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Old 02-15-2017, 09:49 PM   #1611
Mage of Mind
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Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Land of Thought and Melody
Posts: 3,153
Man. I've taken to rereading bits of Homestuck and I'm so impressed by the way Hussie wrote the story.

tl;dr: It's basically just me and Jeri who actually care about basically any of this but if you, too, wish to talk about Homestuck as literature, FEEL FREE TO KEEP READING.

There's a lot of material towards the end that relates to obligation and choices. It's actually quite powerful. I guess if I could describe it analytically, I'd say "the meaning of choices in an RPG as it relates to life in general." Obligations, paths forward, choices we make - in games, we always pick the option of doing something. Finishing quests and making decisions. Life's a lot more nuanced than that.

Spoiler: show
ROSE: I wonder if our young parents are like this?
ROSE: I wonder if I will ever find out?
ROSE: And what should I do in the meantime?
ROSE: Should I...
ROSE: Should I really work on completing my personal planetary quest?
ROSE: That whole thing where I learn to "play the rain?"
ROSE: I guess I should feel exhilarated to have the chance again after all these years.
ROSE: Of course I should.
ROSE: But then,
ROSE: Why does it sound like such a drag?
ROSE: I haven't played the violin in a long time.
ROSE: I wonder if I even remember how.
ROSE: Honestly I can't recall ever feeling less motivated to satisfy a looming obligation.
ROSE: I think my quest was fundamentally bound to the nature of this land, which was customized to the profile, needs, and potential for growth of a thirteen year-old girl.
ROSE: But I'm not that person anymore.
ROSE: What if I
ROSE: What if I just
ROSE: Didn't bother doing it?
ROSE: Like, ever?
ROSE: Would anyone notice my dereliction?
ROSE: Would the powers that be strike me down where I loaf?
ROSE: What if I just said fuck it?
ROSE: What then, silly pink tortoise shells? Hmmmm??

And later:

Spoiler: show
ROXY: and ive got to say john
ROXY: this is starting to feel an awful lot like the end
JOHN: the end?
ROXY: yeah
ROXY: whatever the end of the road feels like
ROXY: has gotta feel like this
ROXY: maybe we should just
ROXY: admit to ourselves this is probably what its like when you find yourself in a timeline where everything went wrong
ROXY: and you know it means youre doomed
ROXY: and the only thing left to do is face the fact you have to ride it out into nothingness
ROXY: stop worryin so much
ROXY: and try to let it go
JOHN: you mean, like.
JOHN: ...
JOHN: what do you mean?
ROXY: i mean
ROXY: accept that we lost
ROXY: admit that the people we wanted to be with
ROXY: the life we always wanted
ROXY: it was never gonna happen
ROXY: except maybe in the afterlife
ROXY: our friends are there
ROXY: callies there
ROXY: my mom is there
ROXY: why shouldnt we be there too
ROXY: why not just
ROXY: let the doomed timeline work its gloomy majyyks
ROXY: and slip away into nothing with the rest of this mess
JOHN: ...

The easiest comparison is to the trolley problem in philosophy - the ethical concept of choosing to not make a choice. Things happen in the MSPA universe whether Rose Lalonde completes her personal quest or not (and indeed [SPOILERS!] in the end she chooses not to "play the rain." We will never know what that would have meant, or how it would have helped her develop in her abilities and her identity. And yet, the universe continues.) This is known as "absurdism" - the concept that the universe is fully deterministic and that it follows neat rules...which is why things don't really make sense to us as humans.

Homestuck takes absurdism to the next level, however, by establishing the universe as NOT fully deterministic. It's explicitly a story that was written to take a certain shape, and characters keep interfering with the fabric of it depending on their level of power. Vriska tears the storyline away to look at her. Calliope and Caliborn jerk the story around with wild abandon, and Caliborn (as the most powerful character) seems to be able to manipulate the universe itself, dumping glitter and sugar into the cartridge and glitching up everything.

The universe does follow strict rules, and it is unpredictable, but it's fundamentally a little different because people in the story have an influence on the way the story goes. I cannot control if tomorrow a car hits me, since it's related to events I don't understand or control (the car was invented, the road was built, the person had a full life leading up to that moment, I had a full life leading up to that moment, our ancestors, etc.). In Homestuck, it could be for a lot of other reasons. Someone could randomly hit me with a car for the sake of the story rather than because my path and the path of the driver happened to cross at that moment. In Homestuck, cars may not even have existed until the point where I was hit by one.

The key similarity, though, is that I am helpless in this situation, as most characters are (besides Calliope, Caliborn, Vriska, Terezi, Gamzee, Meenah, and all 8 human characters, all of whom exert some degree of influence over the story).

And so it's in this context that we have to try to understand the absurdist questions that Homestuck poses. What if I don't participate in the story?

Homestuck gives us an answer, thankfully:

Spoiler: show
VRISKA: Are you really so far removed from reality that you can't see it?
VRISKA: Did this... "transform8tion" happen so gradually that you just... didn't notice?!
VRISKA: I find it hard to 8elieve, and frankly more than a little distur8ing, that some version of me could let this happen to herself without 8eing at least SOMEWHAT aware that a dreadful decline of personal integrity was taking place.
(VRISKA): I'm not a loser though!
(VRISKA): I LIKE who I've 8ecome.
(VRISKA): I actually feel happy and good a8out my life for the first time in... may8e forever??
(VRISKA): Like, ACTUALLY good a8out my life in a way that feels real, instead of forced. Don't you realize that's what it was like for us?
VRISKA: You don't have a life!
VRISKA: You're DEAD, remem8er?
VRISKA: I'm the one with the life!
VRISKA: And I fully intend to use it in a relevant and constructive way to help 8ring an end to all the horri8le shit that's 8een going on for way too long.
VRISKA: Remem8er when you used to care a8out that sort of thing?
VRISKA: No, o8viously not.
VRISKA: All you care a8out now is 8ullshit hipstery fashion trends, feeling "happy", and... whatever the fuck it is you're doing here?
VRISKA: Frolicking with some horses in an ugly field or some shit.
VRISKA: Just a8solutely disgraceful.
VRISKA: How could I have 8ecome so selfish??
VRISKA: You do know this is selfish, right?
VRISKA: This isn't having some fucking "epiphany" or like "growing as a person" or whatever self-serving spin you might 8e putting on what's happening here.
VRISKA: It's just plain narcissism, the worst kind you're capa8le of. A total renunci8tion of any responsi8ility for contri8uting to the gr8ter good.
VRISKA: And it makes me FUCKING SICK.
(VRISKA): No, that's not what it's like!
(VRISKA): You don't understand. You haven't...
(VRISKA): Like, 8een through...
VRISKA: 8een through WHAT?
VRISKA: I've 8een through plenty. Don't get p8tronizing with me.
VRISKA: How did you die, again?
VRISKA: Weren't you 8eing stu88orn and insisting on going off to fight Jack, even though that was o8viously an ill-conceived plan that was going to get everyone killed?
VRISKA: There it is again, making it all a8out you, even when trying to 8e heroic. You let that need 8lind you and you did something really stupid, 8asically leaving NO OTHER OPTION 8ut for you to get killed.
VRISKA: So since you started your journey as a ghost with that little feat of self-a8sorption, is it any surprise that after however many pseudo-sweeps floundering around as a lost soul, THIS is where you end up? A shamelessly self-indulgent, punk-ass NODY?
(VRISKA): W8... are you saying you didn't try to go fight Jack?
(VRISKA): What happened? How... how are you the version that's still alive? I don't...
VRISKA: Different shit happened!
VRISKA: And from that point on, I started making 8etter choices, unlike you.
VRISKA: Contrary to your lazy fakey "happy" shit, I've ACTUALLY GROWN AS A PERSON.
VRISKA: What do you think of THAT, you frivolous, dithering 8ITCH????????
(VRISKA): !!!!!!!!

It's a little cliche to say that Homestuck follows the philosophical concept of "making your own meaning," and it's not completely accurate either. It's a lot more nuanced than that. In fact, Vriska is confronting (Vriska) about that concept. (Vriska) has meaning to her life. She's happy and comfortable. If your life goal is to just find meaning, what is the fundamental difference between Vriska and (Vriska)?

And yet they hate each other. They are polar opposites. And as Vriska says...she's recessed. Fallen. Become a "shamelessly self-indulgent, punk-ass NOBODY."

Similar to Jade's earlier feat of self-confrontation, she's realizing that the person she would have become, if she'd just done whatever she wanted and ignored her duties and obligations, is a person she doesn't want to be. Jade was overcome by despair and helplessness. Vriska sacrificed her identity to find respite from pressure and guilt. Both of these are very forceful, active personalities (and that's probably why they were chosen to meet their "other-selves" rather than more passive characters who probably would have turned out more or less the same - John meets other-selves all the time and simply notes that they seem more naive than him, but there's no soul-searching element to it).

This is just scratching the surface of the literary merit that Homestuck has to offer but it's something that I was sort of thinking about recently (Not sure about the direction of my degree or career). Who do I want to be? What do I have to do? While it's not exactly as CLEAR as what Sburb would have offered me, with magical tomes and odd puzzles and enemies and worlds that need saving, goals and life paths do exist for me, as they do for everyone.

Odd that A:TLA philosophical questions show up in Homestuck as well ("You need to start asking yourself the important questions: Who are you? And what do you want?") but I guess it's a.) a recent enough philosophical question, what with the rise of individualism in the modern age and b.) a natural enough question that lots of literature would ask it.

Fun stuff to think about. If you ever needed to know that I have a screw loose and look for meaning in children's cartoons, here's your Exhibit A.
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