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|On the Final Day of Flash, A Memorial for Homestar Runner
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|Author:||sonicsuns [ Thu Dec 31, 2020 9:55 pm ]|
|Post subject:||On the Final Day of Flash, A Memorial for Homestar Runner|
Well folks, here we are. It's December 31st, 2020, and today is the last day of Flash support. For a while now already, our browsers have been bugging us, asking us if we're sure we want to enable Flash on homestarrunner.com. As of January 12th, they'll deactivate entirely. When that day comes, our only options will be to stick to YouTube or try for a more esoteric approach, e.g. Ruffle: https://ruffle.rs/#what-is-ruffle
I think now is a fitting time to make a tribute to days gone by. I know there are a lot of people aren't there who weren't around when Homestar Runner was in its heyday, so let me summarize the experience, for the sake of newcomers and for the sake of history.
This was years before YouTube launched. Years before anyone told you to "Like, Comment and Subscribe". Years before promotional posts and selling out and various forms of internet drama. In the early days, there was Flash, and the king of Flash was a site called Homestar Runner.
It was the purest of the pure. Just two guys making funny cartoons for their own amusement. One did all the animation, the other did nearly all of the voices and his girlfriend did the final voice. And the things they made were funny and witty and weird in all the best ways. The show was willing to go in all sorts of strange directions that no corporate board would have ever imagined. Strong Bad is kindof a jerk, but also we love him, and he's cynical but he also has this unironic love of "childish" things ("Space Captainface!"). He's also an artist and a grammar nerd, and he uses old computers a lot. Who ever would have though to put these traits together in a single character? But in the world of Homestar Runner, it fits. It feels perfectly natural. (For another example, take Coach Z. He's a heavily midwestern sports coach...who also enjoys rap music. No one would ever think of that. It's off the wall, but it also feels right.)
This was long before Adblock, too, and the internet was littered with pop-ops. But not here! This site was allergic to ads. They never advertised anything, not even their own merchandise! There was a "Store" link on the main page, and that was it. If you never clicked it, no one would ever bother you. The site was still yours, any time of day. And what's more, they never advertised the show on any other site! The only way to learn about it was through word of mouth.
For me, I just happened to see a guy looking at the Theme Song short one day in high school, in the computer labs. I remember how impressed I was with the animation. I asked him what the site was called, and that evening I browsed on my home computer. (A big ol' desktop machine, since laptops were pretty impractical back then). The first main page I ever saw was the bowling alley. (For a long time I thought it was the only page!) The first time I heard Strong Bad was on the commentary for the King of Town toon. I didn't know it yet, but that mysterious voiceover guy would become my favorite character on the site.
The site never sent you elsewhere; there were no links to external pages of any kind. And unless you discovered this wiki, there were basically no other sites that linked to Homestar Runner. Word of mouth, again, was the only method. You heard about Homestar either because you got lucky (like I did) or because a friend introduced you to it. All these factors helped make the site feel like an exclusive club, a special place cut off from the rest of the internet. The most magical place on the net.
Strong Bad Emails would post on Mondays, which was great timing for me, because high school was horrible and I really needed something to help me feel better. And yeah, the email was often late, but I always understood. It's almost like I had a relationship with the creators, even though I'd never spoken to them. The whole thing felt so small and personal, so non-corporate. And man, think of the in-jokes! Again, this site had a sense of community, and I think the self-references really helped with that. The show kindof assumed that you were a member of the club, that you understood why it was funny that Strong Mad suddenly said "Douglas" or why The Paper got replaced with an Inkjet Printer in Email #173. And if you weren't already in the club, it was actually super easy to join. All you had to do was watch the cartoons for a couple days. So it was exclusive, but also really accessible! It was a tiny little magic place, a jewel of the internet.
I emailed Strong Bad once. It was a really dumb email about how "Homestar Runner" had a nemesis named "Hotelmoon Walker". I'm sure my email was DELETED, but that's ok. And I remember when I discovered this wiki. The fanbase is so damn dedicated, we have fan-made transcripts of ever single cartoon that's ever been on the site! Can you think of another fandom with that kind of devotion? I especially remember when the 3tst Annual Fall Float Parade happened, and I logged on to the wiki right after the cartoon hit, and found that the transcript was being written right before my eyes! I kept refreshing and the transcript got longer and longer. It was such a fun thing. In a small but meaningful way, I was connected to these people I'd never even met. They shared my enthusiasm for the show.
And there's something special about Flash, too. YouTube is nice, but it's not the same. Flash allowed you to click on the cartoon and do something other than pause it. You'd go back through old cartoons and discover new Easter Eggs. It helped when you discovered that you could hold down the spacebar to make yellow boxes show up around the easter eggs, but even then I missed a lot of stuff. Only recently did I discover the Homsar easter egg in the original Trogdor cartoon. And I only discovered it because I happened to watch in on YouTube! (Which I almost never do). Other people will have no idea that that was an easter egg; they'll have seen it that way from their very first viewing. YouTube videos just don't have the same sense of discovery and surprise.
Also, you can pause YouTube videos. I know that sounds like a feature, but it's also a bug. Homestar Runner had its day during the era of single-tab browsers. You looked at one at a time back then. And the benefit to that is that you actually had to focus; you couldn't succumb to the temptation of keeping a dozen different sites open and bouncing between them, because you only had one tab! As such, there was never a need for a pause button on the toons, because what else were you doing at the time? I'm really gonna miss that purity when Flash disappears.
YouTube wants to grab your attention; it's built into the design. That's why the default view lists a bunch of recommended videos, and there's a video description and comments and such. But when I'm on the Flash site, it's nothing but Homestar all the way. If I want to navigate to a different toon, I use the Homestar-style menu system. Nowadays I mostly click "random", which is a feature that YouTube simply doesn't have! I don't want to resize my player all the time, and I don't want video thumbnails to possibly spoil a toon. I want HOMESTAR RUNNER, the way it was intended.
So I really, really hope I'll be able to download some sort of "Homestar Simulator" someday. Just a little standalone app that's got all the flash files loaded into it. Right now I've got a dedicated browser just for Homestar (it's Opera), just to recapture that feeling of being set apart from the rest of the internet. No random pinging from Facebook in another tab. No emails coming it. Just this one little place that lives by its own rules. I love the purity of that.
And I love how the show itself is so unironically enjoyable. How Homestar can make a silly little song out of "This Morning", how Dangeresque keeps doing his own stunts, and how there is absolutely nothing wrong about making a tiny stick-figure-esque dragon and treating him as the awesomest thing that ever lived. Homestar Runner pays tribute to the best parts of childhood, and tells us that we don't have to let go of that. We can still have fun with stick figures and random little songs. We can still play around in cardboard boxes if we feel like it. It's so pure. It's so liberating.
I sang a song for Strong Bad once. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7q1Mu9 ... fbk0h00410
I know the show isn't completely done. But obviously it updates much more rarely than it used to. And soon, it won't even be in Flash. Who know, maybe the site itself will shut down, at least for awhile, and we'll be stuck watching stuff on YouTube, being part of a big corporate conglomerate. I mean, it's not like they sold Homestar to Google. But still, it feels like a step in the wrong direction not to have an independent Flash site.
Thank you, Brothers Chaps! Thank you to the whole Homestar Team! (Including the people who finally finished Stinkoman 20X6; I beat it just today!!) Thank you to the people who made and funded this wiki, who I'm sure will keep the Flash files available for years to come. Thank you to the fans. Thank you to the spirit of joy and wonder that keeps us coming back for more.
I'm not sure what else to say. It's all so precious.
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