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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along BlogThe Dr. Horrible syndrome (horribly nice guys)
Saturday 22 May 2010, by Webmaster
Nice guys really do finish last, and single guys around the world find this principle as confusing as they find it frustrating. So frustrating in fact that many of them go to the dark side.
Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a perfect example of this. Dr. Horrible is an aspiring supervillain (Dr. Horrible) trying to reach the big leagues of villainy in the hope that he can improve the world and impress the girl of his dreams, Penny. Dr. Horrible came to be as a result of a very common process:
Step 1: Perpetually Single
A budding Dr. Horrible grows up wishing for but failing to start romantic relationships. He’s probably shy and not very charming and falls into the “only a friend” category too often (see Ladder Theory). Or maybe his standards for women are too high. Whatever the reason, though, a Dr. Horrible develops a pattern of being perpetually single.
These reasons for being perpetually single may be why he’s paralyzed and unable to talk to the girl in Step 4.
Step 2: They All Suck….
Dr. Horrible starts to identify his target gender as the problem. The problem can’t be him, he’s a nice guy! So it must be some vast flaw with the other gender and how they only pick out jerks, etc. He resents women and he resents the men they fall for.
In Whedon’s Dr. Horrible, the whole world adores Captain Hammer, Horrible’s nemesis and a handsome alpha-male jerk (see Darcy Syndrome), to Horrible’s constant dismay
Step 3: …Except For Her
Dr. Horrible is still lonely, so he picks out a specific girl who he thinks is “different”. She may be more compassionate (volunteering at soup kitchens), friendly to him in a kind way (talking to him when no one else does), or maybe she just offered to hold a door for him—it doesn’t take much because no matter how bitter Horribles may get, they still want to believe that there’s someone out there for him, and it’s only natural to find a reason to justify developing a crush.
The chosen girl will then be put on a pedestal by Horrible who convinces himself that she’s perfect. And that he’d be perfect for her too, since he clearly loves her so much, even though he hasn’t actually gotten to know her in any real way.
Dr. Horrible’s love for Penny is the perfect example of this: he sings elaborate ballads about Penny being his one and only: “I’m the guy to make it real/ The feelings you’re afraid to feel”…all based entirely on the fact that he sees her regularly at a Laundromat. And never talks to her.
Step 4: Indirect Pursuit
Dr. Horrible will only ever pursue his crush indirectly. A Horrible is so emotionally invested in his crush that his feelings for her paralyze him, and his natural shyness can only make things worse. Asking her out, or even talking to her, would risk rejection (or the crush’s inevitable falling from the pedestal). So, instead, he goes after her indirectly: coming up with elaborate plans to impress her and fixates on how great things will get when they actually get together.
There’s a scene in Dr. Horrible where the doc is enacting part of his master plan to impress Penny. Penny approaches him, asking him to sign a petition. Dr. Horrible has the perfect chance to start talking to her and break the ice, but instead pushes his dream girl aside in favor of executing an elaborate plan to impress her.
Step 5: Falling Off the Pedestal
Dr. Horrible eventually loses his chance with his dream girl, probably because: (A) he asks her out and gets rejected (in lieu of not ever really having spoken to her or having made his intentions known), or (B) she gets together with a different guy before he has a chance to make his move.
He’ll take this badly, because he not only lost his dream girl, but she had the nerve not to recognize (from his silent, longing looks) how much he cared about her!
When his depression blows over and he only gets more bitter about everything, return to Step 2 and repeat ad nauseam.
It’ll only get worse from here on out, because the more bitter and nasty he gets, the less appealing he is, and the less appealing he is the more he projects his negative feelings onto others.
Whedon’s Horrible acts like he’s been personally betrayed when Penny starts dating Captain Hammer, despite the fact that he never before asked her out, or in fact even spoke to her in a significant way. He says, “There’s darkness everywhere and Penny doesn’t seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain.” So, he essentially transfers the blame for his inability to make a move as her fault for “not caring”.
Guys like this often think of themselves as nice guys. Dr. Horrible’s touching love song to Penny seems sweet in a romantic comedy kind of way: he’s emotional, he’s sincere, and he obviously has a high opinion of her.
So what’s the problem?
Well, putting a girl on a pedestal might seem nice in theory, but when Dr. Horribles idolize a girl, they aren’t really in love with her—they’re in love with the perfect girl ideal that they want her to be. They haven’t necessarily taken the time to get to know her—who she really is. And they may not be happy with what they find if they keep their expectations so high. It also isn’t fair to expect a girl to be responsible for fixing Horribles’ busted view of women, and she isn’t going to want to try.
No matter how much Whedon’s Dr. Horrible is painted the sincere underdog, you can’t help but wonder what exactly Penny is supposed to find attractive about him when his only personality traits are crushing despair about everything, a creepy obsession, and a meek inability to act on his crush.
It’s only natural to feel that the only way to overcome complete feelings of hopelessness is to nurture the idea that there is a girl who is different than the others. If every other girl rejects you, then a girl would have to be different from them to go out with you…right?
Well, it doesn’t work like that, and, empathy aside, if guys want to pull themselves out of singledom, the first step has to be understanding what’s going wrong with themselves. Dr. Horribles have to pull themselves out of their heads, take the girl off the pedestal and act on their feelings. They just have to talk to the girl, and actually get to know who she really is. And do so before she ends up with the other guy.
My advice: try buying her a frozen yogurt. The ladies love the frozen yogurt.
Term of the Day
Dr. Horrible [Dok-tor] [Hor-rib-bul]
Someone who compensates for bitterness over past romantic failures by putting an individual on a pedestal as his/her perfect romantic mate.