Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Alternate Character Interpretation of Dr. Horrible

*Note: The following contains heavy spoilers for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. I strongly suggest you see it first, before reading this post. The Three Act musical runs at about 45 mintues long, and can be found by dubious means on youtube, can be streamed on netflix, or purchased on iTunes or Amazon. It has not been rated, but would likely earn around a PG rating. It contains mild language and some crude humor.*

*Note 2: I don't actually think this was the intent behind the plot of Dr. Horrible, nor behind the characters within it. I merely offer it as an Alternate Character Interpretation.*

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. A fun, if ultimately... Strange... Musical.

I love Dr. Horrible. The characters, the actors, the songs, the humor, everything about this show is just FUN.

But recently, I was listening to "On The Rise" and I noticed something. It was if something clicked in my head ever so suddenly. Now, I don't know if Joss Whedon intended this, but... I find this amusing. This alternate character interpretation. Honestly, this is probably just me reading to much into it, but other people online seem to have similar theories to mine, I've found.

What is this theory? My theory is an alternate character interpretation of Dr. Horrible, which harshly changes the tone of the musical. What is this theory exactly? Well, this theory is that there is no Dr. Horrible. There is only Billy, a sad schizophrenic man who has created an alter ego, Dr. Horrible. By realizing this, it brings a strange new change.

Dr. Horrible

Let's start at the beginning. What is Dr. Horrible? Dr. Horrible, as I said, is Billy's alter ego, his second persona which he slips into, protected from the harsh realities of his sad world. You see, Billy (Neil Patrick Harris) is a schizophrenic. He doesn't have multiple personality disorder persay, but he does have an alternate persona, Dr. Horrible, which he is aware of. He sees the world not as it is, but as he imagines it to be. With heroes and villains, and superpowers and fantastical things happening everywhere.

However, Billy, while aware that he has multiple personas (persona? Personi? I don't know.), neither fully realizes, nor is fully oblivious to the nature of how he sees the world. Thus, unable to cope with the way he sees reality fully by himself, he creates his blog, able to vent the way he sees the world through this blog, on the internet. Thus, any scene of him speaking to the camera, is actually happening.

Now, let's start with laundry day.

"My Freeze Ray"

This is setting up the way he feels about Penny (played by Felicia Day) who he has noticed at the laundromat before. Now, in the context of the musical it's of course, simply setting things up, that he has a crush on her, but... What if it's more than just a simple crush? What if Billy is fixated with her. Stalking her, without her knowledge. He does say at one point that he knows her exact laundry schedule. Takes on a frightening new light doesn't it?

Overall though, the "Freeze Ray" concept, shows that at this point he's still mostly harmless. He's not fully sane, but he's also not dangerous. He doesn't want to kill people, he doesn't even really want to steal money (as evidenced by the intro "It's not about making money, it's about taking money!") he just wants Penny, and he wants more people to see the world as he sees it, chaotically.

Bad Horse and the Evil League of Evil

Bad Horse and Evil League of Evil serve two purposes. The first is to establish something that Billy must strive for. Billy wants to bring chaos to the world, as he views that, in his madness, as the only way to fix the world. To "cut off the head of the fish" as he says, bringing chaos to the world, so it can regrow stronger. "Joining the league" is his goal, his mile marker, for having reached this goal.

The other, is to establish that, while Billy considers himself "Evil" he still feels he's not totally gone. That he's still on the edge between evil, and good. He still feels that he can be saved from his evil, and thus his madness. His blog is one way of him trying to explain this to the world. Trying to establish that he still feels he can be redeemed.

Captain Hammer and "A Man's Gotta Do"

Immediately before "My Freeze Ray" Dr. Horrible is answering e-mails. He mentions Captain Hammer, who will of course, be extremely important to later on. However, what is important here, is that he calls Captain Hammer his "Nemesis". This establishes past history between the two of them. You see, I think Captain Hammer is a fabrication created by Billy's schizophrenia.

What if Captain Hammer (played by Nathan Fillion... Wow, this cast is so good. My favorite actor, and my favorite actress in the same thing... Sigh... Ok back on topic.) was a jock who went to school with Billy? Always getting the girls, while Billy stood in the back of the class, a nerd, an outcast, and a loner. I doubt Hammer was even what would be called a bully. He was simply popular. And Billy hated him for that, enough that he wouldn't have forgotten about him, and would still consider Hammer his "Nemesis" after high school, and college.

Thus, "Captain Hammer" is not a real person, but a persona that Billy has created, representing everything that stands in his way. Everything he hates. Everything he views as wrong.

You see, Captain Hammer is a jerk in this. Comically so. And while I do think part of that is simply his personality, I also think a lot of it is Billy seeing Hammer how he wants to see Hammer. For example, while Hammer may have pushed him around a bit in school, I don't think he hated Billy. But I doubt that they have even seen each other in years. Not, at least, until "A Man's Gotta Do".

Billy is stealing a truck, likely one containing money, or something like it. He's being chased by the police, who he interprets as "Captain Hammer" viewing anyone who tries to stop him as his nemesis.

And then he sees Penny. Driving at high speeds, he almost hits Penny. He slows, almost caught by the police, but can't slow fast enough while pursued. He certainly would have hit her, if the real Hammer hadn't have been there. Just by crazy random happenstance, the actual Hammer pushes her out of the way.

He pushes her into the garbage, saving her life. And all Billy sees is the way he pushes them together, as he drives away, escaping the police, and slipping away quietly.

"On The Rise"

Billy is being torn up inside, after not only seeing Hammer (the real Hammer, for the rest of this I'll refer to the real Hammer as just "Hammer" while referring to Billy's imaginary nemesis as "Captain Hammer") for the first time in years, but pushing her and Penny together. He's in full on stalker mode now, as he shadows Penny and Hammer on their first date. I mean, tell me you don't get chills as you see him appear in the background at the shelter. He's insane. He's angry. And he's slowly becoming more dangerous.

The next day, he returns to his home, only to find the police there. They've found him, the thief who stole the weapons/money/whatever. They recognize him, and chase him, but he, once again, manages to slip away.

Again, in his mind, he sees it as Captain Hammer coming after him, attacking him, for using a "freeze ray" on the mayor. By this time he's realized that stealing things isn't enough chaos to bring to the world any more. There's only one thing he can do now. Only one thing, he views as "enough".

Notice the change in background from the first blog entry we see, to now. Implying he's relocated, perhaps after fleeing from the police.

In any case, he realizes now, that the only way to enter into the league (to bring chaos to those around him) is to kill. But at the same time, he struggles with the morality of killing. Remember, at this time, he's still harmless enough, never meaning to hurt anyone until now.

"Story of a Girl"/"Brand New Day"

The next day he goes to the Laundromat, and actually manages to talk to Penny, who's of course unaware of his status as an outlaw. As he talks to her, she tells him about her date with Hammer. She also tells him about the homeless shelter Hammer is helping fund, being wealthy himself. (Perhaps he opened a large chain of hardware stores, making large sums of money. That would explain the "Hammer" persona Billy invented for him.) He's enraged by this, but hides it from her. She tells him a bit about her life, and how she really likes her new boyfriend, Hammer.

And then Hammer himself comes in. Billy tries to slip away ("OH LOOK AT MY WRIST! I gotta go!") but Hammer realizes that it's Billy, someone he once knew.

I don't know what he said here. Hammer, although I truly believe he liked Penny greatly at this point, must have said something to Billy. Perhaps it was a comment about how "hot" Penny was. I don't know exactly what, but whatever it was Billy found it disrespectful. This is represented by the "And these... Are not the Hammer" line... And the following line... Yeah. You know the one I'm talking about. In any case, this finally pushes Billy over the edge. Billy finally slips into his Dr. Horrible persona fully, both in real life, and on his blog, letting it sink in.

He's going to kill Hammer. Penny will understand why, he tells himself. She'll understand he's doing it because Hammer doesn't respect her.

"So They Say"

The new homeless Shelter is featured on the news, and brings hope to many people, as Penny contemplates whether she may have found "the one". Note that the more obscene and absurd lines Hammer has in the 3rd act, as opposed to the less absurd (although still ridiculous) ones in the first and second act, are representative of Billy's descent into madness worsening, as he is now merging not only the personalities of himself and "Dr. Horrible", but of Hammer, and Captain Hammer.

Meanwhile, Billy/Dr. Horrible realizes that the opening of the homeless shelter is his opportunity. Hammer, funding it, will be giving a short speech at the opening. It will have a crowd, and it will be the perfect place for him to strike.

Moist (his roommate) tries to call him, worried about him, but Billy/Dr. Horrible ignores it. He manages to obtain a gun. And he heads to the crowd for the opening of the Homeless shelter.

"Everyone's A Hero"/"Slipping"

As Billy/Dr. Horrible watches the speech Hammer gives to the crowd. The ridiculous lines Captain Hammer is now saying have reached their peak, as Billy has now completely merged the persona's of Hammer and Captain Hammer. The lyrics of "Everyone's A Hero" represent both the merging of Hammer and Captain Hammer, and that Billy wonders, inside, if he's really past the point of no return. He isn't. But unfortunately, he's too fueled by anger and hate to leave the path he's on.

Dr. Horrible shoots Hammer. He tells no one to move as he walks around and monologues like a crazy man. He slowly walks toward Hammer. He looks around, not seeing Penny. She's hiding. She realizes what Dr. Horrible is about to do though, and runs up in front of Hammer before Billy kills him. This is what Captain Hammer standing now represents, is Penny's defense of Hammer. (Remember, Captain Hammer represents whatever gets in his way.) He now splits Penny into two Personas. Penny, and Captain Hammer. Penny is everything he loves. Captain Hammer is everything he hates.

Confused and angered, he shoots Penny (the real one).

Penny (both real, and the persona) die. Captain Hammer, however, lives, as now matter what he does, there will always be things to get in his way. Hammer too, lives (now needing severe therapy after seeing his old schoolmate kill his girlfriend, for trying to talk Dr. Horrible down.)

"Everything You Ever"

After killing Penny, he does in fact cause a lot of fear and chaos. In his mind, "[His] victory's complete". Billy, seeing Penny dead, realizes what he's done, but of course blames it in his mind as Captain Hammer's doing. You see, the moment Penny resisted him, getting in his way, she became representative of Captain Hammer. Thus when Billy shot HER, it was really (in his mind) Captain Hammer shooting Penny. Captain Hammer killing Penny. Thus he collapses, and mourns her. In his mind he has now achieved it. He has now joined the Evil League of Evil, both because he became what he truly feels is the worst he could be, what he feels is truly "evil" and because he caused enough chaos to have reached his goal. He is now irredeemable, he feels, after having killed Penny.

The police come and arrest him, but he simply revels in his victory. He's taken to an insane asylum, being truly crazy. In his mind though, he's taken to the league, and parties with them, reveling in his achievement. He did it. He got everything he ever wanted. Now the nightmare's real. Now he is truly Dr. Horrible. In his mind, there is no longer a Billy, there is only Dr. Horrible, who is now represented in a red costume. And yet before the credits roll, for just one second, we see Dr. Horrible in his old costume, talking into the camera, on his blog, tears streaming down his face.

There is, perhaps, some ounce of humanity left in Dr. Horrible. Some trace of Billy.

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