was on the shelves for sale.

    That still doesn’t mean it’s not a coherent piece of literature, though, and your comparison to Dickens is apt. I’ve done a lot of thinking about the restrictions placed on literature, such as serialization and commercial interests. Even Shakespeare was writing for purposes other than pure artistic expression. Maybe the free, untethered livelihood of artists in the modern age doesn’t really do art any favors.

  180. The fact that Brian Doherty sees Rorschach as a “great an example of an Objectivist saint” provides more insight into the perfect irony of Rorschach’s namesake and mask than anything else discussed here.

    I’ve yet to see the movie, but the ‘Watchmen’ graphic novel is co-called because it has artistic qualities. You see what you get. Naming the hero/anti-hero Rorschach is the perfect trigger pulling it all together.

    Not only does this apply externally, but within Rorschach’s character as well.

  181. my impression came to be that rohrschach devolved out of his randian halo when he took off his mask at that final point, essentially asking to be killed because he couldn’t bare that a decision was made by a non-state superhero that prevented the deaths of billions by killing only millions. on the other hand, dr manhattan is completely indifferent to the woes of humanity and is equally indifferent to the hate that will be generated for him. he is beautiful, he can live basically alone, and like the narrator in Anthem, has innovative and scientific means and builds things – for himself and others.

  182. It’s patently absurd to consider Rorschach an Objectivist. I’d have to read the book again to explain why.

    Objectivist or not, his support for that scumbag Truman is objectively un-libertarian.

    His support for gun-control, based on his interaction with Moloch, indicates to me that he is willing to support the criminal edicts of the criminal gang we call the state merely because said criminal gang issues said edicts. (Why he’s unwilling to also support the un-libertarian Keene Act just shows how fickle and unprincipled he is.)

    Regards,
    Alex Peak

  183. He (Rorschach) excuses the Comedian’s monstrousness because it was “in the service of his country,” which flagrantly flies in the face of your argument re: individual vs. “collectivist” government. Also, your “Objectivist hero” and “moral center” just happens to be a sadistic psychopath. You might want to rethink your argument entirely.
    Most importantly, however, you fail to grasp Moore’s underlying observation, consistent throughout Watchmen: humans are morally and emotionally complex creatures, and rarely capable of being described in absolutist, black-and-white, Objectivist terms.
    Go read it again.

  184. I think Rorschach isn’t a strict Objectivist for the very fact he initiates force all the time. He does have the absolutist sense of right and wrong and is disgusted by altruism. A few things don’t fit though, such as his patriotism, defense of the Comedian, his young utilitarian view of Truman’s atomic bomb. However, Rorschach is definitely no Nietzschean though, because Rorschach is all about morality. Nietzsche did not believe in morality. The Nietzschean hero is The Comedian, because he was completely amoral. He used violence and killed for the pleasure of it, even killing a woman pregnant with his child. He laughed at the world, because he found it amusing that anyone would be so concerned with right and wrong. He was just along for the ride doing as he pleased and taking all he wanted, whether it was rape or murder. That sums up Nietzsche’s beliefs. His superman is obviously Dr. Manhattan. Unlimited power with zero humanity and separate from the tribe (he went to Mars for god’s sake).

    Ozymandias represents the utilitarianism of modern liberalism.

    in summary:
    Rorschach = Moral Absolutism/Objectivism
    The Comedian = Nihilism
    Ozymandias= Moral Relativism/Utilitarianism

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  191. Rorschach was the absolutist deontologist. There is good, and there is evil, and evil must be punished.

    Ozy was the absolutist utilitarian consequentialist, ticking off body counts on a spread sheet.

    The nice thing about Moore is that he presents the conflict, the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. I think he’s relatively unfair to deontologists, saddling them with the sex/purity hang ups of Rorschach.

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