HBO’s Watchmen and its opening sequence: The Tulsa Incident

Since its creation, Watchmen has been a comic of superheroes with a very dark identity. This story is about the worst of heroism, society, and politics and of course humanity’s nature. Although its comic ended, and it has a movie adaptation, a HBO TV series was announced in order to continue as a sequel of the events of narrated in the comic. What is truly polemic is that its opening sequence makes us revive a terrible moment of the history of the United States – The Tulsa riot incident, and yes: that is what we want to see in this new adaptation of the franchise, because Watchmen is about the main villain of the story – the darkest side of society.

Alan’s Moore graphic novel tells us about the decay of the American Dream of United States through the eyes of group vigilantes that resemble Marvel’s and DC’s superheroes – the Watchmen. However, those heroes are way much darker, realists and pessimistic, giving us an idea of how real heroes should be if they would exist in a reality in which there are many social and moral conflicts in existence.  

In The Watchmen story, we get to see reality in an alternate timeline. The world of this comic is very similar than ours, but there were some incidents in history that are modified – in the majority of the cases, giving us different historical events that make us think about “what ifs” (a common literary resource in comics and porno doido used to show a different reality if something different occurred in the past). 

For example, in Watchmen’s timeline the United States won the Vietnam’s war thanks to superhero intervention, giving us a totally different perception of what really happened. Due to the accidental creation of Dr. Manhattan (a supernatural being tied in strength to the almighty Superman) and his war support to the US, history changed completely. And that was very attractive to the readers because the horrors of Vietnam are explained and detailed by the experiences of the characters of the story: that war was real. Yes, its results were mere fiction in the comic, but all the horrible massacres in Vietnam were not covered, but showed – and giving us a story that does not fear anything about showing humanity’s cruelty. And here comes Tulsa, in the new series of HBO.

Something similar is being shown in the opening sequence of HBO’s Watchmen. It starts by showing us a riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma 1921. People are being tortured, shot, burned and massacred without mercy. To be more specific, black population is being attacked by white people. We do not realize about what is happening, we do not know if what happened in 1921 is a piece of fiction shown by the series. We do not want to believe such violence is truth. We do some research. And our fears are confirmed: all of this is real.

The Tulsa race riot occurred in 1921. It was considered a very prosperous district, and what was very amazing about it is that there were a lot of afro American professionals giving their best in the city. Doctors, economists, and teachers – it was unbelievable by the time to find so much productivity in a place in which Afro-Americans were living, and it was even considered by many as the Black Wall Street. However, the problem of racism was latent. People still remembered the ashes of the American Civil War, and many of the white population still had grudge against black people in Greenwood. 

What is recorded about the incident is that its origin as because A 19 years old black shoeshiner named Dick Rowland was accused by Sarah Page (a 17 years old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building) of trying to rape her. Although most of the civilians that met Dick knew he was innocent, they were aware that white people of the district would not accept that possibility, and they would do the impossible in order to lynch Dick. Black people tried to defend the young man of the white mob, and a gunshot occurred that left 10 white people and 2 black people dead. This was the spark of the slaughter. 

Soon the white crowds of the Greenwood district outnumbered the black people, and attacked them with everything they had. Even private aircrafts attacked the town, decimating innocent people. The strongest believers of the white supremacy, the Ku Klux Klan participated in the massacre too. Many black innocent people died, many were injured and thousands were homeless by the end of the riot.

This is one of the darkest moments in the history of United States, and for a lot of time; it was censorship by the government. It is amazing to know how so many people do not even know about this event, and this is most impactful message that HBO’s watchmen gives us. 

And that is what we loved about Watchmen’s first episode: the true villain is always going to be injustice. We must remember that there are certain ideals that are extremely difficult to eliminate, but they must be punished one way or another. This series makes us remember that we can forget, but not forgive the sins committed in the past. Therefore, the Watchmen must watch, their watch has not ended yet. 

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