Reconstructivist Art: Dr. Horrible

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Joss Whedons’ Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008) as an example of Reconstructivist Art

To avoid crossing picket lines during the 2007 Writers’ Guild Strike, writer/director Joss Whedon kept busy by producing a fully independent, musical miniseries about a villain’s-eye view of a comic-book world. The result, starring Neil Patrick Harris, was released in three parts on the internet, to critical acclaim and widespread popularity.

(1) Nod to Artifice: The movie is framed by the conceit that it is a series of video blog entries being posted by an aspiring super-villain, while the use of the phrase “Sing-Along” in the title foreshadows the embrace of the artificiality inherent in any musical –that being the tendency of the characters to burst into fully orchestrated songs in the middle of mundane events.

(2) Classic Structure: The compressed plot combines a textbook romantic storyline with an inverted version of the superhero genre’s traditional “origin story” narrative.

(3) Transcontextual and Iconic Elements: The main characters, with the exception of the female lead, are all parodies of standard iconic comic book heroes and villains, the Mad Scientist, the Henchman, the League of Evil, the musclebound Superhero, and so forth, but as transcontextualized into a more contemporary, realistic and character-driven setting than is typical for the genre.

(4) Moments of Genuine Emotion or Significance: The movie’s unexpectedly stark ending, although broadly melodramatic, still manages to carry the emotional weight of tragedy and the intellectual weight of an honest examination of what success looks like for someone for whom evil is an aspiration.

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