It's about a virtuous bad guy, the only person with any depth (and the graphic novel prequel only enhances this), in contrast with flawed good guys. Penny, the non-profit canvasser with whom Dr. Horrible is enamored, is sweet, kind-hearted, and profoundly blind to every level of her environment. In fact, despite an inundation of information and evidence, she remains willfully naive right up to her untimely demise, which itself is the direct result of her inability to perceive and interpret any scrap of truth in the world around her.
Captain Hammer is a comic exaggeration of superheroes who operate on strict black-and-white morality, with half a cup of hypocrisy and emotional retardation thrown in for flavor. He's misogynistic and shallow, and his unvarying response to every problem is a swing of his fist. There's little to admire in him and as the story unfolds, the depths of his depravity are only enhanced and expanded upon. Yet he's the paragon of virtue the entire city lauds and admires, and despite his best efforts he gets the girl.
It's Dr. Horrible who is so intriguing. In the backstory, you learn how, as a child ("Billy"), he also joined in the city's admiration of another "punching crime away" superhero. He was picked on in elementary school for his intelligence--a direct emotional trigger for me--and when he sees his idol emulating the speech and mannerisms of his own personal bully while defending the city from an evil genius, little Billy begins to turn from the straight-and-narrow and root for the bad guy. And in the Sing-Along Blog, we see him wrestle with his adoration for Penny versus the fulfillment of his personal ambitions. How tragic, that the two must stand in a tacit ultimatum.
My wife reflexively loves anything Joss Whedon produces, and the Sing-Along Blog found an instant and enthusiastic fan in her. She asked if I would sing one of the songs from this musical with her (and I wish to iterate that I generally detest musicals), and I found Dr. Horrible's "On The Rise" to be the least of all evils. But as a matter of fact, let it be known this song in particular speaks to me, and we started learning the words at a difficult point in my life. I run another blog in which I chronicle the various traffic offenses perpetrated by the average Minneapolitan pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist. I started the blog simply to vent, to get my frustrations off my chest. I certainly never intended to gain any fame or note by it. I would take pictures of an asshole doing something assholish and then write my (frequently inebriated) reaction to this demonstration. It was not a rant against an indolent and lazy police force, it was always a righteous fury against the moral depravity--nay, vacuum--of the citizens of this city. I believe it's up to the individual to choose to do right or wrong, and by my empirical research one could conclude most people choose to do wrong.
I have photos of people casually drifting through red lights, cyclists riding the wrong way through streets, pedestrians wandering in front of cars, &c. I found bike clubs that gleefully promote clotting traffic, bike races that vaunted running through red lights and stop signs. My blog was targeted by other local blogs and periodicals and ridiculed in private communities. My outrage at a population pursuing lawlessness out of convenience was replaced by astonishment at specific groups of people who promoted illegal activity in the name of coolness and esteem, and who turned on me to libel and insult me.
Me, who had the facts, the logic, the ethos on his side--not to mention the law! Somehow, in a society of idiots in love with criminals, I was the bad guy (and not in the "cool" way)!
Anyone with half a brainDr. Horrible and I saw the world through the same filtered goggles. We ran the same numbers and came to the same conclusions, and our hearts pained at the same unacceptable contradiction between what we knew what was right and how people insisted on conducting themselves. The hero the city looked up to was brutish asshole. The woman he loved in turn loved this slope-browed lunk. There was no justice, whether human or cosmic. Morality and reason were mined for mean-spirited comedy rather than treasured as humanity's salvation.
Can see that humankind has gone insane
To the point where I don't know
If I'll upset the status quo
If I throw poison in the watermain
There, the similarity ends. Dr. Horrible fulfilled his vision (even if he lost the girl), was promoted into an elite cadre of serious supervillains, and came to be valued as a cult figure of admiration. As for me, I'm surrounded by people who blow off my concerns and tell me to accept the world as it is, who do not agree that right is worth fighting for and wrong is undesirable, who write me off as mildly amusing when not annoying. They recommend that I seek counseling (because, of course, there's something wrong with me and not society). And the criminals proliferate and gain status, the police publicly state their helplessness and indifference, and I have no support or recourse whatsoever.
I cannot believe my eyesWhen I sing Dr. Horrible's song, I get choked up and it's difficult to hit the high notes.
How the world's full of filth and lies
And it's plain to see
Evil inside of me
Is on the rise