The Dirk Strider Trial: Struggle for Control, In and Out (2023)

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November 20, 2018


16 minutes of reading

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The Dirk Strider Trial: Struggle for Control, In and Out (2)

Watching characters suffer can be difficult; See characters you love, even more. InMiss homeThis is an unavoidable difficulty, especially if you love an absolute disaster boy.

I'm sure I cried more for Dirk Strider than any real boy.

I thought a lot about the wayMiss homeaddresses self-awareness: a theme that runs throughout the comic's text and develops significantly as the story progresses. Sure if you talk about itHomestucksSelf-conception, it is almost impossible to ignore the tangled dialectic web of, let's face Di-Stri horse that permeates much of the post-comic cascade.

It's fair to say, at least on the surface, that the paradoxical space grants Dirk a particularly high level of punishment, and the unboxing sheds little light on his character. I like it from time to timeYou will have to decapitate mejust like everyone else, but beyond that, examining the particular narrative structure of Dirk's suffering broadened my understanding of various aspects of sufferingMiss homeuniverse itself.

To some extent, talking about Dirk's suffering was a way of processing the person I was when I fell in love with her character and with her.Miss homeon the whole. Being young, queer, lonely and filled with existential angst was (and sadly still is) a particularly relatable position for me. I don't think it's inaccurate to say that I lived vicariously through Dirk Strider for several years of my young adult life, particularly the bad and poor parts of mental health. Acknowledging the mistakes and mistakes I shared with him — decapitations notwithstanding — was part of the learning process in overcoming them.

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Dirk makes it clear that he likes to be the center of attention. Ironically, this isn't an expression of self-centeredness or even narcissism - he hates himself too much for it - but it could more accurately be described as a need for control in the narrative. Dirk doesn't think he's at the center of paradoxical space: he's actively working to put himself there. Like a well-aimed nickel nestled snugly in a bunch of stuffed animals behind, Dirk's self-image is that of someone wholly ensconced in a deep plot. Against this background, his predilection for puppets is not surprising:

TT: If it reassures you, I'll send the strings here.

Several questions immediately arise: To what extent is Dirk's position as a puppeteer a conscious role that Dirk constructs and motivates himself to play?

To what extent is it a subconscious coping mechanism that Dirk has internalized in response to his circumstances?

And to what extent is it an unintended expression of Dirk's real and fundamental role in the events ofMiss home– i.e. to what extent could this be considered “premonition”?

The various facets of Dirk's character that these questions explore are directly related to different parts of his fractured self. More importantly, they all come back to bite your ass. And boy do they bite hard. On the one hand, it's clear that Dirk's shards are just another means of role-playing.Homestucksgeneral approach to moral and existential dilemmas: the Socratic dialogue. Less esoteric, it is quite reasonable to suggest (like Dirk himself) that his various slivers of self exist and behave as a complex and prolonged form of self-harm.

We'll talk later about dealing with Dirk's self-destructive tendencies as he starts to grow up and accept himself post-retcon, but for now we need to look at what's written on the wall, or if you prefer, the bite marks on the wall's buttocks.

The Dirk Strider Trial: Struggle for Control, In and Out (3)

TT: I will be the invisible hand whose nimble fingers curl behind each subtle twitch in the bulbous march of our session show.
TT: At least those twists and turns that aren't the will of your own quivering proboscis.

By his own account, Dirk actively works to be a visible and invisible guiding influence behind many events in his friends' lives. The master puppeteer's role is just one aspect of the many ironic substrata that make up his legal purpose. It is worth noting that this is not necessarily malicious - in fact, it manifests itself as a sincere and deep desire to help friends achieve their goals. Unfortunately, this desire is mainly expressed in the construction of extremely deadly robots.

Dirk is somewhat unique among the Alpha Kids in that he has parallels to some of the pre- and post-scratch trolls. This is perhaps most evident when it comes to his similarities to Vriska and Aranea, two characters who share Dirk's destructive desire to be more than just a bystander to history. Dirk and Vriska are similar-minded when it comes to helping their friends, though in Vriska's case it's pretty easy to see why her behavior is causing trouble. She intentionally harms and endangers several of the other trolls under the guise of "character development", and indeed, it is extremely doubtful that she really cares to help them, at least until she learns about the human disease called friendship. .

TT: I asked her not to tell any of you. I wanted to be the one to let him know. Waiting for the right moment.

Dirk's machinations are pretty benign in comparison, but they still alienate, confuse, and hurt his friends to some extent. Dirk's desire to be the first to reveal that he and Roxy live in the future puts pressure on Roxy, which is understandably painful. The Brobot beats Jake, and that's about all there is to it. Lil Seb commitsunspeakable violenceagainst the cherished memories of Jane's grandfather stuffed and mounted on the plinth. The autoresponder that Dirk built primarily as a practical and intellectual sparring partner turns out to be the constant mediator and effective barrier that separates him from his friends and is responsible for his share of bruises, both on egos and elbows.

On the subject of the autoresponder, we as readers are encouraged to question the level of influence Lil Hal wields over the events that led to the Alpha Kids' entry into the medium. In particular, it is implied that the complex spatiotemporal choreography of[S] Dirk: SynchronizeE[S] Dirk: Uniris coordinated almost entirely by Lil Hal, including the intermittent sloppy make-outs (which made me jump for joy, I have to admit). In this case, we see that by consciously trying to control events as much as possible, Dirk has created the means by which he completely loses control of things.

These choices, with Dirk actively competing for a central position of power in events, tell us a lot about his understanding of the nature of heroism and agency. Dirk clearly sees himself as someone who acts and who has meaning through the action that unfolds through him.terAction. This core tenet of the classic hero archetype is a core theme that both Striders, Dirk and Dave, struggle with and ultimately abandon (and even disown) to some extent. Just aside, it's interesting that his namesake, J.R.R. of TolkienAragorn "Pilgrim" Elessar, is often misinterpreted as the true hero of The Lord of the Rings - I hardly think it's a coincidence that Dirk and Dave see themselves as heroes in the sense that they are actors directing the course of events. LOTR symbolism in the later stages ofMiss homebut that is a thing for another time.

The Dirk Strider Trial: Struggle for Control, In and Out (4)
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Dirk wants to see himself as an "invisible hand" directing the course of things, and his punishment initially manifests itself as none of his intended invisibility actually happening.functions: He is evidently responsible for much of the chaos that unfolds when the alpha children enter the session, and his friends ensure that this is the case.let him know. It is arguable that the effects of the Alpha Children's entrance into the medium, along with the moments leading up to it, significantly affected the other children's view of Dirk. In particular, I would suggest that Jake's perception of Dirk as an overbearing romantic partner is significantly influenced by Dirk's pre-date behavior, let alone whether that perception actually has much force or not.

While Dirk's active quest for control, his action in response to the action, has negative consequences, how the same quest expresses itself unconsciously is a much more complicated problem, both for us readers and for Dirk himself.

It was suggestedthat an inner sense of the ability to exert control and effect changes in the environment is a necessary part of healthy human functioning. When someone is forced to live for a long period of time in a state of extreme precariousness, a state in which their actions seem unalterable in their environment, in which extreme changes can and do occur entirely without and without notice, it is not unusual that he has an unhealthy relationship with the concept of control for this reason. I would argue that the isolation and desolation surrounding Dirk in Sea Hitler's aquatic apocalypse, and the subsequent lack of significant action in his own time period, causes him to cling to whatever allows his life to be post-war. Scratch, Post-renameEarth cannot. Taking control whenever he can, even if it's a terrible idea, is Dirk's way of managing his conflict as a person of action in a place of relative powerlessness.

Though this manifests itself in Dirk's conscious pursuit of "cool," which often functions as shorthand (and ultimately a euphemism) for traditional male-coded heroismMiss home, it's the unconscious way Dirk fights for control that ends up hurting him the most.

Dirk's relationship with Roxy and his own awkwardness is a good example of this. Dirk's inability to control his own sexuality and his frustration with this apparent failure in relation to his friend are a source of constant guilt and pain:

TT: I think she probably felt bad about hitting on me all these years. Like I was tired of her or something.
TT: But all it really did was make me feel guilty.
TT: That I couldn't give her what she wanted.

Feeling guilty in this way is a huge part of growing up queer in a heteronormative environment, and it's something I struggled with a lot at the same time as Dirk. Of course, it's not Dirk's fault that he likes boys, although it can sometimes seem like a bad idea, let's face it: it's Roxy's behavior that is clearly reprehensible here. But to some extent, Dirk doesn't think about it or simply doesn't care: reframing someone's suffering as punishment is another way Dirk struggles to gain control of his experiences. He internalizes and recontextualizes his lack of control over others' feelings as an internal struggle for control of his own sexuality, mental state, etc. This utterly catastrophic behavior is harmful at best and becomes unbearable when combined with an actual disaster.

The most dramatic and painful moments for Dirk happen[S]: Game over, not just in the on-screen events that followed, but also in those that immediately preceded it, and, of course, in the cataclysm itself. Continuing chronologically, upon reaching Dirk and Roxy god levelbe immediately confronted with the condescension, the handler responsible for Earth's post-Scratch aquaformation and humanity's extinction. Dirk is immediately presented with an extreme, twisted example of his own desires: Condy is just not factual.much cooler than him, but she has far more control over events than Dirk could ever hope for.

Dirk continues to attack the Condesce and his momentum costs him a lot of money. In the most horrific and ironic way, the Condesce steals him from every agency, literally taking control of Jade and pushing him out of the center of the narrative.banished him from the incipisphere. The incipisphere is essentially the region where action begins - by being expelled from it, Dirk is prevented from causing, or in other words, initiating, any action or outcome.

The fact that Dirk was able to control himself during this time is not to be underestimated. He's just met the one who, as far as he's concerned, is responsible for literally every bad thing that's ever happened to him. Roxy is still with her and he knows absolutely nothing about Jane and Jake. he not evenspokenRoxy or Jake from Trickster mode. In trying to affect the environment around him, he has been robbed of all environment to speak of, thrown far into the paraspatial void, and his only course of action is desperately forward.

As the events of [S]: Game Over unfold, Dirk is still on the road. We can only guess at his perspective during this time, as we won't see him again until later. The spectacle, while already dramatic and terrifying from our narrative perspective, must be unspeakably horrifying from afar. Passing the ruins of Derse and seeing Prospit's shattered husk in the distance, Dirk has to watch as the incipisphere itself, his symbol of narrative control, is torn apart - he can only move forward if he sees how his own planet is doing. Jakes collides with him.

We personally follow John's calm, almost reflective journey through the devastated session, but Dirk is forced to take the same journey after observing events while powerless to stop them. He must descend alone into the depths of Hell, a hell as mighty as can be found anywhere within it.Miss home. He must find Jake and Jane who were killed with their own sword.

In the end, John and I found him broken and despondent. I don't want to... go into too much detail about what happens next, but it's the closest to the true human tragedy of suicide, as opposed to Sburban's shenanigans and game constructs.Miss homeallowed to get. Dirk's constant proximity to the concept is relatively rare, really only shared by Rose, his ectobiological daughter, and Doc Scratch, with whom he also has a fundamental connection. But while the former continues to embrace it as a form of defiance, and the latter is literally purpose-built, Dirk's repeated acceptance of death is mired in overwhelming self-loathing and deep sadness.

Many jokes were made about it back then.this sceneespecially given Dirk's catastrophic tendencies: as with all things inMiss home, There isfind humor. But other than that, it's just one of the most moving and moving depictions of total emotional defeat I've ever witnessed.

DIRK: I failed.

The self-centeredness of this statement is easy to dismiss, even comical in hindsight, but there is a very real sense in which it is a true analysis of Dirk's situation. Judging by all the goals Dirk has set for himself, we can only say that he completely failed. From our position outside the narrative, it's easy to see that Dirk's personal expectations are not only completely unreasonable, but also deeply harmful.

This shows another of Dirk's conflicts: his constant maneuvers to place himself (or theherz) of things lead to the fact that he cannot see problems from the outside. It has been noted elsewhere that Dirk often imitates Dave, particularly through mime (or impersonation, to quotea dear friend) your knight class. What seems less appreciated is the way he also tries and fails again in Rose's scrying class. Indeed, virtually everything we talk about reflects an unconscious attempt by Dirk to behave as an "active seer" of what is in the world.Miss homeat least an inescapable oxymoron. Psychics are passive players - not in the sense that they are simply not active, but that separate actions allow them greater awareness of consequences.

The nature of a puppeteer, which Dirk himself explains about his role in the Alpha session, illustrates the situation Dirk finds himself in. Working with the traditional example Dirk gives, the puppeteer exerts control by using gravity to create tension in a set of strings, and that tension is used to move the object the strings are attached to to physically manipulate. Tension, then, forms a crucial part of the puppeteer's controlling power (and controlling power).

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Inherent in the string puppet example is that the puppeteer has to take a stand.abovehis puppet - in the context of a puppet theater, this inevitably puts the puppeteer out of the picture. Any intrusion by the puppeteer into the puppet's world involves a loss of potential gravitational energy and therefore of control.

In Dirk's case, his inability to disengage from his active focus precludes the possibility of this form of control. Whereas the puppeteer loses his strength when the tension in the strings is released, Dirk loses his strength, if at all, due to too much tension. His net has been cast so far—he has so many irons in the fire—that he finds himself at the center of a tight web of conflicting tensions that eventually threaten to tear him apart.

The Dirk Strider Trial: Struggle for Control, In and Out (5)

We talked a lot about Dirk's unhealthy tendency to contextualize the suffering around him as personal failings. As we've seen, this is clearly wrong on one level - Dirk's skewed perception of his control over his own narrative and the resulting consequences is one of the punishments the paradoxical space keeps doling out to him.

The worst punishment for Dirk, however, is that in the end his perception is completely correct.

An answer to Dirk Strider's personal ~*~Ultimate Mystery~*~ and an ultimate form of his punishment is the simple fact that he is directly responsible for the creation of Lord English. All other characters there of courseMiss homeis also responsible for this - he is after allit is already there— and, as such, any involvement in the creation of FL can be seen as a strictly neutral moral act. But Dirk has a rather rare privilege, as a computerized copy of his own thirteen-year-old brain is an integral part of Lord English's royal constitution.

Another answer to this puzzle that Dirk really has to deal with is his pre-scratch counterpart. A huge part of Dave's character development is learning to understand and overcome the trauma of his childhood, a trauma that Bro Strider, Beta Dirk, is directly responsible for. At the same time, Dirk is forced to acknowledge the parts of himself that his pre-scratch self is reflecting back at him. A recurring theme inMiss homeis that love and friendship are central formative influences in people's lives: we see this in Alt! Calliope, a character whose detachment and apparent unconcern are utterly different from her other self, in that the change is deeply disturbing, even tragic. . In that sense, Brother Dirk is devoid of all of his positive influences—he is the absolute worst-case scenario that exists within all of Dirk's highest self potential.

So this is the final degree to which Dirk's stated goal is dismissed by the narrative: all his efforts to play the puppeteer fail miserably, and the only possible paths he ever tookit couldSuccess turned out to be downright terrible. A comparison must be made here between Dirk and Caliborn, particularly in relation toHomestucksEncoding a desire to exert control over his narrative as a venomous-masculine, almost violent concept. But that's a story for another time.

Here, too, Dirk feels an enormous sense of tension, between the parts of his ultimate self that are diametrically opposed, between his goals and his appearance, between the scattered slivers of their web-like bonding. Knowing about Bro brings another form of tension to our experience with Dirk: there's a thick veil of dramatic irony that we use to contextualize everything he does. We watch as he struggles to become someone and we know the terrible cost of his potential failure. If Dirk is a hero, then he always has to be tragic.

The Dirk Strider Trial: Struggle for Control, In and Out (6)

Dirk is... look. He's a fucking mess and I love him so much. And I love all the pieces too. He is a deeply kind and compassionate character who struggles with a crippling lack of self-esteem; he is hypersensitive to his friends' feelings and painfully blind to his own surroundings; he's an incredibly nice kid, a demanding know-it-all, a quirky, sarcastic motherfucker and all,Thenhuman.

I'm not sure I'm going to run out of opportunities to think about him - hell, I've barely scratched the surface of his character in this essay - and in some ways that's an aspect of Dirk that's also out there "lives". the fiction he inhabits.

TT: There seems to be no end to me. Wherever my mind falters or threatens to retreat into the void in any way, my slivers bridge the gap, ensuring there's always more to me than I could ever know what to do with.

And while Dirk always frames this in the form of punishment and pain, it's often a positive experience for us readers. Characters we can't get rid of often appear that way because they have so much relevance to our own lives - there's so much they can teach us.

The character of Dirk Strider has enriched and enhanced my life in a very real sense, and I will always cherish him dearly, not just for his tantalizing, elusive charm, but also because a sliver of him is deeply ingrained in my heart. Like Jake, we all have our own brain-phantom Dirks: in Dirk Strider's trial, this is the final verdict.


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