Watchmen, the new HBO show based on Alan Moore’s 1986 comic book, takes place today, in 2019, but in their world, vigilantes still wear superhero masks and costumes to fight crime. Superheroes are only part of the story, however, because Watchmen is also a searing indictment on historical and modern racism, from the Tulsa Race Massacre to Redfordations — the show’s version of reparations.
Reparations are financial compensation for slavery. In the Watchmen universe, Redfordations are a similar type of payment, named for President Robert Redford (yes, as in the actor), who has made correcting racial inequities a priority in his administration. As president, Redford passed the Victims Of Racial Violence Legislation, which gives “a lifetime tax exemption for victims of, and the direct descendants of, designated areas of racial injustice throughout America’s history,” the show’s creator, Damon Lindelof, told Entertainment Weekly.
In other words, people who qualify under the law don’t have to pay any taxes. This leads to race-based animosity, and that tension creates a wellspring of Rorschach-obsessed white nationalists, the show’s main antagonists.
In the beginning scene in the first episode, Angela Abar (Regina King) is her child’s classroom for Career Day when a student insinuates that she opened up her bakery business with money from Redfordations. It strikes a chord with Abar — she nearly rips the kid’s throat out. It’s clear that in the Watchmen’s world, Redfordations are emblematic of how contentious — and dangerous — racial tensions have become.