This is a breathtaking limited series, reimagined to not just include Black people and characters, but incorporate history and who these people are as an essential part of the plot. I like both. I like when stories highlight portraits where race or identity have nothing to do with the part (or not explicitly, because of course, if you see nontraditional casting, it becomes part of the story telling) and parts where race et al are an explicit part of the story telling.
There is so much to love about Watchmen, I don’t know where to begin. First, it’s produced by Damon Lindeloff, the person behind Lost, one of my favorite TV shows of all time (until the writers’ strike just caused the story line to go AWOL, but the premise was a brilliant love child of reality shows, diversity, and disaster. The cast included Koreans and an actor who plays a bff of Lord of the Ring‘s Frodo. It was the perfect recipe to suck me in). Lindeloff has discussed how Black Lives Matter and the book How to Become an Antiracist by Ibram Xendi influenced his imagination. Watchmen follows a fantastical tale of out-of-this-world super heroes, alternate versions of American history where th U.S. won the Vietnam War, and Vietnam is introduced as the 51st street, where Regina King’s character grew up. Part of this regal Black American’s heritage was Vietnamese!!! How cool is that? She demonstrates how to make traditional Vietnamese pastries for her son’s class.
She’s also a cop, who moonlights as a super hero with excellent eyeliner and killer moves. As the story proceeds, you find her personal connection to the 1921 Tulsa massacre, a three-day takedown of Black Wall Street that really happened and I had never heard of prior to this show. They didn’t teach it public school in NJ when I was growing up.( In 1921, right after World War I, Black soldiers came back to build middle class communities like Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, this was threatening to white citizens who also birthed the KKK at this time. Kicked off by a bogus criminal charge, white vigilantes burned down this town of 10,000. We have so many shameful chapter in our country’s story that I’m only now getting educated on.) The real history intertwines with the character’s trajectory, in this mix of alt contemporary, real history, and mystical sci-fi world. It is an utterly wild work of art with a social justice lens that successfully ties together disparate plot lines into one by the end. It is so heartbreaking, I don’t think I can bear to watch it again.