As if like clockwork, HBO’s Watchmen continues to unmask America’s racist history. In a radical reveal of one of the original comic’s characters, Watchmen also draws an unmistakably bold line to President Donald Trump’s alleged family connections to the Ku Klux Klan.
Warning: Spoilers for Watchmen ahead.
On Sunday, Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen aired its sixth episode, “This Extraordinary Being,” a gob-smacking chapter in the HBO “sequel” to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1988 comic book series.
With Angela Abar (Regina King) under the influence of Nostalgia, she has a vision that takes her back in time to see her grandfather, Will Reeves (played by Jovan Adepo in these “flashbacks”) as he grows from Black NYPD cop to Hooded Justice, one of the first superheroes in the universe of Watchmen.
That Hooded Justice isn’t a European immigrant, as heavily speculated in the actual text of Watchmen, but a gay Black man in, let’s call it “whiteface,” is a pregnant subversion of so many angles within both Watchmen and today’s superhero media economy. It was Alan Moore himself that said in 2016 that Birth of a Nation was the original superhero movie, and HBO’s Watchmen is playing serious 3D chess with that notion.
(American Hero Story, the in-world TV show of the Minutemen, also subscribed to Hooded Justice being of Eastern European descent, thereby accidentally white-washing a superhero. Stuff like that just doesn’t feel like an accident on the part of Lindelof and company.)
The extra takeaway from Hooded Justice’s “origin story” is how it may have involved Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump — or at the very least, a character modeled after him. Watchmen Episode 6 introduces “Fred” (played by Glenn Fleshler), a Queens businessman and owner of “F.T. and Sons” supermarkets who burns down a Jewish deli and harasses Will. His warehouses are a front for Ku Klux Klan operations, where they meet and produce subliminal messaging propaganda.
When Will finds out, he shoots “Fred” in the head.
Here’s where the dots connect: Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was also a Queens businessman involved in 1920s New York real estate. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Fred Trump established Trump Market, predecessor to the modern supermarket, which he sold a year later for “a massive profit.”
Fred Trump also had some associations with the Ku Klux Klan, the full extent of which remains unclear. What we do know is that in 1927, a thousand KKK members and a hundred police officers had an “all-out brawl” in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens.
Boing Boing, the first to report the decades-old scoop in 2016, noted that this isn’t hard proof Fred Trump was a member of the KKK. “Despite sharing lawyers with the other men, it’s conceivable that he may have been an innocent bystander, falsely named, or otherwise the victim of mistaken identity during or following a chaotic event,” Boing Boing wrote.
Whether or not Fred Trump was a KKK member isn’t the point. The point is Watchmen making associations clear and with purpose in its alternate, but no less racist timeline of American history. Even if his father wasn’t a Klansman, Donald Trump doesn’t do himself favors whenever he drags his feet denouncing white supremacy or actively keeps white nationalists in his orbit.
When the New York Times pressed Trump on his father’s 1927 arrest in 2017, he said: “It’s unfair to mention it, to be honest, because there were no charges. They said there were charges against other people, but there were absolutely no charges, totally false.”
We doubt Trump watches Watchmen, but if he does, we have a feeling he’d have something similar to say about the subtle connections being drawn here between a fictional racist conspiracy and his own father.
Watchmen airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.