Adrian, Lies, Mass Media, and Anti-Christ. Michael Stuart
Watchmen's Adrian is a beautiful character. A body out of da Vinci's journals, a philosopher king's education, an American psycho's professional success, a celebrity's fireside presence, an evil pharaoh's name, in Greek. I'd read Watchmen before, so this time I knew what all this was coming to, and I was excited to decide whether Ozymandias is the scoundrel, or savior of the world.
It was easy, or say, impossible not to, pick up on the Easter eggs planted through the novel which foreshadow Adrian’s ultimate goal, the violent birth of a new world order. There are tons of moments where the Veidt, or a V, is stuck onto an advertisement or billboard. This publicity appears benign, but came off as totally creepy when recognized as part of his master plan. Though these are only readable as signs after one knows what Adrian is plotting, and how he accomplishes it, I was left wondering how I failed to recognize this pattern in my first reading.
Hunting for these hints was fun, but their presence was not the only new gloss to my reading. Scenes with Adrian actually in them became much richer, and almost always were transformed by knowledge of Adrian's character that is not available if the book is read linearly. In chapter two we have a quick example in three panels.
After being acquainted with Adrian’s character, it seems impossible that he would value the mortal humility espoused in the prayer above. I don’t even need the sequence that follows—where Adrian as Ozymandias clashes worldviews with the Comedian, who jeers that Adrian is destined to be the “smartest man on the cinder” after the world is destroyed—to understand the image and feel its terrible dread.
Another thing I became interested in was how Adrian was connected to mass consumer culture. Chapter five is a fun example. In a single discussion with an assistant of his, they speak about expanding his action figure franchise, and the spiritual value of death. They meet an assassin in the lobby.
Adrian subdues the assassin, the assassin apparently commits suicide as Adrian attempts to sweep a cyanide capsule from his mouth. Of course, we later learn that Adrian had hired the man, and that he forces the capsule down the assassin's throat. Knowing this, Adrian seems like a complete psychopath who flawlessly maintains the flat, outward appearance of an angel.
My re-reading proceeded, and every scene with Adrian seemed to have a dark underbelly. He is deceitful, narcissistic, and manipulative. If I you gave him more credit, you could read Adrian in terms of the Promethean hero, who shatters an existing paradigm to bring a just enlightenment to the world, or as an Ubermensch, who rejects a social moral code for his individual values, or as a simple narcissist in love with that in the world that reflects his own ambition. But I go with Anti-Christ.
Adrian's mission is to establish himself as the most trusted and good man in the global collective unconscious. He thinks that this collective unconscious is something he can monitor with a wall of televisions, and something that he can influence by participating in mass media and consumer culture.