The Comedian shooting the Vietnamese girl who was pregnant with his own child scene in the Watchmen movie recently attracted quite a bit of controversy. Most movie goers who were unfamiliar with the graphic novel found it repulsive and pointless and many of the readers have asked me why that scene even exists? How does it help drive the plot? Does it help us understand Comedian? Is it about Dr. Manhattan? Is it used as a proxy to understand human behavior? Well, I think it tells us a lot of things but more often than not it's been confused for something trivial by both movie-goers and readers alike.
Many people think that it helps us understand Comedian better but I must point out that it follows quite a bit of other dickery that Comedian had been up to so the readers/viewers know what Comedian is all about. Even the attempted rape scene is more or less enough to sufficiently elaborate Comedian's character and that way, the inclusion of this becomes pointless. It doesn't help drive the plot either as it is effectively one isolated incident with no short/long term effect on the main theme.
Similarly, it's not about Dr. Manhattan as well as some might imagine. Both movie and book do a good job of portraying Dr. Manhattan as a detached and distant being. It might help show the emotional/psychological "transition" that Osterman went through to eventually become that way because he indeed asks Comedian to not do it but doesn't actually stop him. But then again, in the grand scheme of thing the significance is lost as it doesn't tell us something we don't already know.
So what is it about then? Why was it included both in the Watchmen movie (a bigger risk to show something so repulsive) and graphic novel? How does it help the plot? The answer to all these questions lies in Comedian's last words as he walks out - "God help us all". If we take into account the fact that Dr. Manhattan has a godlike stature in the Watchmen universe (Vietcong surrendering to him, "God exists and he is American" etc) and Comedian's remark acts as a cruel satirical take on the nature of God himself. Comedian's words - "You could have turned the gun into steam, the bullets into mercury, the bottle into goddamn snowflakes..." - even apply to God Himself - God could have turned the gun into steam, the bullets into mercury, the bottle into goddamn snowflakes... - but he didn't! Isn't he all powerful, all seeing, everywhere? So using Dr. Manhattan as a proxy for God and Comedian as a proxy for humanity, Moore raised a very interesting and almost cruel question - Is God really the benevolent being that we make Him out to be? Does He even care?