Untangling Morality in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Character archetypes have a fairly predictable lifespan of solidifying themselves in pop culture, going through subversions, and subsequently creating new archetypes based on those subversions over the course of many years.
A musical by the name of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog presents one such subversion of the conventional villain. Once again I will be showing spoilers, as this is 15 years old, has been available on YouTube for free since 2012, and only lasts around 40 minutes.
Dr. Horrible (real name Billy) is the titular protagonist and atypical supervillain of this musical. At his core, Billy is an idealistic man who believes that society is deeply flawed and seeks to reform it. His self-focused yet strong morals clearly show the decision making abilities of an Fi user, an INFP to be more specific. It’s rare to see a villain character who uses Fi as they are usually cast into the role of quirky side characters or sensitive heroes. I’ll be analyzing how Billy’s idea of morality intersects with his position in the story and showcases a great example of a realistic INFP character.
Despite Billy being generally correct that society has plenty of problems, he doesn’t actually seem all that interested in the important work that people like Penny (his crush) undertake. His primary goal is much more ambitious than that, seeking to rule the world in order to dismantle the issues he sees in it. In reality, his methods to reconcile these values turn out to be ill-defined and naive (in line with the poor planning and indecisiveness of low Te)
Billy becomes the supervillain Dr. Horrible in order to infiltrate the Evil League of Evil and use their resources to govern (and therefore “fix”) the world. In order to get accepted by the leader, Bad Horse, Billy needs to commit increasingly cruel objectives which only starts to become a problem when he is forced to assassinate someone.
Captain Hammer (Dr. Horrible’s nemesis) also preoccupies much of his time, leading to an unfortunate mess of priorities which ultimately ends with Billy alone and unsatisfied after accidentally killing Penny. Despite having achieved the one thing he needed, Billy is left without any reason to still be working towards that goal.
Billy starts off with fairly good intentions and is endearing and personable, if a tad awkward at the beginning. I firmly believe that Penny would have been open to a relationship with him if his rivalry with Captain Hammer didn’t get in the way of everything else. That’s precisely what makes it hurt so much when Billy becomes obsessed with making it into the Evil League of Evil, as his ordinary life falls apart and it all culminates into a tragic but captivating character progression.
Aside from Billy’s obvious lack of preparation, the Evil League of Evil is an organization which we can deduce would not allow someone so outwardly open about his plans to actually overthrow their governance. We can see how the league breaks people down with their absurd and cruel standards, and can presume that even if Billy could change anything, the person he’d committed his life to is already gone.
At this point, Billy is so hopeless that we can presume he has lost his original goal and any motivation to dismantle anything at all. We see hints of his sense of self being degraded in service of the Dr. Horrible persona throughout the musical, but I certainly rooted for him despite the clues suggesting it wouldn’t end on a positive note. What starts as a comedic musical with air-headed characters and obvious tropes shapes into a deeply tragic story with a surprisingly dark ending.
One of the most emotionally jarring moments happens right before the credits roll. Dr. Horrible is seen chatting up the other villains in a triumphant montage at the league, seemingly having moved on from the previous events. He has a stylish new outfit and is finally being taken seriously in front of his peers, and the music swells before the doors slowly close.
We cut to Billy, sitting in front of his video camera with the desolate expression of a man who has lost everything, including himself.