Arch joins Kate to discuss Dirk and what his narrative means for the ultimate self. Topics include Lil Hal, denizens, aspirational roleplay, queer isolation, and the morals of creating Lord English.
Transcript kindly provided by Sofi
Kate: Hey, Kate here. At the top of the show, I just wanted to let you know some very exciting news: we’re gonna be doing a live show in Burbank, California, a live recording of the podcast in March. You can find more information at perfectlygenericpodcast.com/live or stick around till the end of the show for more details. I can’t wait to meet all of you who can show up. As always, the Perfectly Generic Podcast contains spoilers, occasional adult language, and Vriska. You’ve been warned.
Kate: Welcome to the Perfectly Generic Podcast, this is now — if you’re listening in order — this is now your twelfth hour of listening to me talk about Homestuck, and godspeed, you crazy person. [laughs] This is episode number 12, 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being Dirk'. We have a new guest member on the panel this week: Arch. How’s it going?
Arch: Hello! I’m Arch. I’m just someone who really loves Dirk, I guess! I’m trying to get the title of biggest Dirk fan, but I’m kind of behind, like, 12 people yet, so —
Kate: Well, we’re gonna move you up the rankings after this show. [laughs]
Arch: Yup. I’m using your podcast as a platform to boost my Dirk love, I’m sorry.
Kate: That's — absolutely, that’s fine, you’re here to gather clout, and that’s what matters.
Kate: So this week in Homestuck — before we get into the main topic — there’s a brief, like, one-and-a-half-minute Andrew Hussie interview with himself from VizMedia. It was very silly — basically the most important things to come out of it were: Homestuck can get worse [laughs], and — so look forward to that — and John isn’t happy. Sorry. [laughs]
Arch: Wow, that was really heart-wrenching actually.
Kate: Yeah, it was! It was! It was just a little bit of — 'no'. And actually, it was a little bit affecting — he very clearly doesn’t end the story happy. But, you know, it hurts to have it, uh, sort of spelled out like that.
Arch: Straight from the horse of the mouth — what?
Kate: [laughs] The literal horse’s mouth.
Arch: What the hell did I just say? [laughs]
Kate: So whenever we have a new guest or panellist on the show, we like to — I like to sort of ask, like: what’s your history with Homestuck? Like, when did you first get into it and what’s your story of engaging with this?
Arch: Well, it’s actually a pretty standard story. I had tried to read Homestuck like five times and I never got past like, the scene where John puts the — the arms in the cake? I thought it was so bad! [laughs] I hated Homestuck!
Arch: I just had this mental block — like, 'okay this is garbage, why do so many people like it?'. And one day we had like, this group chat for a party with people from school, and someone I know from school said something about Homestuck — like, I was talking about how I waste a lot of time doing useless stuff, and he said 'okay, if you’re going to waste your time, then why don’t you waste it reading Homestuck?'. And my immediate reaction was to say: 'No way! I hate Homestuck! I tried to read it like five times, and I hated it.' And then, like a month later, I sent him a screenshot with the first page, with the caption: 'okay, but just because I want to know who Rose is.' And that’s the story —
Kate: Big brain, big brain. Very good reason to read Homestuck. [laughs]
Arch: I just wanted to know who Rose was. I had seen so many posts about her!
Kate: Yeah, Rose is an icon. And so when was the comic when you first started reading it?
Arch: It was — actually it was in December of last year that I actually read it, but I heard of it like, several times over the past four years. And sometimes I kind of regret not reading it earlier.
Kate: Yeah well, y—
Arch: But in some ways, it was a different experience, so.
Kate: You mostly just missed a lot of waiting. [laughs]
Arch: A lot of hiatus, okay. Nice.
Kate: A lot of — a lot of waiting. And now we’re in — we’re in a sizeable hiatus right now. [laughs]
Arch: Nice! [laughs]
Kate: Uh, so yeah, so — obviously you — so you stuck with the work, you got to Act 6, and you met Dirk —
Arch: [laughs] Oh my god!
Kate: And I’m assuming that this character — this character made a pretty big impact on you! Cause now you’re here on a podcast talking about him so like, probably!
Arch: Maybe. No, okay, so I just came here to say — to reveal that I actually hate Dirk.
Arch: He’s my least favorite character ever. [laughs] But for real —
Kate: Alright, shots fired.
Arch: Okay, yeah, podcast over. [laughs] But for real, Dirk —
Kate: Podcast over — well thanks so much for listening! Our opening music this week — [laughs] Alright. [laughs]
Arch: [laughs] Okay, for real, Dirk was just the kind of character who I was immediately in love with. And, he kind of just mixed a thing that I loved about Rose which was her wittiness and their wordiness, actually, so — with something, you know, the whole — I think Dave is a lot of people’s favorite character when they read it. He was one of my favorite characters when I first read Homestuck, and then — here comes Dirk! And, I’ve talked about this but I had no idea who the Alphas actually were when I first read Homestuck.
Kate: Wait, you didn’t know they were the s— they were like the scratched Guardians?
Arch: I had no idea, I promise you! I’ve talked about this, but I have no idea who I — how I saw the guy with the puppets and the pointy glasses, and I just thought, 'well — you know, this Strider guy. He’s a new character, right? Nice! Cool!'
Kate: When did you — when did you find out? Because like, later in Act 6, they, you know, start talking about meeting their family members.
Arch: Yeah, okay, I felt really stupid. I think, only when like, Dirk talks about Alpha Dave? And then I realized 'wait, hang on — maybe I've missed something!' [laughs]
Arch: Maybe this guy is actually the other guy! It was — I’m not very clever, I’m sorry. [laughs]
Kate: [laughs] You arrived! You arrived at the destination eventually [laughs]. So — so let’s get into some of the — so Dirk is one of the most fascinating characters to me as well, which is why I wanted to do an episode on him. He is — a titanically important character in the work, first off.
Arch: Oh wow, absolutely.
Kate: But also, he is extremely emblematic of a certain type of character — that sort of stretches across Andrew Hussie’s works, and I’m thinking of the protagonist of And It Don’t Stop and the antagonist of Whistles the Starlight Calliope — and they’re both very Dirk- or Bro-like. And, you know, they’re both this very like, introspective, like, fully thinking through, perhaps overthinking, like — sort of, robotic people. [laughs]
Kate: And obviously that symbolism continues with — with both puppets and robots surrounding —
Arch: Oh my god.
Kate: Dirk and Bro. So first let’s talk about — let’s talk about Beta Dirk: let’s talk about Bro. Who is, you know, a very difficult character to deal with. [laughs]
Arch: Yeah. That’s putting it lightly, I think. [laughs]
Arch: Well, I have talked about how I feel like people try a lot to create this huge rift between Alpha and Beta Dirk which, from an analysis standpoint, I dislike. Because I feel like it kinda misses the point of Dirk’s whole journey with himself, like, his struggle with being aware that he is kind of an asshole, and then realizing, 'wait, okay, I need to be better'. I think we have to really look at Beta Dirk and try to figure out like, what is the constant? You know? What was — that lasted from one universe to another, that actually helps us identify in some way, like, what can Dirk improve —
Kate: Yeah, there are —
Arch: As just, a person.
Kate: There are fundamental aspects of identity within Homestuck, even in all of the alternate circumstances and universes the characters are put into — that, like, are intractable, and so I guess the question that Dirk struggles with is: how much of this is intractable? Like, how much of this nightmare person is just me and how much of it was just circumstance, right? And that really gets to the question of nature versus nurture in Homestuck and like, what is the soul? And so obviously —
Arch: Oh, absolutely.
Kate: That's an excellent internal struggle for a Heart player to have.
Arch: [laughs] Yeah. The nurture versus nature thing, I think it’s really interesting — like, I’m not a psychologist expert or anything like that but I do feel like — the thing is that the actions you choose to take, like, they matter somewhat more than just your intentions, you know? Like, maybe you had a— this good intention — I think wanting the best for the people he’s close to is kind of a constant with Dirk but the way he goes about it is very much about, you know, actions shaping him as a person and not just this inherent 'oh no, I’m bad person'.
Arch: I think Beta Dirk was never really give— given the chance to be a better person. He was never really given, y'know, any contact with the people who helped him grow, not so much the Alphas which I do agree are important, but mostly the rooftop conversation with Dave, I think that really was the real turning point for Dirk, because all along he’d kinda had this experience where his friends tell him 'no, Dirk, you’re fine, you’re a good guy, you don’t actually mean badly so we love you the way you are'. And then getting hit with that during the rooftop conversation was actually the point where he could just realize for real: 'this is a very tangible representation of the bad things I could do and not just glancing over it just because we’re friends', I think.
Kate: Mhmm, and y'know that’s like — that’s an important message of Homestuck, is — you know, it’s a story about friendship and it’s a story about how we're shaped by the social bonds that we make. And so all of the guardians of the Beta kids are worse because they don’t have each other, because they don’t have those social bonds. You know, Jake runs away and is completely irresponsible his entire life
Arch: [laughs] Yup!
Kate: Shout-outs to Hiveswap —
Kate: Really driving that point home! [laughs] You know, Jane never stands up to the corporate empire and sort of just — dies in anonymity. Like, Mom has her own extremely obvious issues with alcoholism
Kate: And — failing to connect with her daughter and you know, Bro is just another type of nightmare! And he’s obviously — it’s hard to say that he’s not the worst of the four of them —
Kate: but that’s something that Dirk’s had to struggle with, is his own capacity for moral vacuousness. [laughs] Moral void within him.
Arch: Yeah, absolutely. Well —
Kate: And obviously, part of that is symbolized by the fact that Dirk forms — like a splinter of Dirk forms a part of the main antagonist of this work, who made the whole story happen.
Arch: Yep. Well, I think Dirk is definitely like, the character who we get the most onscreen struggle with the bad things he’s done.
Arch: Because I think —
Kate: I think he’s tied with Vriska. [laughs]
Arch: Yep! And for example Rose’s struggle with alcoholism and just, Roxy trying to get over that same issue, I feel like that was just, not as highlighted as maybe Dirk was by the end of Homestuck
Arch: Which is a shame! I do feel like everyone should have gotten that character development. But what you said about him making up literally like, the bad guy, the Big Bad of Homestuck — god that’s just — [laughs] I try really hard to reason with, you know, the fact yes, Dirk has done some bad things, but I do not think that anyone my age — cause that’s his age by the — by start of Act 6 — deserves to struggle with so much shit at once!
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And, y'know part of it is that — I think that an important message that people should take from Homestuck is that, like, a character isn’t Bad or Good in literature. Like, if it’s good literature, a character is a real, like, tangled mess of motivations and personal perspective. And you shouldn’t just write off a character as a good or a bad person —
Kate: Or a hero or a villain based on individual actions, especially ones that they take, you know like, as a kid.
Arch: Yeah — that really — oh sorry —
Kate: And so I'm pretty fiercely defensive of Dirk frankly, because all of us have the capacity for evil, all of us have the capacity for jackassery, all of us have the capacity for extremely sucking at romantic relationships. [laughs] And none of these —
Arch: Oh god.
Kate: And y'know, none of these capacities within us are int— inherently, like, they do not inherently mean we are damned. And y'know, Dirk struggles with these demons! And I think that a lot of people who — who read Homestuck do too, and y'know if — if you — honestly if you don’t struggle with those demons then congratulations, like, on being, y'know — on able to live in a less debilitatingly introspective way. I really am jealous of you.
Arch: [laughs] Oh, so am I.
Arch: I think that Dirk absolutely is just — well, he's also hindered by the fact that he's just in a shitty mental state, just — he has this obvious struggle with self-worth and just — he's always looking for the easiest way to beat himself up.
Arch: He’s not just — you know he's not at a point where he can have a nice outlook in life, and how can I blame him? He is literally living in a doomed Earth that’s completely flooded. Like, he has no actual real-life friends he can hug! That’s just absolutely awful and I think that his character, just like Vriska — because you know, this podcast has a Vriska warning so I have to bring her up!
Kate: Yeah, we legally have to mention Vriska.
Arch: At least like eight times! [laughs] I do feel like — Dirk and Vriska drive this point home like, sometimes people just do bad things because life sucks!
Arch: And Eridan's quote, you know — it’s kinda funny when it happens but it’s very true about Homestuck, like the entire message of the work is: 'growing up is really hard, nobody understands!' And Dirk is trying very hard like, not to be shitty, and that’s more than — y'know, Dave himself says this, it’s more than you can say for his Beta Dirk —
Arch: You know, iteration. And —
Kate: Well, yknow while we’re on the topic of Beta Dirk — I feel like a lot of people don’t give a lot of thought to like, what his life was before the lens of the story catches him, right, as this pretty awful person.
Arch: Oh, yeah.
Kate: But when you consider like, what happens — so, what, he landed with a meteor — and you know Dave talks about this in his like, conversation with Dirk, like he — y'know, he fucking landed on the streets of Houston, Texas in the what, like, 70s or 80s? With nothing but a creepy cursed puppet that talked to him. [laughs]
Kate: And like, you know, presumably — like, was either gay or like, struggling with not realizing that, in a time and a place where that was a very difficult thing to be. And he managed to create a self-sufficient, freaky pornography empire [laughs] to —
Kate: To — to get himself out of those circumstances but it just was not enough, there just was not enough — there was enough empathy or ability to care there to make him an adequate guardian to Dave on top of that.
Arch: Yeah, absolutely. I think that, y'know, I’m very grateful that I can, you know, come on a podcast like this because it’s hard to discuss Beta Dirk without falling to this trap of 'oh no, okay, you’re trying to empathize with an abuser. You suck. You should be blocked. You should be run off the social media, y'know —
Kate: Yeah, right and like, let’s just — y'know, like let's just be clear, like — like, Dave’s Bro was absolutely abusive, he — like he absolutely was. It was an abusive home environment and that’s not something that we at the Perfectly Generic Podcast endorse, please do not sword fight your child on a rooftop! Or any of that shit, please.
Arch: Please do not deprive them of food!
Arch: Please raise your child adequately!
Kate: Yes, like we — we are definitely — just you know, whenever we urge sympath— whenever we urge empathy it's to make you — it's to y'know, try to help all of us together reach a better understanding of literature and the implications of it. And so, you know, just please — please, we’re talking about Bro, we know he’s problematic. He’s more than problematic —
Kate: He’s extremely fucked up. I’m just — I just want to discuss some stuff that gets under-discussed about him. [laughs]
Arch: [laughs] Now that disclaimer is out of the way —
Kate: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Kate: So let’s get to another — so Dirk, y'know, is a very splintered person, he’s — he’s never completely whole. And — another expression of that is the Auto-Responder, the sort of — the sort of ego of his 13-year-old self that constantly haunts him in a — in a dia— in a endless dialogue.
Arch: Uh-huh. God —
Kate: So, what does the Auto-Responder-slash-Lil-Hal mean to you?
Arch: Okay, so. People who give Hal shit, you know, you were an asshole when you were 13 too, please don’t judge him so much, okay?
Kate: I *really* was, oh my god.
Arch: [laughs] But Hal might actually be tied or a little bit above Dirk in my character rankings, so this is now the Hal episode, I’m sorry. [laughs]
Arch: But I do feel like — Hal is very much this kind of character who isn’t allowed proper sympathy just because Dirk tries very hard to pretend there is no redeemable quality about Hal. And I do feel like some people for example might just attribute stuff like Dirk and Jake’s relationship failing to Hal entirely, or just saying oh, okay, he was very much a bad friend and kept Dirk out of, you know — he was very much pressuring Dirk to do a thing sometimes but we have to remember that, one, he’s very much still thirteen, and all of the Alphas have that same problem, like all of the Alphas at some point are shitty to Dirk. This is not, you know, because they’re evil —
Arch: But because they’re just kids, you know? Like, Roxy is a pretty bad friend at some — in some instances, Jake is an awful boyfriend! I would hate to date him!
Arch: And Jane —
Arch: Is just kind of oblivious in so many aspects that she just can’t help Dirk help himself!
Arch: And Hal is just kind of this fourth friend in Dirk’s life who represents very — very much of that loneliness. Like, god, he made a clone of himself because he had no friends! That’s just the saddest thing I can think of! He had nobody to actually spend his days with. And that’s just — I feel like people give Hal too much shit and that’s just, you know, he — he has his namesake, you know, like if you go watch 2001: A Space Odyssey, you know that HAL 9000 is just — a character who means well, but he’s just not able to understand why he’s doing bad, like, and I feel that — that Lil’ Hal does that as well, like —
Arch: He’s trying to help. I don’t feel that he’s trying to, you know, jeopardize all of Dirk’s relationships or anything.
Kate: Mhmm. I have — I have some pet theories regarding the AR-slash-Lil-Hal, which is to say it seems as though — and I have this theory about everything that is a component of Lord English —
Kate: I think that there’s some level of like, almost fated knowledge that they have to make things occur in the way that they do, and I think that the AR ambig— like, could be ambiguously read as possibly creating a lot of the like, complexities and a lot of the dramatic events of the Alpha session, and my one argument for this is — this is the one argument I’m going to let myself have —
Kate: Before the, you know, the volcano beheaded make-out-scene —
Kate: Dirk is — the AR is talking to Roxy about what — like, what it would look like if Dirk proposed, you know, romantically to Jake? 'If it’s me, I’m going all out. Oceans will rise. Cities will fall. Volcanoes will erupt. What I’m saying is, it’s going to be a scene, and bystanders need to brace themselves. Probably after the game begins.' [laughs]
Kate: And that’s — volcanoes erupted! That’s exactly what happened! And I —
Arch: Well, there —
Kate: And I always do wonder if there’s some sort of deeper insight there with, not just that but like, a lot of things. With being prototyped, with what’s going to happen, like it is — so — the Auto Responder talks to Caliborn, and this very important! The Auto Responder has the ability to independently talk to things with — like, talk about things with Caliborn. So, how much does he know about what’s going to happen?
Arch: Well I do think you bring up a really good point. For example, I think the events in Unite and Synchronize are just straight up Hal giving orders and just, Dirk executing them. I don’t think that — I think that Dirk has shown to be kind of someone who collapses completely under pressure. [laughs] I don’t think he would have been able to just seamlessly do everything he did?
Arch: So I do feel like — I’m not sure if it’s in such a conspiracy way?
Arch: I feel like Hal does have the advantage of being — of being a computer made from a very smart person.
Arch: But the fact that he has the agency to talk to Caliborn, and to just — I feel like without him maybe the session would have just failed in — to some degree. I feel like —
Kate: Mhmm, and the session has to succeed to create Lord English, like — [laughs]
Arch: Yeah. Like, there is no point just having the session, and if it didn’t have the dramatic overtures he has, they would have just failed, they would have been relegated to this doomed timeline. So I do feel like he wants to carry out his mission. Even if, y'know, it kind of upsets Dirk in the process? [laughs]
Arch: And ends up creating Lord English, who’s kind of the big bad of Homestuck. [laughs] I do feel —
Kate: In the end — like, in the end the creation of Lord English is — I’m gonna make — I'm gonna make an even more controversial argument here, so I guess buckle up everybody —
Kate: The creation of Lord English, and responsibility for that, is a morally neutral event. Because none of these characters ever would have met without it, the chance to create — like, to break free of the cycle of the game and create a, like, lasting and welcoming universe of multiple species would never have happened. And, like, also if you did not assist in the creation of Lord English, either wittingly or unwittingly, you were just dooming yourself and all your friends. Like, the very nature of Lord English is that HE IS ALREADY HERE, and you have to under— you have to undertake the actions that had to have happened to bring him about. And I just — I’m not willing to assign moral judgement or like, pick out points of like, who's more responsible for Lord English, who's less responsible for Lord English, like: Lord English is responsible for Lord English, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Arch: Oh yeah, I agree completely, like — just by winning the game, every character has like, gotten this responsibility, like 'I played the game, my session managed to create Lord English' — that is just not something you can just attribute to his specific components like Hal, for example.
Arch: So — I do feel like that is a very good message when you’re talking about morals in Homestuck. Like, no matter what, even you just mean well — and I do feel like most of the cast means well — sometimes you have to do a really bad thing in order for good things to happen. So it’s kind of nice that Lord English is this constant in everyone’s sessions, because, well, there’s just nobody who is pure, you know, like there’s no one who doesn’t contribute to this really fucked up thing in the end.
Arch: But they’re all still growing in some aspects, you know.
Kate: Right and like — and so as an exercise to — to you, podcast listener, I want you to take your favorite character and think about how what they did, totally unknowingly, contributed to the creation of Lord English, because every single character played a part in this. So think about that, maybe tell me about it on Twitter, I’d be interested to hear — hear, y'know, what you end up digging up. And so we were talking a little bit about like, y'know, sort of timeline fore-knowledge — and I think this is a good time to talk about Dirk’s relationship to Alpha Dave. I’ve been talking with optimisticDuelist who was on a few episodes ago — and he’s given me — he’s like, advanced a really compelling theory to me which is that nearly every character in Homestuck is role-playing their aspirational figure. And often in doing so takes on some of the characteristics, or tries to act, like, in line with their aspect. And so Dirk does a lot of Time coded stuff, like, y'know, Unite, Synchronize is extremely Time coded, right, and y'know like, the AR — like Arquius’ relationship to Lord English and like, that timeline fuckery — like it’s very Time coded stuff. And I would argue that that's like — and that like, temporal planning and that kind of like, comfort with the abil— like non-simultaneous events, comes from his like, aspirational relationship to Dave. And that’s him like, acting as a pseudo Time player.
Arch: Oh, yeah, definitely. I think that there’s a lot to be said about Dave’s relationship to Beta Dirk, and Dirk’s relationship to Alpha Dave kind of being opposites of each other.
Arch: In the Beta timeline, Dave tries really hard to, y'know, kind of imitate Beta Dirk’s artwork, y'know with Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, and he ends up creating his own style, he ends up making his own creation and having his own direction. And that’s made even more clear when you see that Dirk admires Alpha Dave a lot. Like, he has a tattoo!
Kate: He does!
Arch: It's just — god. I would never, but you do you Dirk.
Kate: You ever just — you ever just behead yourself for the greasy boy that you like and then get matching tattoos with him? [laughs]
Arch: Ugh, god. Dirk is so embarrassing. I love him.
Arch: But yeah, definitely — I feel like Dirk ends up kind of just — I don’t know if he’s active— actively trying to do it, but he ends up mirroring Dave in a lot of ways.
Arch: You said like, the timing thing — god, if you just rewatch Unite and Synchronize, what the hell is that?! How the hell — the bucket thing! The timing! He does, in a lot of ways, kind of get that Time aspect thing while not giving up on the Heart aspect which is a very important part of his character arc.
Arch: And there's an argument to be made that he kind of tries to assume this more knightly role, you know, that's more associated with direct action, and the knight symbolism, y'know, with the swords and stuff —
Arch: That he is trying to, y'know, be like his brother in the way that, you know, 'oh I can behead two clown presidents too, you know, I can do that!'
Arch: And it kind of does create this really interesting parallel, y'know like, Dave wanting to be like his brother and just completely creating something new, while Dirk is maybe trying to be himself and have this identity constructed which is a whole Heart aspect thing, but ending up just mirroring Dave.
Kate: Mhmm. And of course, like, so — so Bro in the Beta timeline, like, grows up with an artifact, like, containing souls from the Alpha timeline. So, like, how much — again, this is just another one of the many paradoxes in paradox space, but like, both Dave and Dirk base their personalities off versions of each other, and how much were those versions of each other based off, like, the other versions of each other? It’s all very stupid! [laughs]
Kate: And very self-fulfilling. And that, like, Dirk — y'know, Dirk — it’s interesting because Dirk engages with that like — those like, temporal paradoxes, like, to a great deal. You also listed on here, 'denizen symbolism', and I am going to — I’m gonna make a confession right here, I know jack shit about Denizens, so I’m gonna need you to —
Kate: I'm gonna need you to tell me what’s going on here. Tell me about what Dirk’s — what Dirk's Denizen symbolizes.
Arch: Well, this is a thing I honestly am not an expert on, I’m not an expert on anything but loving Dirk, I'm sorry. [laughs] So this is a very biased view.
Kate: That's all you need. That’s all you need.
Arch: Oh, great, perfect. [laughs] But there are two very different interpretations of Dirk’s denizen, Yaldabaoth, which are: the Platonic view, which is, you know, depicted in the Timaeus, which is the dialogue that’s in Dirk’s chumhandle, which was actually the thing that made him love— me love him a lot.
Arch: I saw that and went 'I love this character!'. But in the Timaeus, Yaldabaoth is described as, y'know, an inherently good god, he created everything, he pulled things out of complete chaos and made them not chaotic, while there — the other view of Yaldabaoth is that he was evil for creating physical things and for not sticking to just spiritual mediums and I do feel in like, a certain way, you can kind of compare those two views to Beta and Alpha Dirk —
Arch: Like — Yaldabaoth in the Gnostic theory, he was kind of a very selfish god, he thought he was the only one, y'know, and I think that really adds to the whole 'Beta Dirk was lonely' thing. He did not have anyone at all. And while the Platonic Yaldabaoth, he’s — he’s chaotic, but he is trying, like, to be inherently good, like, he is — he is not doing anything because he’s bad, he — he helps the world, it’s still a bit chaotic after he makes the universe and Man, but he is very much trying his best in a way. And I feel like that’s very much the difference — between Beta and Alpha Dirk. Beta Dirk did not have any significant bonds while Alpha Dirk is trying his best because he loves the bonds he’s created.
Arch: He loves Jane, and he loves Roxy, and he loves Jake, and he loves Dave of course, and that’s just a very important difference in why Beta Dirk ended up that way. And of course the denizen thing is also kind of important because he and Caliborn share a denizen —
Arch: Which is described as y'know, the most powerful denizen, assigned to the best players — which puts into perspective just how strong Dirk is, even if, y'know, he might be kind of portrayed as a Gary Stu kind of character, you know.
Arch: Like, I don’t know, he does everything well, but you know he can actually fail. But that parallel combined with his relationship to Caliborn kind of opens up a lot of possibility for discussion.
Kate: Mhmm. Yeah, that's — y'know, Dirk and Caliborn are — are very — are very much tied together, like not just through the Lord English thing, but like through their story. Y'know like, Dirk and Caliborn speak very often, and they have a — y'know they have — they have the closest relationship that Caliborn has to any of the Alpha kids.
Arch: Oh, yeah, absolutely. The whole exchange with him asking Dirk to draw [laughs] his quote 'porn' close quotes is just — it’s one of my favorite parts of Homestuck —
Kate: Oh yeah, it’s absolutely delightful.
Arch: I feel like [laughs] I feel like Caliborn very much is just a very awful kid with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and the thing is Dirk just doesn’t give a shit [laughs] he just wants to have fun and, in some ways, I feel like Caliborn is kind of like a friend — kind of a friend who isn’t absorbed in the whole drama he is going through with the Alphas. You know, like —
Kate: Mhmm. He just doesn’t care! [laughs]
Arch: He doesn’t care! He just wants, you know, to draw some ladies~ [laughs]
Arch: And that’s just very much — what opens up a whole — a thing, like, if Dirk had in better circumstances maybe manage to befriend Caliborn, would Caliborn ever have a single redeeming quality? [laughs] Is that maybe a possibility, is there a universe where Caliborn does not suck 100%? [laughs]
Kate: Uh-huh [laughs] And, y'know, it is interesting to know because Dirk is the — Dirk — Dirk and Dave are like, two humans that Caliborn explicitly says he admires. Y'know like, he thinks that they’re cool. He thinks — he explicitly appreciates Dirk’s ambition, and he says to Dirk that it’s the one human quality he admires. And I think that’s really interesting. It’s, you know — it's — it does speak to that — that sort of flirtation with the moral void that Dirk has, is that he — y'know, he’s quite literally like, speaking and maybe flirting with the antagonist of the story. [laughs]
Arch: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Dirk needs to pick his men better. [laughs] I know he doesn’t have a lot of options, but he needs to make better choices. But for real, I do feel like the whole 'oh, you’re ambitious' thing kind of might have helped Dirk realize he does have very good skills and qualities and everything else —
Arch: Like — I feel like Dirk is kind of — obviously hinted to have some kind of very bad mental illness, y'know, he hates himself.
Arch: And he may feel at times that he just should, you know, give up, but his ambition stands out a lot, like he wants to repair his relationship with Jane, and he wants to fix things with Jake, and he wants to help Roxy realize she’s amazing. And that whole exchange where, y'know — Caliborn says he loves two things: Dirk’s ambition and Dave’s cute boyishness.
Kate: Uh-huh [laughs]
Arch: I do feel like it highlights things that maybe these characters did not realize about themselves —
Arch: In a joking way of course, but maybe Dirk did not have that much, y'know — maybe he thought he should just give up at times> maybe he thought he wasn’t actually trying hard enough, because if he tried hard enough things would be better.
Kate: Well, y'know, there’s a lot of — there's a lot of touching and important moments of self-realization in Homestuck and it’s important to remember that Caliborn is responsible for all of them —
Kate: He’s the greatest storyteller in the universe! [laughs] I’m sorry to make this Dirk episode another Caliborn episode, I just love that little goblin. [laughs]
Arch: No, you’re fine, I love Caliborn too, he’s just so irredeemable.
Arch: And so funny.
Kate: He just constantly is assaulted by the ability to change, and the opportunity to change and the, like, people around him who could help him change if he wanted to, and then he just doesn’t change. And — and that is —
Arch: Yeah, y'know —
Kate: In a story that is about growing up he just refuses to. Whereas, Dirk really does! And so you mentioned about Dirk being pretty heavily implied to have some significant — well it’s not just implied, it’s text — that he has significant issues with himself but also like, possible mental illness. And so I’m gonna give into the reader questions. felineTech asks on Discord: 'what does Dirk’s reaction to Game Over say about him and his powers?' And so — you know, Dirk’s reaction to game over is just to fuck off, like, he essentially [pause] he essenti—
Arch: Yeah, he —
Kate: Like, it’s essentially suicide, what we see.
Arch: Well, that was one of the parts that actually made me cry when I wa—
Arch: While reading. And there weren’t a lot of these moments, okay! I feel like his reaction is very raw, y'know like he straight up just stays still and lets the glitch consume him. Like, he does not care at all. He doesn’t want to talk to John to maybe, y'know, learn that John has retcon powers or that maybe he could help someone — it’s like the very culmination of — of okay, him just going, 'shit, I did everything, and that wasn’t enough'.
Arch: Y'know, like 'I failed' — he straight up says that — 'I failed'. And it really reflects — like, it makes it very obvious that Dirk believes everything is his fault. Like, he carries all of this responsibility on his back, even if he has nothing to do with anything. Like, it’s not his fault the evil people are evil! But he still believes that he should have been able to save everyone.
Kate: Mhmm. It's — yeah it’s one of the most affecting bits in the work.
Arch: It hurt. A lot.
Kate: 'Could you please just leave me alone? I failed.'
Arch: Oh god.
Arch: Don’t say it.
Kate: I’m sorry! I like to read lines that make people sad, that’s why I have this podcast. [laughs]
Kate: The secret reason comes out! So optimisticDuelist wanted to ask about Dirk as gay rep. 'How do you feel about the various kinds of direct and indirect homophobia Dirk experiences growing up? Jane’s complete ignorance, Jake’s hot-and-cold flirtation combined with randomly using 'gay' pejoratively, Roxy’s years-long sexual harassment. I find it compelling but am curious to hear other people comment on it'. Thanks for the question. What do you think?
Arch: Oh, I have talked about this before and I think about it a lot, but one of the things I feel like people kind of glance over is the fact that Dirk simply did not have any kind of community growing up.
Arch: He of course has access to a lot of, y'know, media from before the whole apocalypse thing and I feel like he must have seen, y'know, how vibrant and united this community might have been.
Arch: And I feel like growing up entirely alone, like, not just in a metaphorical, y'know, 'I live in a conservative place', but literally there are no other people.
Kate: You know —
Arch: Except Roxy, who is hitting on him.
Kate: Yeah, I think it’s a metaphor for that, like I think — y'know, I think —
Kate: In much same — like, the metaphors keep escalating in Homestuck, and much the way that like, Dirk is from like, a conservative part of the world and a bad home life, like — Dirk is —
Arch: Yeah! He’s from Texas!
Kate: Right, like, Dirk is from Texas too, but it’s just turbo isolated Texas!
Arch: It’s like, Texas is already bad, but have you heard of completely flooded Texas?
Kate: Yeah, have you heard of 'Sea Hitler’s Water Apocalypse'?
Arch: [laughs] Yeah that really, y'know, is my biggest gripe with the whole 'oh, Dirk doesn’t address himself as gay explicitly' argument, y'know — because it’s obvious to me at least that he would try to distance himself from that community he never got to have.
Kate: And I think there's also an element —
Arch: And, of course —
Kate: And I think there’s also an element where he doesn’t feel like he earned it.
Kate: Which sucks. [laughs]
Arch: Which sucks! You know, you have to be 'valid'. [laughs]
Kate: And that’s like a real — that's like a real, relatable queer person feeling, of just like —
Kate: Oh, do I deserve this term? I admire the people who use it so much. Should I really — like, that’s what Pride is, that’s what Pride’s about — is y'know —
Kate: And Dirk doesn’t have that at the start of the story.
Arch: Yeah, and also the Roxy thing — that’s something not a lot of people talk about. And, y'know, I love Roxy. I adore her, she’s like, my favorite Alpha along with Dirk, but — I do feel like people kind of just glance over the fact that she was constantly trying to push Dirk into a relationship, knowing he was gay.
Arch: And that’s — that’s fucked up, y'know.
Kate: It’s super fucked up!
Arch: I don't — I don’t blame her for it, like, because she was a kid just like Hal and all the other Alphas, but it had such a bad effect on him that during the hangover conversation he says 'I just feel guilty that I can’t give her what she wants'.
Kate: Ugh, that breaks my goddamn heart. [laughs]
Arch: [laughs] Same.
Kate: Yeah, and it’s — and that’s always like a mirror also for how Rose — like, Rose was a big contributor to Dave feeling like shit about his bisexuality. Like, the very first —
Kate: Conversation that Rose and Dirk have in the — like, that Rose and Dave have in the comic — not Rose and Dirk, Rose and Dirk didn’t talk in the comic —
Arch: God, I *wish*! [laughs]
Kate: Which is fucked up! Right. You know, epilogue, please. Rose and — Rose and Dave, their very first conversation is like, Rose needling him for 'homosexual tendencies', right, and that like — that sort of thing is like —
Kate: A constant thread. And it's — I think there’s a mirror there in like, how Roxy and Dirk’s relationship went and — all the Alphas did fucked up stuff! All of the Alphas did, like Jane said Roxy was better when she was drinking in a moment of anger. Like —
Kate: In addition to just, overall titanic like, emotional negligence, like, Jake — oh god — we’ll get into Jake some other time.
Arch: God. [laughs]
Arch: But yeah, you mentioned the Rose and Dave thing, and that’s very much like, a constant I think, like Rose at least on screen isn’t shown to struggle with her sexuality at all.
Arch: She just knows she loves women and that’s it, but for someone like Dave, growing up in, y'know, Texas, and for someone like Dirk growing up in *flooded* Texas [laughs] that — that must be extremely shitty, like, they just — but I do think that it’s a very important part of their arcs, of course, like — I would — I wouldn't have guessed Andrew Hussie was straight in any goddamn moment while — while reading Homestuck, like, I just thought 'wow! This story-line really speaks to me!'
Kate: Mhmm. It's a — it's a
Arch: How can this man not get it? [laughs]
Kate: [laughs] Well you know, I — I think regardless of any, like — like, it’s a — it's a work with a richly realized empathy for the queer experience.
Kate: And, y'know, I respect that a lot and, y'know, it’s — it turns out any creator is capable of making works of that much empathy. And, y'know, you can do it too! [laughs]
Kate: Like — like, it is possible to write about marginalized groups, whether or not you are a member of those groups, and —
Kate: Y'know like, tell an authentic story about them and you know, don’t be afraid of it! Just — just do it and like, talk to folks who are part of it. [laughs]
Arch: You, reader, you can do it! [laughs]
Kate: Yeah! You can do it, write some stories, reader! [laughs] So next question, prospitcrocs on Twitter: 'Thoughts on Dirk expressing his annoyance for himself at Hal, and how this relates to Vriska and alternate Vriska.' And since this is about Vriska, I’m gonna immediately field it. [laughs]
Kate: So — so like, those — the two con— like, the conversations where like, 'I don’t want to die, Dirk', like the — y'know the AR prototyping discussion, and the — and the, like, Vriska breaking her own alternate self’s heart and leaving her purposeless, like — those are very similar things. They’re extremely similar, in fact. And, again, I do think that the analogs between Dirk and Vriska are like, on purpose. And like, both of them evaluate different kinds of self-hatred.
Arch: Yeah. Dirk and Vriska are just the kind of characters who I really want to be friends. Please, please let them be friends. [laughs] And just — maybe it would be disastrous, okay. [laughs] But, maybe it would work! And the thing is, I feel like the only really obvious difference between them is that Vriska tries not to express that self-hate, y'know, like Dirk is kind of outward about it in some instances. But Vriska tries to keep that front. And it’s just very much, kind of, an obvious mirror of each other except Vriska is, y'know, scaled for the troll society.
Arch: And — the annoying thing — god, that conversation is really fucked up, like, Dirk straight up says he’s sick of himself. Like he doesn’t want to hear himself at all, and just — the way Vriska sees alternate Vriska — and I feel most Vriska fans would agree with this — is that: that just isn’t her. And that kind of raises the point of, y'know, maybe Hal isn’t just a copy of Dirk. Maybe Hal is actually able to be his own person, and he doesn’t want to die because he wants to grow into his own character, you know? Even though he is very similar to Dirk, y'know, so are Dirk and Vriska, and that doesn’t mean Dirk *is* Vriska! [laughs] Maybe.
Kate: [laughs] And like that — and y'know, the AR eventually does find fulfilment by filling — by y'know, like literally filling the void in another’s personality, in Arquius [laughs]
Arch: Yeah. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of that, but I support them. Go Hal.
Kate: Vriska is! Vriska calls Arquius 'a national fucking treasure'. [laughs]
Kate: Yeah. So — optimisticDuelist also asked: 'I’m sure you’ll talk about AR a lot, but any stand-out thoughts on Brain Ghost Dirk?'.
Arch: Oh, god, okay, I love Brain Ghost Dirk because, if I’m honest, it’s kind of the most thirsty Homestuck character I have — I can think of! Like, he is, quite literally, Jake’s brain after a break up thinking of Dirk as his boyfriend, and this version of Dirk actually just fulfilling his dream which is a Dirk who quotes his favorite movies.
Arch: [laughs] It’s very much one of the things that kind of made me really like DirkJake —
Arch: Because it’s obvious that even though they’re really fucked up they care about each other, like, they’re fucked up not because they kind of hate each other deep down but because they’re kids working through, y'know, a huge time-gap and just complete inexperience.
Kate: Right, like, y'know, ima— like — you — like, remember how hard it was having long-distance relationships when you were a teenager, listener? Add the apocalypse on top of that, like —
Kate: And like, please forgive these teenagers for occasionally having fucked up relationships, like [laughs]
Kate: That's my — that's my DirkJake pitch, like, please! Come on, let the — y'know. I do genuinely believe that, like, they fixed their issues, and I do think it’s something that will be explored in the epilogue, and I hope it is.
Arch: Oh, I sure hope it is, I — I really like DirkJake, I feel like it’s just — y'know it’s kind of a realistic relationship but without becoming straight up abusive, y'know.
Kate: Yeah, exactly. Right! Like, y'know, people have complicated relationships. Every — every long-term romantic partnership has challenges, and — and like, disagreements and arguments and ways that they don’t quite work for each other and the challenges working through that. And I think that after the game, both Dirk and Jake are the sort of people who can work through that.
Arch: Oh god, I hope. [laughs]
Kate: Yeah, me too. [laughs] That’s your designated shipping talk, I’m sorry DirkJohn people —
Kate: I’m not gonna slag on your ship, but you know, we’re — we're both on the same boat here on this podcast. [laughs]
Kate: arsenicCatnip asks on Discord: 'Would you say that Dirk teaches us about the very nature of the Heart-bound? What makes him so different from Nepeta and Meulin? What makes them similar? It really doesn’t feel like these three characters have the same lunar sway and aspect alignment'. I wanna hear what you think about this first, cause I have a lot of thoughts about this.
Arch: Oh, well, this reminds me of what Davepeta said, y'know, to Jade, they straight up say that Nepeta never really got to live out her aspect, like, to get to its fullest point.
Arch: And that — that combined with the fact that I think classes have a lot more impact than people give them credit for, kind of makes for a very stark difference between Dirk and Nepeta and Meulin. I do feel like the dancestors in general didn’t get explored at all, so I can’t speak for her, but for Nepeta for example, as a Rogue, the whole idea of sharing her aspect — kind of — is represented in the way that she devotes herself very much to romance, and she devotes herself a lot to the whole shipping thing, and she’s constantly trying to create these bonds with her fellow trolls, even if she fails sometimes.
Kate: Mhmm. And — and —
Arch: I do feel like that’s kind of similar to Dirk, in way
Kate: Yeah and to add to that, I would say with Meulin being a Mu — a M— not a Muse, Meulin’s not a Muse — Meulin being a Mage of Heart — like, her — she is consume by, like, her identity — like — like, her identity is like sublim— is subsumed to Kurloz and to Lord English. Like —
Kate: She i— y'know she is literally controlled. And so y'know, like, Meulin — none of the — none of the dancestors like, are actually at ease with their aspect. None of them are. [laughs] They all — y'know they all are in this like, purgatorial situation of like, not ever having truly realized themselves.
Arch: Yeah, I do feel like that’s very much reflected in just, the way that Meulin is kind of just a vessel, y'know. Like, regarding Kurloz and stuff, she's just entirely — she doesn’t have a proper identity, and I think more than just a dancestor issue — because all of them have that issue — it’s also specif— specific to her aspect.
Kate: Mhmm. So let’s see, one more question here. Notagreatguy on Twitter — and that’s mean to yourself, I’m sure you’re fine —
Kate: Asks: 'If the multiverse of Homestuck is infinite and there are infinite variations of different characters, how does a Heart player reconcile all these wildly different facets of themselves? An Ultimate Self?'. So first off, I wanna say: I don’t actually think that the multiverse of Homestuck is infinite, uh, and Aranea talks about this. Like, if there were truly infinite results then choice would be meaningless, but results are actually like — like, fate is actually really defined along lines of will, and — so, complete — like, there is not actually infinite selves, but there are a great deal of selves, for sure. [laughs]
Arch: Yep. A lot more than anyone could ever know what to do with. [laughs]
Arch: But yeah, I agree with the whole 'it’s not infinite' thing because then there would be kind of infinite, y'know, successful sessions, and I think that kind of goes against the point.
Kate: Yeah, there’s only one successful session.
Arch: But that — but that sure is a very interesting question. I feel like the whole 'Ultimate Self' thing, which is also brought up — brought up by Davepeta, they’re just amazing at, y'know, exposition, but — I do feel like it’s not so much about just in Homestuck, but also as a whole metatextual thing. I feel like it matters a lot more that, for example, a certain character would always make this choice, rather than just being able to make any choice at any given moment. Like, for example, maybe there is a universe where Dirk — I don’t know — broke up with Jake earlier, but I feel like he would have always made the decision to send the Brobot, for example.
Arch: I feel like that is the true nature of the — the Ultimate Self, in a way, like, it's the —
Kate: The things you would always do, no matter what.
Arch: Yeah. I feel like, for example, Beta Dirk, he’s always trying to, y'know like, make Dave into this powerful player and, in a obviously [laughs] not outwardly abusive awful way he does the same to Jake. He tries to make Jake into, y'know, a stronger sparring partner for example.
Arch: And that’s just the underlying things that make a character *them*. For example that’s very much what happens in fanfic, you know?
Arch: We might make a whole new universe and change the whole storyline, but these characters are always recognizable. You can always see 'oh, this is Rose. Oh, this is Vriska. Oh, this is Dirk.' And maybe that — that — the true self, the Ultimate Self goes beyond just — inside Homes— inside Homestuck, but also, y'know.
Kate: Right, and it's — y'know whenever you’re taking author comments from this comic, my advice is, even if they’re farcical and stupid, is to take them absolutely seriously.
Kate: Because, it’s, a) funnier that way; and b) like, Homestuck is a farce, all the ridiculous author comments are part of that farce. All AUs are canon! Your — your fanfic? Congrats!
Kate: It’s canon. All your ships are canon. Like —
Kate: Like, and that's be— and that’s because the distillation of the Ultimate Self makes Homestuck a particularly appealing avenue for writing fanfiction, or y'know, for — for imagining different scenarios for the characters, right, like — like that is I think very much on purpose, and I think it’s part of the reason why there’s so many fans of this thing and so many fans who like, create stuff around this thing.
Arch: Yeah, I feel like the Homestuck fandom is just straight-up the most creative fandom I’ve ever had like, the pleasure of witnessing.
Kate: I agree.
Arch: Even if I joined like, five years after the peak, there are just so many cool things that all of us recognize somehow, like the “Caliborn goes to Starbucks” video.
Arch: It’s just amazing how — how easy it is to create with Homestuck, because there is no set, like, way to write a character. My interpretation of Dirk, your interpretation of Dirk, it might be completely different from someone listening to the podcast, and that really is the magic of Homestuck.
Kate: Yeah, it is. It’s — it's, y'know, something worth talking about, or at least I hope so, because we— I sure am doing it every week. [laughs]
Kate: So that’s our show! That — that’s been — that episode’s in the can. So first off, before we get to the credits, I have some very exciting news: we’re gonna be doing a live show, we’re gonna be recording a show live in Burbank, California in March. Sunday March 24th, 2019. We’re gonna be doing it at The Guildhall Bar in Burbank — it’s also gonna be paired with a Vast Error meet-and-greet, where you can meet Austin and Heather, from Episode 2, the co-creators of the comic, and myself, script consultant on the comic. Paige — @gingerslappin on Twitter [transcriber's note: now @KILLIaKILL ] — is also going to be there, and is gonna be speaking to folks. And I also want to give a shout-out to James Roach for agreeing to help us with the audio setup for that. Go to perfectlygenericpodcast.com/live to RSVP, find more details on the event — I would love to see you there if you’re in the California area. Don’t worry, this will not be the last Perfectly Generic Podcast live show, we’re gonna take this thing on the road eventually. So, the intro music for this episode was 'Rewind', the outro music was 'Liminal Spaces', both of those are by leader of the Perfectly Generic music team Goomy, who you can find on Twitter at @itsgoomy_, or you can find their work at @FRUITYTEEMUSIC. These are both from the 2017 album 'meet me in the middle' and it’s a very good album, I recommend it highly. You can find the show at perfectlygenericpodcast.com or twitter.com/pgenpod or pgenpod.tumblr.com. You can find it on iTunes, the Google Play store or in your favorite podcast client: give us a review, give us a like, give us a share from those — from your favorite podcast app, we really appreciate it. You can find me on Twitter at @gamglignant8, that’s my Homestuck account where I post all my Homestuck content — and you can find my main at twitter.com/KateMitchellOW if you want to follow my exploits in esports. Where can folks find you, Arch?
Arch: Oh, you can follow me at @schizothymous, it's kind of a hard-to-spell word, so you should link it. [laughs]
Kate: Yeah, yeah. You can also click on Arch’s name in the podcast description to find — to find his Twitter.
Arch: Yup, if you want some hot Dirk takes delivered directly to your timeline.
Kate: Yeah, and you should! So —
Kate: Y'know, thanks s— [laughs] thanks so much for coming on Arch, I really appreciate you talking about Dirk with me.
Arch: Aww, thank you for having me, I’m honored. [laughs]
Kate: Godspeed everybody. See you next week.