Dr. Horrible: Who is actually the bad guy?
Yes I know Dr. Horrible is a Villain. The guy’s goal is to get into the Evil League of Evil. I’m not naive enough to ignore this, but my question I’ve always asked people after viewing the mini-musical is this: who is really the villain in the story? Captain Hammer is also obviously the Hero, but that seriously isn’t encouraging. So often the concept of Hero and Villain simply boils down to someone’s perspective. Sometimes we see ourselves as the heroes in our story, with everyone else either assisting us or opposing us. Thankfully we don’t all break out into musical numbers reveling in the glory of our own self- inflated heroics. The opposite is equally true, where sometimes we think we are the bad guys, where everyone is against us and that we will likely never succeed. The reality of our status frequently doesn’t match up with how we see ourselves, and even more rarely matches up with how God sees us. It’s how he views us that truly makes the difference. The greatest villains in comics are the ones that think they are actually the hero. Often the greatest heroes are the ones who would never call themselves a hero. Even though Dr. Horrible was “evil,” he wanted social change, he wanted the world to be different, he had boundaries about doing things that would endanger innocents, and at the end of the day he was the one
that was unwilling to kill. In these ways he was more qualified to be the hero than Hammer. Yes, Hammer “stopped the bad guy,” but he was pretty much a douche’ about it. He was willing to kill without hesitation, inflict emotional damage for spite, and ignore the needs of the desperate. He may not have committed any crimes, but he caused more damage than the bad guy.
The same is true when it comes to our faith and others struggling on the same path. So often we paint this mental image of who the good guys and bad guys are, even within the church, but it’s rarely that black and white. Jesus paints a picture of another ambiguous duo of good guys and bad guys in Luke 18, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Verses 10-14)
We see the same concept with the one who is the “Hero,” the super religious guy who does everything right, and the “Villain,” the wicked tax collector who profits from the misfortune of others. Just like Hammer and Horrible, the labels aren’t as definitive as the heart and actions behind the title. The Pharisee, like Hammer, is the one people would publicly acknowledge and admire, but God sees the heart. It was the prayer of the villain, of a tax collector that was honored, brought about justification, and ultimately exalted by God.
Sometimes the moment that defines us as hero or villain isn’t just how we see ourselves, but in how we see others. Horrible saw Hammer as an obstacle, sure, an adversary, absolutely; but it was because he was in the way of his goals. Hammer saw Horrible as someone he could bully and torture and took pleasure in inflicting hurt on him. If we want to be the good guy, if we want to be the hero, then this can never be our heart. Sadly that’s the state of so many Christians. We elevate ourselves by tearing others down. We at times rejoice in others failures, defeats, and shortcomings because we look better by comparison. “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,” –
The moment we are excited to see someone in this life struggle, fail, or fall, we forfeit the “good guy” card. We are all in this struggle together, and the only thing that makes us good is God, so whenever we think we are better than someone on our own we are in a dangerous position for failure. Just like Paul warns “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – 1 Corinthians 10:12 As Harvey Dent so eloquently states in The Dark Knight, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Hopefully it won’t have to be on either one of those extremes, but maybe we can evaluate our lives to see what side of the battle we are on. Paul gives a simple instruction that could drastically help us. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” – Romans 12:9.
If we are sincerely loving others, hating evil elements in our lives and character, and desperately holding to the good God shows us to strive for, it’s hard to go wrong. It rarely boils down to someone just being good or a hero, or evil and a villain, but it does come down to us living our lives out in a way that we can stand before God knowing that we have given him our best, regardless of how the world views us. Because as Captain Hammer taught us, everyone’s a hero in their own way.