Sarah Zedig joins Kate to talk the politics of Homestuck and Hiveswap. We discuss Beaver Bother, crying, Tyzias, memeaganda, Snowbound Blood, the Spanish national police, Eridan (sorry), Crockercorp, Zebruh-shaming and Ronald Reagan’s furry status. Also, Kate wins an image hosting beef ten years in the making.
Kate: The Perfectly Generic Podcast contains spoilers, occasional adult language, and Vriska. You've been warned. LA area fans of the podcast are invited to join us for Pgenpod Live at the Guildhall Bar in Burbank, California, Sunday March 24th at 6pm. Find out more at perfectlygenericpodcast.com/live.
Kate: Advancing the practice of Marxism-Hussieism — this is the Perfectly Generic Podcast. I'm your host, Kate Mitchell, and I'm here with Sarah Zedig this week. How you doin', Sarah?
Sarah: I am doin' well! I'm very tired, how are you?
Kate: I'm *so* tired as well, I'm so tired. And now I'm gonna talk about politics for an hour.
Sarah: Hell yeah!
Sarah: It's 2019, let's do it!
Kate: [laughs] It is current year!
Kate: Alright, so when somebody new comes on the show, the first question that I ask them is: how did your life go in a way that —
Sarah: That went wrong.
Kate: You're now on a podcast about Homestuck?
Sarah: Yeah! The first question you always ask is: so what went wrong? Yeah, I — so —
Kate: I guess first off you should introduce yourself, actually. Who are you?!
Sarah: I guess I — yeah, who the fuck am I? I'm Sarah, I do my own sort of competing podcast, competing in the sense that it's the same medium, but it's about being trans and questioning. It's called the Trans Questioning podcast, it's kind of hard to connect those dots, I know. I also do a YouTube show called 'Let's Talk About Stuff', where I talk about stuff. I'm really big on sort of oblique titles. I've recently —
Kate: You could even say that they're fairly generic titles!
Sarah: Oh! Yeah, that's a good — I like how you just sort of came up with that, off the cuff.
Sarah: But my most recent video that I did, at time of recording, is about the politics of the McElroy brothers, and that's sort of blown up a bit. Just a touch.
Sarah: It's like, 150,000 views or something.
Kate: Uh-huh, so nothin' fancy.
Sarah: Nothin' too fancy [laughs]
Sarah: Just like six hundred people tweeting the McElroys begging them to watch it, which is like. Please don't!
Kate: Please don't do that. Please don't do that.
Sarah: Yeah — but yeah, so I did that and I am notably sort of a Homestuck fan. I've got like Homestuck paraphernalia on my backdrop. In my previous video I had a little extended bit and the next big video that I'm working on is generally just a why you should read Homestuck video.
Kate: You're out here evangelizing.
Sarah: Yes I'm evangelizing. Some of your prestigious listeners may have heard of the Donkey Kong 64 nightmare stream that hbomberguy did in —
Sarah: Late January? That raised however many hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity and it had AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and a bunch of other people on. I was on it too, and it was my priority to yell at Harris Bomberguy about Homestuck. Which I did. And my favorite part of that was that it was like, late at night, and a few people — I'd already been on once, I was just sort of listening, and a few people were — like Jim Sterling was on it and a couple other people were on it whose names I didn't know, and the people in the chat I guess were talking about Homestuck and I was annoyed that they're doing the sort of casual dismissive thing that people who aren't fans of Homestuck always do. So I like, jumped into the chat, 'cause he didn't have anybody monitoring voice chat at the time —
Kate: I swear to god, when you tell people that you read Homestuck it's like — it's genuinely like you just walked up to them and said like, I'm big into inflation porn!
Sarah: Right! So literally, like I jumped into the voice chat, and I said, hey so I hear y'all are talking about Homestuck and I'm a little pissed that you didn't invite me. And then Jim fucking Sterling is like, okay, it's time for me to go!
Sarah: [laughs] And then I told Harris about sort of the premise for this video that I'm working on, and he's like, well maybe you'll be the one who finally convinces me to read it! Like, he said that pretty earnestly. So I've taken that as a fucking challenge —
Sarah: And in my video I'm going to like clip that bit, so that no one can deny that he enabled me in this terrible thing.
Kate: The real question though — the real question that I have for you, is how do I beat beaver bother?
Sarah: It's impossible.
Kate: [laughs] Alright.
Sarah: If we learned anything from that fever dream — that three day fever dream, is that beaver bother is impossible to beat.
Sarah: You just — you look away at some point and you turn back and it's *over*.
Kate: Well thank god for that.
Kate: So —
Sarah: Yeah, how did I get —
Kate: Now that we know *who* you are, and that you can't help me beat beaver bother either —
Kate: How did you get started with — what's your history with Homestuck?
Sarah: Yeah, so in, I wanna say — I read a lot of webcomics when I was in high school, which like 2004-2008 — I actually remember reading Problem Sleuth back when it was going on. I do not remember a single thing about it, unfortunately. I remember when Homestuck started, and reading a bit of it, but at that time I was sort of — like, real life things were happening and I kinda stopped reading webcomics as much. So I didn't keep up with it and — I dunno, I think I tried to start reading it a number of times over the years, and I think, like a lot of people, had a tough time getting through just Act 1.
Kate: [laughs] Yeah.
Sarah: And that seems to be the sort of trial by fire for a lot of people. But I — even though it's really good! I — just like, two years ago I had a friend who encouraged me, like he'd just finished reading in time to — finished reading in time for Act 7. And he encouraged me to finally start reading it and so I did. And it took me like, three or four months to get through to the end of Act 5, and then I got through the entire rest of the comic in like three weeks. And ever since then it's just been a thing that I constantly think about because it has — like, also like a lot of people, Homestuck has sort of dug into my brain and burrowed out bits of like actually relevant knowledge and like life skills —
Kate: It's got this — as us SCP Foundation writers would call it — it's got this cognito-hazardous property.
Kate: Where it just slowly replaces your normal person thoughts with thoughts about Homestuck.
Sarah: Yes, exactly. I was talking to my girlfriend last night, and crying — because that's what I do — and —
Kate: [laughs] Big mood!
Sarah: Big mood, yeah.
Kate: Like this — hey, go ahead and like, comment and share this episode if you also cry.
Sarah: [laughs] Exa— yeah! Yeah. I was crying about stuff and she like reassured me that — 'cause I was like, I'm so emotional and I have such a — y'know, whatever, and she's like, no you're more emotionally mature than I am, and that's not a weakness, that's a strength. And I realized — I like, connected a dot, where it's like oh wait, so I've classpected myself as a Mage of Blood and I explained to her what the fuck that means, and it's like I should have put it together that it's not that like, there's the one standard way to be as a human being that makes you successful, it's that I have a certain set of skills that I'm good at that make — that are like my weaknesses and strengths. And it's like, through Homestuck that I was able to understand that in my own way. So that kind of, I think, just shows the train wreck in general.
Kate: This is part of what I've liked about Homestuck, which is that there are, y'know, like — fundamentally Homestuck is like, superhero media basically.
Kate: But like, there's two kinds of power in Homestuck. There's that traditional like, flashy, oh I make supernatural shit happen power, and then there's social power. Like, the kind that Calliope has or the kind that Karkat has, or the friend leader energy that John has —
Kate: And I love that concept of social power, and I mean like the whole aspect of Blood is based around exploiting and using that social power. And that brings us to the thing I *really* wanted to talk to you about, which is you just finished Friendsim, and so we need to talk about my favorite Blood player of all time: Tyzias.
Sarah: Oh, sweet Tyzias. Oh — I [sighs very deeply] so during — you'll have to forgive me, I've noted down everybody's names, I do not have the — I've spent the last nine hours, literally from dawn until this moment, finishing Friendsim, and I still had to skip a few 'cause I'm trash [sic].
Kate: You've been in Aysha's troll holl.
Sarah: Yes, exactly. What the fuck — what's the little one's name
Kate: If you — just say some sort of defining fact about them and then I'll have a name for you.
Sarah: Oh, Tirona! That's the one.
Kate: Yeah, the meme goblin.
Sarah: In Tirona's — yeah [laughs] oh *god* yes. Memeaganda, like I wrote that in giant block letters 'cause that terrifies me as a concept, 'cause it's true.
Kate: It does! Well yeah, it really should, yeah.
Sarah: But in their section, when you're having to sell out people — or you have all the options and Tyzias is on there, I literally considered for the first time like, maybe I just won't finish this one.
Kate: I — me *too* dude!!
Kate: Literally I was like, I don't wanna *do* this! What if the bad ending is I fucking narc on Tyzias?!
Kate: I like, couldn't even do that in like a fictional experimental concept —
Kate: But obviously Tyzias, brilliant that she is, had another fuckin' plan.
Sarah: Yeah. No, I love Tyzias and I —
Kate: Her office password's 69, she's got nudes in her computer and her praxis is better than yours.
Sarah: 100 percent. And she — just, her entire energy of just being like perpetually exhausted in this like, intelligent calcu— I love the line like, you gotta give them something 'cause you don't want them to think that you're just like this naturally.
Kate: Yeah [laughs] I've never been called out harder!
Kate: Like I told Lalo, like you've called me out so incredibly hard with this character, that like — I'm actually — I'm kind of personally upset at you [laughs]
Kate: And it's — 'cause it's — well here's thing, is the idea is, if you live in a system like Alternia's you're either exhausted or you're like — or you've given up.
Sarah: Yeah. It seems like — Friendsim generally just paints a really fuckin' bleak picture of Alternia! In like, some hopeful ways it fleshes things out, but it just really hammers home the trauma of it.
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it — in that way it also does exactly what a good bit of like, prequel additional material can do, which is that it expands in an interesting and empathetic way on the circumstances of the trolls from Homestuck. I know personally, like, after understanding more and learning more about the cultural expectations on jadebloods, like it made Kanaya's character more interesting to me.
Kate: And the overall murderous, oppressive, just like seemingly hopeless situation of Alternia made characters who responded to that brutality with violence, like Vriska, a lot more sympathetic as well.
Sarah: Yeah, I — all of the bluebloods generally helped me understand Vriska better, which I think is a maniacally villainous thing for a story to do, but it works!
Kate: I think the point of all stories should be to make you understand Vriska better.
Sarah: [laughs] Yes. I'm sure Hussie would agree with you!
Kate: Yes! He would!
Kate: Vriska did nothing wrong ever in her life, she's a victim of an oppressive system.
Sarah: Of course. Yes. I am on the Homestuck fancast, so I will not contradict your opinion here lest I face the consequences.
Kate: The whole point of this show is for people to come on and contradict my opinion, and yet —
Kate: And yet ever since Andrew wrote that book note about Vriska never having done anything wrong and me being a hero for thinking that, nobody wants to fight with me about it any more!
Sarah: The word of god has been spoken.
Kate: Yeah! [laughs]
Kate: No but seriously, like Vriska is a character that is designed to get your goat, and that is the thing that I like about so much of Homestuck, is how much of it is designed to kind of piss you off.
Kate: Like it's very — it's reader hostile.
Sarah: Yeah, that's the term that keeps comin' up. And I think to an extent that's part of — definitely one of the things that I'm puzzling over, is I'm trying to figure out how to recommend Homestuck to people who are nominally healthy.
Sarah: Which is like — it is a story that sort of resents you for reading it at times, but that's also part of the narrative, it's so complicated and it's so good. I've had a number of people on my Discord who started reading Homestuck and have like, gotten through it, over the last like month or so. And what was interesting was them getting to sort of the predictable milestones of Act 5: Act 1 and then various bits of Act 6, and just feeling like, I don't get it and I don't like it, I really hate how this is changing the story, and then afterwards being like, I *loved* that part of the story.
Kate: Yeah, exactly. Like, the first time I read through Trickster Mode, I was clicking through like oh god I —
Kate: What is happening, I hate it! And now I've done like, a fuckin' whole episode on it 'cause I love it so much.
Sarah: Yeah! It's like everything in it that feels flippant and sort of [sighs] off-hand is measured in a way that kind of pisses me off as a storyteller.
Sarah: 'Cause I just — there are so many feats in Homestuck that I just don't understand how a human could do it.
Kate: Yeah absolutely, it's a monumental work. It was described by the author in the Washington Post as a shitpost epic.
Sarah: Yes!! That's 100 percent right! [laughs]
Kate: Right! It is epic poetry for the internet age, and it speaks the language of the internet. The oft infuriating, oft encrypted and often like, bewilderingly unfocused language of the internet.
Sarah: Yes. 100 percent.
Kate: Oh man. And I was also thinking today about how Homestuck in some ways descends from what's termed outsider art, or folk art.
Kate: In that it is so deliberately unconcerned with quality sometimes, to the degree of like — and also it sheds light on these, I think, perhaps embarrassing aspects of internet culture that don't get explored in media very much, and I'm talking about roleplay, I'm talking about furries, I'm talking about like, drawing pornography for your friends. Like —
Kate: [laughs] Like it explores this whole language that's spoken by people who grew up deeply ensconced in the internet that is just *not* looked at by most media.
Sarah: No. And it — there's a lot to be said of kind of the edgelord attitude of early Hussie and early Homestuck in some regards, and like his evolution — and I know a lot of people who've been turned off by the way that certain characters speak, the use of the r-word and various other behaviors — and I'm not like a defender of those things in the abstract but I also, as someone who was terminally online at the time that all of this was being written, I can speak with authority when I say that like, this is how people on the internet talked at the time.
Sarah: And even though I didn't read it as it was ongoing, I saw —
Kate: I work in esports!
Sarah: Sure, yeah!
Kate: In this industry that I'm in, that's how people talk *now*.
Sarah: Yikes. Yeah.
Sarah: [laughs] That doesn't surprise me. And like, I didn't read it as it was going on but when I was reading it I could tell how — when things were like — when things had been published, just by how certain aspects of language changed. 'Cause I could see it sort of linearly reflecting how internet culture was changing. And so while it is sort of a much much less offensive but still sorta kind of offensive iteration of the like, Mark Twain problem, it's still — it's accurate, y'know, like it's accurate to the time and it's a depiction of a culture that legitimately exists and explores it with so much sympathy and criticism.
Sarah: And there's so many characters who I hate but that I also love —
Sarah: Because I understand them!
Sarah: It's so — I — yeah. I don't understand Homestuck because it shouldn't work.
Kate: This is why I love Caliborn, because you see a hundred million Caliborns every day on the internet.
Sarah: [sighs] Yes.
Kate: Caliborn is the Homestuck subreddit.
Sarah: Wha— oh god! [laughs]
Kate: Like, genuinely — I genuinely have this — like the two cherubs are very clearly like two aspects of the Homestuck fans.
Kate: And they take over the story after the author insert is killed.
Kate: So like the second part of the story is about like, the part of the conversation that the fans have, right? And Calliope is this extremely earnest, sincere like fanwork-creating, like, gay shipping like part of the fandom, and Caliborn is like the reddit and 4chan readers.
Kate: Who basically do not like Homestuck very much —
Kate: Despite reading Homestuck. [laughs]
Sarah: Yeah — classic fandom problem of people who don't seem to like the thing that they are obsessed with.
Sarah: I — this is something that I'm coming back to, is I'm trying to figure out how to articulate what Homestuck is to people, which is the fact that like the Big Bad and the Big Bad's big, good opposite are the polar extremes of people who exist online in fandom spaces.
Sarah: And that to me feels like the ultimate descriptor of what Homestuck is. Because it's a story exploring, among many things, like fandom, and the politics of it and the identity of it and all of these interlocking elements of existing online and in fandom in this absurdly complicated weave of nonsense clown jokes.
Kate: Yeah. I think as part — and I mean, y'know the clownery is very important as a part of it.
Sarah: Yeah, of course!
Kate: [laughs] But like, genuinely I think it's very important that Homestuck is written in the second person narrative 'you', carrying over from the author's past works, which are like a text adventure. Because Homestuck is in many ways like — it feels sort of like a thing that you play and a thing that you beat. Like it is a challenge, and —
Sarah: It is!
Kate: And you inhabit various characters over the course of the narrative. I have described Homestuck as a work where *you*, you the reader, the narrative you, is the protagonist, and Homestuck is the antagonist.
Sarah: That's — I like that a lot. [laughs]
Kate: And honestly I feel like the work supports that read in a number of ways, which is like, our main characters end up getting trapped in a literal house —
Kate: In some way after the end of the events of the story, during Caliborn's Masterpiece. Like, in the Homestuck logo thing.
Kate: And also, this read was like expanded on in Hiveswap Friendsim, where the 'you', the concept of the reader of Homestuck, was personified and given a unique character and a story line.
Sarah: Yes. And then just miserably manipulated.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah —
Sarah: [groans in emotional pain]
Kate: Friendsim is sadstuck actually.
Sarah: Yes. No, I like — I less than an hour ago finished the epilogue and I like, my [sighs] I felt my chest deflate.
Sarah: That stole my heart and I felt so bad, and I know that I have orchestrated the downfall of whatever revolution everybody was planning, and I'm just so scared for the future of that world! [laughs]
Sarah: Even though I know where it's going to some extent. But like —
Kate: Absolutely, but we don't know what's going to happen to that group of trolls.
Sarah: No, exactly.
Kate: Probably some bad stuff, would be my guess.
Sarah: Yeah, "bad things" seems to be a safe guess.
Kate: Yeah. If you're a character in Homestuck you don't have it easy, just as a sort of a general rule.
Kate: It's — as if I couldn't hate Doc — like I thought I couldn't hate Doc Scratch any more —
Sarah: [deep pained sigh]
Kate: And then the ending — I mean the ending of Friendsim put, I think, like as a force of villainy, this idea that no one actually cares about you, you don't actually have the capacity to make friends. Like —
Kate: Like that sort of like impostor syndrome idea is that like poisonous concept that Doc Scratch tries to fill you with. Ugh I hate it. Doc Scratch is every like — whereas like, Caliborn is this representation of like, y'know just like dumbass like, toxic channer idiots, like Doc Scratch is the insidious manipulator on the internet.
Kate: The one that hurts you.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely.
Kate: I hate him so fuckin' much.
Sarah: Yeah, I — he's the worst.
Kate: He's the best-written antagonist in modern fiction, and I fucking hate his guts so much [laughs]
Sarah: [laughs] Yes.
Kate: Right, so we got — I got a *little* off line here, we were talking about Friendsim. I was gonna talk at the top — I used to do this every week, when there was stuff going on, I used to do 'This Week in Homestuck' at the top. We are in our little — our moment of just dreading the future, because the ten year anniversary is coming up. This is actually — this is one of the last shows before the ten year anniversary, and I was —
Sarah: Oh wow!
Kate: I haven't planned anything for after —
Kate: 'Cause I don't know what's gonna happen, you don't know what's gonna happen.
Sarah: There's just gonna be a meteor that hits and the world will not be changed.
Kate: Right, it's like, I'm not willing to make any Homestuck plans after April 13th, because I'm just prepared like, for either nothing to happen or for our shit to be completely wrecked. [laughs]
Sarah: Right. Yeah.
Kate: But, this week in Homestuck, I'm gonna go ahead and talk about *my* shit for a little bit.
Sarah: Hell yeah. Hell yeah!
Kate: Yeah. Because we were just talking about Friendsim, and Friendsim was something that really affected me. Friendsim was the thing that like, brought me back into the Homestuck fandom after so long away. Like I was a day one reader, I had some fanart in 2009 on my Flickr, because you used to need to host images somewhere!
Sarah: UGH YEAH. I used Photobucket.
Kate: Yeah. I didn't — I was never — I was always a Flickr partisan, not a Photobucket user.
Kate: And that's good, because now my pictures are still there —
Kate: Whereas presumably yours aren't.
Sarah: Nope! [laughs]
Kate: [laughs] So I guess I win that one, huh Sarah?!
Sarah: Yep, you won that one Kate —
Kate: Two years on!
Kate: Alright. And so — and I loved the unexpected empathy and the fact that this series of loose vignettes ended up to be this story thing. So I work on a little webcomic called Vast Error, with my friends —
Kate: And it is a — it's one of the oldest Homestuck fan works, and the oldest one I believe that's still in progress. It was started on the MSPA forums in 2011, so it's turning 8 in a week.
Kate: And we are — to celebrate its eighth anniversary we are launching a game. We are doing — we're making a visual novel that's sort of inspired by Friendsim and also sort of inspired by like, Ace Attorney and shit, about a hot lesbian. So y'know.
Sarah: [gay noises]
Kate: Get in. [laughs]
Sarah: Hell yeah. I'm about that.
Kate: Yeah, and you can find out more information at the Twitter @SyndicationVE, or vasterror.itch.io where the game's gonna be available for download. Volume One's gonna be on March 22nd. I'm really looking forward to this, it's — y'know, basically I was like, you know what's great about Homestuck and Vast Error and like, let's just make also — let's tell a mystery story about a 45 year-old trans lesbian on top of that.
Sarah: *Hell* yeah.
Kate: Yeah, 'cause y'know you can just — as it turns out, when you're a writer you can just *do* that.
Sarah: Yeah you can just write about whatever.
Sarah: There's no laws.
Kate: They just *let* you! They just let you write about whatever the fuck you want! That's the thing that you should really take from Homestuck, is that you can just write whatever the fuck you want.
Sarah: Yeah I was just about to say, if they let Andrew Hussie make fuckin' Homestuck, you can do whatever the hell you please.
Kate: Yeah. You can do literally whatever. [laughs]
Kate: And also this week, this was something I wanted to talk about because I have a broader point to make about it.
Kate: But the Spanish national police tweeted a GIF [pronounced jif] of Karkat and something about online security or whatever.
Kate: And it made me think a lot of thinks. [laughs]
Sarah: Yeah. I don't — [sighs] so the surface read obvious— it seems obvious to me that they don't know shit about Homestuck, they just did like — the just found a GIF [pronounced gif] of Karkat that they felt like was relevant to the thing that they were Tweeting. Oh yeah, phone security, make sure you know your password or whatever. But it's still jarring in a way that I'm having a hard time understanding. It feels wrong.
Kate: To see — yes. Like to see the symbology of any sort of radically weird independent media be co-opted like, not just by a company, not just by a government, but by specifically the fucking *cops*?!
Kate: Is profoundly unsettling.
Kate: Like, and that's the thing, and so I wanted to use that to sort of start to address one of the more common questions that we got from people who maybe are listening to the wrong show, which is: "why talk about politics in Homestuck?"
Kate: And I genuinely like — if you think that, I don't — I genuinely — like, where have you been?! 'Cause we've been doin' this for a while now.
Kate: If you think that Homestuck is too trivial to have politics, first off you need to redefine your understanding of what politics is, and second you need to maybe, I dunno, not listen to my show.
Kate: Like it's fine, it doesn't have to be for you!
Kate: [laughs] But like, here's the thing, is that whether you acknowledge something as a political instrument or not, it's going to be *used* as one.
Kate: Anything popular is going to be used as a political instrument, even if it's something as seemingly silly as a police Twitter account using a GIF [jif] from it.
Kate: Like everything you do has politics, but not only that, like of course a creation myth that like, has some of the like — that very specifically directly engages with issues of political representation and issues of diversity, like — like Homestuck touches *everything*. Like Homestuck is an ambitious work that covers a wide variety of shit. And a lot of it is deeply political.
Kate: You have a whole character whose whole aspiration is the installation of democracy on a universal scale. [laughs]
Sarah: Right! It's hard to know where to begin here. I — so my most — might as well just play the first ten seconds of my most recent video, 'cause the whole point of that is, hey everything is political. And I think there's a temptation to be like well I just enjoy this thing and I don't wanna think about — like, don't ruin it for me.
Sarah: Which, if you're thing can be ruined by a conversation that you had about it, it must not be very good then —
Sarah: Is my sort of hot take. But yeah, the idea of — I mean, just examining Caliborn as a character and how misogynistic he is and how just so many of his things — and just a furtive glance in the direction of YouTube and I think one could easily spot a few lookalikes.
Sarah: And their popularity and the vast legions of people unquestioningly following them sorta speaks to the potential political ramifications of a work like Homestuck. Not in the sense that it was like, a cause, or even that it was necessarily intentionally although in this case I do think it is. But it's reflecting a reality that is political, therefore the story can be read as deeply political.
Kate: Yeah. And I think Homestuck did start as a work that was not particularly concerned with its political implication.
Sarah: Oh yes.
Kate: And then over the course of becoming the most paid-attention-to and talked about work of independent media in modern memory, and attracting a vast conversation that included a highly diverse group of fans —
Kate: Like, over the course of that it reckoned with the knowledge of having that platform, and actually acted in an aware way about the political implications of what it was doing. And has only continued to do so more and more as the years have rolled on and additional properties have been added to the universe.
Sarah: As I was saying earlier, how I could read the evolving language of the comic, it's very clear how it becomes more aware of the political environment that it's in. And it's — [sighs] I've been trying to figure out like a leftist read of Homestuck for a while and there's so many different things one could say, it's kind of deafening. The fields are fertile and there's so much seed to sow — to reap. There we go.
Kate: Absolutely. I think fundamentally the leftist read of Homestuck just comes down to like, I don't know how to tell you that you need to be empathetic to other people! [laughs]
Sarah: [laughs] Yeah, that's a pretty good way to put it, is hey maybe you [audio cuts out] have agency, and you should respect that? I don't know.
Kate: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.
Sarah: Hey, maybe we should make a better world for ourselves and everyone else, LITERALLY.
Kate: Sounds pointless, I'm gonna go team up with the big evil guy and destroy the Matriorb because I'm a conservative incel asshole named Eridan Ampora. Hello. Hello listeners, please '@' me, I'm @gamblignant8 on Twitter.
Sarah: [laughs] But he's a metaphor for the Obama presidency didn't you say?
Kate: Oh right, we did have to bring that one up. Aysha asked a question [laughs] we have to bring up that Eridan is a metaphor for the Obama presidency because it's false hope —
Kate: And also Vriska is a metaphor for Vriska.
Sarah: Of course!
Sarah: I have the meme pulled up and I can't believe that this is a thing that was meant — this feels too parodic to have ever been meant honestly.
Kate: Why don't you go ahead and read it and I'll put stirring background music behind this.
Sarah: Ohhhh hell yeah. Okay. "I still think his character arc is an allegory for the Obama presidency" — here of course referring to Eridan. "Think about it. The supposed Prince of Hope knocks out Sollux (bipartisanship), and betrays Feferi (social welfare programs) and Kanaya (the LGBT community) in order to suck up to the fascist murderbeast Bec Noir (the GOP) — "
Sarah: "Who feels irrational loyalty to Jade (**Reagan**) — "
Kate: [laughs increasingly hysterically]
Sarah: [struggling not to laugh] "A figure whom Noir does not truly know or understand and whose actions have often directly contradicted his stated ideals and goals. Eridan then goes to confront Gamzee (the increasingly dispossessed and disillusioned middle class) and Vriska (Vriska) with the intention of eliminating them as well while his past self has made futile attempts at flirting with Karkat (true leftism). It just makes too much sense. Secret, because I don't want to imply that Andrew Hussie wants queer voters to engage in the democratic process with their chainsaws in this coming election."
Kate: I think maybe he does! [laughs]
Sarah: [laughs] Eat the fish.
Kate: Eat the fish. So [laughs] so Karkat — lemme be clear though. That joke made several points. And one of them is Karkat, parentheses, true leftism, is real and true and my friend.
Sarah: [laughs] I don't know, I have to go with Jade as Reagan.
Kate: Yeah I don't know about that one chief!
Sarah: I don't — I mean I don't understand any of this, but like —
Kate: I will admit, I broadly agree with the structures of that as a reading of Eridan Ampora's arc. The Jade is Reagan does lose me a little bit. I would've [laughs] it does lose me.
Sarah: [laughs] Yeah. It's — [sighs]
Kate: Especially since you look at two of Jade's relatives, in Jake and Jane, and they're much better Reagan analogs.
Sarah: Absolutely. Yeah. I don't know that Reagan would've been a furry. Although I guess we'll never know, that's a question for the philosophers [laughs]
Kate: Didn't he like, play a dog once or something?
Sarah: Oh he might've.
Kate: I dunno man.
Sarah: Ohhhh no.
Kate: [laughs] Is Ronald Reagan a furry? The greatest debate in the history of podcasts!
Sarah: Y'know the next presidential election is just around the corner, we're cutting that off right now.
Kate: At some point a presidential candidate is gonna come out and say "I'm a furry, vote for me," and then I'm gonna *have to* and it's gonna suck 'cause it's gonna be Beto O'Rourke.
Sarah: [screams with laughter] He would be.
Kate: He would be! He was a fur freaker. He was in the cult of the whatever goat, or something [Baphomet].
Sarah: Yeah. [sighs]
Kate: Don't vote for Beto O'Rourke, that a Perfectly Generic Podcast unendorsement.
Sarah: [laughs] That's fair. He's a good idea, maybe. I don't know. I think his ideas have had good ideas at times.
Kate: [laughs] It's true — in the past when he was in college writing essays about how we should move into like a post-monetary society, like that shit was great. And then he decided to win elections in Texas, which I have some very pointed issues with as a leftist. Obviously as leftists we cannot win elections in Texas.
Sarah: No of course.
Kate: [laughs] It's — losing elections should be our priority at all costs, and lemme tell you, we're *very* good at it.
Sarah: Yeah, no, the — I mean really there's no one quite like — quite as good as us at losing elections, I feel like that's our speciality.
Kate: Absolutely, it's absolutely fucking fantastic. Alright, so I got a little off the point while —
Kate: Vis-a-vis Homestuck by instead airing my grievances with the modern Democratic party that used to sign my paychecks.
Kate: Aha, yes. And the truth comes out about where my resentment comes from!
Kate: I've been in the meat grinder, babey! We're lost, I'm lost — we're lost and it's my fault. Let's do some listener questions.
Sarah: I'm glad I get the full — the real, true PGP experience here, I'm really excited.
Sarah: I was worried we would stay on topic, I'm glad we haven't.
Kate: *FUCK* no. [laughs] I haven't stayed on topic since like, I don't know, I don't even remember the last episode I just did properly.
Kate: Andie asks on Discord: "I've noticed this in both the endings of TAZ [The Adventure Zone] and Homestuck. A major end goal for a couple of characters seems to be the establishment of major corporations/businesses (Crockercorp/Skaianet revitalized, Taako turning his whole life into a brand plus his wizarding school, Merle starting an adventure camp, Magnus making a business out of dog training). D you think the end goal of being rich and successful equals being fulfilled in life is a satisfying conclusion narratively? And what does this say about Hussie/the McElroy's own ideals in life?" So my response to that, Andie, is that I don't think it's intended to be read as a good thing that Jane Crocker starts a business. And like — and that the systems of capitalism are enacted again on Earth C by Jane and Jake. Like I don't think you're s'posed to be happy with that. I don't — I think a lot of the things about the ending of Homestuck are supposed to make you a little — like, give you a little bit of disquiet —
Kate: About this maybe not being the true happy ending, because there's a lot of shit unresolved.
Sarah: Yeah! And as far as like, TAZ — there's the — my first instinct is always to go to the sort of boring answer that there is the possibility that the McElroys haven't — that this is something that sort of slipped under the radar accidentally. But I don't think that it's necessarily satisfying, and yeah I agree in Homestuck's case it is like very clearly — Skaianet and Crockercorp on Beta Earth were like terribly corrupt and bad entities and the people who are running the new versions were raised in those entities, they're not divorced from the ethos of that.
Kate: They are not immune to propaganda.
Sarah: No, they're gonna make the same mistakes again. Just because they're gods doesn't make them immune to fuckin' up.
Sarah: And I think we have a tendency to think that the ending is The End when it comes to stories, particularly when they involve apocalyptic stakes. And I mean there are a lot of stories where it's like, it's over and everybody lived happily ever after. But I think generally speaking it's always good to ask like, to what extent has anything ever really changed. And I will turn to Star Wars here as an example of people who felt like the sequel trilogy so far hasn't — walked back the progress of the originals, but really the originals didn't do anything to deal with the inherent power structures that led to the Empire, they just killed one person and blew up some ships but they didn't fix the problem. And —
Kate: Yeah. The problem is revanchism.
Sarah: With TAZ it's an unfortunate thing where those characters are written in a world where like, businesses is just sort of what you do, and it's like but they're the good kind 'cause they're fun and it's with characters that we like. And I do think that there's a question to be asked — 'cause also like, that the ending of TAZ involves infinite wealth redistribution.
Sarah: So like, what's — what purpose does like the capitalist framework serve? And I wonder to what degree all of that was sort facetious.
Kate: Right, we have to divorce the idea that having a trade, and finding worth in a trade, is an inherently capitalist concept —
Kate: 'Cause that is an eternal concept. People like doing stuff that gives them meaning.
Sarah: Yeah —
Kate: I like making stuff that gives me meaning. That's not inherently wrong.
Sarah: Right. And — yeah, 'cause trying to think what any of these people are actually — like what Magnus is doing with his school for dogs, it's like that's still a service, it's not like he's — he's not sitting there like twirling his beard thinking how am I gonna make more money on top of my horde of money.
Kate: There's still dogs under perfect socialism, I fucking hope.
Sarah: Right! There's still dogs — yeah. I might — no I'm not gonna go down that road.
Kate: No let's go down! 'Cause you know what, because there's a problem with a lot of modern, like, modern online leftism, where I feel like the idea of labor has somehow been disconnected from the idea of socialism. Which is *bad*. The idea that doing work is an inherently capitalist concept is like — that's a bad thing!
Kate: The idea is to be making work *meaningful*.
Sarah: Yes. I get — I've already gotten a bunch of comments on my McElroy video, people saying like, ah you criticise capitalism and yet you make a video that is monetized and you link to your Patreon. Interesting! And it's like, I'm sorry, I literally joke about that in the video where it's like, why do artists ask for money? That must mean they're bad people (!) Like, it's — you can't — you gotta work with what you got!
Sarah: I would love to just make shit and say like — stand up on a soap box and just give my art to the world for free. But I gotta pay the bills! And I don't *like* that I gotta pay the bills but the bills are *there*! And just saying I —
Kate: If you think art should be free you fundamentally think only privileged people should make art.
Sarah: Absolutely. Yeah. I — anybody who criticises artists for asking for money pisses me off 'cause it's like, systematically we as a culture devalue art and the labor of art. And I think that that does get back to the importance of — how we understand labor through socialism is that it is — it's not as if trades disappear, it's not as if products necessarily disappear, it's not as though under socialism we would no longer have TVs and video games and like, smutty Homestuck fanart.
Kate: I'm sorry, I thought the cultural Marxists were trying to take away my video games.
Sarah: I mean they might! They might be, I feel like video games are pretty bad these days.
Sarah: Maybe the video games deserve to — maybe the gamers need to take a break and rethink their lives a bit and then come back. I say that as somebody who has played games their entire life —
Kate: Yeah. No I've played games my entire life. I make my money from games. Gamers do need to take a *fucking* break.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. But I get really frustrated at people — there are a lot of folks who are actually very much like our good friend Zebruh, who —
Kate: [laughs darkly]
Sarah: People who understand the — know how to speak the language in a general sense but refuse to understand the actual societal implications of power structures. And basically like mask themselves in the cloak of like, woke language —
Sarah: As a way to maintain the status quo.
Sarah: Or —
Kate: I just got done a few weeks ago just absolutely roasting Kankri for doing the exact same fuckin' thing. And Cronus.
Sarah: I know, the very first thing that I wrote when I was taking notes in Zebruh's section was, ah he's got Kankri vibes!
Kate: He's Kankri plus Cronus.
Sarah: Yes, absolutely. My notes were like, Kankri vibes, like, okay assaulting lowbloods, oh that's bad. Very sexy, oh but he kinda has slaves. And then it just goes downhill from there. But it's like —
Kate: Wait. Hold on. I'm gonna have to call you out.
Sarah: I'm sorry. [laughs]
Kate: I have to call you out right now. I'm sorry, very — Zebruh is very sexy?
Sarah: I thought he was before I knew better, okay?!
Kate: He wears a *bow tie*!
Sarah: He won me over with it!! Look, okay, fuckin' —
Kate: He's a bow tie boy!
Sarah: I know — Marvus wears a bow tie and he made you piss your pants!
Kate: Marvus is hot!!
Sarah: [laughs] I don't —
Kate: Marvus is woke!!
Sarah: Yeah! I just — they all stirred something in me and I didn't know any better okay? He had a charming toothy shark grin. I don't know what to tell you.
Kate: They all have *teeth*!!
Sarah: Okay! [laughs]
Kate: [laughs] Alright, well, show's over folks! No I'm —
Kate: No, look I understand. I understand. The thing about trolls is that most of them are hot.
Kate: We just have to lay that on the table and acknowledge it.
Kate: We like — we — y'know what it's 2019. We're hot for aliens now.
Sarah: Yeah, we're hot for aliens 100 percent.[sighs]
Kate: [laughs] Oh god.
Sarah: What the fuck — what were we fuckin' talking — oh right.
Kate: I don't know!
Sarah: Yeah [laughs] Yee—
Kate: Heh, yee.
Sarah: [whines, then laughs] Yeah. My intersectional praxis is valid. Zebruh — there are a lot of people who behave like him and like Kankri in this refusal to really do anything that actually fuckin' matters or makes a difference in any human being's life. One of the refrains that I turn to in a lot of conversations about like political change — whenever an issue is going on and people say, well I don't know if we can really do that, I don't know if we're ready for that yet — and the answer to that obviously is that we're never ready, there's never a perfect time, you just gotta fuckin' do it. But —
Kate: This goes back to Homestuck's thing about — that I took from it — writing advice, but you can take general advice: just do shit!
Sarah: Yeah, just do shit! I was on a podcast a few days ago and we're hitting some of the same notes, I just had a moment of déjà vu.
Sarah: But — Doc Scratch just like hit — turned things back a bit and rewrote my life a little. The fuck was I — god. Right. The refrain that I tend to turn to is like, really convenient that your progressive stance is one of moderation that results in nothing actually changing. Like, it's very convenient that the position you're lobbying for is one which is absolutely no inconvenience to you personally. And that to me is like — people who criticize creators online who make money while also criticizing capitalism.
Sarah: Like they're just — they're 100 percent missing the point that like, from a practical perspective, you can't avoid engaging in capitalism when that's all that you have. And that's why in Friendsim — that's why Zebruh's a piece of shit but Tyzias is a fuckin' *badass*.
Kate: Yeah! Exactly!
Sarah: Because Tyzias is a part of the system and recognizes how shit it is, but fuckin' is *doing shit* to make it better and has a plan!
Kate: At great personal risk!
Sarah: At *great* personal risk!
Kate: And great romantic risk as well. My heart.
Kate: It's been a long time since I've thought about Tyzias and Stelsa and now I need to sit down for 45 minutes and just think about — just be sad.
Sarah: [sobbing] Yeah. Just be sad forever.
Kate: Let's get some more que— let's get a couple more questions in here 'cause we're almost at an hour —
Kate: We're almost done here, people!
Sarah: Oh, lord! We're just getting —
Kate: Yeah we're almost — we're almost about to leave your lives for another week. Friendsim — sorry, calefacientKoine asks on Discord: "Friendsim is a lot more overtly political than Homestuck itself since we spend a lot of time on Alternia, and it's implied that Hiveswap itself will involve some sort of revolution. How do we reconcile all of this, though, with the knowledge that it's all hopeless? Doc Scratch can literally rewrite people's convictions, any rebellion will be crushed by the Condesce, and no matter what happens the world's gonna end in a few sweeps anyway when Sgrub happens. So I guess what I'm asking is: how do you think the work is encouraging us and the characters to act as committed leftists in the face of utterly hopeless situations?" So I've thought about this quite a lot and I — and I'm — I'm just answering all the questions first this week, sorry.
Sarah: No that's cool.
Kate: But I've thought about this quite a lot because the thing about it is — like, bold of you to assume that anything is impossible in Homestuck, and just because like we see meteors coming down later in this world's history and we see some all-powerful evil, that means that the fate of these characters is like hopeless. I don't — I think that's a fundamentally incorrect assumption to make when you look at the rest of this media universe.
Kate: And also like, the answer of what do you do in the face of this hopelessness in Hiveswap Friendsim is: make friends. Build social bonds.
Kate: Build empathy and understanding with each other.
Sarah: Yeah. The epilogue where you say you hope that they will at least remember you — like that pulled my heart so hard because ultimately people come and go really fast and you never know what's gonna happen. Especially like — we're not really too far off from a government that is monitoring everyone and has the means to kinda kill whoever they please. It's — you never know what's gonna happen! And the best that you can hope is that you've made enough of an impact on people that they remember you and they decide to do better for themselves, like be better people.
Sarah: There's — samurai boy, what's his name.
Sarah: Yeah, Tegiri — yeah, when he's about to kill the anime shop guy, he sees — like you try to stop him and he sees the look on your face and he tells you later that — that's like the same look as something that he's felt before, it's like — you wanna leave an impact on people so that they behave differently, they remember you in moments of crisis and they decide to be better than their basest instincts.
Sarah: But I actually — I also thought a lot about this question and just, because I finished Friendsim, the thought of like predestination is on my mind. And Boldir brings up that we shouldn't — like, asking whether or not this was meant to happen, like is this destiny, was this always going to happen, the sort of fatalist question — it's more you should ask, what are the forces that caused this to happen in the first place? And I'm in my second read through of Homestuck right now, and I've been wrestling with this a lot, this sense that there is — there are machinations that are so far out of everybody's control that it seems like nobody has any agency in the story and that it's all predestined. But I've been slowly pulling myself away from that with this other [thing], that like yes there are all of these machinations and there are characters with near limitless omniscience, but reality in this universe is — it's not tied to destiny the way that would think of it, it's not as if it's a book that's already written, or even that is being written. I think we are looking at the narrative from the perspective of linear time, still, when the narrative as it's laid out is sort of like a four dimensional thing, where all things are happening simultaneously. And in that context, all action matters.
Sarah: It's not as though these things are pointless because they've already happened, or there was never any choice. Like there is a choice and this is the choice that you make — like the machinations of the villains, they're not sort of things that were set from beginning to end that are infallible. They're reactions to people behaving in unexpected ways. And like you say, like it's bold to assume that anything is impossible in Homestuck, and I do have that same feeling of like, I don't know what's gonna happen to these characters and I'm worried, and I'm sure bad things are in store, but at the same time lots of really really unlikely things have happened so far! And I think when it comes to seeing this universe as like, causal, and everything being part of this web, we sort of ignore the fact that it still leads to the creation of Earth C. And a new world where a new order, like a better life can be made, outside of these machinations of these powerful capitalist figures. And that's what I think about when I'm trying to relate the story to the world we live in now, where we have so many entrenched ideologies, capitalism is so thoroughly trained into us in the same way that the hemospectrum is trained into the residents of Alternia like class structures here. It's all equally baffling and arbitrary and it's not that it's impossible for a world — a better world to happen, even though it seems like when you look back through history we've done this dance before, we've been down this road and it always seems like the bad guys ultimately win. But just because they have doesn't mean that they will. And just because you as one person, and Friendsim hits this note a number of times — just because you as one person can't single-handedly take down the people in charge, you can make individual people's — you can make your friends' lives better. And they can make your life better, and that can change so many things. And I think we look so much at the big picture, at like how is this going to end, where is this going to go. But we don't know! We can *never* know where it's going to end up. All we can know is the people who we have around us and what we can try to do tomorrow. And we have to like, make friends and keep them safe and hope that they care to keep us safe, and like work towards a better world. Like, day by day. And ultimately you can't worry about the bigger problems all of the time because they're so much bigger than you. Like how the fuck do you deal with Doc Scratch?! I don't know! That's such an existential nightmare of a character to exist in the universe. But does that invalidate the connection between the MSPA Reader and Tyzias? Like, I don't think so.
Sarah: And so I always caution against this like fatalism —
Sarah: That happens when we confront systems that are just so inconceivably vast. Because —
Kate: Right, and the thing is, is that every predisposed — every like preexisting time loop or whatever in Homestuck was created by the will of a sentient being. And can be undone by the same.
Kate: And like — and that's also true of capitalism. That's also true of racism. Like that's also true of all of the oppressive structures that impact our day-to-day lives. Like they were not handed down to us by God. They were created by will and they can be undone by will.
Kate: And — that's our show! That's our show.
Kate: We ran out of show! So —
Sarah: Oh my goodness.
Kate: Yeah! That was a — I think that was a pretty good one, just sitting here admiring our own work immediately. [laughs]
Kate: So this was the last episode before Perfectly Generic Podcast Live. Pgenpod live from Burbank, California, Sunday March 24th 2019 at 6pm at the Guildhall Bar. That's at 3516 West Victory Road in Burbank. All ages are welcome. We're going to have a large panel that's going to include myself, Austin, Heather, Paige, Aysha, optimisticDuelist, James, Pip and Dia. A celebration of ten years of Homestuck and eight years of Vast Error. Part one of the show is going to be all of us sharing the most personally meaningful part of Homestuck to us, and part two of the show is gonna be a meet-and-greet with Vast Error co-creators Austin and Heather, and myself who does miscellaneous interesting things and adds lesbians to Vast Error.
Kate: That's my job. [laughs]
Sarah: Yes. It's a good job to have.
Kate: Yeah exactly! I'm the lesbianism consultant. [laughs] So yeah, so that's next week. You can RSVP at perfectlygenericpodcast.com/live. I look forward to seeing you there, it's going to be — it's gonna be somethin', man! It's happening! I got some stickers to hand out to the first few people who show up so get excited for that.
Sarah: Hell yeah.
Kate: Yeah. Let's see. Our opening music is "perfectly generic" which is by President for Life of our music team, goomy. You can find their work at smoothiefruitee.bandcamp.com, there's a link in the description. The outro music is "beatriz" by myself from my EP "2". It's also the theme for Secily Iopara from Snowbound Blood. Where can folks find you, Sarah?
Sarah: You can find me on Twitter at @hmsnofun, that's usually where like — that's where all my bullshit lives, and you can get to me basically from there. "Lets talk about stuff" on YouTube, Trans Questioning Podcast, google those, the places where those are. Yeah, I'm — I probably have good things to say sometimes, so go check me out on Twitter!
Kate: I think so!
Sarah: [laughs] Well good!
Sarah: I'm glad you think so! [laughs]
Kate: I sure think so. You can find me at twitter.com/gamblignant8 if you wanna yell at me about Eridan, yell at me there. If you wanna yell at me about Overwatch, yell at me at twitter.com/KateMitchellOW. And if you wanna yell at me about anything else, sorry, I'm busy.
Kate: I think that's it. Is there anything else I need to do in these fuckin' episodes? No. See ya next week!
Kate: Thanks for comin' on, Sarah.
Sarah: No problem!