Sunday, January 20, 2013

Homestuck Criticism Part Deux


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 could compare this to the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films. They are popularly thought of as inferior to the original trilogy. Well, one thing I'd like to point out (whether you agree about my statement of quality or not) is that in a popular online review of The Phantom Menace by a man only known as Plinkett something incredibly important was stated. The characters in the original trilogy were easily defined. Han Solo is dashing. Princess Leia is tough and no-nonsense. Luke is whiny, but heroic. When the time came to define the characters from the prequels, no real characterization or adjectives could be found. Qui-Gon is... uh... uh... Queen Amidala is... regal? I don't know. And that's what I think about the newer Act 6 characters. They are essentially flat. They have no real definition outside of their relationships, and no really easily defined characteristics. They are caricatures at best and one-dimensional cut-outs at worst. Not enough time was spent getting to know them, and jumping around all over the place is not helping matters.

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.

21 comments:

  1. as a relatively new homestuck fan, i would like to say that I really appreciate a long well thought out critique such as this. I know some people are going to freak out at you blah blah blah how dare you criticize hussie's writing. But I see what you are saying. I don't really like the pre-scratch trolls either, the alpha kids are kind of flat with boring predictable teen drama. but i think it is worth it to stick it out. I would like to draw a parallel to George RR Martin's a Song of Ice and Fire, the first three books steadily rise in action to peek at the third, then in the more recent two I have heard people complaining of them being boring and having "lost the magic" that the previous three had. I think that these two books are building up to 6 and 7 the way that 1 and 2 built up to 3. In much the same way, i think that act six is giving us a breather from the emotional roller coaster that was act five. Introducing a bunch of fluff characters and silly jokes for us to chuckle at, in order to let act seven gear up for a slap in the face finale. we've seen hussie write well, characterize well, and manipulate our emotions, we know he is capable of good writing, and I can only hope that he brings some of that back.

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    1. Thanks for the appreciation, Anon! I did get a bit of fallout from what I've been saying, but there have been some great comments of late as well!

      I like your comparison, and (while I haven't read much of A Song of Ice and Fire) I think it is a pretty apt comparison. My annoyance with Homestuck is mostly at the fact that this fluff of Act 6 has gone on for over a year, about a quarter to a full third of the entire running time of the actual comic. It is a lot of fluff and a lot of little comic characters and plots for a story that was essentially pretty serious.

      I liked the comedy in the earlier parts because it was tempered and rarely went on for too long, usually just being side jokes or asides for short periods of time. But this has just been going on for too long, pacing and story be damned. And the characters are essentially being ruined wholesale for me. And my problem is that the newly introduced characters may be made into main characters with no actual character or dimension to them. I can't stop thinking about that and about what a disservice it is to each and every one of those characters.

      I will say that Act 7 hopefully will be worth the wait, but I can no longer wait (and a part of me thinks I'd only be disappointed anyway no matter what he does now). After a year of watching the comic, in my opinion, degrade to such a low quality, I'm more tired of it than anything else. Maybe someday I'll come back to it if I hear it is turning around, but for right now I'm done.

      I have to say that I love your comment though! Really well thought out! It made me think. You definitely have a point. I can only hope it pays off.

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  2. New Homestuck fan as of September of 2012. Also not one of the rabid 13 year old girls who like this comic (20 year old mild fan i guess? i draw fanart but thats it?). I think I'll keep liking homestuck. I find it funny and serious, and still able to pull at my heartstrings even after all of the random shit that has been put into it. Maybe its due to my 'fresh new fandom' goggles? I dont know. I have seen a downturn as you said since act 6 began. But I think I'll stick it out. I still like it well enough. I still love the old characters enough to stick around to see them again.

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    1. Hey, that's cool, InsomniaticFrenchToast (I like the name by the way!). Since I've been a fan for a good long while (nearly four years now) I think I'm definitely coming from a different place than you. I think my patience has thoroughly worn thin, and maybe that's simply because I've loved the comic for so long and, in my opinion, through better days than now. I also think I'm no longer in the demographics of the webcomic anymore, which is definitely a point I have to make. A working dude in his mid-20s is not really who the webcomic is geared towards.

      It's great to see a fresh perspective, one without the bias of time. I still love those older characters too, but I think the downturn of Act 6 has made it impossible for me to keep on reading. I can't support something I no longer think of as quality. I hope it does improve, and I also hope that you sticking it out will be worth it in the end! Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I totally see where you're coming from, even though I don't agree with all of it. I think one of the main problems is that Hussie has let the fandom direct the plot (in terms of ships and characterization) more than maybe they should.

    One of the most painful things to see is that Hussie realizes himself that a lot of things are falling apart, and doesn't know how to stop it. (Or, maybe he does, and he just has to roll his eyes at all the people who can't see what he has up his sleeve.) I'm praying for the latter.

    I think you may have uncovered a major division within the fandom: the shippers/tumblr people/people who are addicted the fandom itself, and then those who are more just addicted to Andrew Hussie and what he's capable of (including Problem Sleuth and all sorts of stuff). I've sort of started to believe the former group has poisoned him and how he creates the story. Not that I want to paint them as the ultimate villains (they're responsible for an awesome amount of sweet fanart and support of the comic).

    I actually appreciate the new trolls. They're hilarious, over the top, and complete caricatures. They have fun designs. They're totally empty, though, and I think one of the reasons I like them is that we don't have to spend much time with them beyond those flashes. Speculation: I feel that maybe the scratch kids would have been better served in a similar purpose: being shown, but us being told very little about them, so that we can either infer or imagine much of what their lives are like. Heck, if we had a lot less of the new trolls I would probably like them just as much more.

    Respect for giving some clear points behind an uneasiness I'm sure many--certainly myself--have felt.

    I think I might share that wistfulness for the days of Problem Sleuth and Dave's apartment. There was something so endlessly curious and hilarious about them that invited an immense amount of creativity. But, with Act 6, there's just a lot of exposition, a lot of (apparently) meaningless cavorting... it doesn't have the sense of progress or adventure the old stuff had. You don't feel as if either the character development or the story is building towards anything anymore. Pretty much all the kids and their relationships have just been ruined and aren't what they use to be.

    However, I have to say that I'm still a believer. Although Homestuck seems to be spiraling into the weirdest tangents at the moment, I believe that the Huss can resolve it all. That's the pattern we've always seen: he does something that doesn't make any sense, but once it is resolved, we get to appreciate the full scope of his brilliance. And I'm banking on that. While you seem to have turned into a full-on nihilist in regards to Homestuck, I must maintain faith. Homestuck changed the way I think about story and characters, the way I think about fiction as a whole. I can't give that up because of some seasonal rot. (What might help my view is that I absolutely love all of the shenanigans and stupid jokes, all of them.)

    I guess all I can say is that I don't want to judge Act 6 until it's over. And if it ends, and it's still horrible, I'll probably physically cry. But, even after, I'll still hope for something in the universe to come to existence that will redeem it.

    I wonder what your opinion will be when Homestuck is finished. I hope it will be very different, but who can know?

    Post-script: this is the product of a lot of internalizing, so I'm sorry if I projected any of my own opinions on you.

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    1. Your points are all pretty valid. Then again, I don't see you vitiolically hating me and my opinions or mocking me for not accepting the Godlike writing of Hussie. So, that's always a pleasant surprise. I think I have a pretty negative view of Homestuck in general at this point. It's great that you still have hope for the future, but at this point I think the comic has spiralled downward to the point that it no longer can work as anything but a joke. No offense to you or other fans, but to me that's all it is. Taking it seriously at this point seems to be setting oneself up for disappointment.

      The funny thing is, every time I think it might possibly be getting better or pushing itself further along to do something or anything, it literally just goes further in the other direction. It's gotten to the point that I can't even take the narrative seriously anymore because, to me, it is that much of a joke. It's something I laugh at now because of the former glory it once had.

      I could have liked the new trolls. And I think you're right both about them being hollow and about the fact that we've spent so little time we them (thankfully) and that that's a good thing. I too believe that the Alpha kids would have been better served to be used in a similar fashion or if they were actually pushed a little bit more by the narrative rather than as they've been. But there's no use crying over something that will never be.

      Thank you for the respect. It feels good.

      See, I agree with the characters not feeling the same. Most fans would just say "CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT" and not quite understand what that means. Character development is not derailing a character behind the scenes without justification. It is not leading them down paths that their original character would never take, not without time and effort to show why they would take that path. My problem with the characters' changes is not that they should have development (I believe most every character should be developed.), but rather that they were all done behind the scenes being told to us rather than shown as they should have been. The justifications for those developments are spurious at best and the derailment and ruination of well-written characters at worst.

      This is the one point I'll disagree with you on: postive feelings about Hussie or the comic. I don't think I've become a nihilist exactly (although some are definitely going to scoff at that) at the same time I've realized that the annoyances of the comic have been going on for a year-and-a-half, if not more. That's not seasonal rot so much as being a year-round reek. How can he justify a year-and-a-half of extremely subpar and incredibly half-assed writing? Honestly, I'm asking, because I don't know the answer, and I feel I never will.

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    2. All I can say is that all of this writing will somehow be justified by Act 6 Act 6 and Act 7. And I think faith in a 'somehow' is a little more justified than normal, because it's Hussie's tendency to do things that don't make sense, until they do. If that makes sense.

      But, yes, it all boils down to 'what will Homestuck be like in a year' (or whenever it wins). I'll make sure to come back here and ask your opinion on it.

      To future me, in the event I return: hey, sexy. how's it goinn?

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    3. You have a reasonable opinion. I can't fault you on that. I'm still reading Homestuck myself. Even though I said I was done, I'm way too invested and interested to not see it to the finish, whatever that will bring.

      While I'm not enjoying it even slightly nowadays, even I, in my curmudgeonly way, am secretly hoping that Homestuck gets better and that this has all been some secret plan to misdirect the wonderful plot that should be happening at some point. I simply want to see the quality writing that Hussie used to bring out on a daily basis. I want to see flashes that aren't a joke, that bring about some kind of emotional response from the audience. I want to see the story finally move, the characters actually have that depth that they are so sorely lacking now, and everything come together in a wonderful and amazing way.

      Again, my big problem is that this recent stuff is bad all around. It's badly written, badly paced, and badly worked around. The characters do not grow or change so much as we're told what's happened to them while their personalities have shifted inexplicably behind the scenes. That's unforgivable for a writer to do. So, even if Homestuck becomes brilliant again (which to me is a big "if," but I'll admit it would be awesome if it does get brilliant again), there are certain things that I don't think could ever be good with Act 6.

      Sure, I'll be looking forward to around a year to see if terrible Homestuck or wonderful Homestuck has won out.

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    4. Hey this is Ninja Hobo again. Three years later.

      You were definitely right about a lot of stuff. It just got worse. However, I'm still excited for the end... which is coming out in about two weeks.

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  4. The only thing I really have a rebuttal to in terms of your opinions on the comic itself - because for the most part I see and understand where you're coming from - is that in terms of Roxy's drunkness being seen as a joke, there was a definite moment in which it was treated as a serious problem - in case nobody's mentioned this to you but I bet people have.

    And now that Rose - spoiler alert and sorry to say - has also taken up the habit, that is also being taken somewhat seriously as a problem. Not necessarily by all the characters - like Karkat for example, didn't initially understand why it was a big deal but that's probably a cultural difference if anything but it is being seen as a major problem.

    And I'm pretty sure I never found Equius' death to be funny. It never occured to me that that was a joke until I read that in your posts. It always struck me as pretty messed up and I don't know, I guess I thought of it as evidence of a very sad part of his character.

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    1. With Roxy, I've read the entire comic, and it never once was treated as anything but a joke in my reading of it. Now, maybe I haven't read it as closely as I should. That could be the case. I know Hussie tried very hard to try something poignant with her trying to get over her addiction, and I'll give it to him, he *really* tried, but the mocking of her problem beforehand just had it come off as incredibly flat. He never took it that extra mile, and substance abuse in children, with Roxy or with Rose should never be a joke or the butt of a joke.

      And in terms of how the comic feels (since I have read this part as well) it is treated as a hilarious joke. or maybe that's just my pessimistic view of the comic right now. It's all falling flat for me.

      See, I'm glad you never saw Equius' death as a joke, but most of the fandom seems to have. Hussie has mentioned the same when some people became a little upset at the way he died.

      I personally felt like it didn't belong. And from my view there is no way it could belong.

      Thanks for the comment though! I'm glad you have read and taken the comic differently than I, but I hope you can take my disagreements as they are. I'm not trying to shatter what you've taken from it, which all seem like pretty valid points. I simply didn't see them that way. And the way that the fandom and Hussie seem to treat them (as jokes) is distasteful to me.

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    2. Yeah, I was also disturbed by Equius's death and several other points in the comic, and reading this was the first time I even THOUGHT Hussie could have written those scenes to invoke any other emotion but horror. I guess the undying torment of literary criticism, "Did the author mean it or was he being ironic?", can never be satisfactorily answered (even if Hussie says it himself, I prefer to look solely at the source material).
      When I read that scene, I was commending Hussie for pointing out how social norms and stereotypes can so indoctrinate people that even an "innocent" 13-year-old (and as an aside, whether we're calling this an allusion to terrible movie/game plots or not, I think the Homestuck characters are obeying the seemingly-universal law of youth literature in which characters act way older than their age, for the sake of sanity/plot) would see it as a pleasure to die by the hands of a superior.
      I saw that scene of bringing gravity and a harsh realism to Alternia; it was that shocker moment when you realized that besides all the silly side-stories and interactions, this system had actual consequences to these trolls. It made me think of Equius as a victim of more than just murder, of a flaw not to the way his character was written but to a societal cruelty intentionally put in place.
      You might think I'm analyzing too much, and you could be right, but I think your view of the comic has been too negatively impacted by the fandom and not the comic itself. Actually, I agree with half of your criticisms because half of them are really directed entirely at the fandom, except you see the fandom through the lens of the comic and then get disenchanted by the comic itself. The only way you can read Homestuck is to give Hussie the benefit of the doubt; if you think that the fans are manipulating him, and not the other way around, any kind of irony or change in plot or theme will be seen as illegitimate. I understand, as I've been turned off by many fandoms before...
      Maybe it's because I made myself read the whole comic in two weeks and didn't have to actually wait as the majority of Act 6 was being made, but I almost enjoyed going through all these callbacks and trying to interpret the subtle ways in which the Scratch changed reality. I loved the way most of the characters were made, knowing the whole time that Hussie was partly dictated by the personalities of the guardians he probably had no idea would later be main characters. Rose's mom's defining characteristic was her drinking; it makes sense that Roxy would also drink. While he was way too dismissive of it, I think Hussie didn't want to spend too much time and energy trying to deal with social justice in a non-ironic way when he's stated several times that Homestuck's ultimate goal is always comedy and entertainment, not societal criticism. And while he probably should have addressed that, I don't see it as an inherent flaw of the comic.

      So, in short, don't ever judge the comic based on the fandom because the fandom is frequently disgusting beyond belief. And don't judge the comic based on what Hussie says outside of the comic because he's almost ALWAYS being facetious. Since the content itself doesn't say that it always meant for a character to be a joke, I can give it the benefit of the doubt and still enjoy it. In a literary context, it's just as likely that it's my dramatic, complex analysis as it is a terribly untasteful joke.

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    3. Alex Ander, I would be interested to hear which half of my criticisms you agree with.

      I will say, to me, the comic and the fandom are married to one another. I can't really separate the two. I hate looking at fandom stuff at this point (besides to mock it which is probably terrible of me), but with how much Hussie has done to either appeal to the fanbase or to mock it, I really can't see how they are not very closely related. I could be wrong for seeing it that way, but... yeah.

      Most of my major criticisms have nothing to do with the fandom anyway, but with the webcomic and bad writing therein.

      I think the flaws came when he seemed to be on a roll with good writing and good characters, then suddenly forgot how to write. That's my opinion, but the earlier characters are much better than the later ones. And even the earlier characters have suffered from lazy writing and tired plots. And most of the characters in the narrative at this point have suffered from Hussie telling us what's going on rather than showing us, again, a lazy form of writing.

      Mostly I think Hussie is a lazy hack of a writer at this point. I think he cared once and doesn't anymore. I think he likes throwing potshots at his insane fans and social sites rather than telling a good and coherent story with good and compelling characters. Enjoyable, serious, or otherwise. It is a huge flaw, even bigger than him belittling under-aged drinking or child deaths or whatever.

      Also, if he meant them to be older, he should've written them as older. To me they're 13-16. And to me, that's hugely in the realm of them being children. They have to be. There's no argument there despite how they might or could act. A child is a child regardless. And that's what I think.

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  5. You want pre-scratch troll arcs, however, you hated 5.1. One or the other.

    Also, these alpha trolls. They are kinda dead. "But in general, nothing new happens"

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    1. Um, I liked the troll-arc. I didn't like the ENTIRETY of Murderstuck, but Hivebent is one of my favorite parts of the comic. So... uh... yeah? Not sure where you think I said differently.

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  6. I agree with some of your points, but I enjoy the comic when Hussie isn't getting ridiculously meta. For instance, I didn’t find the romance that bad, despite usually hating it, and I liked reading about the alpha trolls, although they are less interesting than most beta trolls.

    However, that may be because I don't only read, I think about the implications and the hidden depths that a character might not even have and I accidentally do more character development in my own head than Hussie does sometimes. I don't see flat characters, I see characters whose hidden depths haven't been shown, and then I think about what they are. Damara isn’t an offensive pseudo-Asian girl, she’s a broken girl stuck behind a wall of sexual comments made because it’s easier to scare people away than to deal with them, Meulin and Mituna aren’t GIF Girl and the Spaz, they’re people that have been hurt and are being denied healing because some jerk has evil plans, Kurloz isn’t just a jerk with evil plans, he’s interesting because bla bla headcanon...

    Another problem you mentioned was the cherubs. To me, Calliope is a tragic and interesting character- the story of a lonely girl, dealing with crippling self-esteem issues worsened by someone she can never escape, is one of the more interesting parts of this act, and I wish that was focused on more.

    Caliborn isn’t as interesting, but I like seeing immature twats turn into horrible villains.

    Speaking of meta (again) the comic itself said, during act 1, "you think it's time for less meta and more beta." The one complaint I have about the comic is that it's not following its own advice, and instead has the author do ridiculous scenes about naming skeletons and annoying Vriska instead of just focusing on the plot- or even the jokes and romance. The meta used to be funny- kids swapping in-jokes, lipstick chainsaws, whatpumpkins. Now it’s Hussie telling us which ship is canon, Hussie being a jerk to Vriska, Hussie becoming the worst character in the comicc. (In my opinion, his interactions with Vriska are unnecessary, declaring Slickpaint canon ruined the ONE ship I liked (other than two pale, one blackrom) when he could have showed it properly, and Caliborn’s guide could have been, let’s see, Doc Scratch or Caliborn via timeloops, an exile that found a terminal via miracles, Gamzee telling him things after shooting him got boring, and I came up with those in one minute.) The problem is that Hussie is taking over.
    Other than that, I still like Homestuck, although I can see its flaws and understand why others are quitting. I simply try to ignore the bad parts, enjoy the good parts, and reread the better parts from before.

    I also like it for the fandom's creations, but you said you wanted an argument that focuses on the story itself, so you have every right to ignore this part of my argument. The fanfiction can be good though, and you might want to try some as a substitute for Homestuck if you want to see more of the world and characters.

    The last thing that keeps me from quitting is the hope that while Hussie works on the game, he also thinks about stuff, clears his head, and comes back to the comic recharged and ready to make something awesome. I’d rather he took a nice, long break, kept us all in suspense, then came up with something cool than he rushed to give us all an ending and failed to make it good. Oddly enough, I usually assume the worst, but with Homestuck, I have a 'he just needs a break it'll all get better’ attitude.

    I know I’m deluding myself a little (or a lot), but am I hurting anyone? No. Am I having fun? More than the people that think about the awful parts. I say, if you can enjoy a comic that isn’t as good as it used to be, use any half-baked headcanons and accidental ‘subtleties’ you need to. If you can’t, I’m sorry, and I sincerely hope that you can find something else to entertain you now that Homestuck has failed.

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    1. TL;DR:

      Yes, Homestuck kinda sucks when it gets obnoxiously meta, but I get through it by enjoying the good, overanalyzing the poorly made until it makes sense and gives the comic hidden depths that were never meant to be there, and hoping it'll all get better after Hussie takes a break, as well as enjoying the fanworks. It works for me, but not for everyone, and I get that.

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    2. Hey there, Anon! Thanks for commenting, and sorry it took me so long to respond.

      You have fallen into a trap that many others have also fallen into. I wouldn't call it a negative trap either, don't get me wrong. But I would call it a trap of you writing for Hussie rather than him writing for you. What you truly want is there to be a greater fleshing out of characters and a greater depth of writing. And what you've gotten are templates for good characters, not good characters themselves. You've gotten romances that are interesting and that you like, sure, but you don't speak about the writing prowess of Hussie, but rather what you think of the characters through your own thoughts and headcanons.

      That's not a bad thing, but my point was never to put down the characters, but rather to put down Hussie's writing ability. These characters are not fleshed out. They contradict themselves. And their "growth" seems much less about actually growth and much more about convenience to whatever he wants to write. There are so many times that a character will just do a thing that makes no sense for them to do. And Hussie can justify by saying that he is the creator and the God here and whatever. But out of character moments are terrible and kind of sickening to me as a writing, a creator, and as a man who enjoys fiction.

      I agree that the meta used to be funny and that now it's not. That's kind of one of the reasons I wrote these reviews in the first place. Gamzee's character is absolutely and sickeningly ruined beyond belief. Hell, the ships are so stupid that they've put me off ever trying to make sense of character interactions or why Hussie wants them to be together other than pissing off the fanbase.

      And I'll agree that the fan-stuff can be good. While I don't want to focus on that, I will never say that I never enjoyed some of the fanart out there. (My girlfriend is/was a pretty prominent Homestuck fanartist, so I am kind of cool with it.) I haven't seen much good fanfiction myself, but I rarely seek that out, sorry to say. If you ever have any really good recommendation though, I would try them out.

      I am sorry that I focus on the negatives. I simply cannot see the light in Homestuck anymore. There are HUGE negatives right now, and maybe if Hussie fixed the things that are broken it could become great again. I simply don't see that happening.

      I just want to also point out that he could easily search this blog up. If he went to Google and searched "Homestuck Criticism" in that nice little search bar, he would find this review as easy as pie. Or he could look at his own forum. This review (and my first) are posted there somewhere. If he read the complaints, my complaints and others, maybe he could grow as a writer and really and truly create something that is superb, but I doubt he's ever taken the time to glance at criticism or learn that maybe, just maybe, he might have made some writing mistakes. I simply wish he would take the time to look and learn a bit about why people are leaving en masse, why people are unhappy about the webcomic, and why it not feels so paper thin as opposed to the fleshed out mass of awesome it used to be.

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  7. Hi! I found your post when I decided to google "homestuck review" in order to look for some real criticism. I'm a Homestuck reader who doesn't interact with the fandom in any significant way.

    You made some good points about the flaws which I often agreed with to various extents. There were a few things that had me confused though:

    You spent a lot of time talking about the fandom when talking about what's wrong with Homestuck and I'm not seeing the connection. In particular you talk a lot about shipping, and all I recall about shipping in Homestuck is Karkat's poorly drawn shipping grid, and the stuff Nepeta was doing. Neither of those had much time spent on them.

    You talk a lot about bad pacing and wanting the story to move faster but you talk about it in terms of update speed ("months" etc) rather than archive speed. I got tired of act 6 pretty early on but then I realized it was likely because the update speed had slowed significantly. I'm sure this sounds like a horrible suggestion, but have you considered rereading? Hussie has gone on record saying he always paces the story with archive readers in mind and is at times unhappy with how serial readers react to things.

    You talked about how the alpha kids spent too much time on relationships, but this is easily attributed to their age difference from the original kids. I'm not sold on your idea of it being purely for fanservice.

    You talked about how act 6 jumps around too fast to focus on any one character, but this description sounds to me like it could just as easily have been used to describe act 5 act 1.

    As far as the ancestor trolls, I dislike the majority of them too but I feel fine with it since the throwaway ones haven't gotten ANY narrative attention and probably never will. We only see them in the games and we can choose not to interact with them most of the time. (which I actually did for Eridan and Sollux's ancestors)

    I'm still reading and I'm legitimately entertained and amused by the updates that have been happening lately. I'm interested in hearing a response from you!

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    1. Hey, DBN! Sorry that it took me so long to respond to you.

      When talking about shipping it's more about how it has influenced the writing of Homestuck and much less about the fandom itself. Every fandom has its shipping in one form or another, and that's cool and fine. Basically I'm under the opinion of shrugging and saying "Whatever, as long as I don't have to hear/see it, it won't bother me." The problem arises that Andrew Hussie has taken a good amount of popular relationship shippings and mocked them in the story rather than actually... oh, I don't know... writing a story. He seems to enjoy ripping the fans and what they think apart rather than creating a meaningful and interesting story, which seemed to be his goal when he first started writing.

      I will admit that I do have some bias with reading as updates come rather than archive reading, but that changed when Act 6 started. I began to have a great deal less time to read, so I would read the updates sporadically at best. While I wasn't a full archive reader, I sometimes would read the updates only a month at a time (something that is even less today. I tend to read the updates maybe once every two months-ish nowadays. I can't even remember the last time I read the comic, and I only read it to keep up with controversies and to reinforce that it hasn't become magically good again). So, while what you say used to be true when I was liking the story (with some exceptions) my opinion has actually degraded over the course of reading it in a more archived fashion.

      And my opinions may not be your opinions. That's fine. I understand that it's a controversial opinion, like most of what I write about Homestuck. I do think that the relationships were direct responses to the fandom and their ideas of shipping and whatnot. I also believe that Hussie was trolling the fandom, or, at the very least, wanting to change things up significantly to show "growth" in characters. The problem is that not every sixteen year old is going to be interested in what they can get. And some (believe it or not) have no interest in romance at all at that age.

      My problem is that he focused so heavily on the romantic relationships that the story suffered. I get the feeling he was trying to make a point. Something that Dirk stated afterward (directly after the whole Trickster garbage) actually truly brought that feeling to cement in my head. Hussie point, I think, was that the story cannot be all about shipping... by making the entire story about shipping and turning off a lot of "fans" like myself, who thought that it was a big pile of garbage.

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    2. Act 6 is confusing because of the jumps. Yes, I know Act 5 jumped around as well, without any clear focus on specific characters, but there was a point to it. We had the chance to see plot moments happen. And we actually saw both character development and characters change over time. We had been involved with most of these characters a good long time, so focusing on them was completely acceptable. It needed to happen to flesh those characters and their situations out.

      Act 6 introduced at least sixteen characters that are barely fleshed out. And when they are fleshed out, they seem to be poor imitations of characters already introduced. We flip between the Alpha kids, the Beta kids, and the different sets of trolls, and there never seems to be a reason for it. We don't get a consistent pacing that pays off. It feels jumbled and confused as opposed to Act 5, which could be argued focused on the trolls story and the lead up to the Scratch by and large. There was an arc there. Yes, the pacing wasn't always perfect, but it was acceptable. And Act 6 isn't acceptably paced.

      Okay, then why introduce the ancestor trolls if they're simply going to be throwaway characters? That's my problem. Why even have the tangent there in the first place if it isn't fanservice? It's completely skippable and not a thing is missed. That doesn't make it good writing. It makes these characters that are focused on and hinted to be bigger than themselves gags and silly pieces of fluff that add nothing. That's not good writing, which was my point.

      I'm entertained by the updates as well. If we can now define being entertained as shaking my head in shame while a single tear streams down my manly bearded face. Or if it's defined by laughing my head off and mocking the comic mercilessly. Sorry if I'm being blunt, but I find the recent updates to be as insufferable as the rest of Act 6.

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