‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog’ and the Significance of a Writers Strike

Picture this: the newest season of your favorite show, set to come out an excruciating two years from now, is delayed even further. Or worse, fully canceled. The late-night shows you so dearly love fade away to reruns. Now Dr. Horrible is here to make you quake with fear.

Ironically, Dr. Horrible likely has the opposite effect in this instance. What am I referring to with these media cancellations and delays? You guessed it, the writers strike. 

According to Variety, “On May 2, the Writers Guild of America called for a strike after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers fell through.” The strike continues today.

There are several grievances writers and their supporters wish to have addressed. At a protest outside of Netflix headquarters, Michele Mulroney, Vice President of the WGA West, put it simply: “If you’re a working writer who’s creating content that makes billions of dollars for the studios, you really should be able to feed your kids, pay your rent, support your family. That’s pretty basic stuff.” She went on to elaborate that the writers are hoping for strong and fair contracts, just like their director peers.

 Variety later discusses “concerns that massive structural changes in the way television is produced are part of an effort to marginalize the voices of writers in the creative process.” In an age of big business and AI technology, working-class writers are taking this opportunity to deprive the studios of the writing they desperately need to keep their finances and projects running, until the writers’ absence is recognized and their needs are met.

This is not the first time the word wizards behind the film and television we know and love have taken to picketing and protesting for better conditions and salaries. Several other Writers Guild strikes have taken place, the first occurring in 1960. The most recent predecessor to today’s strike occurred from November 2007 to February 2008. And thus, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” was born.

Filmmaker Joss Whedon has seen the success of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “Serenity,” and “The Avengers,” among other projects. But what does a creative such as Whedon do when a writer’s strike takes place? “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” was born of idle creativity and available actors. Instead of utilizing a studio during the strike, Whedon produced his supervillain musical short film on an inordinately low budget and released it on the internet.

The story follows Billy, otherwise known as Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), an anti-hero, Doofenshmirtz-type endearing villain. Dr. Horrible vlogs about his villainous exploits, often getting sidetracked by talking about his crush Penny (Felicia Day). Dr. Horrible’s cheesy, superman douchebag nemesis Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) also attempts to romance Penny.

So aside from a quirky premise and some Hollywood veteran involvement, what’s so special about this little project? In 42 minutes and 25 seconds composed of three acts, “Dr Horrible” will leave you laughing, crying, and tipping your hat to its creators. Neil Patrick Harris delivers a charming performance, complete with impressive singing vocals and quippy one-liners such as “Oh, goodness, look at my wrist, I gotta go!” Captain Hammer and Penny are cheeseball central, but isn’t that the beauty of a passion project short film?

Whedon proved the value of writers at a time when writers were undervalued. His success on this project continues to be relevant today, as writers continue to be insufficiently compensated. He illustrated the beauty of creativity and the vitality of entertaining scripts to the watchworthiness of a film or series. Thus, this writer also implores to support writers, pay workers living wages, and not underestimate the power of a freeze ray. It’s a brand new day.

“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” is available to watch on YouTube.

By Risa Bolash

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