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Watchmen Explained: What is the Peteypedia?

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23.12.2019
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If you’re like me, you love HBO’s Watchmen. And if you’re like me, you also panicked when the first season of the series ended and you desperately desired more. Well, fortunately for us, HBO has been releasing supplementary reading material for Watchmen under the label “Peteypedia.” This collection of documents, which are framed in-universe as memos and filed evidence from Agent Dale Petey (the twiggy, soft-looking agent played by Dustin Ingram who accompanies Laurie Blake on her trip to Tulsa) serves as a rough analogue to the various in-universe documents from the comic, like the Rorschach psychological file and the excerpts from Hollis Mason’s autobiography.

Much like the documents from the comic, the Petepedia files can be frustratingly obfuscating in their admirable attempts to stay diegetic, so we’ve summarized their contents here. Warning: Spoilers follow.

ENTRY 1:

Peteypedia begins with a memo from the director of the Anti-Vigilante Task Force, the federal agency from which both Blake and Petey take orders. The memo introduces the concept of Peteypedia as documents from the AVTF’s private database and provides a ton of context for how the world has changed since the events of the comic book. Most relevant here is the removal of computers from society (because of the Dr. Manhattan cancer scare) and their recent re-introduction, along with various other technologies. This is also a handy way of establishing a real-life baby boomer/millennial attitude toward technology that makes sense in the world of Watchmen, and thus Agent Petey himself. He’s a glorified IT guy who probably got his job through his daddy’s business connections with nothing better to do all day than write these Peteypedia memos, starting with an extensive exposition on “Rorschach’s Journal” and the societal developments surrounding its publication at the end of the comic.

Petey’s own 6-page memo describes the journal and conspiracy theories published by The New Frontiersman, the ultra-nationalist and racist right-wing paper that Rorschach subscribed to as his only form of news. Technically, these conspiracy theories are correct. Veidt was indeed responsible for the events of 11/2 and a vast conspiracy to create a liberal government disinterested in nuclear war… Except, in a twist of dramatic irony, nobody believes it, because The New Frontiersman is a notoriously unreliable source of information. Ultimately, those who believed in and attached themselves to the ideas in Rorschach’s journal were the racist, conspiracy-theorist demographic catered to by The New Frontiersman, and that’s how we got the Seventh Kavalry as presented in the show. The memo implies that the Seventh Kavalry is just one among many groups of similar domestic terrorists.

However, most of these six pages of historical context are entirely to fill in the avid Watchmen fan on what’s been happening since 1985, and the point Petey is trying to make in-universe — that conspiracy theorists and Rorschach fans would take ending the investigation into Veidt’s death the wrong way — could easily have been fit in a page or less. But maybe this explains why the director of the Anti-Vigilante Task Force is already so annoyed with Agent Petey as of their first appearance together in the series in episode 3.

Entry 1 of Peteypedia is rounded out with an academic-style advertisement for free screenings of Trust In The Law! by the Greenwood Center for Cultural Heritage (the film a young Will Reeves is watching in........

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