Watchmen: The Silk Spectre (Major Spoilers)

The main female character in Watchmen is Laurie Jupiter,* the second Silk Spectre. Her mother Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre, was one of the first generation of costumed heroes. While Watchmen‘s other “legacy hero,” Nite Owl, was inspired to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps, Laurie was pushed onto her path by her domineering mother.

One common complaint that I have heard directed at Watchmen is that Laurie is defined by her relationships to men, romantic relationships with first Doctor Manhattan and the Nite Owl, and the revelation of her familial relationship with the Comedian. But the relationship that I found most developed for Laurie was that with her mother.

Sally Jupiter originally became a costumed hero to boost her modeling career, and retired when it looked like a good business decision. Always proud of her heroing career, she pushed her daughter to do the same from a young age, supervising her training and driving her to the short-lived ‘Watchmen’ meeting. She overall seems to fit neatly into the archtype of the ‘stage mother,’ pushing her child to recapture her own lost glory.

What I find very interesting about Laurie is how aware she is of how her gender has affected her role. While the male heroes get their own independent motivations for becoming costumed heroes, she is pushed into it by a mother who is herself fulfilling societal expectations. And she resents it. She ends up with an impractical, sexualized costume – and she resents it.

It’s rather sad that it took as long as it did for a female superhero to recognize that the treatment of the typical female superhero sucks.

*In the book, Sally Jupiter’s original name is Juspeczyk, which she changed to hide her Polish heritage. Laurie changed her own name back and corrects Rorschach when he calls her “Mis Jupiter.” Presumably this was dropped from the film to reduce audience confusion.

Comments

  1. other Patrick says

    I guess this is the follow-up, then :)

    I agree about the Sally-Laurie relationship being the defining one. There’s no doubt Laurie would have stayed far away from superheroics if not for her mom.

    It’s interesting how the almost-raped Silk Spectre I has made peace with sexualization, even nostalgically keeping a Tijuana bible of her “exploits”. That’s just how society is, that’s how men are, like it or not (and then you might just as well like it). Laurie, on the other hand, doesn’t want that at all, and as soon as possible, she’s not Silk Spectre anymore, but Miss Juspeczyk.

    As to being defined by men, I think the GN is better than the movie about that. I mean, in the GN Laurie calls Dan on her own, she explicitly does not want two Manhattans in bed with her, she more or less seduces Dan. On the other hand, she asks Dan to take the owlship for a ride not because she wants to, but because it might help him get over his impotence, only in doing so discovering that she’s actually not all that abhorred by being a superhero again. In the movie, it’s more a way for her to have some fun.

    What I think is the biggest gripe I have with the story is that Laurie doesn’t convince Manhattan to come back to earth, not in an active way. He agrees to come back only because her birth was so unlikely as to be a miracle, but as he then goes on to say, earth is full of those miracles.

    Laurie doesn’t really have an arc of her own – maybe one that’s about accepting/understanding her mother –, but she’s also the least fucked-up of the heroes. Which doesn’t make her a better character, I guess.

    Or, to say it succinctly: of all the characters in the GN, Laurie was the where I cared least about whether Snyder ruins her or not.

  2. other Patrick says

    Yes, it was. It’s *possible* that it will be in the Director’s Cut – we do see the psychiatrist, the news vendor and the pirate comic reader – but I’m not sure it was ever filmed.

    On the other hand, we get 1 shot of Silhouette kissing a nurse (a change-up of that famous photo), 1 shot of said nurse sitting next to Silhouette at Sally Jupiter’s retirement party (recreating the “Last Supper”), and finally Silhouette and the nurse in her underwear, murdered (with “Lesbian Whores”) written on the wall, all during the opening credits. Google “Watchmen opening credits” and you’ll see all the lesbian content there is.

  3. says

    The other day I read some little snippet of a question along the lines of “Can the Silk Spectre be considered feminist?” and it got me to thinking. It kind of depends which Silk Spectre we’re talking about, and whether feminist is meant as a character in a book, or as a person as if she were real.

    And while I couldn’t really come to any conclusions about Sally, or whether Laurie is presented in a particularly feminist way, I think I’m pretty sure she’d at least consider herself feminist. By the end of the book, she seems totally okay with going back to superheroics, as long as she gets to be just as awesome as Dan rather than his token girl sidekick (and gets a more practical costume). Does 1985 still count as second-wave?

    I was saddened by the removal of Joey and her girlfriend, though. They were my favorite incidental characters.

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