“Watchmen” debuted on HBO Sunday night (October 20), featuring a storyline that follows a Black woman known as Sister Night (award-winning actress Regina King) and takes an unblinking look at racism, White supremacy and police brutality against Black people.
Fans of the comic have been not so patiently waiting for the weekly show to debut. In this current iteration of the story, brutal historical realities are played out in the premiere’s opening scenes, with the re-creation of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, where White people (including law enforcement officers) united to launch a deadly siege on the city’s thriving Black community.
Series creator Damon Lindelof says creating the show feels like walking a tightrope, especially considering today’s political climate. “The show is about to drop and I’m still thinking, ‘Should we have done it?’” Lindelof told the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, adding, “Even though I’m well-intentioned, I’m probably going to step in it a bunch of times.” With the show’s premiere, everyone involved in the project seemed to have their own stance on why viewers should tune in for a plot that overflows with violence against the Black community.
“At the end of these nine episodes, I hope we are left with people owning their feelings and feel[ing] true to express them,” lead actor King told the Times. “It’s not easy. But because [of] this world that Damon has created that is putting a mirror up to our country right now, it will help ease that discomfort so that people can express what they feel. If you don’t like it, share why. What came up for you? If you like it, what came up for you? If that happens, then we’ve succeeded.”
Just as some will disapprove of “Watchmen,” others have praised it. “Watchmen is amazing. I have no idea where it’s going…and that’s a great thing,” Marvel’s “Luke Cage” creator Cheo Hodari Cocker tweeted.
Maintaining interest, while being ethical and historically factual, are some things the show hopes to be successful at. “The key to being responsible is to have collaborators who don’t look like you,” Lindelof told the Times. “The responsibility is all about process. We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘Should we be doing this? Are we doing this in a responsible way?’ Am I concerned? Of course I am. I worry about this all the time. What we came up with is certainly imperfect, but it’s entering a real interesting space.”
If you missed last night’s premiere, watch the promo below, courtesy of HBO:
Check out some of the reactions on social media below:
Black people in Tulsa Oklahoma build a successful community. Smithsonian Magazine reports the mobs destroyed 35 blocks and killed almost 300 Black people. pic.twitter.com/9Yw5LoiG2n
— UrbanTakeOne (@UrbanTake_001) October 21, 2019
In America, we are culturally conditioned to believe white is superior and persons of color inferior, causing America to undervalue, underestimate and marginalize persons of color.
— Wilson, Pastor. (@R3v3r8) October 21, 2019
The Tulsa race massacre in the ‘Watchmen’ premiere?
It was real.
— Stephen Humphries (@Steve_Humphries) October 21, 2019
I’m glad the 1921 Tulsa #BlackWallStreet riot is trending today, because it is part of a larger story of ethnic cleansing that has not just been overlooked but deliberately buried in what we teach our kids in American history.
This thread is about that larger context. https://t.co/i6WqjPTGvq
— David Neiwert (@DavidNeiwert) October 21, 2019