This is going to be about Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. If you haven’t watched it, do that now. I’ll wait forty-two minutes for you. Forty-four if you want popcorn, too.
Freaking awesome, right? Right? If I could decide three living writers to meet, it would be Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, and– okay I really can’t choose three, I have a list as long as my forearm. They’re my heroes, in as real a way as Batman is my hero, and I love them with about the same fervor.
When I watched the Sing-Along Blog the first time (and the second, and the third, and the eighteenth), of course I identified the most with the bad doctor himself. I think anyone who’s ever been hopelessly in love with someone who doesn’t know you’re breathing the same air can empathize with him. I think he’s a great character. I agree with him that the status is not quo. I know what it feels like to be the supervillain of your own story.
And I adore Felicia Day– this was my first exposure to her– but I wasn’t crazy about Penny. I mean, she was sweet, but I didn’t get it. I never believed that you had to be a Buffy to be a strong character. You could be an early seasons Willow and be strong as well. There’s strength in kindness and smarts and being the goofy backup. But Penny brought it to a whole other level. She never seemed to finish a song… she just trailed off or got interrupted. She had the line “dreams are easy to achieve if hope is all you’re hoping to be” and that floored me. What? Hope is all you’re hoping to be? Not an accountant/artist/astronaut with hope as your side job, but full on hope is your highest ambition? That, contrasted with Dr. Horrible’s “the world is a mess and I just need to rule it” was so blindingly passive, so floppy and half-hearted, that I questioned her agency.
Here’s where it gets funny: she was opening the Caring Hands Homeless Shelter. I work with Cy-Fair Helping Hands. Now I know what it means to hope to be hope, and how that isn’t passive at all. It’s just about the most active thing you can do to change the world.
I know, blah blah blah bleeding heart blah blah feelings blah. But it’s true, in an objective sense. Ruling the world doesn’t make the world better for anyone except yourself. Helping people makes the world better. If you combine ruling the world and helping people, you might have a good combination, if everyone doesn’t hate you just on the principle of hey-he-has-the-shiniest-toys. I never wanted to rule the world, because that always seemed like a quick way to get dead. I’d much rather be the person whispering to the person who rules the world. But the only sure way to improve life is by showing kindness, and being hope.
I’m transforming more and more into a Penny, and that’s okay. There’s a peace that happens when you decide that it’s okay to be a side character for now. I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the calm.