Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homestuck Race Debate

Warning: This post is mostly for my own benefit. Most people who I personally know read this blog either don't read Homestuck or haven't caught up. And many of them actively dislike Homestuck, if only for the crazy fandom that circulates around it. And this is an 'aggregator-style' post about a kerfluffle in the Homestuck fandom. So you've been warned.

On that note, this post contains spoilers.

 If you're continuing anyway, a brief notes of context.

First, go here: Look at the front page, which is also the first page of the (several-thousand-page and running) comic called Homestuck.

Actually, what the heck, I'll paste it for the lazy.

What race is that kid?

Well, you might assume he's white, and he's certainly drawn as if he has straight hair, but Homestuck characters are canonically aracial. Naturally, this leads to most people assuming they're white. And a vocal minority of fans who hate that assumption (myself amongst them, though I'm not really clear on whether I count as part of the HS fandom because until now I haven't participated at all). The author is well aware of this debate. (That context is important.)

Making characters aracial is potentially problematic, but I am going to skim over that for the moment in interest of brevity, and also because I don't think my thoughts have wrapped around that completely anyway.

Homestuck has often had a "Trickster Mode" as a joke in the Flash entries where you can control the characters involved.

Here's a screenshot:

That's the same character as the one depicted in the opening page. Note presence of skin color (and alternate hair color, and alternate colors everywhere.)

Now, partially as a nod to fans, partly as a plot device, the author, Andrew Hussies, has made Trickster Mode an Official Plot Device in Homestuck. The character who enters Trickster mode has a similar skin color to the one in the picture above (IE, they're apparently white, and not white in the literal sense).

This twitter conversation ensues:

Following that, the next few updates had the Trickster mode character commenting to another character (who's horrified at her change): "I feel so... CAUCASIAN!" on this page (bright flashing colors warning, by the way). With a bunch of skin color tones in a row at the bottom (and the choice of pantone 7507c - the character's current skin tone - blinking).

Spiderlass on Tumblr summed up pretty well many peoples' problems with this in this post: (I won't quote, just go read the whole thing if you've gotten this far.)

If you go to the Homestuck page I linked, you'll see that the word now reads "PEACHY!" And the skin color tones are replaced by a series of fruit. Because the author got horrified at the reaction and tossed out the joke.

His explanation: "I thought the joke was funny, but..."
But actually what motivates me more to revise it is noticing more than a few unsavory individuals using it as justification to harass POCs or anyone who, reasonably, wanted to voice their concerns. On reflection I’d rather not have my decisions serve as fodder for the arguments of such people.
Full post here.

And he followed up after people got ANGRY!!! that he stooped to self-censorship!!!:
This is why the claim “social justice is in essence a form of censorship” is so ironic here. Because the forces of social justice aren’t actually making me change anything. In this case, it’s actually the people who OPPOSE those concerns in the ugliest manner who motivated me to “censor” myself.

Most people here would agree that some SJ enthusiasts can get pretty carried away. But if you feel convinced social justice is a crushing form of censorship, you might want to rethink that idea. Because apparently “one of the only people who could say and do whatever they damn well pleased” for the first time ever decided to redact a joke, not because of SJ bloggers, but because of the behavior of their most strident critics. And if you truly dislike censorship, and do not wish to see more self-censorship in the future, then you would be doing your part to behave in a way that doesn’t make creators feel embarrassed to be defended by you.
Full post here.


Frickin Mint said...

I was wondering what in the world is happening in the Homestuck fandom, being a non-homestucker and all. Thank you!

Jake Jesson said...

You're welcome! I didn't think this post would be actually helpful to anyone, so I am happy that it's worked for someone.