Any dolt with half a brain can see that humankind has gone insane. — Dr. Horrible
I tried to hide my satisfaction when Janet ordered the burger. I was thrilled she had placed such trust in my recommendation, and I was trying to play it cool, but it was difficult — this was Janet’s first time at Starlite, and her looking to me for menu guidance made me feel empowered. I was so caught up with glee when she took her first bite and declared my suggestion a success that I didn’t think to conceal my grin.
Each of us was reaching for our quarter of the toffee ice cream sandwich when the subject came up. This time, it was David who found a way to steer the conversation to its inevitable point — had they heard of it? Upon glimpsing the first micro-expressions that disclosed our friends’ ignorance of the subject, David and I lit up like a couple of born-agains presented with sinners in need of saving. Like any couple with a higher calling, my man and I were impatient to usher our friends to the light. We professed the greatness of the subject with which they were unfamiliar, stressed the altruism of our mission.
“You have to come over now, tonight,” said David, seeking to close while emotions ran high. Andrew hesitated. He was on the tail end of an ear infection and had to be up early in the morning. David began to push, but I recognized a more effective path to sealing the deal and seized it. “Forget about tonight,” I said with nonchalance; I pulled out my iPhone and tapped the calendar icon. “We’ll set a time that works best for you.” Once I’d entered their names into my calendar for Saturday, I returned my phone to my purse and beamed. “I can’t believe you haven’t seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!” Janet and Andrew agreed not to look it up online — their introduction would be uncontaminated, and I was being trusted to administer it.
When it comes to developmental benchmarks, I’ve always been a late bloomer. I was 15 when I got my period, 19 when I lost my virginity, both years later than most of my peers. Throughout grade school, my friends nursed obsessions (mad crushes on Donnie from New Kids on the Block, a veiled appreciation for the Teletubbies). To be into something is to adopt that thing’s philosophy, what it stands for; its very essence. In this area, I bloomed early — for most of my fifth year of life, my parents tell me, I would only answer to “Wonder Woman.” My memory is vague, made up mostly of the Underoos in which I lived. That costume, flimsy as it was, was enough to make me feel like the strong, pretty lady on TV. Once in my star-spangled panties, I could even imagine myself with blue eyes.
Comic-Con showed me the extreme to which “into” could go if I had continued my Underoos habit into adulthood. Sure, I could quote every line from The Color Purple, but it had never occurred to me to try to assume Shug’s, Sofia’s, or Celie’s identity. I didn’t go to Comic-Con for the comics; I had no interest in figurines, lectures, or autographed posters. I went to marvel at the throngs of geeks, at the ingenuity of cardboard and polyester costumes, the diligence of each wannabe Wolverine, and the faithful emulation of hundreds of other characters I didn’t recognize. I appreciated their dedication.
Janet and Andrew arrived at our place on the appointed evening. Nervous with anticipation, I forced myself to relax while we nibbled Manchego and sipped Cabernet. A week before, I’d screened the show for my father — things hadn’t gone exactly as I’d imagined they would. Dad was more confused than enthralled, more disconcerted than amazed. And this from the man who once told me he thinks there’s something inherently wrong with anyone who doesn’t like musicals. In my mind, Dr. Horrible was the quintessential musical. I wanted my friends to have an experience like mine, only enhanced by my behind-the-scenes knowledge.
As we took our seats on the couches, I gave Janet and Andrew the spiel I’d given Dad, a few others before him, and soon to be just about everyone else I know. “This was made by the guy who did Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.” I didn’t mention that I’d never seen an episode of Buffy, or that I’d only watched Firefly online as a result of my newfound obsession with Dr. Horrible’s supreme creator, Joss Whedon. “They wrote and shot this during the writers’ strike — all the people involved donated their time, and they made the whole thing available online for free. How cool is that?”
What I said next was risky because, depending on the audience, I stood a chance of coming across a tad bit obsessed. But these were trusted friends, and I knew if anyone could understand what it’s like to be gripped by something wonderful, it was a couple who collect Dunnies, those multiple artist-designed rabbit-y toys that happen to be featured at Comic-Con. “When David and I drove back from L.A. last weekend, we blasted the soundtrack and sang along. And when it was finished, we looked at each other and decided without a word to start it over and do it again.”
I breathed a sigh of relief at the lack of judgment in their faces. I smiled goofily. The moment was at hand. “Ready?” I pressed play. During the title sequence, I said, “Wait until you hear what a great singer Neil Patrick Harris is.” As the story unfolded, it became increasingly difficult for me to refrain from singing along. I pressed my lips together and stole glances at my friends, checking to make sure they got this joke or caught that line. Janet was a step ahead of me — she pointed out details that I hadn’t caught in countless viewings, like the first-aid poster on the wall in Dr. Horrible’s lab.