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Watchmen: a diversity of storytelling voices

Updated: Jan 27, 2020


It's 3 days since the finale of Watchmen, and I've finally come up for air! I've been hitting the HBO Peteypedia pages, listening to YouTube reviews, revisiting the source material (Alan Moore's Watchmen series published by DC Comics was turned into an animated comic, illustrated by Dave Gibbons and narrated by Tom Stechschulte). It was even a delight to find Zack Snyder's 2009 movie recently added to my Sky Cinema package!

Not only am I a self-confessed Geek, I celebrate my geekiness! But in this instance, I don't believe Watchmen simply tapped into my nerd-like qualities. I think good entertainment has the ability to be part of our learning journey. Okay, we can clearly see that documentaries or television events like David Attenborough's 'The Blue Planet' will impart factual content aimed at educating us. Yet, I think more and more of the fictional shows work as a Trojan Horse; introducing ideas and concepts that we hadn't been aware of. Surely, I'm not the only one who regularly pauses a show to Google something that comes to mind when watching it? I didn't just enjoy the 9 hours of TV entertainment that HBO presented, I went on a deep dive to explore how it came to be and why it was so engaging.

Now that I'm back on shore - so to speak - I wanted to write an article about Watchmen in my guise as a Learning Specialist that focuses on employee engagement and organisational resilience. The show covered many themes and again, it's important for me that I don't ruin anyone's ability to enjoy this series if they haven't yet seen it. I therefore shine a light on the inclusive culture of the creative team .

When promoting HBO's Watchmen, Showrunner Damon Lindelof repeatedly directs attention to the writing team. As a lifelong fan of Alan Moore's original, he finally agreed to take on the challenge of creating a TV show - on the proviso that he could draw attention to the Tulsa '21 / Black Wall Street Massacre.

In an interview with Medium Publications, Lindelof explained, "I like to think of myself as an educated person interested in United States history, and the fact that I got to be 42 years old and had never heard about it (Tulsa '21); or even worse, had heard about it and just ignored it…Those feelings compelled me to tell this story. I brought together a diverse set of voices and experiences to the writer’s room, not just in terms of the life they led, skin color, or sexuality, but also what their relationship was to Watchmen. As we started to retell the massacre, us white dudes — there were only four of us out of 12 people — had to sit back."

Lindelof has previously been accused of being a 'Benevolent Dictator', a term used to describe showrunners that ultimately control the narrative as they envision it and he admits that when he first gathered the writing team, "I wanted diversity… as long as everyone listened to me!". Fortunately, he had the good sense to appreciate that the purpose of inclusivity is to explore different perspectives gained from different experiences; listening as they shared. More importantly, he recognised that when one person then goes on to reinterpret what has been shared, the message often can be diluted, or at worse misappropriated.

Narrative decisions were instead made with unanimous agreement; quite a challenge when 12 people are involved, a bit like a jury determining the outcome of a criminal case. But unlike a jury, the options weren't binary; their 'simple goal' was to create a well-received television series without compromising their values. And did they...? It took them 2 years to finish 9 hours of television. I think Watchmen is evidence that collaborative efforts can create a moment of sheer mastery. If you don't believe me, go check it out for yourself!

PS: Please try to keep comments as spoiler-free as possible.

What is Imagimont?

I'm Jo, a Freelance Learning Experience Designer at Imagimont Ltd. With a creative flair and commitment to engagement, I manage development projects that align to the organisation’s culture, values and business strategy. Partnering with internal stakeholders and external providers, I deliver blended learning resources fully accessible using multimedia at the point of need. My commercial awareness, UK Regulatory Compliance expertise and 10 years’ experience as a People Development Specialist ensure that learning initiatives evolve as quickly as service expectations.

Click here to find out more.

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