Troll Romance (Oo ra oo ah ah)

In the webcomic Homestuck, there is a group of characters belonging to what we might call species known as Trolls. The Trolls are described repeatedly as experiencing romance and reproducing through a system that involves up to four different relationships of different types, known generally as ‘quadrants.’ These four types of relationship have their own specific titles and in so doing, help the audience consider ‘romantic’ relationships in a way that moves beyond the conventional way that characters may want to do a kiss on one another, involving a bucket.

In the context of Homestuck, every single thing I said in that sentence is attached to a web of lore and concepts that mean for any given idea, I am leaving out a lot of things that, if explained, would take multiple hours and add literally nothing to the conversation.

The first and most well-known type is Matespritship. This is represented by the classic symbol of a heart (♥), and it involves sexual intercourse. Positive emotions, a desire to be around one another, you know, it’s just coincidentally almost exactly like the way conventional humans view romance and describe romance with a ♥ symbol, especially if this is before they’ve learned about concepts like asexual relationships.

This term, Matespritship is also extremely cumbersome to say aloud, but don’t worry, because the comic repeats it a lot to make sure it never loses that awkward conjunction in the middle where your English language brain may try to pronounce the e accented or not.

Moirallegiance is Matespritship just without the sexual component. Seriously. It’s besties, it’s bros, it’s soulmates but without any fucking. Again, if you’d met anyone asexual alloromantic, before you wrote these down you’d be hard-pressed to explain how your matespritship and moirallegiance differ from one another. This is a term useful for describing two characters being close but also serves as a solid way to put down a boundary between them that but they won’t fuck.

Moirallegiance is meant to pacify – it’s got some elements of chill. This implies that there’s something to having a bestie that lets you go rage out and do fun things with them is somehow not quite in this space, unless maybe you want to start branching out on discussions of ‘pacify,’ which hey, you may want to do!

Kismesissitude is the one that seems to have escaped into a general audience at least in my experience, where it’s about a deep, abiding, beloved hate. It’s about an obsession, a rivalry, an animosity and antagonism that’s like love, with the same need for the other person in your space, connected to you in the same meaningful way as one might love a lover… but it’s someone you hate.

If you want to discuss the friend who you go out with and cause a fuss, then that would be kismesissitude, but except the quadrant as presented serves to represent oppositional relationships. So if you run around causing a riot with a friend who likes to do hood shit with you, it doesn’t count as a quadrant, apparently, because it’s only in this quadrant if you’re mad at each other.

Auspisticism is the final category, which is an affectionate relationship about mediating and maintaining a relationship between two other people. It’s about being a third wheel who keeps a relationship that would be unstable from becoming a great big mess. You know, one of life’s designated drivers who keeps two other people who have a good friendship stable and happy.

And that’s interesting!

That’s pretty interesting, I mean.

Describing Quadrant theory outside of the pre-existing operations of Homestuck is challenging. It’s an analytical framework, a way to examine the construction of a character dynamic with pre-existing empty spaces. Hey, there’s this character, what are the characters that relate to them in this way? Who is it they’re close to, essentially in love with, but also again, not fucking? Who do they hate and are at war with, but who they very much could not be complete without? These relationship quadrants are a tool the fanbase of Homestuck used to both elevate their conception of how ‘romance’ even worked in other fandoms, and which I’m sure, helped give a lot of queer youth terminology for things that they didn’t necessarily have already.

You’ll also note that my description is pretty broad in all senses: This is because I don’t want you to have to feel you need to get involved in the webcomic to learn what it’s about, and also partly because I don’t think you need me to explain these ideas over and over and over and over again. They’re not very complicated. You can explain them in basically a single paragraph. I don’t know why you wouldn’t do that and move on unless you were aiming for an advanced doctorate in bullshit expansion.

Let me, for a moment, put on a hat I can wear that reads being charitable towards Homestuck. After all, Homestuck is a media that was defined by fan production, incredibly important to a large culture of millenials, and which is generally held up as inventing a lot of concepts for the culture to utilise at large. The most charitable reading of all of this is that it’s neat that someone set out a specific toolset for a fanbase to consider the characters and their interaction.

You need more than one friend.

You can matter to more than one person.

Your worth is not defined by how much you mean to one person, you’re not looking for one person who makes you whole and into whose life you fit perfectly. Instead, you’re part of a system, a system of interconnected systems; that every one of the most important relationships in your life can be seen as part of a grown network of care.

And that’s beautiful.

Now let me take my hat off.

This is just friendship. It’s just friendship! None of these things need special terms, none of them need to be considered as unique ideas or revolutionary complex quadrants, they’re just forms of friendship and the notion that you can construct a romance network out of the idea of ‘characters have friends’ makes me wonder how the hell you imagined characters existing otherwise? And if it’s because these things are destiny in the same way as true love, then well, you can probably guess what I think of true love and destiny as concepts as part of a worldview or the ideology of a story.

Homestuck really did reinvent a lot of wheels, just to spin them.

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