Learn From This: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Does anyone represent the trials and tribulations of the modern day nerd quite as much as Dr. Horrible? He wants what we all want: to build a fairer, more just and equitable society. To be recognized and valued for his gifts and contributions to the world at large. To get through the day without being tormented by the anti-intellectual bullies that seem to get all the glory for somebody else’s hard work. For the courage to talk to the cute girl he sees at the laundromat but can’t quite bring himself to talk to.


Of course, he also wants to join the Evil League of Evil, take over the planet and use his dictatorship to sweep the old order into the dustbin of history, crush his nemesis Captain Hammer underneath his boot-heel and damn near got his crush run over by a car during a robbery-gone-bad… but hey, what’re a few details between friends?

What’s he even the captain of, anyway?

For all of his super-villain ambition, Dr. Horrible is the sort of character we can empathize with and relate to. Every nerd can understand his resentment toward and anger with the world that doesn’t seem to understand or respect him. We have all felt the urge to get back at the jocks and bullies who hog the spotlight for no better reason than that they happened to be at the right place at the right time. We all know the frustration of desperately wanting the person we like to notice us if we could only muster up the courage or find the right words to say, and the pain from when it all goes wrong.

There’s a lot to learn from the not-so-good Doctor.

You Need To Be Self-Validating

From the very get-go, Dr. Horrible wants us to know that he believes the world is almost irredeemably corrupt; in fact, it’s so far beyond redemption that the only way to save it is to burn down the existing power structure – cut off the head of the rotting fish, as it were – and to start over with a new ruler. A benevolent dictator who would usher in a new world order, one that’s more just, more fair…

Which, when you translate for Buffy-speak and a certain level of deliberate obfuscation means that Billy really wants a world that acknowledges him for the cool guy he knows he is deep down and the rest of the world just doesn’t see or recognize. Instead it’s assholes like Captain Hammer, with the muscles and the cool hair who get all the glory, all of the attention and, critically, all of the women.

Dr. Horrible is almost defined by his need to have others validate him, whether it’s by getting official super-villain status from the Evil League of Evil, having the world recognize his genius or even just have Penny validate his coolness by preferring Billy with his hidden layer and unassuming gifts rather than tools like Captain Hammer who seem cool but have all of the depth of a mud-puddle.

The problem is that Billy has lost his locus of control by letting his self-worth be defined by others instead of believing in his own value. He’s looking for others to tell him he’s cool. And that’s part of what holds him back. It’s why he can’t muster up the courage to talk to Penny. It’s why he’s a half-baked super-villain. He lets his need for the approval and validation of others dominiate his thinking.

“Look at the number of fucks I give! Look at them!”

And yet, all he can come up with are what might be considered nuisance crimes. He’s robbing banks and performing car heists, not holding cities for ransom or demanding millions of dollars in exchange for not dropping a viral mutagen into the municipal the water supply. The fact that Bad Horse and the Evil League of Evil demand that he commit a murder to prove his villain bona-fides1 freaks him the flying fuck out. He’s not villain material, so why isn’t he taking the straight life or even trying his hand at being a super-hero?

Because he wants the “respect” and edginess that comes with being a supervillain. He doesn’t just want to change the world, he wants to rule it. He wants the world to acknowledge that he’s superior to them and that they were wrong to treat him the way they do. He craves the approval of others to fill the hole that he feels in his life. The problem of course, is that this hole will never be filled… even when he has everything he wants.

Girls Don’t Like Assholes

The central conflict in Dr. Horrible revolves around Penny. Dr. Horrible loves Penny. Penny, on the other hand, is dating Captain Hammer… who is only dating her because he knows it hurts Dr. Horrible.

Captain Hammer: What a dick!

But this is the way of the world, isn’t it? After all, he’s a jerk jock and we all know women love assholes so what’s the point? This is just the natural order of things.

Except it isn’t. In fact, Penny’s pretty clearly interested in her laundro-mate2 Billy. By the middle of Act 2, she’s already having second thoughts about the guy she’s dating, even dropping some pretty sizable hints that she’s unhappy with him and may be looking for someone who actually cares about her. By all rights, her fling with Hammer would have been fairly short-lived except for… well, y’know.

The attraction to Hammer isn’t that difficult to parse. To start with, there’s the fact that he “saved” Penny’s life.


My heart is beating like a drum

Must be, must be in shock

Assuming I’m not loving you to death


So please give me a sec to catch my breath

Her heart’s racing, she’s short of breath, her body is shaking… considering that she just damn near got taken out by a car, it’s understandable that she’s freaked out, no? Except that the physical symptoms of fear – adrenaline surges, racing heart beat, dry mouth – are almost identical to the physical symptoms of sexual desire. Captain Hammer is taking advantage of a condition known as misattribution of arousal; her brain is thinking “Hey, I’m terrified but why? OK, there’s this big hot guy right here… maybe I’m not terrified, I’m just really turned on. That makes sense!”

And there’s a lot to like about Captain Hammer, at least superficially. He’s handsome. He’s smooth. He has almost infinite belief in his own self-worth and he has certainty and self-assuredness that can be magnetic. But deep down… he’s got nothing to suggest the possibility of a long-term relationship or even a relationship that manages to last longer than sleeping together once.

I mean, c’mon. He doesn’t even get to do the weird stuff.

Whatta ya say Captain? Ready to get FREAKY?

It’s not surprising that Penny starts dating the Captain. She’s lived a life mostly defined by disappointment and now there’s this guy who seems to be in a position to make her dreams come true. She’s overwhelmed by the celebrity, lifestyle and the fact that he’s making her biggest goal – building the new shelter – a reality. And yet… she’s not happy with him. She’s trying to rationalize staying with him because…well, everyone seems to think she should and real life isn’t a fairy tale with happy endings.

Assholes, y’see, may be able to attract the girl, but they can’t keep them… because they don’t have anything to offer beyond the very superficial. So he’s good looking… and? He’s not confident, he’s arrogant and self-obsessed. He’s not helping her out of compassion or a belief in her cause, he’s doing it to fuck with Dr. Horrible and to make himself look good. He can’t even make it a third of the way through a speech about helping the homeless without making it all about how awesome he is. He’s shallow, vain, only cares about himself and he doesn’t really know a damn thing about what makes Penny tick.

Billy, on the other hand, gets her. He’s no Captain Hammer but he’s no slouch in the looks department. He’s quiet, but he’s got intensity. They have a lot of similar goals and dreams in life. He has ambition. He has drive. He has passion and he clearly cares about her.

If only Billy had made a move.

Nice Guys Finish Last

Y’see, Billy made the classic mistake: he was so afraid of rejection that he let it paralyze him into inaction. Instead of walking up to her and saying “Hey, you know what, it’s crazy I see you here twice a week and we’ve never said ‘hello’. I’m Billy…” he freezes, trying to find the “perfect words” to make her fall in love with him. Like many guys, he got hung up on the opener – literally the least important thing about talking to her. All he really needed to do was find a pretext for a conversation. Anything is better than silence.

OK, maybe not starting with a girly scream of panic.

The problem is that he who hesitates, loses. If you don’t make your move, somebody else is going to make theirs.

And for somebody determined to join the Evil League of Evil, Billy is a little too nice. He’s the classic Nice Guy lamenting the fact that the woman he loves is in love with a jerk and doesn’t see what an awesome person he is. Instead of making his play for Penny or even just admitting to her that he likes her, he sits and sulks in the Friend Zone, even as she’s giving him the sign that she’s waiting for him to make his move.

But Doctor Horrible is a little too wrapped up in his need to get back at Captain Hammer at this point to recognize that. And as a result… he misses his best chance at getting what he really wanted.

“Hey I just met you and this is crazy… but I’m into MMOs. Gnomeregan, maybe?”

Be Careful What You Wish For.

Let’s be real here: we all know that Dr. Horrible isn’t a villain. The only person who refuses to see that is… well, Dr. Horrible. He doesn’t even want to be a villain, not really. It’s just that he thinks it’s his ticket to everything he believes he wants and he can’t seem to let go.

Look at his stated goals: he believes that there needs to be drastic social change. He wants fame. He wants fortune3 He wants glory and adulation. And he wants Penny.

On a practical level, this would be far easier to achieve in a legal manner. He’s a legitimate scientific genius who has figured out a way to stop time and teleport solid matter. Licensing that tech would put him in the same scientific pantheon as Hawking or Einstein and bring him riches beyond dreams of avarice. The level of influence he would have would be morthan enough to influence society and bring about the new world he dreams about… not to mention building Penny’s homeless center with what would amount to pocket change for him.

Unfortunately he’s so caught up in the idea that he needs to be a supervillain – that he can force the world to make amends for everything that’s happened to him that he misses out on what’s most important to him. He ends up with everything he thinks he ever wanted: the fear of the city, status as a super-villain, even humiliating Captain Hammer… and it doesn’t mean a thing.

A little less time focused on elaborate revenge fantasies, less time worried about getting the approval of others or defining himself as a dork and a loser and he might have had it all – the riches, the fame and the girl.

And in honor of Dr. Horrible’s TV debut: a special bonus:

  1. see what I did there? []
  2. see what I did there? []
  3. Yeah, he says it’s not about “making” money but “taking” money, but his “I Want” song includes material wealth. He’s trying to justify robbing banks by insisting it’s about the style. []

  • One additional thing that I believe you left out. First impressions are very important. Some will even decide on that first impression if the person is dating material or friend material.

    Personally I have the 'problem' of seeming to come off as good friend material but not dating material and I am not sure how to resolve that. And I am talking about people with similar interests, likes and dislikes, etc. There is obviously something about how one presents themselves that makes them come off as a friend type rather than a romantic interest.

    • Chenrezi

      I think a lot of that depends on the person you're talking to. If you try approaching multiple people in more or less the same way, you'll notice sooner or later that you're just a lot flirtier and more playful with certain people, just because of the way that your personalities interact. So without even changing your approach, you'll be friend material to one person and dating material to another person.

      Of course, the trick with that is to figure out how to line that interaction up with who you are and aren't attracted to. And I don't really have any advice to give on that because I'm nowhere near figuring it out myself.

      • heathenbee

        I'll give you both a suggestion: if you approach a girl as if she were The Only One and in your mind she really is at that moment? She'll smell desperation and neediness and run for cover. That doesn't mean "approach her like you don't give a shit"; it means, quit being desperate and needy and try realizing girls are just other people who may or may not be a great match for you but who are worthy of connecting with *as other people* regardless of what kind of parts they have under their outfit. You know?

        Yeah, duh, there's the chemistry question of whether it's one-way or circular. But that should be secondary. Not "Hi I'm Man and clearly your being Girl you must be Girl for me"; nor "Hi, I'm Man but just ignore that because I'm only here as your Buddy until you realize that all men are second to me". And for god's sake, not "Hi, my whole self-worth is invested in your response so if you reject me you are a heartless unfeeling bitch". But like, "Hi, can we set the gender-equation to one side and see if we enjoy each other on some level and be ok wherever that goes?"

  • MordsithJ

    In a way, this is also good career advice.

  • Tom

    It's also worth noting that when Penny tries to talk to Dr. Horrible during the whole van bit, he completely blows her off, and then whines that Captain Hammer got to her first. It's ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    Wouldn't she think he was a creepy bastard because he hasn't said a thing to her even though they were in the same place regularly for two years?

    • Only if he's being creepy about it – leering at her, staring, making a point of always taking the washer next to her, etc. Nothing creepy about happening to have the same schedule as a stranger, as long as the stranger isn't giving off "I'm stalking you" vibes.

    • Mel

      Seconding what Wendy said. If I happened to see a guy around the same place regularly for two years, and then one day he talked to me, I'd assume he just hadn't really noticed me until then, or hadn't had anything in particular he wanted to say to me until then. What would be creepy is if whenever I saw him around, he was staring/hovering/etc., but that would be creepy whether he ever talked to me or not.

  • And yet Dr. Horrible is the one we root for, despite the awkwardness and the supervillainy, because we get to know him over the course of the movie and we get to see what really makes him tick. Part of that is the awesome writing and acting, of course, but it's also a lesson for geek guys: just sharing the same social space with geeky girls can be enough to get them past the first impression and on into the second, third, fifth, and fiftieth impressions. Love doesn't always have to be "love at first sight." That is especially true if you're not conventionally attractive, you're too shy to strike up a conversation the first time, etc. How many of us go on to date someone immediately after meeting them, versus how many of us get to know someone gradually first and only then realize they're worth dating?

    • Tom

      I don't know about you, but I do not root for Dr. Horrible in the sense that most people do. I root for him to get a clue, but it's always sad to me because I know he never will in the context of the story.

  • Late to the party, but…. I'm not sure I understand the idea of giving ourselves validation. It makes sense to me on a theoretically level-no one can love you until you love yourself, don't seek validation from others, etc. But if you have no need for outside validation, then I wonder what is the point of a long-term relationship? Isn't the idea that we want someone who loves us? Someone who makes us feel better about ourselves? Isn't that external validation?

    Moreover, don't we use outside validation as a stick for how to interact with the world? For example, thanks to outside validation, I know that I shouldn't be pursuing a rich male model, because I have no chance in heck of securing one. Doesn't external validation give us a realistic (outside) view of ourselves? Give us an idea of what to improve, what to keep? If you think you're amazing and awesome already, with no need of external validation, couldn't you fall into a trap of being blind towards your own flaws?

    Long story short (too late), how do you balance internal validation and self-improvement? Is it just that we should use external validation in moderation?

    • Randa

      That's a great question. To begin with, long-term relationships/friendships are not healthy vehicles for self-validation. While affirmation is a valuable relational need that I hope every person gets out of their relationships (though it sadly doesn't happen) no person can give you your value. That's up to each individual person to figure out and hold dear. I'm sorry that's not the most helpful statement, I know. Relationships, to me at least, are about connecting: being in community and living out life with another person/other people.
      Validation, in this context, seems to be about your self-assurance and self-worth. You can hold yourself valuable, without needing that outer-validation, but still know that there are things you'd like to work on. For example, I really need to work on my conversational skills. I can get bored listening to someone talking about a subject that isn't me or me-related. (Please tell me I'm not the only one!) So in conversation I work on actively listening to my friends, emphasizing or asking questions etc as appropriate. As an awkward-in-person person this isn't natural to me, but it doesn't mean I'm a bad person or even a bad friend, I'm still awesome, I just have to be aware of ways that I can treat other people better.
      I'm trying at least. And I'm happy in that. That's the best I can do at this point.

    • Trooper6

      1) How do you know you can't snag a male model? There may be a male model who loves, loves cosplay and thinks your costuming skills are so awesome he wants to be around you all the time. People don't always get together based on looks. Maxwell Caulfield was the hotness back in the 80s…he was in his 21 and a huge hunk and he married Juliet Mills who was 40 at the time–which goes against all the B.S. evolutionary psychology pseudoscience. And they are still married, by the way. People have many different reasons for attraction…and that male model may find you hot…though probably not if you don't find yourself hot first.

      2) I don't get into relationships because I need something from that person. I get into relationships because I think that person is great and I enjoy their company. I will not ever date someone who *needs* to be with me (for validation, for status, for hipness, for whatever)…that way lies badness. I will date someone who *wants* to be with me.

      An ideal relationship for me is not two halves making a whole (that is crazy co-dependent), but two wholes who are with each other because that is what they want, what they enjoy, what they love.

      Here's a story about the dangers of outside validation. Every day in school I was told I was ugly. Every day. It was very damaging to my sense of self-worth. Then I joined the Army and people would hit on me all the time.

      Did people back in school call me ugly because it was true? Did they call me ugly because they are giving me a "realistic" view of the world? No. They called me ugly for many reasons…mostly those reasons had to do with race, class, and gender presentation. The 1980s were not a cool time, is all I want to say.

      But I changed context and all of a sudden I was the hotness. It took some time to get used to since the shift was so sudden–literally, In May of 1990 people were calling me Medusa and other really terrible things I don't want to go into and October of 1990 I had people thinking I was all that and a bag of chips. And I hadn't gone through a makeover in that time either…just got to be around other people who recognized and appreciated what I was doing and who I was.

      I knew I had a lot to offer, I just had to hold on until other people caught on. If I had let those people who bullied me every day for 13 years really dictate my self-worth, if I looked to them for validation, I'd probably would have…well, I wouldn't be here now that's for sure.

      Those people are not you. They have all sorts of reasons for saying what they are going to say. That doesn't make it real or true. You cannot give people who don't even care about you the power of your self-definition. You are the most important person when it comes to defining who you are. I am awesome. Do I have things I need to work on? Sure! Everybody does. But I am not going to take self-improvement advice from people who insult me. Why would I do that?!

      My best ex. When we got together, I had already worked out my sense of self worth. I knew I was attractive and had things to offer. And I fell for her hard. Not because she told me I was great…but because she was so great and we had so much in common to talk about and she challenged me and inspired me–and I did the same for her. She respected me, she respected herself! She was my cheerleader, I was hers. She saw me for who I am and I saw her for who she was. There was no lack…there was only multiplication of awesomeness. That was just the best relationship ever! We only broke up due to me leaving the country…and we are still very good friends.

      That is what I look for in a relationship. Not desperation, but admiration–on both sides.

      • Yeeeah, I'm sure there's a male model out there who would just adore my sub-par cosplay talents. See, this is kind of the issue I was getting at with self-validation… I worry that it would actually make me overly confident to the point of blindness.

        I cannot see how the world perceives me. That is the curse of being trapped inside our own heads. The only clues I can gain are the way people react to me, treat me, behave around me. Isn't that outside validation?

        • Mel

          You can't see how the world perceives you, but you're the only one inside *your* head. You're the one who knows you best. I think self validation is about being happy with who you are as it relates to you. Do you feel like you mean well, are you comfortable with your thoughts and ways of thinking on your own, have you found things that you enjoy for yourself? Do you like who you are when you're alone?

          All outside feedback tells you is how you're coming across to other people, not whether you're an inherently worthy person. Self-validation is about who you *are*; outside feedback is about what you're *doing*. I guess you could say other people can validate your actions, but they can't validate *you*. Very few of those people know you well, and none of them know you completely. Their responses to you are always going to be biased by their lack of complete knowledge of you, and their own personalities. So if the feedback you're getting from other people conflicts with your views of yourself, it doesn't mean you're wrong to like yourself, it means that either you may need to adjust the way you're expressing who you are to others, or you may need look for people to be around whose personalities gel with yours better.

          e.g., Not that I think this is an issue you literally have, but since we're already using it as an example: There's nothing wrong with believing you could attract a model. If you act dismissive of every guy who expresses an interest just because they don't look like supermodels, and consequently you find you're not dating at all, it doesn't tell you that you're not attractive "enough", it tells you that if you want to be dating, you need to be more friendly with at least a few of the non-model guys who are actually around you, or you need to start mixing with a different pool of people and see if you have better luck there. You don't take it as invalidating yourself or your attractiveness, you take it as a sign that your behavior isn't getting you something you might want. That model guy who's perfect for you could still be out there, but you aren't running into him at the moment. Are you happier waiting where you are, looking elsewhere, or dating people who aren't models?

          If you like who you are when you're alone, and think of yourself as having value (validating yourself), then you'll have the confidence to still believe you have value even if other people aren't treating you that way. You can either shrug their responses off, or decide to change some of your outward behavior to try to get a better response, but without feeling like a horrible failure. If you *don't* like or value yourself even when you're alone, then it's very difficult not to let other people's opinions of you affect your feelings of self-worth, and for you to feel like there's something inherently wrong with you as a person if they don't respond the way you like, rather than like you just might want to change something you're doing. It can also lead you to act needy and clingy with other people, hoping to get validation from them, when it's not really their job to convince you you're a worthy human being, and they'll probably end up getting frustrated with your neediness and just make you feel worse. You end up in this downward spiral, which wouldn't be a problem if you liked yourself enough to believe other people's opinions of you, while potentially useful, are secondary to your own. Which is why self-validation is so important.

        • Cat

          Mel hit it on the head: your'e confusing "validation" with "feedback."

          Validation goes deep, and is something from which you derive your self-worth. Feedback helps you understand how others perceive you, but should not contribute to your sense of self-worth. We can sometimes feel bad if we get negative feedback (because, really, who wants to hear that they're doing something poorly?), but it helps us change and grow. Validation is not something that helps us change and grow; it tells us we're fine just as we are, deep down, as people. That's something you want to get from yourself. It's okay to be validated by others whom you love, and who love you; but you cannot rely on that as your sole source of validation.

      • Becelec

        I too learnt this pretty quickly early – my dad was in the military so I changed schools every year during my childhood/adolescence. I was the exact same person, but depending on what school I was at would determine how popular I was, and there was a DRASTIC difference depending on the school.

        One high school I was about the biggest nerd in existence – on my very first day I must have answered something in English class using 'big' words because suddenly it was going around the school that I read the dictionary in my spare time. I ended up spending every lunchtime reading on the grounds with a few other nerd girls and as a result every guy I liked wanted nothing to do with me coz I was a bookworm who clearly wouldn't put out.

        • Becelec


          Changed schools at the end of the year and at my new school I somehow managed to become one of the most popular girls there. Suddenly my weird nerdiness was quaint and endearing, and I was friendly with nearly every single person in my year. I was told I was on the "Hot 5" list (something that the guys in our year did, made a list of the hottest 5 girls in the year based on who knows what), and was considered to be some sort of adorable Zooey Deschanel type kook. Instead of being mocked, I was being hit on constantly, to the point where it was hard to believe. Nothing about me had changed, at all. I was exactly the same, just in a different environment.

          Changed schools again, and I was back to being a complete weirdo with a very small group of friends. Still the exact same person. I've had the exact same experiences in the workplace. Some I've gotten along really well with everyone, and made friendships that I still have this day, and others I was pretty isolated and left out of a lot of things or actively ostracised.

          • Becelec

            In conclusion: it is SO important not to let others validate your self worth. People and environments are all so different, you won't ever really have an accurate reflection from them of who you are anyway, because different people/groups find different things appealing. I went to 5 primary schools, 4 high schools, 3 universities and I've had 10 jobs. I was treated and regarded differently at pretty much all of them.

          • Anonymoose

            Between your story and Mel has one of the most… I want to say more than "helpful" because the word is not enough, but that's all that's coming to mind right now… helpful things I've seen. For a long time now, I've just accepted that my place and status is static no matter where I go or what I do, so I stopped considering that I could go anywhere or do anything because what's the point, this is it. It feels more like things are possible just because there's some place I can fit into well out there somewhere.

    • welltemperedwriter

      Of course you want someone who makes you feel better about yourself, but that can't be the *sole* source of your sense of self-worth. If it is, what happens to you if the relationship ends or your partner dies? I've seen what happens to people in the latter case, and I've gotta tell you, it makes an already-awful experience even worse.

      It's also exhausting for the other person. You want a partner, not a crutch.

  • Anne

    Your analysis of the good old Doctor is spot on! I don't know/think you've read the prequel comics, but they bring some interesting insights into why Horrible wants to be a Supervillain (as opposed to a Superhero) and it fits right into what you've already gotten out of the actual movie.

    Though I don't support Dr. Horrible's creepy behaviour towards Penny (I mean, c'mon, he has an obvious stalker photo of her framed and knew her laundromat schedule well enough to know when she missed the weekend!), I think all of this is sound advice. Be confident and sure enough in yourself and that'll help wonders. You won't know that she doesn't like you 'til you've talked to her.

  • Erica

    My infatuation with the good doctor (Nerdlove) is overwhelming right now. Not only did you do a whole post dedicated to Doctor Horrible, but one of your mouse overs was a Girl Genius reference. AMAZING.

    Also, even as a female, i identified with Dr. Horrible from the first moment he showed up on my computer screen. Awkward, unable to talk to the crush, certain if i just reach that big-time goal (grad school for me), i'll have that status that makes me desirable and able to enact the changes i want to see in the world around me. So i'm going to be studying this analysis for a good while to ensure i'm making the positive changes i want to be in my life.

  • dvid22

    condemning the acting ability/skill of neil patrick harris and nathon fillion, what they ever do to you?

  • I wonder if "Dr. Horrible" is a better inspiration for dating advice than "Buffy" was…

  • Paul Rivers

    Haha, wow, Dr. Horrible really is a great slice of nerdy dating life…

    What really stood out to me is how it illustrates what a lot of guys see – that clearly being creepy is not *purely* a matter of behavior, it does have to do with whether she thinks you're attractive or not (I neither believe that this is some sort of looks thing, or that it's not "possible" to be creepy anyways, but it's not purely about behavior either).

    I've said before that I think one of the biggest definitions of creepy is sexual tension where the other person doesn't think it should exist.

    Look at their interaction – despite having never talked to her before, he blurts out that he knows not only her schedule, but also which days last month that she wasn't at the laundromat. If she thought he was repulsive, this would be *super* creepy behavior. But because she finds him attractive, if anything she's just even more open, friendly, and eager to talk to him.

    To be fair, there are other things he is doing – his body language and mannerisms are the *opposite* of aggressive. They're in public. She approached him. Etc etc etc.

    But still – had she felt that he was totally unnattractive, would her behavior have gone from friendly to even more friendly? It hardly seem likely. You can just imagine her going "Oh….you know my laundry schedule…so…I gotta go…" and later going to a different laundry mat because she "doesn't want to run into that creepy guy".

    I'm not saying this is unfair, actually (guys frequently filter which girls they talk to based on the girls attractiveness – not always, but a noteable amount of the time), it's only fair that the other gender would do the same thing. But that bit of the video shows exactly what we see as guys – many things are seen as "creepy" if she doesn't find you attractive, but "romantic" if she does find you attractive. The biggest indicator of interest, to me, is that her reaction to a number of statements he makes that are "potentially creepy" – is that she's even more friendly towards him, rather than pulling back.

    • Mel

      To be honest, I think that's a question of movie reality vs. actual reality. I can't imagine a scenario in my actual life where, no matter how attractive a guy was, I wouldn't be immediately uncomfortable if a guy I'd never talked to before admitted to knowing my schedule in that much detail. We accept a lot of exaggerations and unrealistic behavior on the screen because we know it's fiction; that doesn't mean it reflects how an actual woman would feel in the same situation.

      I do agree that when a women (or a man–it happens for both genders) finds a person attractive, they'll feel more comfortable with certain types of flirty/sexualized interactions, so it takes more overt odd or boundary-crossing behavior to push those creepy-alert buttons. You just can't get much more overtly creepy than knowing a stranger's monthly laundry schedule to the day. There is no amount of attractiveness that can counteract really alarming behavior.

      • Paul Rivers

        To be honest, I think that's a question of movie reality vs. actual reality…We accept a lot of exaggerations and unrealistic behavior on the screen because we know it's fiction; that doesn't mean it reflects how an actual woman would feel in the same situation.

        While I agree with your sentiment that certainly sitcoms can portray things that never happen in real life, my point was from rather the opposite direction – as lot of guys see stuff exactly like this happen, and this video happens to almost perfectly represent that.

        I can't imagine a scenario in my actual life where, no matter how attractive a guy was, I wouldn't be immediately uncomfortable if a guy I'd never talked to before admitted to knowing my schedule in that much detail.

        As people like to say, "women" are not one big homogenous entity that all think the same way and have all exactly the same values…I know none of my guy friends from high school or college would have done things that are often complained about that "guys' do. But that's not the same as me being able to say that "guys" don't do them – there are reasons I choose the friends I do, and I don't tend to make friends with the more aggressive and self-involved guys.

        I do agree that when a women (or a man–it happens for both genders) finds a person attractive, they'll feel more comfortable with certain types of flirty/sexualized interactions, so it takes more overt odd or boundary-crossing behavior to push those creepy-alert buttons.

        Right, it's not *just* the behavior in and of itself. But like I said, I don't think there's any problem with this – of course people have different boundaries with people they find attractive. It's not even unfair to guys – guys don't spend as much time talking to women that they don't have attractive as they do talking to women they find attractive, it's not like guys want to interact any more or are any more fair.

        I'm just tired of hearing the claims (maybe not from you, not sure) that creepy is completely about the behavior, independent of the context and the girls feelings about the guy. You said that you'd be uncomfortable with a guy you didn't know knowing your schedule, but the "guy I didn't know" was important, right? If your boyfriend knew your exact schedule, obviously that wouldn't be creepy. Context is super important, and pretending that it's simply the behavior is super annoying and innacurate. (Which I'm not saying that's what you're doing, I'm just saying that's where my original comment was coming from).

        You just can't get much more overtly creepy than knowing a stranger's monthly laundry schedule to the day.

        Lol, well honestly, I just disagree. *If* you do laundry at the same place as them on a regular schedule, it's easy to know what their schedule is. That just says that you notice when they're there. And if you're also someone who's shy or hesitant to approach, you might understand why they haven't said anything if you think they're just shy yourself.

        I think all these things are far more creepy:
        1. That the other person knows your schedule *outside* of doing laundry
        2. That the other person also knows where you live (assuming it's not really obvious, like this is the shared laundry room for your apartment complex and they live across the hall)
        3. That the other person starts showing up other places where you go – and they've never talked to you, and seem to be following you around
        4. Etc….

        "There is no amount of attractiveness that can counteract really alarming behavior."

        And I agree with you 100%. Being attractive or that someone finds you attractive just changes where the line is, it doesn't make the line dissapear. It also depends on the person – different girls have different thresholds for what they feel is really alarming behavior.

        But I'm just saying that the clip perfectly illustrates what I feel that as guys we see all that time – that obviously whether something is creepy is influenced highly by whether the girl finds the guy attractive or not. Could he have still gone to far and creeped her out? Absolutely, yes. It doesn't matter if she found him attractive to begin with – if after that conversation he immediately followed her around for the next 24 hours even when she asked him to leave, that would be so creepy she's still definitely find it creepy.

        • Mel

          This is where I have to admit I haven't actually watched Dr. Horrible, so my understanding of how that scene plays out was based completely on your description. *sheepish smile*

          Definitely, a guy saying something like, "we always seem to be here at the same time–I couldn't help noticing you weren't around last Monday" I wouldn't find creepy (as long as it was said in a friendly, not obsessively intense way). I was picturing something more like "so you weren't here on the 25th of September or October 4th or all of last weekend…" which sounds like the guy is obsessively keeping track of your every laundry movement over an extended period of time–and that would be creepy in any context I can imagine. Are there women who might not find that creepy? It's possible, but I'm pretty sure most of the women I know would.

          I totally agree with you that attractiveness influences our boundaries, and I've argued elsewhere here about claiming attraction has nothing to do with it. But creepy behavior usually seems creepy because the behavior is crossing your boundaries. The issue isn't that some guys get away with doing creepy things and others don't, the issue is that creepiness is defined by our boundaries, and of course our boundaries aren't going to be the same with everyone.

          A guy can complain that he can't tell what a woman's boundaries are until he's already approached her, so he can't help being creepy, but the thing is that a) there are certain behaviors that are going to come off as creepy from almost any stranger, like making an overtly sexual comment or standing really close to the person right off the bat, so you shouldn't do those things with anyone you don't know, and b) as long as you don't do any obviously creepy things right off the bat, you're going to get the sort of signals DNL's talked about here as an indication of where that woman's boundaries are right now with you. E.g., a woman who turns toward you when you approach, gives you a wide friendly smile, and answers in an animated voice is obviously feeling more open to conversation than a woman who keeps her side to you, only gives a small tight smile, and answers with a minimum of enthusiasm and words.

          Unless you've done something overtly creepy right away, most women aren't going to find your approach creepy–it's whether you accept the signals they give you after that approach, or ignore them and push on. The guys who "get away" with crossing boundaries are not actually crossing boundaries at all. They're seeing that the woman is up for that sort of interaction, and so going for it. (The post here about breaking down an approach is a really good example of how that checking of boundaries works.)

        • Mel

          I can actually give you a very concrete breakdown of the different between lack of attraction and creepiness from my own experience.

          Several years back, I went to a dance club with a friend. Mainly I just wanted to dance, but I was single and was open to meeting guys there. So we showed up and were dancing together, and this guy came over and asked if he could dance with me.

          I didn't feel any attraction to him at this point (physically I would have called him "okay" and his approach was pretty generic so I had no idea of his personality), but he seemed normal at least, so I thought why not, and said "Sure."

          Almost immediately after we started dancing facing each other (a couple feet apart), he grabbed my hands. This rang a tiny warning bell, because you don't generally hold hands like that while club dancing, so it indicated at least this guy wasn't totally up on normal behavior, but it wasn't creepy or threatening. I just pulled my hands back from his to show I didn't want to do that, and kept dancing.

          Ten seconds later, he grabbed my hands again.

          *That* is the point where I started thinking of him as being creepy. Because I had clearly shown I didn't want to do something, and he'd ignored that and tried to force the issue.

          Are there guys who could have gotten away with the initial hand grab, if I'd found them particularly attractive and they'd done it in a way that built on that attraction? Probably. But in that situation, I would not have taken my hands back, so they'd have known it was fine. No matter how attractive the guy was, if he'd gone for the second hand grab after I'd taken my hands back, I'd have found him creepy. And if the guy in my story had kept his hands to himself after the first time , I wouldn't have thought of him as creepy.

          Which brings us back to the point that it's not the testing of boundaries that causes problems (unless you push really far–if he'd tried to grab my butt after 30 seconds of no-contact dancing, we'd have been done right there–but same with any other guy), it's whether you push past them again after you've seen where they are.

          • Paul Rivers

            Not sure why this site is so bad at posting a comment to what was actually being responded to, but my response is below – was supposed to post here.

  • Paul Rivers

    Wow, I think your definition of creepy is probably the best logical explanation of the feeling I've seen so far.

    One of the reasons I say that is that it's one theory that explains the most fair and balanced behavior – like your story above, which is very sensible and well balanced – and fair. But it also explains the other end of the spectrum – for a status seeking girl, simply being seen in the proximity of a lower status guy is "threatening" to her – because it threatens her social status, or it pushes her boundary – and her boundary is not being associated in any way with anyone of lower social status than herself.

    This second one is an extreme…it's just interesting that your theory would describe it as well.

    • Astral

      An additional anecdote for consideration: Maybe it's just because I'm a geeky-ish artsy-ish intellectual, super-sensitive to crappy social dynamics and working hard to establish mutually respectable gender relations – but I've also made sure that I'm setting boundaries with the "higher status" guy, when he pulls creepy stuff, even if I am attracted to him. A particular guy I'm thinking of is actually a Hammer/Horrible combo: Hammer looks but Horrible-type actions and need for self-validation. He attracts a lot of people through his looks and charm but "keeping" is always something of an unhealthy scenario because like Horrible, he thinks he needs absolute control to feel validated and secure.

      Looking back, I can see he might have been lurking, but I just thought our paths crossed a lot because we had the same schedule and he liked to work in public spaces. When he started flirting with me, he was flirting with everyone so I didn't think a lot of it. We were kind of friendly acquaintances for a while but with sexual tension; either I had a boyfriend or he had a girlfriend for most of that time. He never actually propositioned me directly until about a month after he became practically inseparable FWBs with the woman in the next cubicle. And the way he did so was crass and public (in a way he could have been joking though) – and in front of a geekier guy. I called him on it and the other guy validated what I said to him.

      This wasn't the only time he crossed a line, and after a couple more creepy-ish things, I felt I had to stop hanging with him and his "higher status" friends. So, although I would have gotten involved with him had he been more single/respectful/not creepy (not that I'm sure he ever really wanted me for anything more than worship-validation) for me his attributes couldn't excuse the issues he didn't think were a big deal.

      This isn't the only example I have, but I'll refrain from writing a memoir…

    • Mel

      I'm glad my explanation made sense to you! I think it can be hard for people to pick apart exactly how these feelings work, because they are feelings and we're inherently subjective observers of our own reactions and behavior. But from reading and hearing a lot of other women describe their experiences, and looking at my own, it seems to me that's the explanation that works best.

      I suspect the most important thing for people to keep in mind (all people, because boundaries come into play in all human interactions–the status seeking girl in your example probably would feel uncomfortable hanging out with a woman she feels is lower status too!), in order to avoid resentment, is really just that everyone has a right to set their own boundaries, no matter how arbitrary or unreasonable they seem. I might think the woman in your example has kind of messed up priorities, and I'd never decide who I hung out with based on those criteria, but I'd fully support her right to follow through on those boundaries herself. If it means she wouldn't want to be my friend because I'm not "cool" enough in some way, oh well, lots of other people I can be friends with. You only run into problems when you start thinking of it as unfair. But it's totally fair, because if she does want to be my friend, I have just as much right to decide she isn't someone *I* want to be friends with. And the exact same thing if this were a dating scenario rather than a friendship one.

  • Sektos

    So, here's my opion on the Article – there's some pretty big mistakes made by Harris about what happens/is-shown in the Story and also plain interpretations based on own thoughts. Not saying his points on making a go of it & over coming fear is wrong, but maybe bends the source material (Penny) alittle to fit own interpretation, which we (including me) all do-

    * Captain Hammer started dating Penny (for a while atleast judging by montage) before knowing that Dr Horrible even knew her or liked her. And the whole opening Montage is about Penny "feeling rapture inside of me" about Dating Hammer and NOT seeing him act a douche. He even says he stick around to "bang her twice" because its nice, his own douchy way of expressing enjoying being a hero for the needy & dating Penny. She is thrilled and thankful for Hammer's help with her dream at the start of Ep.3. What she does see of his douchy behaviour is "Cheesy" but that she thinks he has layers beneath this (ALL of which could be partly true – He is being a Hero rather than Villian, arrogant & ignorant, but still trying to save the day)

    * At no point does Penny explicitly express interest in "Billy". Maybe im not as experience as Dr Nerdlove, but I never read any sort of hints with Penny's interaction with Billy outside of friendliness, which i know I and many friends have mistaken in past for romantic-interest from Girls.

    Only in opening to Ep.3 that there's a hint (though i'd say nothing beyond friendship really) that she likes Him when she's waiting at Cleaners with 2nd yogurt, BUT is singing about Captain Hammer & accepting it as a Happy Ending, though doubting due to her own bad history & him not being prehaps perfect. There seems to be another large(ish) length of time between 2 & 3, adding to the suggestion of Penny missing Billy who's been gone awhile, BUT again you cant read too much into that, and it simply being missing a friend she has gotten close to. Even when dieing she doesnt say anything close to liking him, but instead a final defeating moment for Horrible that She still, even though seeing the douche finally in Speech, trusting in Hammer to save the Day & both of them, adding to Billy also being responsible for her Death.

    Main point get at with this is to be open UPFRONT with how you fell and "see how cookie crumbles", which is never simple thing do in real life for most, but atleast you know where you stand and go from there. Problem is often want to get to know person more before date them, but, here's my bias from mine & (yes real) friends; you can very easily be seen as being uninterest & fall into "friend-zone" you could say- your own actions interpreted as being only "a friend" & all the issues that come from that later 😛

    Billy IS who she's looking for you could say, BUT instead sees Hammer as this for most part & that takes up her whole (viewable on-screen) romantic-interest in most of the episodes, she never sees Billy as this because her interest is taken up by Hammer (with Billy not stepping forward & being clear), leading to Billy thinking he has to be a truelly horrible Dr Horrible (also revenge against Hammer big part) to get her attention.

  • It's amazing how little attention NerdLove paid to this story.

    Billy did talk to Penny. So when NerdLove says all he needed to do was say something, anything to her rather than agonize over the right words, he's deliberately ignoring what actually happened in the narrative.

    He fortunately remembers that they did talk later in his "article", when he goes on to blame Billy for wasting away in Penny's friend zone rather than making a move. After all, NerdLove notes, she was obviously sending signals that she wasn't happy in her relationship with Captain Hammer.

    Yes, she's waiting for him to make his move while spending her time talking about what a great guy her current boyfriend is. If that's her idea of what a signal to make a move is, this woman is more damaged than has ever been indicated by her "life of disapointment".

    But yes, Penny was showing indicators that she was interested in Billy. Most notably, it is those indicators of attraction that Nice Guys the world over have been complaining about for time immemorial. Because those indicators were lies. Every time Billy prepared to voice his attraction and try to move things in the direction of a romantic pairing, Penny would instantly, and reflexively bring up her current boyfriend. That's called putting on the brakes.

    The real problem with NerdLove is that he's treating Penny as an object. To NerdLove, she's just a poor innocent victim that things happen to. This is most clear when he talks about her misattribution of arrousal when trying to come up with an excuse for why she goes for the obviously shallow, cruel, and self-centered Captain Hammer. The trouble is that excuse only goes so far. She was sure enough of her choices to fuck the guy. Hammer didn't rape her. She made a choice of her own free will.

    Meanwhile she strings Billy along, accepting his affection and conversation to supplement the intellectual and emotional needs Hammer isn't willing or able to meet. While NerdLove objectifies Penny as a pure victim, I preffer to think of her as a human being capable of detecting the painfully obvious. Billy's gestures were so over the top that the only way to not notice their tone is willful blindness. Penny knew what she was doing.

    And look at the goals of our three main characters. Of them all, only Penny got what she wanted. And how did she get her homeless shelter? By fucking Captain Hammer, then using him to strongarm the mayor into doing her bidding.

    Billy is better off with Penny dead at the end. She can't hurt him anymore. And even better, with her dead, he'll never have to give up the illusion that she was a pure, perfect soul or that she could ever have cared about him the way he cared about her.

    • WordyLibrarian

      This may be the most misogynist way imaginable to interpret this movie. If it was meant as satire, I'm sorry that I completely missed it. After reading it for the second time I feel a bit sick and I don't know if I can face reading it a third. I really think that Dr. Horrible at his most bitter would say that this is a warped and hateful interpretation of the story. I can't even begin to respond to this articulately. My entire brain is just screaming a resounding, "NOPE!" that keeps echoing. I can't begin to process the horror as a whole. It's like trying to view the entirety of a giant oak tree while standing at the base, only the giant oak tree is really more like "Nice Guy" Cthulu, dripping with liquid hate and oozing victim-blaming rage-pus, surrounded by a toxic cloud of entitlement fumes.

      The only character in the narrative WITHOUT a hidden agenda, the only one to DIE… is somehow the manipulative she-devil who got what she wanted when no one else did?! I'm not sure I agree she was still interested in Billy by the time they were talking about Captain Hammer. I haven't watched it in about a year so my recollection isn't perfect. I think she was open to the possibility if Billy ever opened his mouth, but IT DOESN'T MATTER. She never tried to string anyone along. She treated him like a friend, had no way of realizing his friendly interest in her was a cover for romantic interest, and the story makes it EXTREMELY clear that whatever issues the characters each have, Penny's are not in the manipulative, selfish, or unkind categories. I love this movie. I enjoyed the article immensely. This comment just made my brain make sound like a muffled explosion and now everything hurts.

  • Скорей всего

  • livendifferent

    I adore this shoe so much! A little bit obsessed, sigh. Great article and video, I think I've found another thing to nerd out on, thanks!