So I’ve been pondering BYB’s inversion theory, and while it is very good, I think I may have stumbled across a missing angle. Or at least one that could use more emphasis.
I was comparing the Classpect system central to the theory to the castes of raksha nobles from Exalted, which I noticed have certain parallels.
To summarize for those unfamiliar with Exalted’s raksha, they have five “base” castes—Entertainer, Diplomat, Worker, Warrior, and Guide. Noble castes are a combination of any two of these, one “Ascendent”, one “Shadowed”. A raksha’s caste can invert—Ascendent becomes Shadowed, and Shadowed becomes Ascendent.
The thing that caught my attention about this is how both the Ascendent and Shadowed castes are an essential part of the Raksha—the Shadowed caste is used in service to the Ascendant caste, and inversion merely reverses the relationship. For example, a Strategos (Ascendent Worker, Shadowed Warrior) uses his understanding of war in service to others. Inverting to a Cataphract (Ascendent Warrior, Shadowed Worker) he becomes a peerless soldier who exists only to fight whomever his master points him at—his loyalty and servitude now being an expression of his warlike nature.
So where am I going with this? Well, let’s see what happens when we apply this line of thought to Homestuck Classpects…
This is actually just about exactly right!
UU: for instance, a hero of life and a hero of doom have aspects as different as can be.
UU: bUt if their classes are different enoUgh as well, that is, one active and the other passive, remarkably there is a chance they coUld end Up with very similar abilities!
I’ve been batting this concept back and forth with different people (the one who discovered and relayed it to me first was vacantvisionary, over AIM), but I hadn’t found time to go into it in a big, prominent place on my blog: The idea that you can healthily use the inverse of your role as a subservient tool of your normal role, when your normal role is what’s being accomplished. I think I settled on referring to it as utilizing your “subrole”, but “shadow” was the word they used, too. I’m not sure they were thinking about Exalted, but perhaps something more mythological that used a similar concept less literally? (EDIT: And a bit like MBTI, too, I forgot about that; thanks jzumun!)
(NOTE: While using a subrole TO ACCOMPLISH your main role is healthy, as a helpful shadow, treating your subrole as DOMINANT is strictly unhealthy, and is called inversion. A Seer of Light naturally digs through void to uncover the truth, but when Rose shunned Skaia’s Light and started tearing her session apart, still tacitly ‘seeking answers’ but speaking curtly, hiding things from her friends, and generally behaving more like a Witch than a Seer (as people were keen to point out in their own ways), she was not on a healthy or effective track, and ended up thoroughly used as a tool throughout the process.)
If you follow me, please read on below; this is a very important concept! :D
(EDIT: Put this under its own read-more and added it to the main theorylist under Role Inversion.)
I did go into it just a little in my long conversation with MousaThe14, though, which was linked on my blog a while back, if any of you noticed:
- blastyoboots: there’s also some evidence that an individual uses their opposed classpect as a “shadow” that boosts their normal role
- blastyoboots: like, John can tap into some personality traits resembling a Mage of Blood healthily if it’s in the process of *helping* him act like an Heir of Breath, change peoples’ direction
- blastyoboots: like using his insight about Karkat and Terezi’s relationship to knock them about a bit conversationally, get them distracted and changing subjects
- blastyoboots: or when Tavros perhaps acted a little like a Thief of Blood by communing with that huge army of creeps, driving them along to help him do things in-session?
- blastyoboots: but of course you can take it too far
So, yes, just as you said under your read-more, John clearly has a surprisingly sharp understanding of his friends and others, and uses it to invite changes in their direction, batting them around playfully in conversation. (Very notable when you compare him to Jake, a rather similar boy who doesn’t understand his friends at all! The Mage role is nowhere near Jake or his inverse, unlike John.) To quote you for everyone else, theorykind-abstratus:
A big part of John’s role as the Heir of Breath is how effortlessly he instigates change in direction just by talking to people. But think about how exactly how he accomplishes that.
He does it because, for all his derpiness, John is actually surprisingly insightful when it comes to bonds and relationships. It doesn’t really matter that he can’t explain his understanding without referencing the plots of a half-dozen awful movies; he gets it, and it’s that ability to connect with people that allows him to do what he does. In other words, it’s the insight of a Mage of Blood that allows him to provoke change as an Heir of Breath.
And this applies to inversion as well. Look at what happens to him when he’s confined for years on end, unable to exercise any real freedom:
He obsessively analyzes the bonds and relationships around him, searching for new meaning and direction, and relentlessly hammers on each topic until a new obsession presents itself. The changeability of an Heir of Breath has become subordinate to—Shadowed by, to borrow the terms from Exalted—a Mage of Blood’s need for understanding.
Still not convinced? Let’s take a look a Rose.
As she and Aradia put it, Rose’s role as a fully-realized Seer of Light is to understand the “path that leads to the most favorable outcome”, and to direct others to take the actions necessary to its realization. What does this entail? Well, apparently…
It entails acting in a very mysterious and obscure fashion to provoke the necessary response. In other words, she causes change through Void in order to direct others with her understanding of Light. Ascendent Seer of Light, Shadowed Witch of Void.
And when she was inverted? She was causing catastrophic change through forbidden, unknowable powers to uncover forbidden, unknowable secrets and thereby gain understanding of what is truly important. She was causing change in and by Void to gain understanding of Light. Ascendent Witch of Void, Shadowed Seer of Light.
(— snip —)
I have some ideas for how this model applies to the Alpha kids and the trolls, but they’re nowhere near as complete or coherent. I’ll probably make another post for them later on, but for now, some quick thoughts:
* Aranea’s role involves healing of or through significance and information. As the exposition fairy, she destroys ignorance and obscurity.
(Read the rest of theorykind-abstratus under that read-more!)
And to add to you, Karkat’s inversion is a Rogue of Breath: He sucks at creating goals himself (the trolling effort), but as one who exploits the flow of Blood, he’s excellent at bringing people together and delegating when a goal in the environment - like the game of Sgrub and its objectives - presents itself! It’s only then that he can keep everyone together; when the flag he flies is deprived of a quest, deprived of Breath, then the team he leads falls apart as it did stranded on the meteor.
(Before Sgrub started, Karkat had red sheets/canopies adorning his house… like red flags, but tied down, unable to move freely in the wind, as he hadn’t started his game and quest!)
And, as for what all this can tell us about the plot: As with overembracing and underembracing, a fully realized hero has to achieve balance between the use of their role and restraint… and apparently here, between one’s role and its shadow or subrole. So when an individual discards or shies away from the subrole, it’s cause for concern, a hint that their character arc isn’t yet complete.
One instance of that which I can think of?
Jade Harley, rather recently.
As I linked in my post on Jade the Seer, theworstpersonintheworld had a nice little spiel on how truly seeing Time meant seeing Death, the death of your friends, the negative consequences of your actions past and future; and a Seer’s role is to share that understanding with others.
Jade did manage to symbolically unite with her “Seer of Time” role when she achieved god-tier, fusing with Jadesprite and thus accepting her fears.
But ‘symbolically’ isn’t enough in the long run. Because informing Rose of her dead mother went so poorly, driving her to grimdark possession and death…
JOHN: look at all those trolls…
JOHN: there are so many trolls. the idea of meeting them all is kind of overwhelming.
JOHN: i wonder which one is which?
JOHN: i think that must have been karkat there. and that was probably his clown asshole friend he mentioned, too.
JOHN: and that was definitely terezi, with the fancy glasses.
JOHN: not sure about the others… i wonder if vriska was there?
Jade’s since been shying away from giving other people bad news she knows, hiding her knowledge that Vriska was dead from John! She isn’t accepting her shadow role!
Thanks so much for linking this, theorykind-abstratus! We can’t be sure about everywhere subroles apply, but it’s definitely something to look into.
Hmm…. I think I’ll start tagging stuff about this with the label ‘Subroles’ for now.
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