Bluh Bluh Huge Bully: Vriska

Vriska is one of the more polarizing characters in Homestuck. She is flamboyantly larger than life, a walking disaster. She is a slightly more over the top version of that one bully that you had to put up with in grade school. You know the one, he or she would goad you into getting angry so that you would be the one who got in trouble when you lost it. He or she was the bully who always had to be the center of attention, because everything was about him or her. The bully who if they were caught out, would apologize in such a way that you felt as if you were the one at fault. The one who seemed to think that an apology was license to do the exact same thing they just apologized for. Vriska is that exact type of bully and anyone who has had encounters with that kind of bully get the most intense feelings of the exact opposite of nostalgia when they encounter Vriska.

A large number of fans seem to sympathize with her in such a way that they completely excuse her for anything she has done. They will point out her good deeds and the way she seemed to be coming around to realizing that she had done wrong. They will point out that she had been trying to make amends, and declare that another polarizing character, Terezi is “just as bad” as Vriska, or even worse than Vriska. They sympathize with Vriska to such a great extent that even the slightest criticism of Vriska in a post will result in extreme hostility–even if the criticism comes from someone who likes Vriska as a character.

Now, it is entirely possible to like a terrible character! Vriska is a tragic mess of and watching her flounder around almost understanding but in the end, resetting to her previous behaviors is actually heart breaking. (Also frustrating and horrifying and aggravating–Hussie can be accused accurately of telling instead of showing and writing joke characters, but his characterization of Vriska is pretty much spot on as far as this type of behavior is concerned.) Watching the way she just does not seem to understand what she did wrong can inspire a great deal of sympathy. Who hasn’t been in situations where anything they said was automatically wrong? What some people don’t seem to get however is that this isn’t a case of misunderstanding, or rather, not a simple case of misunderstanding.

Vriska has some understanding that you are supposed to apologize! She has actually offered apologies! She has actually felt sorry for things she has done! But she also lives in a world where no, really, nothing she does is wrong. Vriska is someone who can always find a reason to justify something she is doing! So she bullies Tavros, sets him up and walks him off a cliff because she wanted him to be stronger. So she sets off an entire revenge cycle, so she goes tearing off to be a ‘hero,’ even if that will probably get her friends killed, so she mind controls alternate versions of her friends so she can use them as stalking horses, so she gets her alternate universe ancestor to help her so they can play at being heroes looking for a treasure or a weapon or something.

Vriska makes excuses, and never feels at fault. Her apologies sound more like accusations than actual remorse because she spends most of the time blaming the other person for what happened. Her few brief moments of genuine regret were too brief to stick. These are all good reasons to feel sympathy for a character you might like, but not as a person. Instead, these details are used to excuse Vriska for actions that have caused others harm. It is as if for the people who identify very strong with Vriska, the only way to feel sympathy for her is to find reasons for why the things Vriska did were the right thing to do in the first place.

This post was somewhat inspired by a recent interaction a friend had with someone who really, really identified with Vriska. To the point where they could not express themselves in a way that was conducive to actual conversation. (By which I mean they resorted to catty remarks and flouncing.)

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