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HBO’s Watchmen used a lore dump to criticize the Zack Snyder movie

Petey still doesn’t like American Crime Story

watchmen 2009 nite owl fights a prison guard as laurie walks up behind him Warner Bros. Pictures
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

By sequelizing rather than adapting Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original comic, HBO’s Watchmen has naturally distanced itself from the 2009 movie version. But in the latest Peteypedia entry, the “reports” from Laurie Blake’s FBI partner posted online after each episode, the HBO show took a more ... direct shot at Zack Snyder’s straightforward-but-Snyderified adaptation.

The document in question, a report on the in-world show American Hero Story: Minutemen, discusses the way that the show handles the sexual assault of Silk Spectre by The Comedian, a moment Moore depicted in the comic. Petey describes the scene, from an episode of the series called Internal Affairs, as “an onslaught of odious choices.”

“The violence is extreme and fetishistic,” Petey writes. “The filmmaking toggles between frenetic cuts, widescreen framing and zooming close-ups on blood gushes and ripped clothing.”

The description should sound familiar to anyone who’s seen the Snyder Watchmen. The very same moment appears in the 2009 movie, and pushes the violence to the extreme. According to Petey, the creators of AHS: Minutemen choosing to focus on the violence of the act, and make it hyper stylized, only serves to detract from Silk Spectre and the pain the assault causes her.

Petey goes on to describe part of the scene as being shot upside down, and through the reflection of Molach’s Solar Weapon (a Minutemen trophy), a major difference between the fictional show’s depiction and the Snyder movie. But the way the series uses Minutemen’s trophies to frame part of the scene is aligned with series director J.T. March III’s, “larger project of turning ‘hero’ archetypes on their heads and deconstructing them as warped personalities.”

This too is a pet project of Snyder. The filmmaker was outspoken in his love for the original comic’s deconstruction of the superhero myth, and brought that same mindset to the movies he would later direct for DC. Snyder’s decision to remove the varnish from DC’s most sterling hero in Man of Steel proved controversial to Superman fans. Later, in Batman V Superman, he pushed the idea even further, building a story based entirely around the idea of superheroes that were darker, more violent, and less heroic, than they appeared.

The critical reading of this week’s Peteypedia is even more on the nose when, earlier in the piece, Petey explains the real history behind Silk Spectre’s assault, and how the Minutemen’s “marketing guru,” Louis Schexnayder — who was a character in the original Watchmen comic — convinced Spectre to let the assault go, “for the good of the group’s image.” Now, I can’t say for sure that Schexnayder is a stand-in for Zack Snyder in Petey’s report, but try saying the name out loud.

In the show, Petey has already called American Hero Story: Minutemen trash. While he didn’t explain it then, this document gives us some insight into his feelings. The sidebar also arrives after the fifth episode of the series, which undid the 2009 movie’s canonical break of replacing Veidt’s giant squid monster with a nuclear explosion, something that would have infuriated Petey’s historian side.

This is also the first time that HBO itself, which is behind the publishing of all of the Peteypedia documents, has drawn such a direct connection between the in-universe TV history of the Minutemen and Snyder’s own depiction of Watchmen. It’s also the first time that HBO, and the creative team behind its Watchmen show, have come so close to commenting on the movie.

Previous references have been in passing; before the show’s premiere, Lindelof told Vulture said that while Snyder looked like he was having the time of his life making the movie, he was ultimately terrified of the job based on whispers in the aftermath.

“I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s [Watchmen] movie,” he said. “There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened.”

Update: This story has been updated to clarify that Louis Schexnayder was a character present in the original Watchmen comics.