An Extremely Chilly Take

I am late to the party, I know. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog came out very nearly ten years ago, and the window for timely analysis is long, long past. But I was listening to the soundtrack in my car the other day, and something crystallized for me.

[SPOILERS for a ten-year-old movie ahead. Also content warning for discussion of violence against women, which is also kinda a spoiler for Dr. Horrible in itself.]

I was never satisfied by the ending. There was a lot of eyerollery at the time about Joss Whedon’s predictable pattern of brutally killing off beloved characters, and I’m sure that was part of it, but it never entirely resonated with me. I mean, it’s a tragedy, that’s the whole point, right? Captain Hammer is functionally destroyed, Penny is dead, and Billy has the emptiest victory imaginable. I was annoyed that Penny really doesn’t have much in the way of agency in the plot, but that wasn’t quite it, either.

What I realized the other day was this: it’s not how this particular story goes. It’s wildly unrealistic, and the show doesn’t give any explanation or justification for why. That’s why the ending doesn’t work – it’s not the ending that I know¬† happens.

Come on, folks, you all know the tune. Sing it with me: shy, nerdy, yet wealthy and privileged white man can’t get a woman to go out with him. He can’t bring himself to communicate directly with her about it, but still takes it incredibly personally when she dates the openly interested and unmistakably flirty jock. He gets mad and acquires some deadly weapons, singing all the while that “you’re gonna die”.

Who is he singing to? Not Captain Hammer.

No, he doesn’t go after the perceived-higher-status male rival. He goes after the woman, and possibly any other women who happen to be nearby. Penny’s death, in the real world, is intentional. It is in fact the desired outcome, however empty and remorseful Billy might feel afterwards. It happens all the time – to the point where I could probably link every word of this essay to a different incident in the US since Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was released.

And the show does not address this even tangentially. Honestly, even a few lines hanging a lampshade on it might have made a serious difference in how I read the ending. As it is, it just feels to me like it was made by people who sympathize with Billy to the point where they refuse to acknowledge just how toxic and murderous that mindset really is.

I’m entirely sure someone else, at some point in the past ten years, came up with this analysis and I’m just duplicating effort (and I’d love to see other essays on these lines, if you have them!) But man, it was a relief to figure out what had been bugging me for so damn long.

The Joys of Homeownership

At the beginning of December, Alex and I bought a house. It is a lovely house – a dome house, which is unusual and suits us, and a well-loved, one-owner, handcrafted sort of house, which has been mostly a delight. Everything is very thoughtfully designed, I have a dedicated office that is not in a closet for the first time in twelve years, and our split sleep schedules no longer mean we each have to spend four to six hours of the day in perfect silence. (The apartment we were in previously was… small.)

But, you know, it’s a house. Houses generate to-dos. I spent the first weekend in the house sanding off the horrible dark-beige faux finish in the master bedroom so I could prime it with some heavy-duty odor-killing stuff because the previous owner smoked. A lot. In the bedroom. And the woman we bought it from was a widow – her obviously handy husband has passed away ten years ago, and it’s pretty clear that no one has picked up a screwdriver here since. There are a lot of little things.

Today’s chore was to measure the… cat door? Elf hole? Portal to Narnia and/or the reading nook? in the master suite so that I can build an actual door for it instead of wedging a piece of foamcore against it with a footstool. (The elderly cat is living in solitary splendor in the master suite, and the rambunctious boys are forbidden from pestering her.) It is nine and a half inches by 22 and a quarter inches. I really, really don’t understand it. But my to-dos are much more interesting these days, at least.

The Year of the Werewolf

It’s been a hell of a year. I don’t even wanna talk about the global situation, but even for us personally, we moved, re-established ourselves in an entirely new place, had a number of pet medical scares (the cat’ll be 18 this year, too!), sold my condo, bought a house, and moved again. It’s been great for us even as the stress of the rest of the world has ratcheted up. (And, to be clear, it’s been great for us in part because the cross-country move put us in a much more stable position to deal with everything else.)

One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that I’m increasingly unhappy contributing to the content economy of Twitter and Facebook. I’ve never been a consistent blogger, but I’m thinking I’m going to make use of this space a little more, possibly shift my cat pictures over to Instagram or something, and see how that goes. I just don’t really want to contribute to the success of companies who act directly against their users’ interests, and I have Thoughts about the way public social spaces behave when in the control of private business interests. I may even expound on those thoughts here at some point, like I’ve been meaning to for ages.

So I’m going to try to use this a little more like an old-school blog, where I record my various thoughts, goals, and accomplishments. If I make ten posts this year I’ll be proud of myself (I am not a good blogger) but it’s always been a useful mental exercise for me.

On that note, the first minor thing that I want to record is something that has been working fairly well this past couple of months – when I get up in the morning, I try to Do a Thing. Anything that’s on my to-do list, no matter how small – just a thing to push back against entropy. This morning I did two things! I retrieved the missing spring from the cheap curtain rod and installed it in one of the more random windows in the house, in preparation for getting actual curtains, and I applied thread and velcro to the cats’ window-shelf to keep the cover on more solidly.

So that’s a tiny bit of entropy defeated, and a good start to New Year’s Day. Hope all of you are doing as well!