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Billy's Choices - and why he is a villain
July 20, 2008
7:57 am
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I've seen discussion on Act III (including the 'Is it a Dream'?) and I think it all boils down to Billy's Choices. And he *never* picks Penny, not once. He always chooses the path of Dr. Horrible, every single time.

ACT I:

The heist, Penny asks him to sign and he talks with her, but blows it because he's focused on the heist.

Out of control van: He doesn't get Penny out of the way (sacrificing the van and heist) he instead keeps trying to stop the van.

Penny or Wonderflorium: Dr. H- believes he saved Penny (with the remote) and is upset...but chooses to flee with the loot.

He never chooses Penny, not once.

ACT II:

Billy is stalking Capt. Hammer and Penny...but who's he more focused on?

-Soup Kitchen: Billy/Dr.H isn't helping the homeless, he's dumping soup back into the pot, and handing out empty bowls, while glaring at the back of Capt. Hammer's head

-Park with yogurt: Billy/Dr.H in the bushes again appears to be looking at Capt. Hammer (though you could argue he's just looking at them of course).

-Pond (with boat) Billy is looking at Penny, but then turns to watch Capt. Hammer (amusingly at the 'Look at me' part) and his head goes back and forth between them...

My thoughts? He's stalking both of them, not just Penny. If we seperate 'Billy' and 'Dr. H-' then Billy watches Penny and Dr. H- is watching Capt. Hammer.

When Dr. H blogs about the situation it's unclear if he's more upset over the situation with Penny in general, or the fact that it's Capt. Hammer...with the girl who should be his!

Penny as a pawn comes even more clearly into play when Capt. Hammer confronts 'Billy' at the laundrymat, and tells Dr. H- he's going to have Penny because Billy wants her. And then goes on to expose himself as the ultimate douche.

Billy doesn't try to tell Penny or stop her in any way, even though he knows Capt. Hammer (the hammer is my penis) is taking her back to his 'command center' blahblahblah. Instead Dr. H sees it as a solution to three problems:

-He needs to kill someone to get into the Evil League of Evil

-He wants Penny

-He wants to beat Capt. Hammer

Dr. H isn't into the whole...murder thing...but this is pushing him over the edge because he's angry. But his choice isn't Penny. There are plenty of other potential choices there he could make, and once again he doesn't choose Penny, but chooses what works best for Dr. Horrible.

ACT III:

Dr. H chooses to confront Capt. Hammer publically at the homeless shelter dedication. This obviously would ruin Penny's event.

Dr. H chooses to kill (his plan was to) Capt. Hammer publically at the homeless shelter dedication in front of Penny. (He laments this choice briefly but doesn't appear to change the decision).

Dr. H while monologuing, is destroying the room. I presume it was actually part of the shelter. So he's trashing the building for homeless people...which is Penny's project.

_______________________________________________________________

Point being in all three acts, there were things Billy and Dr. H wanted. It's obvious what Dr. Horrible wanted: social change, money, prestige, a place in the Evil League of Evil, to defeat Capt. Hammer...etc. Billy wanted Penny. But they're also not two seperate people, which is why Billy sings about his freeze ray to stop time with Penny so he can say and do the right things to win her over.

Ultimately every decision Billy makes is selfish and self serving towards his ends as Dr. Horrible. He never once chooses Penny or makes sacrifices for her. And so Dr. Horrible gets everything he ever wanted, except her. (Which of course he seems to realize too late she is everything he ever wanted).

Ironically Capt. Hammer, while the ultimate douchebag (I think I dated him once) actually does far more good than Billy/Dr. Horrible. All his actions are self serving and selfish as well, but he does things for others to get what he wants. He gets Penny her shelter (or helps, we don't know really how much of that was him other than his bragging) which is what she wants, and he helps the homeless...even though his motives are horrible. Capt. Hammer's actions look heroic, but because we know his motivations we know he's a douchy douchebag.

I felt like the entire series was questioning, \"What is a hero?\" Penny was heroic in very human way, she cared and she took action against the social wrongs she saw. Billy bitched and blogged about them (and when he did take action, it was selfish). Capt. Hammer made himself look good, but didn't give a damn about anything but how he looked doing it. Had life gone on, he'd have moved on to something else rather quickly, while striving to stay in the spotlight. Where would the shelter be then with a Capt. Hammer type? Penny would maintain and fight for it.

That's what I got out of it. Billy is a bad guy, but not in a black and white sort of way. He's the villain because of the choices he makes. Capt. Hammer is a phony hero, and while it's annoying people like him cover themselves in glory (Oh look! Superstar Soandso went to Africa and sang for the village...aren't they AWESOME?!) it stops when we stop feeding into it and look away.

And the Pennys of the world are the people who make the difference. The quiet unsung heroes. Who uh, end up dead with shards of plastic in their belly. 😉

July 20, 2008
2:08 pm
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Wow, what a great post... I really enjoyed the read and your interpretations.

July 21, 2008
6:06 am
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Well done!

"If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck."
July 21, 2008
5:36 pm
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That was fantastic.

July 22, 2008
9:03 am
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Excellent analysis.

One thing worth pointing out is that Billy is potentially a mirror of Penny.  From the song in the second act, Penny tells Billy where she was and where she is now.  Instead of choosing a path that would lead him towards the same conclusions, he pursues the path that leads him to kill “Billy” and become “Dr. Horrible.”  I think it's easy to see that Penny may have been like Billy at one time, but instead of choosing to excise the “plague” of humanity, she chooses to treat humanity with kindness.

They both really wanted the same thing.  Unfortunately, Billy was too blinded to realize what he had and where he was going.  He chose his path and unfortunately Billy and Penny paid for it.  At the end, only Dr. Horrible remained.

July 23, 2008
7:20 am
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Twi
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@Op: You missed a few things, though. He DIDN'T want Penny to see him kill Hammer... (\"No sign of Penny/But I would give anything/Not to have her see...\") Also, he was trying (Somewhat vainly) to CONVINCE himself to kill Hammer. (\"It's gonna be bloody/head up Billy Buddy/there's no time for mercy/here goes no mercy...!\") If that's not enough, you can see the anguish of him trying to convince himself to kill on his face just before he hears the Freeze Ray powering down, which gives him an excellent excuse to lower the gun-- which he does immediately, without hesitation. The line 'Head up Billy Buddy' and the fact that he didn't want Penny to see him kill Hammer proves that, even if it was only a side-thought, he was thinking about Penny.

There's also my theory about how he actually wanted Hammer to stop him, just this once. (\"Hammer meet nail!\") Tell me, what does a Hammer do to a nail? :'D

July 23, 2008
7:48 am
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That\'s an interesting theory re: \"Hammer meet nail\". I had wondered about that line, although it may just be poetic license. With regard DH\'s hesitancy in pulling the trigger, I think he looks like he is psyching himself up. There is very little time between the line;
\"Here goes no mercy\" and the sound of the freeze-ray powering down, which causes DH to look around & CH can smash him. Imo if the freeze-ray doesn\'t fail, DH shoots him in the face. I say this because it just felt like DH was committed to a particular course of action (like Mr. furious said) & had no way out by the final scene. The opening number to act 3 features DH in his lab & he sings the lines:

\"There\'s no happy ending/so they say/should I stop pretending/take a chance and build a brand-new day\"

We see in split-screen Penny at the laundrette, DH would know it was laundry day. Should he \"stop pretending\" & \"take a chance\" meaning go & see Penny. No, he chooses to complete his plans & attacks CH. BTW if DH had killed CH then Penny (who by this time knows DH is Billy thanks to his \"head up Billy buddy\" line) would, imo, reject him & without her we get the same ending. Locked on a path, no escaping his destiny to become Dr. Horrible for real.

July 23, 2008
8:00 am
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Ah, but his face showed hesitation. If you look at his face just before he's getting ready to fire the death ray-

Well, does this look like he's honestly going to shoot?

July 23, 2008
8:12 am
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I thought he had committed himself to it -- but was still hoping against hope that somehow something would save him from having to do it.

If he was really one hundred percent comitted and ready to do it, he would have done it. He wouldn't have monologued. He wouldn't have had to give himself a pep talk. And when the freeze ray made not good noises, he would have shot quickly, then checked what was wrong with it rather than lowering the gun and turning around. However, he delaydelaydelayshesitateshesitates, and then turns away at the first excuse.

It's interesting to compare this with Captain Hammer's willingness to kill -- he doesn't hesitate because the gun he's holding is crackling and making funny noises. Which is ultimately what dooms all three of them (although we have to give DH his fair share of responsibility as well).

July 23, 2008
8:15 am
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SJust a few thoughts on Hammer and Billy and the ending. This is the comic book universe. Villians don't kill the heroes (or rather, very rarely...and it's never at the 'beginning' of their careers).

These two are low rent hoping for the big time (and in an odd way, using each other to climb up there). The Evil League of Evil never tells him to go kill Capt. Hammer. He simply needs to pull off a successful heist while they're watching, or maybe kill someone. He blows the heist and now 'murder' is his only course (so says Bad Horse! ;)).

But he's not a murderer, he's not a psychopath.

Most villains in the real world...they're not villains in their own eyes. I have some advantage here, my spouse is a police officer, and we know many police officers. There's true evil in what some people do (such as harming children), and I've asked people how those scumbags justify it. And they almost always do...they have to in order to do what they do. They blame the victim, they blame society, they minimize and mitigate their role in it.

How is this apropos to the comic universe? It mirrors the real world, only with much more pathos and has 'magic' of some form.

Billy never takes accountability for his actions. He claims (in so many words without using the word love) to really care about and want Penny. He never ever chooses her though when he makes choices.

And he almost kills her in Act I with the van. Instead of trying to save her, he's still hiding pressing the remote. He again in that instance doesn't choose Penny. He could have run out and pushed her out of the way. He could have yelled to her early on. He could have done many things...but he's trying to stop the van with the remote (and get his Wonderflorium!)

He even yells at Capt. Hammer who does proactively 'save' her by pushing her out of the way before he tries to stop the van. Sure, he shoves her in the garbage, and he's obnoxious...but he did save her. Billy/Dr. Horrible didn't. And he's not only not glad, he blames Capt. Hammer. He screams at him \"You almost killed her\". He asserts the credit belongs to him because the remote control was in his hand, and he stopped the van. Capt Hammer amusingly tells him he remembers it differently.

I remember it differently too. Penny wouldn't have been in danger except for Billy, and he never owns up to that. He never chooses her. He never tries to save her over other things.

And that's why it ends the way it does, and why he is the villain. He may have balked at outright cold blooded murder, but he put Penny in that situation by choosing to try to murder Capt. Hammer at her function. If he hadn't wanted Penny to see, he should've have picked another time and place. That he failed to cold bloodedly commit murder was due in part to his being inept, and in part to cold feet...but he placed everyone in danger, and was terrorizing people by shooting off his death ray all over the place.

Penny isn't killed by Capt. Hammer...she's killed by Billy's choices.

And even at the end, he's selfish. He doesn't mourn Penny as much as he appears to mourn the loss of his dream. He's become what he always wanted, and realizes too late that maybe it's not what he wanted after all.

Which is why I think it closes with Billy blogging as himself. He always wanted to be Dr. Horrible and to be seen as Dr. Horrible and all that came with. Now he'd give anything to be just Billy again. And look around at the Evil League of Evil. You don't see a single happy person in the bunch. No one is smiling.

Villains in the comic book universe don't really have a good time...mostly. You'll see some that do but mostly they're very conflicted and miserable people. That's what he's obtained and why he's accepted I think. We empathize with him because we're seeing the story from his point of view and we can see his humanity and conflicted nature. But his choices make him Dr. Horrible, and make him a villain.

We may have also seen the beginning of Capt. Hammer too, heroes often suffer greatly as well, and if they can rise above it...well that's really what makes most heroes in the comic book universe. Bruce Wayne isn't a heroic Batman 'cause his parents were murdered, or because he has money to wear a suit and go fight crime. We admire that he took such losses what he chose to become with them. Spiderman wouldn't be the same if Uncle Ben hadn't been murdered and Peter Parker's apathy hadn't played a part. He learned the lesson of responsibility. Even Superman gets all angsty.

July 23, 2008
11:22 am
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First off - I'd like to thank Redfeather for a great read.  I really enjoyed it.

 

I completely agree Dr. Horrible is a villain.  Ultimately, one has to face up to one's actions and choices made.  Billy has many choices.  As Dr. Horrible, he follows a path that places him squarely in evil territory.

 

That being said, I have some differences in interpretation.  I don't see all of Billy's choices as being driven by selfishness and greed.  I suppose that is one factor but I would also argue that Billy is also subject to bad timing and ignorance.

 

Dr. Horrible is a classic geek tragedy.  Billy is a sensitive, smart guy.  But one who has obviously seen the system fail him and been victim to various predators - real and imagined.  His reaction is to fight back by using his intelligence to assert his mastery over those who would master him and ultimately tear town the system that failed him (…the status quo… is NOT quo…).

 

Penny presents a real problem for Billy.  Billy has few social skills.  Although he is infatuated with this girl, he has no clue how to pursue her (”I'm just a few weeks away from a real, audible, connection.”, “Hello. You know me? Cool. I mean. Yeah, you do. Do you?”).  On top of that, he's convinced he wouldn't even have a chance without the power of a successful Dr. Horrible:

 

And Penny will see

the evil me

not a joke

not a dork

not a failure

and she may cry

but her tears will dry

when I hand her the keys

to a shiny new Australia

 

Of course, we know better.  We also know that by this time Penny is already doubting her relationship with Capt. Hammer.  And she's even missing Billy.  If things had simply continued the way they had been, Billy may have found himself in a relationship.  

 

Whether it would have been the end of Dr. Horrible or not would be in question - but it's possible.  After all, Billy spent a lot of time stalking Penny and Hammer when he could have been working on a project to gain favor with the Evil League of Evil.  Would Penny's attention have been enough of a diversion to alter his ultimate goal?

 

Of course, it's a moot point.  Capt. Hammer is aware of said infatuation and uses it to push on Dr. Horrible.  Once again, Billy finds himself victomized by a champion of the system that has wronged him in the past.  The path is made clear.  He gains focus of a true geekboy on a mission, drops off the face of the earth, and returns to ultimately become the Dr. Horrible he's always envisioned.

 

Penny is never forgotten.  But she is a part of the puzzle that can't be immediately solves until other steps are taken.  And the homeless shelter?  It could be argued that it's not Penny's but rather Capt. Hammer's.  The press is about Capt. Hammer.  The dedication, complete with statue, is about Capt. Hammer.  The whole thing is a big media event complete with fans and dignitaries - what better place to fall the false idol than in the middle of his worshipers?

 

I should note that all this could be taken as apology for Dr. Horrible and an argument that he's less of a villain than he is.  That isn't my intent at all.  Dr. Horrible would have to admit his duplicity and atone for many crimes before he's managed to inch away from the evil path he's currently striding down.  But I don't believe Billy is ultimately so selfish a person (the issue with the heist and the remote? Billy isn't a physical guy - he sticks with what he knows, his technology and is ultimately right if not recognized... true to form).  It's possible he could do it.  But he would ultimately have to take actions he hasn't been able to as of yet.

September 2, 2008
7:47 am
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Ictus
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Great posts RedFeathers. Very well thought out and great interpretation, but I thought I'd point out some things just for the sake of discussion.

Act I

At the heist he appears to choose the wonderflonium over Penny twice (when he takes it from the van and when he decides to go through with the heist) However, remember that Dr. Horrible thinks that becoming a successful villian will win Penny over. He believes he can't win her as Billy, and therefore chooses the wonderflonium in order to become the villian he wants to be. In his mind, by choosing wonderflonium he IS choosing Penny. While it's not an immediate choice, in the long run he did what he did for Penny.

Also remember that Billy doesn't want Penny to know that he's Dr. Horrible until he is successful. He really can't physically push Penny out of the way without revealing his identity (apparently his Dr. Horrible disguise does not really hide his alias, considering how easily Hammer figured it out), so he focuses on stopping the van via control. Really this is a good choice. He (would have) saved Penny without revealing his identity as well as gotten the wonderflonium (which he is trying to obtain in order to be succesful in order to win over Penny)

Act III

While I really can't explain why in God's name he chose the homeless shelter to do the killing, I do have an interesting idea. Remember that Dr. Horrible's line of thinking is “If I am the greatest villian, Penny will love me” (basically) Is it possible then that the lines “No sign of Penny/Good I would give any/thing not to have her see” are actually said because he knows he can't go through with the kill? Could the meaning be that he would give anything not to have her see him fail, rather than he would give anything not to have her see him kill? It would make sense. It makes no sense for him to believe that being a great villian will win her over, and yet doing something villianous would not…

Truly I think up until the last Act in which he chooses to kill in the worst possible location, he really is thinking of Penny. The only problem being that he was thinking about her in the long run (winning her over once he's a villain) rather than in the short term (winning her as Billy when he has the chance)

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