An Odd Pairing: All The President’s Men and Watchmen

 

I watched Watchmen the day before yesterday and All The President’s Men the day before that.  The two interlocked in unexpected- even uncanny- ways.

All The President’s Men, 1976
Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford
“The Washington Post” reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
So I have some thoughts on this movie, and on a general trend with movies about investigative journalism.  I find a lot of them too macho.  Hear me out. Journalism (at least as it is portrayed in film) is a male-dominated profession. And then you get male screenwriters, directors, producers, etc. in charge of the projects.  Because these are all male-dominated professions as well.  So you have these movies about journalism that read like action/suspense movies, with dashing and intrepid male characters with lots of initiative. BUT it’s investigative journalism, and so what’s going on in the movie isn’t that exciting physically. It’s an action movie without the action, if you will. And because the characters are all manly men, they’re not allowed to have ~feelings~, so the reactions to the more nuanced events that are actually occurring are… kind of stunted. I feel like really excellent psychological dramas could be made out of many only okay investigative journalism movies.
But about this movie in particular: I liked it. It was an interesting look at a certain time in recent history, before I was born but that my parents remember clearly. I remember asking my dad to tell me ‘The Watergate story’ in the car 😛 . Ad I think my first exposure to Deep Throat was the Squeaky Throat bit on PBS Kids’ Cyberchase. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are both very good actors.  It’s quite cool. Nixon, regardless of statements to the contrary, was a crook. It’s amazingly seventies as well, down to the clothes and hair.  But I do feel like it suffers from the symptom above, with the result that none of the characters are ever really fleshed out (Robert Redford is sincere and hardworking, Dustin Hoffman is an unreliable old hand whose enthusiasm is sparked by this particular Watergate enigma, blah), none of the developments in the story get very deep reactions, and you just as a viewer… don’t really care?
Maybe you had to have been there?

Watchmen, 2009
Starring lots of people
In 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.
I liked this a lot more than I was expecting to. But first some advice on watching when female (or, you know, watching as a male with any empathy or insight): the lone female character or two? They pretty much suck. They’re very much objects. Superhero woman (Silk Spectre II) complains about her tight spandex costume. God damn it, woman! You’re a superhero, you get to pick your own costume! Take that ridiculous shit off!
And then later she’s trying to save people from a burning building and her ass length hair is flying around. Girl, I know it looks dramatic but you are going to burn the fuck up. Hair is flammable af. Remember in Girl Scouts when you had to wear you hair back and under a bandana on campfire Friday? I do. Be smart.
But the problem here is that it’s not even her fault. She’s fictional. This is the fault of the idiotic and misogynistic male directors/whoever who made these choices. Do better.
So just pretend the female character doesn’t exist. Or better yet, pretend all of the characters are actually women, transgender, or people who don’t identify as any particular gender.  Because it shouldn’t matter what gender characters are, as long as they are good characters.
And by good I mean, interesting, because everyone in this movie is a crazy nut.  I like psychopath vigilante Rorschach best, which says scary things about me, but at the same time they’re all psychopaths and I feel like only he has the courage of his convictions.
If ATPM was an action movie with no action, this one made up for it.
Very action, such graphic.
And if ATPM is based on true events, Watchmen is based on a sci fi futuristic dystopia graphic novel. In which President Nixon is serving his fifth term.  It takes place in 1985 and there’s even a shout out to reporters Woodward and Bernstein (it’s hinted that one of the Watchmen was involved in silencing them).
Very strange connections and I’m glad I watched these essentially back to back, it made for a unique viewing experience.

 

Who watches the Watchmen? Apparently me.
Also of interest: Hidden Meaning in Watchmen and Watchmen Honest Trailer.

 

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