I have the Dr. Horrible soundtrack on my iPod now, and as I listened to the music again after all these months, I realized that the story had and continues to have a meaning that really resonates with the things that have happened in my life. As I've not written on my personal blog in a few weeks (but I'm still active on atheistexperience.blogspot.com, so keep an eye on that too!) it's time to indulge my inner geek with another look back at this wacky little web movie.
This post WILL contain spoilers, but really the movie has been available for months -- what's taken you so long? Go watch it, I'll be here when you get back.
Dr. Horrible is a story about change and transition, and it is relevant to me because it was released at almost the precise moment in my own life when a period of major transition started to happen. It's still happening, and if anything the changes are accelerating. My friends will understand what life experiences I'm talking about, and I don't feel like I need to get very detailed. I'm just talking about the movie.
For a while after watching the ending, I just hated it. It made me mad, because Joss Whedon "pulled a Joss Whedon" and killed a major character as usual. In the last scene, Billy appears on camera for about three seconds looking completely lost and forlorn. And I concluded: "He's going to be miserable for the rest of his life, he'll never get over that loss."
But as I've gone and revisited it, the meaning has changed in my mind. Let's not forget that Billy's loss is Dr. Horrible's gain. The Doctor WON. He really did. He achieved his lifelong dream, acquiring fame and respect, no longer being a joke or a dork or a failure.
Just compare the very first moment of the movie - where Billy gives this pathetic and unconvincing giggle as his signature laugh - to the scene where Dr. Horrible freezes Captain Hammer and lets out a full throated villainous cackle. That was a great moment: the scared little joke of a kid has been overtaken by his inner darkness. It's darkness that he was striving to achieve, and he did it.
Far be it from me to say that it's admirable to achieve your lifelong dream of committing crimes on a vast scale and making people fear and run from you. That's totally against what I believe in, duh. But this is the Whedonverse, where values and priorities are sometimes mixed up and turned upside down, and you just have to accept them in context. Captain Hammer was a braggart and a bully, and Billy was an abused underdog who just wanted to make something of himself. That's the way it goes in this story, evil is the new good. Swallow your disbelief and move on.
Let's face it, Penny was a sweet girl -- and I would GLADLY groom Felicia Day any day of the week -- but she was absolutely wrong as a potential partner for Dr. Horrible. Not only was she sweet and caring, which are decidedly Non-Evil character traits, but she also revealed herself to be utterly shallow with her last line, when she still couldn't see through Captain Hammer's persona of coolness and realize that he was a huge dick. Sure, she looked uncomfortable during her scenes with him, but she had plenty of chances to drop the Hammer, and she still chose him in the end.
So Billy looks fleetingly unhappy in the end, and he's got some pain. So what? "Billy" is not the character he wanted to be at all. Billy wanted to be Dr. Horrible right from the start... and he got it. He won.
And is Dr. Horrible destined always to be unhappy and in pain from his inner Billy? I think not! He'll meet other girls. EVIL girls. If power could be an aphrodisiac for a gargoyle like Henry Kissinger, it's gonna work wonders for the doc, who looked totally in his element when he donned the new and improved Evil Suit. Just look at how quickly Captain Hammer's fickle groupies dumped the guy and switched to holding up a picture of Dr. H during the last song. This is not an ending that shows a guy emotionally ruined; this is the triumph of evil -- which in the upside down universe, is good.
I can't help it, I like the ending now. And "Slipping" is a great song that signifies that victory, a victory not quite complete yet, but about to become reality. It's really all about Billy's new winning attitude.
Furthermore, I suspect that my new perspective on the movie IS exactly what Joss and the other writers had in mind. After all, they were going through a major life-changing experience too. They had been poorly treated by the studios, and had taken a very risky stand which involved losing their income for several months. That's a scary thing to do, but it was done with the understanding that it was an investment to ensure that they, and those who came after them, would be better off in the long term because of the writer's strike. Change always means loss, and loss is scary, but it is hopefully a localized loss that will lead to a net gain.
In unrelated (?) news -- wish me luck on my job search. I'm a little scared myself after an impersonal layoff that I couldn't do anything about. Yet I do believe that I'm going to come out ahead, better for the experience, and it won't take very long.