How do I start this out? Maybe with the only major complaint of my review (besides calling me names, insulting my quality as a boyfriend, and generally saying I intrinsically don't understand anything about Homestuck) I've seen so far.
I think that the shipping is kind of an odd thing. And you have to understand where I'm coming from. Look, I'm a twenty-four year old dude. I've never been into anime or really any fandoms at all. Seeing it happen in the comic is strange to me. I'm actually sorry if I'm insulting anybody with those statements, but it's the absolute truth that I find it strange and don't quite understand it. I've never really dealt with it before, and certainly not in the intensity and the fervor this fandom seems to treat it. I think people are so vicious to defend the shipping and their status as a fan because it defines them. This little webcomic has given a great deal of people a feeling of belonging, and I think that is something absolutely wonderful. That does not mean that it gives people the right to attack a dissenting opinion, especially when that dissenter says a million times that he only dissents to people who can be defined as obsessive and rabid, things that are by definition unhealthy.
Recently I've been labelled as a troll, a hater, and called a whole bunch of terrible names that I don't appreciate at all. I don't like the feeling it gives. I'm giving criticisms, harsh criticisms, of a story and a plot that I absolutely once LOVED. I was never really in the fandom though. I don't do fanart, fantrolls, or roleplays. While I've cosplayed, I'm sure many other fans have cosplayed more than me, and I don't begrudge them that at all. I've only written fanfiction as a joke for my girlfriend because she asked. (It's called 'Stachestuck by the way, and it is steamy, let me tell you. I'm sure she'll probably post about it at some point. Oh no, I've made a semi-joke. I'm sure to be attacked for that.)
I think a lot of people tend to defend the things they like. I know I do. But I don't call people names or say that they don't deserve to be with their significant other because of some harsh criticism. I also know when to concede points and when to make them. I love debates and open forums to air dissenting opinions. I've tried really, really hard to say all the things I think are important here. I may have ranted a little too much at the wrong issues, and for that, I'm actually truly sorry because it undermines my actual points. I never intended to tell anybody they cannot have fun with this webcomic (or anything else for that matter) in any way they choose or that they were wrong to enjoy it if they are enjoying it. I was simply giving a criticism of the decline of quality to the webcomic proper.
I was saying, for the record, that I no longer enjoy it because where I used to see quality, I see bad writing. Where I used to see quality, I see bad characterization. Where I used to see quality, I see ridiculousness. Where I used to see quality... I now simply see lack thereof. If that makes me a hater, a mindless troll, an anti-fan because I don't understand Hussie's subtlety and genius, then so be it.
I get it. I get the defense. Homestuck is very important to some of you, especially those who still read it and giggle in glee at every update. I get that. It was important to me too, and I think that's what none of you quite get about my argument. I loved this story, loved the characters. It was one of the first things my girlfriend and I really bonded over. It was IMPORTANT to me, as both a story and a building block of trust between her and I. It was a sad moment when I could no longer enjoy it, and an even sadder moment when I decided I could no longer read it because what kept me coming back for more was no longer there. And it was, at one point, one of the few things that kept me going, trying to keep this very review blog going, and trying to keep my life in some kind of order. That sounds dumb, but it helped in some dark times in my life, not that any of you care or think I have any kind of heart or soul at all.
Homestuck WAS important to me, and that's why I feel its loss (and it is LOST) so harshly. I stuck by for so long (as some of you had pointed out, at least a year past when I thought it had gone down the crapper forever) because I truly thought it would/could get better, that something would happen and it would improve. I kept believing the quality would improve, that it would go back to what I loved...
But it never happened. Where I was supposed to find enjoyment, I found only my own deadpan expression staring back at me. I was no longer amused. I no longer enjoyed the writing, the characters, or anything else. And I tried. Meenah was something I liked, a strong female character unlike any others in the story. I liked Cronus and the characterization he held as opposed to Eridan. I liked Dirk because the dude was hardcore. I liked these characters... but they were only three out of the sixteen new ones, and the rest were flat. They didn't work. I'm sure each and every one has a fan in their own right. And that's great. But I didn't like them. To me they were flat. Very few of them had any characterization outside of a relationship with another character or characters, and even fewer had a characterization outside of being a joke. Look at Rufioh, Horuss, or Damara. Latula, Meulin, or a large portion of drunk Roxy. They were joke characters on both the surface and underneath the surface. Yes, I know people can and have made arguments for all of them, but where is the depth in the comic? Where am I shown this supposed depth? That's nearly half of the new ones. Adding Kankri (for the social justice bloggers on Tumblr) and Jake into the mix, and you get an even half. If you want me to go into more detail about this, I will, but I'll leave my thought there for now since this is more a follow-up than anything else.
Act 6 was rough. It introduced an entire new cast, and even the ones who returned weren't the same. The problem was that the new cast or the old characters never felt the same as the earlier moments in the comic. And I don't mean that they didn't feel the same, but rather that I never received the same feeling as earlier. I never cared about the characters. They never gelled. There were too many fingers in the pie, too many characters to keep track of. Despite the fact I knew all of their names, I never felt comfortable with them. And neither did Hussie. There was never any focus, never any moment to just introduce a character and see who they were, individually who they were. And they are all introduced so late, way too late to introduce a character in any normal story structure. And I know, Homestuck isn't normal, but conventions are there for a reason, and if these characters, important characters, don't actually feel as well-written as the previously introduced characters, then how will they work as well as those earlier introduced characters? I ask because I do not know. While I like some of the newer characters, many of them have done precisely nothing. Hussie acts like they've been there all along, introducing backstory and saying a whole lot of things about the characters, but showing very little.
A story is about showing, not telling. I'm sounding pretentious probably, but that's how it works in good fiction for good or ill. Look at any piece of fiction. I'll wait. Yes, you can enjoy anything you want, but that doesn't make it good or well-written. I like plenty of things that are objectively bad and poorly written, but I've never seen a story implode upon itself like this, being amazing quality in the beginning and some of the worst quality I have ever seen towards the end. I don't want to be told of relationships and how characters feel about other characters. I want to see it playing out before me, even if it stymies the plot for a bit. The plot is already slowed down by asides and jokes. Why can't it be pushed aside for some character development? Because that's what I want. Or rather what I wanted. And I don't think that's a terrible thing to desire.
I wanted to know a little bit more about the pre-scratch trolls and their session, a bit more about their trials and tribulations without it being spoken to me in empty tones by sprites with moving mouths. I wanted to know what happened to all of them and why they acted the way they did, why it was so important for them to be introduced at all. I wanted to see each of them go through character development, go through arcs, grow as characters grow. I wanted to SEE it. But instead I'm told everything and feel almost nothing for those characters. This is bad writing. Showing is better than telling, but Hussie never learned that. Or rather he refuses to do it now.
I know a controversial statement I made was about Terezi, and I'm going to back myself up. She has not grown since Act 6. While there is a perception of growth, very little (if anything at all) has been shown. Yes, there is an implication of a feeling of guilt for murdering Vriska, and a feeling of inferiority to Latula and Redglare, but for such a major character she is focused upon sparingly, with major character moments either coming for her offscreen or being told to us by other characters. This is lazy writing, with Hussie skimming over her character as quickly as he can, giving a cliffnotes version, telling us what we need to know, but showing SHOWING very little. It is a disservice for a character who used to be one of my absolute favorites and a character who is one of the main ones.
I know my Kanaya statements have also been taken fairly roughly. While she was a fine character early on in the story, she has had nothing to do in the last act. She has not grown as a character, and has largely done (Meaning accomplished in this case) NOTHING. Her character, probably the flattest main character in the story, has stagnated over time, with her only defining feature being that she is the sole true lesbian character (and also a rainbow drinker, which rarely comes up at all). The problem is that beyond a bloodthirsty nature at times, she has had no growth. Yes, she's with Rose now, but why? Why couldn't we see some progression to their relationship before being thrown into it? Why couldn't we see both grow closer together over time like a well-written piece of fiction should do? Wouldn't that have been interesting? To spend some time with some of the main characters, some of the largest characters in the entire story, and learn why they have a romantic connection with one another? Is that too much to ask? I know it is, but it bothers me fundamentally as a cheap trick of storytelling and lazy writing all at the same time. I could say the same thing about Terezi being ashen with Gamzee, but I think that one is even more obvious.
Spending time on the Alpha kids has been one big waste of time. Most of their antics can be summed up in a few short panels, and they have also largely done NOTHING besides have romantic escapades with one another. The defining features of these characters are their relationships with one another rather than meaningfully being defined by who they are individually at all. Jane could have been shown as a sassy leader with some truly debilitating self-esteem issues, but her refusal of being able to tell Jake she cared for him was more of a cheap trick and lazy writing. I get that sometimes a character (or a person) may have trouble spitting out that they like a person for fear of a refusal, but at the same time that kind of character needs to be set up. It shouldn't come out of nowhere. And it seems to me like it did. I wasn't expecting that from the character I had been reading about, and when she said the exact opposite of what she wanted to say, I was more confused than anything else, mostly because her character was not established as a character who would do that up to that point (in my opinion). Roxy being drunk bothered me as well. Sorry, but I guess I have some problems with a sixteen year old drinking so much that she's drunk. It seems like it's in bad taste. I know it happens, but... I've lost a few people I've known over the course of my life to (underage) drinking and driving, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when it's treated like a joke. It's a horrible thing, and I never liked it even if Roxy were the best written character in the world, which she isn't. Jake being the hunk of the group also bothered me because he does nothing to be the kind of guy others would be interested in. I honestly thought, when he was introduced, that he would be a young Theodore Roosevelt type of character, hardcore and manly, and kind of silly. I was thinking something like the... oh, that character in the play (or movie) Arsenic and Old Lace, the one who charges around and is generally hilarious. But his character never rises above being an idiot and a vapid joke, as in he is poorly-written and NOT funny... like so many of Hussie's recent characters and characterizations.
I don't like Calliope or Calliborn either, both seeming more like plays on the fanbase (and anti-fanbase) than actual characters. To a point that's fine, but as well-written characters- well, they're not. Calliope always seemed slightly sinister to me, but that never paid off. Her character never seemed to go anywhere, and her more recent updates still have her doing very little. I know the plot is playing out, but it seems so flat and lifeless now. And Calliborn is an awful little man, and while he is one of the few funny things left in the webcomic, he has done very little but troll, maim, and foreshadow. I guess I can't see him as the ultimate antagonist. He doesn't seem... well... like anything but a joke really.
To reiterate the other things I didn't like and had issues with from my previous post:
I didn't like the death of Equius. I have no problem with the dude dying. I simply think that him getting off while being strangled to death was in bad taste. Others may say it was absolutely hilarious, but I didn't like it, and it was my first real sign of the problems to come. Now, again, disagree if you want. But a thirteen year old getting off sexually while being strangled to death feels less like a funny joke and more like something that makes me feel a little sick.
I didn't like the three months or so of Doc Scratch narrating. It became trite and boring, never truly moving the story along, and ultimately feeling like a huge waste of time. I couldn't wait until it ended, and when it did, most of Act 5 had already gone with it. And then we were thrust into Act 6 with new characters and new situations.
I think the pacing of the entire webcomic is all over the place. It's sloppy, and is not fun to read for large periods of time, either through an archive binge or waiting for updates. I get that Hussie writes what he writes when he writes them, but jeez, with so many characters and plots to keep track of, I have to think that he would be better at pacing it out in advance to actually show off the characters and plots that mean something. Instead he focuses on the flattest things and the jokes, rather than the meaningful plot points and characters.
And this point will be taken out and beaten to death, so let me clarify: I like the jokes at times, but I don't like only jokes and asides. I like the relationships at times, but I don't like only relationships. I want a mixture of elements like most of the rest of the comic has had. Now, you can disagree with me, and that's fine. But my feeling is that the tone and pacing of the entire comic has changed for the worst. And maybe he's listening to the "true" fans or the vocal fanbase. And maybe I'm not a fan with finally being tired of his crap. Maybe I can't be a fan of something I no longer see any quality in, but that does not mean I have no right to air my opinions or say what I think. And it does not mean I should shut up and let the "true" fans bask in the glory of a sinking ship of a webcomic. Maybe I'm invested too and would really like my voice to be heard as well. Or maybe I have just enough energy to say a few more things, and then I'll fall silent about this stuff forever.
Not that any of this matters, since the first thing I'll be attacked for is being a hater and a "douchebag." Then I'll be accused of treating my girlfriend like crap because of a joke that I made that she knew of beforehand and also knew was a joke. Then I'll have people tell me "if you don't like it, don't read it" which completely misses the ENTIRE point of what I'm saying. Then I'll have people call me pretentious because that's a wonderful argument to make to a person criticizing a story. And being dismissed like that, with my arguments not even looked at, that is the biggest insult, the biggest slap in the face to all of my time and effort. It's like nothing I say actually matters. I can criticize, but I get attacked for something I have no problem with. I can criticize, but I get attacked for being a bad boyfriend and called all sorts of names besides by people who have no idea who I am and who also know nothing about my relationship with my significant other to presume anything at all. I can criticize, but not one person NOT A SINGLE PERSON has tried to give me a reasonable debate about the comic, the webcomic, and nothing but the webcomic. I want to talk about the webcomic. Not the fandom. I don't want to talk about shipping. I don't want to talk about fandom. I'm not criticizing the fandom. Read that. It's bold so you cannot miss it. I don't want to talk about how everybody thinks I'm a fan basher despite the FACT that my girlfriend makes some incredible fanart of Homestuck that I am incredibly proud of, that I've cosplayed as a troll before, and that I've stuck with this freaking webcomic for three years of my life because I was invested in it, because Andrew Hussie created a world that I felt, for a long time, was worth it.
And I no longer think that.
And those are my points, for good or ill. Those are my criticisms. I thought it was obvious in my review that I was joking at times, but okay, now I'm not joking any longer. No more funny asides like I usually do in my reviews. Because despite this being a silly webcomic, it seems like the fans who read these criticisms cannot take any sort of joke. No more funny pictures that I can comment on to make the pain of losing one of my favorite stories go away. No more little laughs I can write because Homestuck is serious business and me attacking it means that I am the worst kind of person. So, now I'm being dead serious. I'm putting my heart and soul into my criticisms. Not that I wasn't before, but I was using some jokes and some clever language to have a little fun. But I'm not even allowed that anymore.
I get that Homestuck might be important to those who read this. I get that; I respect that. It was important to me too, which is why its fall has hit me hard enough to write I-don't-even-know-how-many words trying to collect my thoughts and feelings as to why I feel that it has ultimately and conclusively failed in my mind. I know I'm no longer in the demographics of this webcomic, unlike Problem Sleuth. It's now for a younger audience than I, and maybe that's how it needs to be, but the best stories, the lasting ones, can be read by anybody of any age, race, creed, or anything else besides. And I simply cannot enjoy what I do not think is good quality any longer.