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Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 5, Part 8 of 12
This post is dedicated entirely to one of the most touching scenes in all of Homestuck, if not THE most touching.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Contrary to what I said last post, I ended up also publishing this one while on vacation. I won’t work on more Homestuck posts for the rest of my vacation (until August 1), but rather get on the grind to finish reformatting my old posts from May to September 2019. Those posts have had messed up formatting on this site for almost two years, and fixing them is long overdue.
It’s time to go over the ninth selection of the fake character select screen: Dave and Dirk, round 2. This section will take up the entirety of this post since it’s (1) a very long scene and (2) one of the most emotional scenes in all of Homestuck. When you hover over the first option of the fake select screen, you see Dave and Dirk back where they began: sitting side by side, ready to have their reunion at long last. It’s the exact same image we saw in the second fake select screen, which is thematically fitting.
I love how happy Rose looks fantasizing about shoving a pillow in Jasprose’s face.
Aside from Dave and Dirk, most of the groups of characters listed in the select screen are no longer in the same place, so the fake select screen has developed an interesting system for who to show in which section:
- The six-way conversation shows whichever characters are presently on the frog platform.
- Vriska/Meenah shows Meenah having Condesce-esque (Condesque) fantasies while the Vriskas face off.
- Roxy/Calliope round 1 shows the frog platform zoomed out.
- The four-way conversation shows the frog platform characters, but drawn more crudely.
- Roxy shows Roxy (obviously).
- Jasprose/Jane at first showed Jane, but now it shows Jasprose.
- Roxy/Calliope round 2 shows Calliope.
- Dave/Dirk round 2 (in the next select screen) shows Dave and Dirk but drawn more crudely.
- Roxy/Kanaya is the last option, and the fake select screen ends after their conversation.
This system of showing characters has gotten a little cumbersome, but it’s still very fun and adds a lot of visual humor to A6A6I5. But enough humor now: time for some extreme FEELS.
DIRK: Maybe we should go over this again.
DIRK: Because, honestly, I’m still not sure I get it?
DIRK: Who are we actually fighting again?
DIRK: Jack Noir?
DAVE: one version of noir
DAVE: theres a shitload of them though
DIRK: Which one is this?
DAVE: hes yours
DAVE: the one from your session
DIRK: Our Jack spent months in prison.
DAVE: well i guess he broke out
DAVE: hes kind of like a huge fucking deal now
The Striders sure are psyched about this fight, aren’t they? (They aren’t.) They’re still trying to avoid any topics related to their scratched/unscratched selves, and they don’t have much else to talk about other than the version of Jack Noir who they’re supposed to fight. It doesn’t help that neither of them understands how Union Jack came to be, other than somehow gaining Lord English powers—he’s basically a discount Lord English, a reportedly extremely powerful villain who Dave is supposed to take down.
DAVE: hes got lord english powers tho
DAVE: hes apparently like
DAVE: wretched fucking news
DAVE: hes going to be hard to beat
DAVE: even armed with the ultimate weapon:
DAVE: some swords
DIRK: Sounds like some shit is going down.
DIRK: Let’s not downplay our sword gambit, though.
DIRK: I have yet to encounter a problem where a sword didn’t factor into the solution at least in some way.
DAVE: i bet
DIRK: Bear in mind… I haven’t actually SOLVED many problems over the course of my life?
DIRK: But the ones I have, man.
DIRK: Swords proved hells of instrumental.
Dave is no doubt negatively reminded of his bro when Dirk talks about using swords to solve problems. He seems to get the same uneasy freaky fighter vibes from teen Dirk as from adult Dirk…
DAVE: what do you mean you didnt solve many problems
DAVE: didnt you like
DAVE: program robots and stuff
DIRK: I guess I meant real problems.
… but then when Dirk brings up problems involving people, Dave feels even more uneasy, perhaps reminded that Dirk may well still be a teenager with feelings.
DIRK: So Jack has… Lord English powers?
DIRK: Does that have anything to do with Jake?
DAVE: not according to my current understanding of a mostly nonsensical body of information
It doesn’t help with their awkwardness that Dirk knows even less about Lord English than Dave does. He can only guess that Lord English is in some way connected to Jake English, and Dave has no idea if that’s true either. Both Striders seemed sure that the other would be prepared to take on Jack English, and when they realize that isn’t the case, they’re even more hesitant to go through their looming emotional reunion.
The Striders stutter and falter more, both feeling uneasy and completely lost as to when their supposed adversary will arrive. They’re both hit with the uneasy revelation that Jack English doesn’t make for a viable conversation topic, and thus they sit silently yet again…
Those awkward poses and expressions are very well-drawn.
DIRK: Everything alright?
… until Dirk breaks the silence. It’s a lot more powerful for Dirk to break the silence than if Dave were to do it, because while Dirk knew Dave as a legendary inspirational hero, Dave knew Dirk as an emotionless, aggressive lunatic. And even on the readers’ end, we’ve gotten a LOT more exposure to Dave’s sensitive side than Dirk’s sensitive side.
DIRK: It just seems,
DIRK: Maybe you aren’t that… into… this.
DIRK: Or at least,
DIRK: Not as much as I was.
DIRK: Whenever I imagined the possibility of us meeting.
DAVE: were you
DIRK: I guess I’m not doing a very good job of showing it now.
DIRK: I think that’s probably just what I’m like though.
DAVE: you dont say
DIRK: I mean, when it comes to people in general.
DIRK: But probably especially people who are an important part of my life.
DAVE: you think im an important part of your life
DAVE: you dont actually know me though
DAVE: not this me
DAVE: and im pretty sure you didnt know the other guy either
DIRK: That’s true.
Similarly, Dirk, not Dave, is the first one to start opening up about what he thought of his bro. He doesn’t open all the way though; he opens the door just a crack and then tries to shut it again, but Dave has already seen too much of this metaphorical room to forget it all.
DAVE: what is it about me thats important then
DIRK: Not sure how to answer.
DIRK: Because I’m getting the sense that you might disapprove of whatever I might say.
DIRK: Maybe you’ll think it’s weird that I idolized some version of you that I never knew.
DIRK: It seems like you think it’s weird.
DIRK: Uh. Yeah.
DIRK: I shouldn’t have said anything.
The scene gets its first spark of emotion when Dirk reveals that he truly idolized and looked up to his bro, much unlike Dave’s bogus idolization. After letting that fact slip, Dirk knows that he can’t make Dave forget that, which is the first step in properly breaking the ice. John had just mentioned that Dave blatantly didn’t idolize his bro, making it much more powerful to learn that the idolization on Dirk’s side was genuine.
DAVE: i dunno if its “weird” i just cant process it
DAVE: maybe not anything to do with YOU per se
DAVE: but how i view my bro
DAVE: ive got to say
DAVE: meeting you
DAVE: its not rockin my world here
DAVE: or upending any paradigms or whatever
DAVE: listening to you and looking at you
DAVE: it really really just
DAVE: reminds me of him
DAVE: i know youre different and all and also like
DAVE: a kid i guess??
DAVE: but you dont feel that different
DAVE: and hearing anything like that, like about idolization or like you were actually lookin forward to this in any sincere way
DAVE: is kinda fuckin jarring
Rose had a very easy time separating teen Roxy from adult Roxy: she’s deliberately made them occupy separate spaces in her mind, so as to turn a new page in their mutual motherly relationship. With Dave, on the other hand, separating teen Dirk from adult Dirk isn’t so easy. While teen Roxy is very lively and expressive, contrasting against Rose’s perception of her mother, Dirk is perpetually cold and dry, almost as expressionless as Dave’s bro. I imagine that’s why Dave is reminded of his bro when seeing Dirk: Dirk hides his insecurities to an even greater degree than Dave does, and even on the occasion he pours out his emotions, he has trouble being expressive—a fact that he’s acutely aware of.
Both Dave and Rose seemed to inherit a small portion of Roxy’s expressiveness genes.
DIRK: So, like…
DIRK: Things, between you and me, from your perspective, um,
DIRK: Are we like, not cool?
DAVE: heres well i guess
DAVE: i didnt fuckin like you that much ok?
And there it is: Dave dropped the bomb. He knew it was only a matter of time, and now he’s at long last spat it out…
DIRK: Why not?
DAVE: honestly i dont know if i want to get into it
… but for a few more moments, he still feels reluctant to elaborate.
But then, after four silent panels featuring clouds moving over the rooftop, Dave says the following:
DAVE: ok actually maybe i will get into it
There we have it, no turning back now. Like I just said, Dave knew it was only a matter of time. Knowing even a little bit of what Dirk thought of adult Dave, he knows he can’t stall any longer on what he thought of adult Dirk.
Look at Dave’s face here. This is the face of someone who’s at long last letting out his REAL thoughts on his departed guardian.
DAVE: i dunno why my friends got to have adults around who cared about them
DAVE: they complained bitterly about stuff so i guess i convinced myself they were all in the same boat as me
DAVE: but thats not how it was
DAVE: their complaints were trumped up nonsense and i bought it cause… i dunno
DAVE: i didnt have any frame of reference
DAVE: but his dad and her mom no matter what they said it was so obvious they cared about them deeply
And so, Dave’s rant about how terrible of a guardian Dirk was begins. Now is an appropriate time to mention a popular criticism with this scene: compared to all the other beta kids, only Dave’s upbringing is portrayed in a negative light in the A6A6I5 reunions. Reading Dave’s rant and thinking back to his scenes in the early acts, which I remember being shocking and disconcerting while writing my blog posts analyzing the early acts back in late 2015, I can’t say I agree that Dave’s upbringing was only retroactively put in a bad light. The real problem, I’d argue, is that the bad sides of Jade’s childhood and time on the battleship are thrown under the bus. Like sure, her Pesterquest route digs deep into those topics and it’s great, but her route was really the only interesting thing about Pesterquest—the rest was very forgettable and safe. Now with Dave, it really makes sense to look back on his childhood in a more serious light and compare it against the other guardians. The early acts gave us tons of indications that Dad Egbert and adult Roxy dearly loved their children and would do anything for them, but hardly a trace of such indications for adult Dirk. The tiny hints at adult Dirk respecting his child/bro are MASSIVELY outweighed by the bad sides, which Dave is about to go into in great depth.
DAVE: even jades weird fuckin grandpa who died when she was young obviously would have done anything for her
Despite my criticisms about late Homestuck not talking about the messed up sides of Jade’s childhood, I can’t argue with Dave’s statement about her grandpa. He, too, clearly loved his daughter/granddaughter a lot, regardless of his freaky interests and bizarre personality. Old man Jake spoiled his little girl super hard with this big fancy house and exuberant technology, and you can’t say anything like that about grown-up Dirk.
DAVE: why did i get such a raw cut of the asshole deck
DAVE: and why did it take me so long to figure that out
DAVE: and like hes dead now so thats that
DAVE: so all thats left to do is look back and try to put the pieces together of my first 13 years
DAVE: and all i can think is what the fuck WAS that?!
DAVE: i dont come away with the impression i used to try convincing myself of, that he was like “mysterious” or “stern” or “aloof”
DAVE: the only feeling left is this insane impression that i was raised by somebody who fuckin HATED me
DAVE: and the whole act of even “raising a child” was some totally fucked up game to him
DAVE: like parenthood was one of the highest tiers of irony in his solemn bullshit bro-ninja code
DAVE: so he went through those motions and did whatever he thought was “funny” or “badass”
DAVE: but under that weird stylistic and totally sociopathic approach to parenting i cant even IMAGINE there was any emotion toward me other than some sort of loathing
There’s a difference between retconning a scene (or set of scenes) and reanalyzing the scene(s) in retrospect, and I think Dave’s rant to Dirk falls under the latter category. He’s looking back on his childhood and realizing how messed up it all was, putting aside all the video game satire and Scrabble modus jokes. I actually really enjoy when media revisits old scenes in a more serious light, and I have a PERFECT example of media doing such a thing. The only problem: the example is an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Please bear with me here, OK? I promise I’m not some YouTuber who makes videos ranting about media they don’t like and gets sidetracked by tangents about Dark Souls or a fucking Star Wars video game or whatever shit. This is just a one-time thing, please believe me.
~~~ MY LITTLE PONY INTERLUDE ~~~
One of the coolest episodes of season 5 of MLP, maybe of the entire show, is Amending Fences—an episode focused on revisiting a scene early in the first episode in a much more serious light. The scene I’m talking about is where Twilight Sparkle sees a few acquaintances of hers in Canterlot, her childhood home that she moves out of in the first episode, and brushes off an opportunity to attend a party from another friend named Moondancer in favor of studying. When Amending Fences rolls around, we finally meet Moondancer in person, and it turns out she was always an introverted pony and almost started growing out of her shell until she found out Twilight Sparkle didn’t attend her party, which broke her heart and made her go full recluse mode, and the episode focuses on convincing her that friendship is worth pursuing after all. It’s a surprisingly touching episode that revisits scenes from the first episode in incredibly fun ways.
~~~ END MY LITTLE PONY INTERLUDE ~~~
Alright, back to Homestuck. What I’m saying here is, it can be incredibly cool when media revisits early scenes and picks them apart to make them more emotional, and Dave and Dirk’s reunion is a great example thereof. Thinking about his upbringing, the only conclusion Dave can draw is that his bro despised him and never thought for even a second to take parenting seriously, which is… a scarily logical conclusion.
DIRK: Did he do?
DAVE: i dont want to get out the laundry list
DAVE: but for reference laundry wasnt one of those things
DAVE: that was just one of the many little domestic things i just had to sort of FIGURE OUT
DAVE: sorta like i eventually had to learn what the REAL purpose of a refridgerator was from movies
If you think back to Act 2, you’ll remember that the refrigerator in Dave’s house was used to store swords instead of food. Only when looking at the early acts in a more serious light is it clear how messed up this is, especially considering that Dave’s only way of storing food was his closet. It’s never a good sign when Dave had to learn a usual thing about how the world works from movies; it shows that movies are closer to a usual lifestyle than Dave’s actual home life is.
DAVE: i dunno theres too much to even get into
DAVE: i dont remember the atmosphere ever not being nerve wracking
DAVE: all havin to sneak around and…
DAVE: ugh my shitty childhood spider senses are tinglin just thinking about it
DAVE: it was “training” you know
DAVE: but you know what it really was it was some vicious shit that was bad and sucked and i hated it
DAVE: it didnt make me stronger
DAVE: it did the opposite
DAVE: it made me never want to fight
DAVE: it made me never want to see blood or be near danger or hear metal sounds
Here’s where Dave gets into the reasoning behind his reluctant hero shtick: it’s caused largely by trauma from his upbringing, which is quite tragic. We had never previously seen why he was so reluctant about being a hero, and though he’s absolutely willing to stand up and protect someone he cares about, his refusal to go through prophesized heroic arcs strongly relates to the brutal and aggressive way his bro trained him.
DAVE: it made me hate the idea of being a hero cause he was a hero and he ruined the idea of heroism
Despite everything, Dave still thinks of his bro as a hero, which is a big part of his hatred of stereotypical heroism. And he’s right, in a way: grown-up Dirk sliced Dave’s meteor in half, used his Japanese sword to initiate the Scratch, and went down valiantly fighting Jack Noir together with Davesprite. All that sounds pretty heroic to me. But despite all these heroic feats, grown-up Dirk was also a pretty shitty person, especially to Dave.
DAVE: i dont even want to be fighting this shitty version of jack but hey nobody else has secret welsh powers so i guess i have to
And then, Dave admits he has no desire to fight the alpha kids’ Jack, but knows that he’s obligated to do so because of his Welsh sword. The fight against Jack is the same topic Dave and Dirk tried talking about before breaking the ice, and this whole time, Dave was holding back his true thoughts on the fight.
DAVE: what gets me is how long it took me to put all this together
DAVE: to stop seeing it as some kinda roughhousey and eccentric life i had but was otherwise normal
DAVE: it took years to deconstruct it all and put it back together to understand how fuckin mad i should be
DAVE: and in particular how stone cold deeply uncared for i was my whole life
DAVE: like… being merely “monitored” by a violent robot
Ouch, ouch, ouch. Dave compares his bro to a violent robot, which makes it clear that he came off more as a robot than a person. The robot comparison makes me think of the similarly brutal and harsh Brobot, who was basically Jake’s equivalent of Bro. That’s how far removed pre-scratch Dirk was from typical human decency: Dave is comparing him to a robot.
DAVE: i only started getting it after spending a lot of time in person with a bunch of people who actually did care about me
DAVE: and i could start feeling like
DAVE: actually somewhat human for the first time
DAVE: instead of…
DAVE: some sort of runty afterthought to a household cabal of smutty puppets
Dave realizing how messed up his childhood was during the meteor journey, when he started spending time with people who cared about him… I can truly see it. It’s impossible to realize how messed up something is if you’re forced to deal with it every day to the point where it comes off as normal; only through contrast does the messed up-ness come to light.
DIRK: … Puppets?
DAVE: the fuckin puppets!!!
DAVE: i know how it sounds but i am NOT joking and there is NO shred of doubt in my mind that he loved all those puppets more than me
Dave is DONE with using irony as an excuse. Sure, he still adores making ironic shitpost comics, but he’s satisfyingly no longer using irony to excuse his bro’s behavior. I’ve seen firsthand how dangerous “irony poisoning” as many people call it is: justifying something you do that’s messed up by claiming it’s only ironic. It’s a trap that’s very easy to fall into and believe, and it took a long time for Dave to work his way out of that trap. He’s fully realized that his bro genuinely adored puppets, which makes sense because loving everything about puppets is one of the first things we learned about teen Dirk. He’s genuinely all about puppets, and adult Dirk had the puppet obsession boil to a point where he cared more about puppets than about Dave.
DAVE: honestly it is very possible that he was just insane and thats that
DAVE: i guess it didnt help either that we lived with what we have come to understand may theoretically be the most evil doll to exist in any universe ever
DAVE: in fact its my tenuous understanding that he came down to earth with that thing and like actually grew up with it
DAVE: maybe spending 30 some years being unseparable from that hell puppet had some effect on him??
DAVE: maybe if it hadnt been casting a pall over our apartment 24/7 since he took me in…
DAVE: laughing in my sleep…
DAVE: maybe our lives wouldnt have been quite so…
DAVE: maybe we would have…
Despite everything, Dave holds a microscopic sliver of hope that maybe his childhood didn’t have to be this way. This is shown by the way he stutters, touching on the idea of what his childhood would have been like if it weren’t for Lil’ Cal. This sliver of hope probably came about because of what Dave has seen so far of teen Dirk: someone who could well be genuine and sentimental deep down. Even that hope is tenuous for Dave because of all those traumatic memories.
DIRK: You ok there?
DIRK: That doll.
DIRK: That was Cal, right?
DIRK: My version is “empty”, apparently.
DIRK: Whatever that means.
DAVE: how do you know that
DIRK: A source.
DIRK: One supposedly knowledgeable in jujus.
DIRK: I never quite knew what that meant, though.
DAVE: whatever his was
DAVE: “empty” is never how i would have described it
Dirk gets us thinking back to what we now know about Cal from Caliborn’s Masterpiece. While post-scratch Cal was an empty vessel, pre-scratch Cal was filled with all of Lord English’s soul components, and that may be part of why pre-scratch Dirk was… like this.
DAVE: i dunno if i figured something out here
DAVE: like um “explained” something or
DAVE: if im just driving myself crazy with this talk and nothing even needs explaining
DAVE: it doesnt change my past or how i feel about him
DAVE: he was still pretty much awful no matter what the reason
DAVE: and im sure thats the only feeling ill ever have about him
DAVE: so who cares why it was like that
Thankfully, Dave has matured enough to know that there is no excuse for his bro’s abusive behavior, and that includes corruption or brainwashing by a puppet. Excuses and denial are exactly why Dave put up with this relationship for so long, and now he’s moved past that.
I should note that some fans have pointed out although Dave is clearly talking about an abusive upbringing, the words “abuse” or “abusive” are never once spoken in this conversation. I’m really not sure what the point of that observation is. I think it’s more effective to describe adult Dirk’s behavior in depth than just use the word “abusive” and leave it at that. If you look up “abusive” in a dictionary, the definitions won’t use that word, since it’s perfectly possible to define pretty much any concept without using the word for that concept. Like, I get it. “Abuse” is a strong word. But is there any way to deny that Dave is defining that exact concept when talking about his bro? I don’t think so.
Look at Dave, sitting alone once more on the edge of a rooftop.
DIRK: All sounds really bad.
DIRK: I don’t know what to say though.
DIRK: Maybe I shouldn’t say anything.
DIRK: Since I just remind you so much of him, for, uh. Obvious reasons.
DIRK: I don’t want to make you feel worse, or make it sound like I’m offering a defense.
DIRK: For him, or me.
DIRK: Because I don’t have one.
DIRK: For either of us.
DAVE: come on man
DAVE: YOU didnt do anything
DAVE: this was just some douche bag with your exact dna, who happened to grow up to be my bro
DAVE: you had a completely different life full of like
DAVE: different choices and actions and stuff
DAVE: and even if you were gonna turn out like him youve barely cleared the half way mark on actually chronologically gettin there
DAVE: in some way ranting about all this is probably just uncool of me because…
DAVE: you arent him
DAVE: youre not resposible for any of this shit but im sorta implicitly tacking it on you anyway
DAVE: sorry about that
Here’s where alternate selves come up again. While different characters in Homestuck have wildly varying views on their alternate selves, Dave is firmly on the side of divorcing people from their alternate selves. He feels that life choices, not genes or DNA, determine a person’s nature and identity, which probably ties into some theories about him being a time player, but I have MUCH more interesting things to talk about than classpects right now.
DIRK: I’m not sure it’s true though.
DIRK: At least, I don’t feel that way.
DAVE: what way
DIRK: That I’m not him.
DIRK: The fact is, I am.
DIRK: It’s something I’ve come to understand about myself.
DIRK: All splinters of me are basically me, no matter how much I want to resist that truth.
DIRK: Or pretend they aren’t reflecting my own qualities back at me.
DIRK: I bear a certain responsibility for all of them.
Dirk’s stance on alternate selves is the opposite of Dave’s, and it’s powerful to see him own up to a truth that he’s long fought with: that all his alternate selves are still him. And pre-scratch Dirk, the first version of Dirk who the comic ever showed us, is no exception. I had never thought of him as one of Dirk’s splinters before this update came out, and this update made me realize that Bro Strider is a perfect example of a splinter of Dirk who went completely haywire.
DIRK: I guess the concept isn’t that unique to me.
DIRK: We’ve all got other versions of ourselves running around here and there, throughout the various compartments of this messed up cosmos.
DIRK: I just happen to be particularly connected to mine.
DIRK: I’ve felt…
DIRK: Haunted by them.
DIRK: And what that really means is, I’m perpetually haunted by my own bad qualities.
Dirk’s feeling of responsibility for his splinters does indeed relate specifically to his narrative role, which is scattered across numerous alternate selves, probably more than any other character. This is in especially strong contrast to John, whose narrative role is almost entirely confined to one version of himself. Contrast against John aside, it’s powerful for Dirk to admit to someone other than himself that his splinters are a part of himself.
DIRK: So, when I hear about stuff I did in another reality,
DIRK: I’m not sure what my adult self might have ever tried to do to atone for that stuff, if anything…
DAVE: pretty much dick squat
DIRK: Yeah. But in any case,
DIRK: I’m sure I was completely in the wrong, and I’m sorry I messed up your life.
Due to his perception of his splinters as part of himself, Dirk tries to apologize through his splinters for his treatment of Dave…
And here Dirk is, joining Dave on the edge of the rooftop—an especially powerful place to have a reunion.
DAVE: it still feels a little odd accepting an apology from somebody who i just met and technically had nothing to do with my life
DAVE: even if you do feel guilty splinterways or whatever
DAVE: it is just a messed up situation
DAVE: and i guess i had to vent
DAVE: and there was never anyone i wanted to say all that to
DAVE: and the only thing that was gonna drag it out of me i guess was like a teen stand-in phantom of my dead bro
DAVE: just some perfectly innocent dude havin to take the brunt of this shit
… but Dave still isn’t totally sold on adult Dirk and teen Dirk being one and the same. He views alternate selves differently from how Dirk does, and to him, Dirk being his bro’s alternate self doesn’t mean much aside from making an appropriate person to vent about his upbringing to. It’s honestly pretty believable for Dave to have held all this in for so long, leading to an extra-long vent when he finally meets someone he can talk to about this.
DIRK: I’m not particularly innocent though.
DIRK: I’ve messed a lot of things up.
DIRK: With my friends.
DIRK: Honestly, that’s why I wasn’t that bent on sticking around, when I showed up.
DIRK: And pretty much jumped at the offer of flying here to get ready for some yet to be explained battle.
DIRK: Battles are easy. Just you, a sword, some bad guys… it’s a lot simpler than having to answer for things you did.
Dirk provides an interesting reflection on battles here. His fighting prowess is strong enough that he views battles as something far easier than making amends with friends—perhaps even a way to take his mind off romance drama, given how he’s always liked fiddling around with swords in his spare time.
DIRK: For the most part, I feel pretty bad about the role I played in my friends’ lives.
DIRK: Especially Jake.
DAVE: what happened there
DIRK: I don’t even know.
DIRK: An unmitigated disaster for which I’m entirely to blame.
DIRK: It’s not any one thing. I think I was just a completely toxic element in his life from day one.
DIRK: I don’t know what he’s doing now.
DIRK: I wouldn’t be surprised if he was trying to avoid me as much as possible.
DIRK: I’m sure that’s for the best.
DIRK: I think I need to stay out of his business for a good while, so I don’t risk poisoning another innocent kid’s life.
DIRK: Like I did with you, apparently.
This passage gets me thinking about the potential reconciliations that didn’t happen onscreen, of which Jake/Dirk is a notable example. Dirk vows to stay out of Jake’s life, but then we see them apparently talking in the silent panels after Collide? And then in Act 7 and the credits, it looks like they’ve reconciled, I guess. I can accept that Hussie couldn’t get every character reconciliation done in A6A6I5, or else the act would be even more insanely long, but I still feel the reconciliation is a pretty big hole, as is Jane and Jake’s potential reconciliation. At least in this passage, Dirk is sort of telling readers in advance that he and Jake won’t get an onscreen reconciliation and giving a reason why.
DAVE: i mean
DAVE: maybe its a little different cause relations between peers is a whole other thing
DAVE: its tricky shit and youre both figuring stuff out on a relatively equal footing and youre both at the same point in your lives
DAVE: its not like when one person is older and supposed to be a lot more…
DAVE: never mind this is a fucked up thing to think about
DAVE: but the bottom line is yeah laying low while you sort out your stuff cant hurt
Dave raises a good point about teen Dirk’s treatment of Jake compared to adult Dirk’s treatment of Dave. The former is much more forgivable since they were both teens, and the difference serves as a good argument as to why Dave and Dirk got a reconciliation but not Jake and Dirk. Adult Dirk’s treatment of Dave is a whole different league of messed up due to his older age, so messed up that not even when venting to Dirk does Dave want to think about it.
DIRK: The thing with that, with my adult self’s…
DIRK: The sad thing is,
DIRK: I can really see it.
DIRK: How someone like me can go unchecked in life, and turn out to become a much worse person than I already am.
DIRK: I guess I’m just relieved I still have some time to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Dirk’s self-awareness here is as admirable as it is tragic, especially considering what sort of person he becomes in the epilogues. That said, in this post I’d rather not talk about Dirk in the epilogues, not because I hate the epilogues (which I very much don’t), but because I have plenty of things to say about this reunion even without the epilogues.
DAVE: you dont actually seem like a bad person to me though
DIRK: Why not?
DIRK: We did just meet, after all.
DAVE: i dunno if truly bad people wrestle so much with whether theyre good or bad
DAVE: i think if i ever sensed my bro like
DAVE: struggled at all with what he was doing or who he was
DAVE: or showed any sort of doubt
DAVE: that might have changed everything
DAVE: but there was never a crack in it
DAVE: or the slightest hint of introspection behind the aggressive cooldude facade
DAVE: if there was i sure never noticed
Dirk’s splinters have quite a terrifying knack for never showing an insecure or uncertain side. In fact, I can only think of one time where an alternate self of Dirk’s showed a crack: at the very peak of Dirk’s final conversation with Lil’ Hal, where Hal reveals his great fear of not existing and his severe insecurities about being trapped in a pair of glasses. Other than that, Dirk’s splinters never show even the slightest trace of struggle or doubt.
DAVE: i mean personally
DAVE: i think about it all the time now
DAVE: what it actually means to be good or bad
DAVE: or if not something that starkly moral
DAVE: at least just trying to examine the difference between being decent and being a douche
DAVE: maybe its because of him i worry about that now
DAVE: but for me i think that internal struggle is kind of mild
DAVE: for him…
DAVE: or you i mean
DAVE: it sounds like some pretty dark shit
DAVE: like grappling with…
DAVE: becoming evil vs simply trying not to
DIRK: That’s not too far off.
DAVE: but the point is
DAVE: even just talkin to you a little bit
DAVE: its obvious youve been fighting with that
DAVE: which means that you care enough to put in some effort
DAVE: i think that counts for something
Dave raises a very good point at the difference between good guys and bad guys: true bad guys don’t struggle with their own morality so severely, or even at all. They’re very confident in what they’re doing and don’t go through moral dilemmas or struggles. And Dirk knows that he has the potential to become an incredibly scary person, which is quite tragic knowing his alternate selves as well as the epilogues.
DIRK: Not sure if I’m ready to accept a pat on the back for recognizing I have some problems, and worrying about whether they’ll destroy me and fuck up the people I care about.
DIRK: That might be setting the bar kind of low.
DAVE: well when it comes to the subject of him
DAVE: the bars already pretty low dude
It’s unbelievably refreshing to see Dave be honest about how much of a messed up guardian his bro was, especially when he says the bar is low when it comes to that guy.
DIRK: The weird thing, honestly,
DIRK: Is that it’s actually kind of refeshing to hear a sincerely leveled critique of all my negative qualities, coming from another person invested in a relationship with me, rather than from a fucked up iteration of myself as some bizarre “trollish” form of self abuse.
DIRK: The only thing I’ve ever been exposed to are either various forms of self loathing either from me or my auto-responder, or attitudes completely oblivious to my real issues, as expressed through my friends.
And Dirk wholeheartedly agrees that it’s refreshing. I can really see it, how relieving it is to get an honest critique of your personality for once. It’s something that Dirk never got treated to before, and it’s nice to see he found it a good thing for Dave to so brutally tear into his adult self. It sounds like he’s really taking a lot away from this reunion, as is Dave.
DIRK: My friends always seemed to cut me so much slack, or were just never aware of the kind of person I really was.
DIRK: Well, Jake probably is, by now at least.
DIRK: But he’s also the sort of guy who’s just as likely to blame himself for stuff I did, as he is to blame me.
DIRK: Jane and Roxy, though.
DIRK: Never seemed to see anything wrong with me.
DIRK: If anything, just the contrary.
I can also see how frustrating it must be for others to only see the good in you, brushing aside any flaws as silly quirks or insisting they’re the ones at fault. It makes me question how healthy and constructive Dirk’s relationships with the alpha kid girls were. Obviously his relationship with Jake has been disastrous, but Jane and Roxy enjoyed his presence and seemed to have positive interactions with him. Of the two, Jane is easily the one he’s opened up to more (specifically in the post-trickster conversations), but his bonding and heart-to-heart with Dave is still on a MUCH deeper level.
DIRK: Roxy in particular had a certain… fixation.
DIRK: She meant well, but was so enamored of me, and seemingly everything I did.
DIRK: Which I think was the last thing I needed.
DIRK: To be idolized in some form by other people I respected.
DIRK: I had enough of that feeling coming from within, particularly when I was younger.
DIRK: And since then, I’ve been plagued by the insane ego of my youth in the form of an artificial intelligence I designed which essentially trapped that state of mind in a sort of horrid suspended animation.
DIRK: Until… recent developments, of course.
Roxy’s relationship with Dirk is especially crushing thinking of it now. She’s always adored and admired Dirk, and it didn’t amount to the healthiest relationship, especially because Dirk couldn’t return her feelings. This makes it especially cathartic for Dirk to finally have someone he can truly connect with and open up to. The guy really went a whole sixteen years without talking to Dave, huh? Same goes for Dave to Dirk, but not nearly as strong—he seemed to be reasonably good at opening up to Karkat and John, at least.
DAVE: was that stuff true
DAVE: when you said you idolized the other version of me
DAVE: and not just some bullshit like how i used to say the same thing about my bro when i didnt know any better
DIRK: It’s definitely not like that.
DIRK: I never lived with him, or met him, so couldn’t have anything like the contentious relationship you had with my older self.
DIRK: He was a historical figure from centuries ago.
DIRK: There was a lot to admire, and think about fondly.
DIRK: Especially since I was alone, and never had any direct contact with another person, or any concept of civilization.
DIRK: So even though I’m sure I romanticized what his life was like, and the early 21st century in general,
DIRK: It was nice to think about you.
DIRK: I passed a lot of time that way.
And here’s where the emotional factor ascends to an even higher level. Unlike Dave with his bro, Dirk truly thought of adult Dave as an amazing and inspirational person, and only now are we going to know how much adult Dave meant to Dirk. We’ve just learned that he passed a lot of time on desolate future Earth thinking about his ancestor/bro, and now we’re about to dig deeper into this genuine idolization.
DAVE: you say there was a lot to admire
DAVE: like what
DIRK: He was pretty famous.
DIRK: Made some successful movies.
DIRK: At least under a somewhat expansive definition of “success”.
DIRK: And an even more expansive definition of “movie”.
DIRK: His work accumulated a lot of subversive political influence, which got him in trouble later.
DIRK: He made like a million bullshit Statues of Liberty, scummed them up with jpeg artifacts, and littered them all over the planet.
DAVE: holy shit
Dirk’s speech starts with a description of how thoroughly post-scratch Dave got to express his sense of humor, with the SBaHJ movies and the fake Statues of Liberty that he littered over Earth. I can tell Dave is blown away by these accomplishments: he viewed his SBaHJ comics and blog posts and whatever other projects he did as a silly hobby, not something he could ever make a living or celebrity presence out of, or accomplish such insane things with.
DIRK: He was also a pretty badass swordsman, and an active member of the resistance movement.
DIRK: He slaughtered the clown presidents on the roof of the White House, and flew away on a shitty skateboard.
DIRK: Then it seems he gave the Batterwitch a pretty good run for her money.
DIRK: It wasn’t enough, but at least he went down fighting.
DAVE: ima need to hear more details on this some time
DIRK: But as you can tell, clearly there was a lot to look up to.
DIRK: I thought about the examples you set constantly. The creative ideals, the advanced theories on irony and humor, the tales of courage and martial prowess.
DIRK: Really, I modeled everything about myself after you. Or at least everything good that I was trying to become.
DIRK: And I probably spent an embarrassing amount of time imagining what it would be like to live during his time, and to be able to have something resembling a sibling relationship, or be in some sort of master-apprentice situation.
While Rose and Roxy bonded through commonalities, Dave and Dirk are bonding more through contrast. Dirk’s speech about his bro’s accomplishments enormously contrasts against Dave’s rant about his bro’s abuse, and it’s clear that Dirk’s idolization of his bro was exactly what Dave thinly pretended to think of his bro (and deep down wished he could think of his bro). While Dave pretended to view adult Dirk as a role model, Dirk truly viewed adult Dave as a role model and wished he could have a proper brotherly relationship with the ancestor of his who died centuries ago, and now he’s finally getting that wish.
DIRK: When I finally learned you existed, and started to understand who he really was in relation to me, that put a lot into context.
DIRK: I realized he was a version of you who got a chance to live up to his full potential.
DIRK: And when I understood there was a young version of you, in a situation sorta like mine, whose time on Earth got cut short when you were thrown into all this,
DIRK: I was at least happy to think there was some reality where you got the chance to do everything you wanted to do, be successful, and fight for all the right things.
DIRK: Even if ultimately it didn’t lead to a great outcome for humanity, you had an opportunity to live a full life and show what you were made of.
DIRK: While I guess I had… the same opportunity on your world, somewhat less fortunately.
Although Dirk normally beats himself up about alternate selves, here he’s viewing them in a more positive light: Dave should be proud that there is a reality where he got to accomplish such amazing things, rather than feel jealous of his alternate self or beat himself up about not achieving similar feats. It’s pretty amazing to think that Dirk’s idolization of his bro is like Dave’s “idolization” of his bro, except it’s for real.
DAVE: but then for all my bitching i guess i still never grasped your full reality
DAVE: just like you probably didnt grasp mine, but just reading into the mindset of a historical figure as best you could
DAVE: what if i wasnt as heroic as it seemed?
DAVE: what if adult me was kinda douchey too in a way you couldnt observe
DIRK: But beyond a certain point, I think accomplishments speak for themselves.
DIRK: I dunno if you can just completely shred every person who ever did great things because they had some flaws.
Dave raises a good point about his adult self possibly having a rude and crass side, but Dirk raises an even better point in response. The truth is, no one is flawless, and that extends to historical figures. In today’s world, it’s common to put historical figures in a negative light because they may have been racist or sexist or otherwise discriminatory or just plain rude, or even just because they were discriminatory by today’s standards. While it’s a good thing to acknowledge historical figures had flaws, I don’t like the idea of refusing to celebrate amazing things they did because they had flaws. Accomplishments do indeed speak for themselves.
DIRK: All I can say is, it was important to me to see him the way I did.
DIRK: As a good person who inspired me, and set the standard for what I wanted to be.
DIRK: It kept me going.
DIRK: That said, I’m also glad there’s this version of you who got to go through all the things you’ve been through.
DIRK: Like, yeah, you didn’t get to be the cool celebrity who cuts down juggalos on badly defaced government property.
DIRK: And the idea of a “normal life” was rudely taken from you, and it’s something you’ll never get to experience.
DIRK: But this is so much more challenging, and uncertain.
DIRK: You get to apply all that potential you showed in one reality to something much bigger and more existentially critical.
DIRK: Whatever strength you showed in trying to save a dying planet, the fact is, I think we need that more here.
DIRK: And the trials inherent in being a part of something like this, I think they bring more out of you than a relatively pedestrian life on Earth would. Make you face more things about yourself. At least, that’s been true for me.
DIRK: But it sounds like it’s been true for you too.
So that Dave doesn’t feel inferior to his scratched adult self, Dirk takes some time to give positive words to the teen version of Dave sitting next to him, and it’s very inspiring and powerful. Through what he knows about adult Dave, Dirk can tell that Dave truly has a knack for heroism and bravery. While Dave grumbles when forced to fight some villain he has no reason to care about, he never hesitates to step up and save those in danger; it’s just that he has to be the one to take initiative, rather than just following others’ instructions.
DIRK: It sounds to me like the experiences you’ve had changed you a lot, for the better.
DIRK: You mentioned the experiences with him that were designed to make you stronger have actually made you weaker, but really, I doubt that’s true.
DIRK: I bet you’ve become stronger than you realize, not because of anything he did, but because of what you’ve done, and the ways you’ve changed yourself through your own effort.
DIRK: I hope it doesn’t come off as overly sentimental garbage, but it seems to me like you turned out to be a really good dude.
DIRK: Like, really, a better sort of dude I ever imagined talking to when I pictured meeting the legendary guy I idolized.
I can tell what feelings Dave is getting out of this jaw-dropping speech. After thirteen years of an abusive upbringing and three years living on a meteor with his guardian dead, Dave finally gets to have the brotherly relationship with Dirk that he always wanted to have. Someone who encourages him and shows pride in him, someone who he can bond with for real and jam about silly bullshit as well. And the same goes for Dirk—he always wanted a brotherly relationship with Dave too. It’s incredibly heartwarming for them to finally have such a relationship.
DIRK: I pictured him as probably being “too cool” to be the type of guy you are.
DIRK: But you know what, fuck being too cool for that.
And to cap it all off, Dirk finally acknowledges that the whole notion of being “too cool for school” is BULLSHIT. By “too cool for school”, I mean being too caught up in coolness to have any sensitivity or concern for emotions. “Too cool for school” is a perfect description of pre-scratch Dirk, and we saw how good that turned out.
This is quite a gorgeous silhouette panel.
DAVE: you dont think im cool?
DIRK: I mean, in the right way, yes. I think you are.
DIRK: But, in the way that doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t matter,
DIRK: Not particularly.
I don’t think Dave is hurt very much that Dirk doesn’t think he’s “cool”. Rather, he’s so moved by Dirk’s speech that he’s having trouble saying anything at all, which is pretty stunning.
DIRK: Anyway, that’s…
DIRK: All my “stuff”, with respect to your other self.
DIRK: Again, there’s a lot more I could say about him.
DIRK: Maybe stuff you should know, or maybe it’s all irrelevant to the path you’re on now.
DIRK: Regardless, I’d be more than willing to answer any questions you have about him.
DIRK: Or, anything really.
DIRK: Feel free to ask me whatever, ok?
DAVE: ill have to think
While Dirk now feels free to have Dave ask him about anything he wants, which is an exceptional feat for someone as reserved as him, Dave has trouble using mere words to express his thoughts on the reunion.
So, after a few more wordless panels showing the Striders in the scenery of Dirk’s planet, Dave does something that he knows and says is fucked up for him to do: he hugs Dirk. Words could never express how amazed and moved he is to finally have a positive relationship with his bro instead of whatever the FUCK his upbringing was.
D’awww is all I can say as Dirk shows the absolute tiniest trace of a smile.
And then, very unusually for the least expressive of all the beta and alpha kids, Dirk returns the hug. He feels considerably less fucked up about it than Dave does and is perfectly fine with this moment happening, even as Dave ends the reunion with “sorry”. I can’t help but think about how massively this contrasts against the Lalondes’ hug. While Rose and Roxy exchanged a big warm hug the moment they finally saw each other alive for real, near the start of A6A6I5, Dave and Dirk don’t hug until after their emotional reunion conversation. But those hugs do have a bit in common: the one who speaks in lowercase starts the hug, and the one who speaks with proper capitalization returns it.
So… what do I think of Dave and Dirk’s emotional reunion? I’ll be as blunt as can be: I love every word of it. I hope that sentiment has been made clear throughout my analysis of the scene.
In every work of media that I like, I tend to get a good hearty laugh out of the humorous scenes and get my jaw dropped by the action scenes, but the real highlight for me is without a doubt the emotional scenes. Scenes that tug at the heartstrings and fill me to the brim with emotion, leaving my jaw dropped and my eyes on the verge of tears. Futurama and MLP:FiM (yes, really) are the two best examples of shows that I like for the emotional episodes—also for the non-emotional parts, of course, but the emotional episodes are the biggest highlights. Hell, the final episode of MLP is the only time that a work of media made tears come out of my eyes for real. It made me cry, and I am not ashamed to admit that.
Although Dave and Dirk’s reunion didn’t make tears come out of my eyes, it got me pretty damn close the first time I read it, and even when analyzing it, I was thoroughly and utterly moved the whole way through. I’m not sure if others agree, but for me, this is the number one most emotional scene in Homestuck. No other scene in Homestuck has gotten quite the same reaction out of me. I don’t think Dave’s bro was retconned to be more abusive than he really was, or that Dave was retroactively made a bigger mess of insecurities either. I don’t think Dirk was retconned at all either, though that’s less controversial. The point is, this scene tugs right at the heartstrings, and I’m glad that it does.
I went all out for this post, analyzing Dave and Dirk’s reunion in EXTREME depth. That’s why I let that scene get a post all to itself: I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold back on extreme analysis. Now, with the next three posts, covering the rest of pre-Omegapause A6A6I5, I’ll restrain myself a little more, because otherwise those posts will all be long as shit. I’ll say the things I want to say and analyze the things I want to analyze, but in those three posts, I’ll try not to get too distracted with random tangents. Each of those posts will take up something like five to six conversations of substantial length, and I don’t want them to get too unwieldy. The next three posts after that cover post-Omegapause Homestuck, and I’ll similarly try not to get too long-winded, but be warned: at the end of my final Homestuck post, I WILL go on an extremely lengthy and emotional tirade about how much Homestuck means to me.
Anyway, yeah. I have only six Homestuck posts left now!!!!!! Three pre-Omegapause, three post-Omegapause, nice and balanced. See you in August for my sixth last Homestuck post, which includes an especially controversial Vriska scene and Jane’s conversation with Nannasprite.
>> Part 135: Pleasant and Unpleasant Alternate Self Meetings