My Interpretation of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

One of my goals for this year is to post reviews of all the books I read. I decided that since a lot of the non-fiction books I get from the library I end up only skimming or reading certain parts, I would just make my own judgment call on whether or not it was "blog-worthy".

Maybe next year I will also or instead post reviews of the movies I see, since it's a lot harder to watch only a little bit of a movie. Haha, I say that now as a parent of one. I can see myself next year reminiscing, "Ah the good old days, when I could actually sit down and watch an entire film in one sitting."

But Danny and I saw this crazy movie last night that just inspires me to write a review. He just brought over his laptop and said, "Hey, can I be nerdy with you?" Okay, so it's totally nerdy to watch movies and read books and then review them on a blog, but it's also extremely fun. And this one is just so bloggable.

Who has heard of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"? The only person who had ever mentioned it to me was my brother, and I must confess his recommendation did not lead me to watch it. Sorry Joe, your taste conflicts with mine. Later, I heard a clip from it on This American Life and I was a bit intrigued. But nothing came of that, either. Until Danny and I decided to do one of those free two-week netflix trial memberships, and while looking through the hundreds of films we could download and watch, we found Dr. Horrible. I was like, "Hey, that one seemed kind of weird and interesting, let's watch it."
"But you said you were in a mood for a romantic comedy."
"Yeah, but this will be okay too. Besides, it's a musical."

SPOILER ALERT: If you want to watch the movie, go ahead and do it before reading this. Mom, I don't think you'd like it at all. And actually, because some of its content is FAR less than family appropriate, I would not be able to recommend somebody actually go see it. But it's only about 40 minutes long, and if you are intrigued and decide to, maybe this blog post will make more sense. But I don't want to be the person who you remember as telling you, "Hey, you should watch this great movie!" For your information, I rated it about a 1 out of 10 after seeing it, and now that I am reminiscing on it, about a 1 1/5 out of 10. That's pretty much the first time in the history of me rating movies that the score has increased post-watching.

Okay, so, done watching it? Or decided it's not worth it? Good, 'cuz now I'm going to write about it.

This movie is the first time that I know of that a major professional filmmaker used the internet as a medium for a film. The movie is three "acts", each about 12 minutes long. It's a musical about a guy who wants to become a super villain in his attempt to save humanity. In order to join the special elite club of super villains, first he has to pull of a heist. Meanwhile, he is in love with Penny, the girl at the laundromat. As he is going through with the heist, he runs into the girl, who finally talks to him! Bad timing. It throws off his heist, he almost runs her over with a car, but then Captain Hammer, a self-centered macho super hero, comes in to save the day. Dr. Horrible ends up saving Penny, but Captain Hammer takes the credit, and starts dating her.

Penny wants to get a building donated from the city to be a homeless shelter. Captain Hammer somehow (implied through violence) convinces the Mayor to donate the building. They keep dating, and Dr. Horrible gets more and more frustrated and upset. He then gets word that since his heist failed, he will have to murder someone in order to get into the super villain club. He easily decides to murder Captain Hammer, who is ruining his life.

Captain Hammer gives a speech at the homeless shelter dedication ceremony. Dr. Horrible shows up to kill him, but the equipment malfunctions and he accidentally kills Penny instead. In the end, Captain Hammer cracks because during the equipment malfunction, he ended up feeling pain, which ruins his super hero persona. Dr. Horrible gets to join the elite club of bad super villains, but finds it an empty victory because the real purpose of his life, Penny, is gone.

The whole thing is done with lots of cheesy songs. Not a lot of dancing. The songs all sound the same, and even Danny said so. Danny is the first to admit that he lacks musical abilities (though I think he's a great singer). So that's really saying a lot. The best part of the songs are the lyrics. Witty. Danny and I laughed out loud several times.

So why did I rate it so low? First, at the end of the film, you have this horrible feeling like, "What was the point of that!?". Second, none of the characters were good. As in, there was nobody in the whole film which was actually someone I liked as a person. I've seen lots of films where I can't necessarily relate to characters, but at least I like them. No, I hated all of these ones. Finally, the underlying message of this film is false, although I can see how it would be fun to watch as a single person.

Okay details:

When the movie ended, we were both extremely startled. "What?" I think we both said at the same time. Maybe this is a jab at the entire genre of Tragedy, though; we're so used to happy stories with happy endings, that when a story doesn't end happily it just doesn't feel over. I think it's good to appreciate happy endings; after all, isn't that kind of how we are supposed to model our lives? The Plan of Salvation leads people to be happy and have eternal life. That's the goal. Stories that don't end happily force me to make a huge paradigm shift, one that I only do unwillingly, and always leaves me feeling grouchy and unsettled.

The characters were completely unreal. Obviously, what's real about super heroes and super villains, you retort. Oh, have you paid attention in the past decade, or did you notice the gazillions of attempts by the film industry to humanize super heroes? Just because certain things about a character are fantasy and "wouldn't happen in the real world" does not necessarily diminish a character's believability. Let me show you what I mean.

The most blatantly offensive character (in my opinion) was Penny. She is static, spineless, and flat. Static because no matter what, she never changes. Even when Dr. Horrible was "texting" (maneuvering his heist via his iPhone), she just shrugged off his weirdness and continued to like him. Nobody would do that. Nobody should do that. She is spineless because she doesn't even like Captain Hammer when they're dating; she just convinces herself to keep dating him because he cares about her cause. She is flat because the only depth of emotion the writers gave her was an unbalanced absurd amount of caring for homeless people. As in, she likes to go to the soup kitchen and volunteer, and canvass for signatures to get the building donated. So what happens to her? She gets thrown in the trash by Captain Hammer, who then just uses her as a sexual object, and then she dies proclaiming, "Captain Hammer will save us all!" Since she's the only major representative of the female gender in the entire film, what kind of message does that send about how to treat women? Sick, sick, sick. I hated it.

The next worst character, but only slightly, was Captain Hammer. Even though he's dubbed super hero, the truth is he is the antagonist. He never actually does any heroic deeds, just walks around posing with his muscles and bragging about past and future sexual conquests. But the truth is he has never actually been able to sustain a relationship with a girl for more than one night. The writers obviously wanted to show how pathetic and lame he was even though he touts himself as being All That. What happens to him? In the end, he somehow gets shot by Dr. Horrible's device, which causes him to feel pain. This confuses and rattles him so much, that he can't stop being emotional and spends the rest of his days crying on a shrink's sofa. He never notices that Penny, his girlfriend, is dead. He never attempts revenge on Captain Hammer.

The protagonist was Dr. Horrible. He is a scrawny nerd who is basically completely confused with his life. It seems he wants to save humanity, but the only way he has determined how to do so is by joining forces with the super villains and living a life of crime. But at the same time, what he really wants is to be with Penny. These two goals conflict directly. He never has the guts to tell her of his secret ambitions, and as Penny goes dating Captain Hammer, his mind becomes so warped into killing and become the next super villain, that he completely loses sight of what is important to him. As he goes to kill Captain Hammer, he checks for any sight of Penny, but she is not to be found. His equipment malfunctions and, to his astonishment and Penny's detriment, he has accidentally fatally wounded her. He watches her as she dies, as she states her pathetic assurance of Captain Hammer's devotion to humanity. He then goes off to eat, drink, and be merry with the bad super villains, but the final image is of him blogging, looking completely miserable.

The main message that I got from this film is: "Life as a single person sucks and always will." There wasn't any kind of contrast between married and single people actually in the film, but because I am married, that is the perspective from which I draw my experiences. Watching the film, I kept thinking about my peers from High School who probably loved this movie. I wondered if I would have liked it better if I had been single, and because I decided I would, it lead me to believe that this is really a film about single adulthood sucking rather than super heroes and super villains and poorly written songs with catchy lyrics.

Think about it: all of the main characters are searching for something which they don't yet have. Penny seeks philanthropy, Captain Hammer seeks sexual dominance, and Dr. Horrible seeks the power to change the world. Really, they are all confused about what would bring them true happiness, a theme explored more specifically with Dr. Horrible's character. We don't know enough about Penny to know what would make her happy, but we assume that since we as an audience find Dr. Horrible amusing, eccentric, and fun, she probably would, too. We want them to be together, but she doesn't even know he likes her. Captain Hammer is too prideful to realize he is unhappy, and frankly as an audience we don't care if he ends up miserable because he's so despicable. Dr. Horrible thinks he wants to change the world, not realizing his ambitions not only directly conflict with his dream of a happy life with Penny, but they also result in the utter obliteration of any possibility of that happening. All of these characters are confused single adults who have no real purpose in their lives, or at least any purpose that will actually make them happy.

Contrast that to life as a married person: my whole life centers around being married, and my family goals. Danny told me yesterday how much happier he is being married; as a single person, he always just wondered "What's the point?" As a married person, there is always a point. As a mom, there's always a point. The point is to take care of, love, nurture, and enjoy being with family. Of course there are still problems and conflicts, but they are never as fundamental as those that the characters from this film experienced. We know what will make us happy, and we're not stuck doing things that will destroy any chance of us achieving that happiness. Watching people, even fantasy people, ruin any chance of happiness in their already meaningless lives is just not very fun when you've found purpose and meaning in your life. It left me with the feeling, "Well, those people sure were stupid. I'm glad I'm not like them."

I think the reverse would be true, as well. I remember being single, and how unstable and scary life was. It was hard to know what I would be doing the next year. I looked for purpose and meaning in places that they really weren't (like obsessing over a career). I guess there was something fulfilling about my career, but in terms of major purpose and meaning for my life, there is zero comparison to my current job as wife and mom. Yet, if I were a single person who had not yet figured out what to do with my life, I may leave the film with a weird feeling of relief, "Well, my life sucks, but at least it doesn't suck as much as theirs!"

I do give one part of the thing a "10"; it wasn't in the film, but apparently it's in the DVD release of the film. Anyone, and everyone, who has ever analyzed a piece of art or a book to death, would enjoy the hilarious song that the filmmaker wrote as part of the DVD commentary. It is the second clip on the "Return to the Scene of the Crime" episode of This American Life.


  1. I'm not one to super-analyze things I watch or read (except for a few thought-provoking ones, but that's rare). I'll just say that I loved Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along blog. I thought it was hilarious... and I'm still married ;)

  2. Yeah, I'm a huge huge dork when it comes to over analyzing things I watch and read. I totally acknowledge that I way overanalyzed this movie (pick-pick-picked it apart) in this post. What's funny about it is that now that I have an explanation for it to my satisfaction, I actually like it more. Like if I were to rate the movie now, it would be more like a 3 or 4. Haha. And it's obviously totally okay for you to like/appreciate something that I don't really, of course!


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