It's always easier to write about pop culture than philosophy . . . so I guess I'll indulge in random analysis of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (as of Acts I and II â€“ caution, spoilers follow.)
At first it seemed like a totally unique genre-bender: a super-villain story instead of a super-hero story. But in retrospect it seems only natural. The revival of the whole Dark Knight tradition in comics and films shows that the difference between heroes and villains is exceedingly fine. In fact, every superhero franchise in recent memory â€“ Batman, Spider-Man, X-men, Hulk, Dare-Devil, Hellboy, Buffy, Angel â€“ all feel obliged to explore the dark side of their heroes and the moral ambiguity under which they operate. So it seems only a small step to cross the line and start with a "bad guy" with a good nature, instead of a good guy with dark side.
Neil Patrick Harris plays the introverted geek well . . . almost too well. When Penny approaches him to a get a petition signature, I was expecting the usual "guy makes fawning idiot of himself" routine . . . but what we get is something slightly different. He's interested in pleasing her, but not nearly as interested as he is in not appearing desperate. His attention wanders to his geeky exploit at hand. Even the facial tics . . . boy, he's got weird loner down pat. The effect is interesting . . . we sympathize with him, but we also witness with agonizing frustration how he's missing the human connection. And what ultimately redeems him for us is when his humanity pops out naturally and unbidden, totally outside of his consciousness. He doesn't even know how decent a human being he is.
The only reason the Big Bad of the show is "Bad Horse" is to give Joss an excuse to make a silly song in a Western style. Showoff.
I gotta hand it to Joss for his pioneering use of contemporary language. Anyone who can use the word "dork" in a heartfelt song is on the cutting edge.