Confession time: more Homestuck. I may not be a particularly belligerent fan-creature but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pass up an opportunity to talk about some of my favorite things if it’s right in front of me. 🙂
I already told you about Homestuck and how mind-bogglingly vast it is. The nature of the story Hussie has created leaves wide open the possibility that there are infinite alternate universes to the ones his characters inhabit, and readers get to see a few of them in canon. This, along with the frankly hulking amount of canonical text, has prompted fans to create numerous alternate universes of their own, from the 19th century setting of BustleStuck to the self-explanatory MafiaStuck (are you seeing a pattern?), and numerous universes in which all the characters are human.
BrainBent is one such AU. The story takes place within the St. Lobaf Residential Treatment Center (Lobaf stands for “Land of Brains and Fire,” yet another Homestuck naming convention) and casts the characters from the comic as inpatients, staff, and friends/family of the patients. As far as the patients are concerned, the emotional and mental difficulties they have to address are based on their traits within the comic itself. Brainbent got a lot of flak (scroll down!) in its early days from people who were concerned that the AU was going to make fun of or trivialize people with actual mental health issues, but the authors maintained that not allowing anyone to talk about mental health for fear of upsetting someone wasn’t helpful to anybody, and using humor to do so can be an important tool in confronting such issues. The creator of the AU summed it up much better than I could in a response to an offended reader:
There just aren’t enough stories where people with mental illnesses get to be *people* and not just their diagnoses. People with flaws and good and bad days who have adventures and struggle and get laid. Not two-dimensional victims, not sexless bland survivor sues, and DEFINITELY not as somebody’s boring political agenda puppeting my opinions about psychology and reality. That shit pisses me off, and since I’m a writer I tend to try to remedy the situation by writing what I wish I saw more of in fiction. And in goofy fanfiction AUs, of course. Because if there is one story where the issue of mental illness is a major operating factor in the plot, this is it.
One of the main reasons this AU was created was that the authors wanted a place to express their own experiences within the mental health system in the context of one of their favorite stories. Amidst all the cussing and hilarity and sometimes heart-wrenching plot, Brainbent also started fielding questions from readers about real life mental health questions, emotional issues and where to get help. As of now the mods have stopped posting such questions because they received literally thousands, but they are putting together a “Resources” pages to help readers in general ways.
To wrap up this absurdly long final vector, I’d like to suggest that this is a great example of what we talk about in class: what we see in texts is deeply influenced by our personal experiences, and the way in which we adapt texts is in turn influenced by that which we see. Brainbent started there, and has evolved into a source of hope and humor for hundreds of people. That, to me, is probably the coolest thing about the never ending orobourous of adaptation.