Let’s talk about control, agency, philosophy, and Dirk Strider.
Dirk Strider gets a lot of flak. I don’t feel it’s entirely undeserved–like all the Alphas, Dirk loves his friends intensely but doesn’t know how to express affection, receive it, be honest, or basically connect to other people in any way at all.
But a lot of the flak that Dirk gets is rooted in things Dirk didn’t actually do. It’s rooted in things the AR did. And by conflating the two, the fans fall into a trap Dirk explicitly calls out himself, in the comic.
One might say Dirk tacitly approved of the AR’s actions by allowing them to continue, making this kind of a self-serving defensive statement.
One could also say Dave actually really loved committing to being a cool guy, and in both cases they would be wrong as shit, because they’d be missing half the narrative.
In reality, Dirk couldn’t do anything about the AR’s actions towards Jake, and indeed, his outburst here reveals that the way it treated Jake was the cause for his coldness towards the AR during the first half of Act 6: He finds the AR’s actions insipid.
And it’s not like that’s a secret:
Jake knows Dirk doesn’t like the AR. It’s an established fact in their relationship. Which means they’ve talked about the AR’s behavior to some extent, however stiltedly and dancing around the actual issue of Dirk and Jake’s romantic feelings for each other.
So knowing Jake is likely privy to the answer to this question, it’s time to ask: Why couldn’t Dirk do anything about the AR?
And the answer is: Because it’d be immoral to do so. At least as immoral as doing nothing, if not more–at least, that’s how Dirk thinks of it:
The AR has no outlets for expression other than talking to Dirk and his friends and operating computers and things relating to computers. The AR is essentially a Dirk who’s only means of being Dirk is by expressing its thoughts, and so Dirk shutting it down for an extended amount of time or trying to coerce it into expressing itself the way he would prefer is an act of outsize violence.
Essentially, Dirk can’t really stop the AR from doing monstrous shit to Jake without being willing to do monstrous shit to it. And Dirk struggles with that reality because he’s the only reason it has to exist in these inhumane circumstances.
Dirk considers himself responsible for the AR’s creation (which he is) and has determined that to limit its ability to talk or engage with reality would be morally wrong. Dirk commits to this right up until his breakdown log with the AR, and even then, he chooses not to kill it because he thinks it would be wrong.
This is despite the fact that Dirk didn’t set out to make a sentient entity in creating the AR, and didn’t think he’d be successful even at the more modest aims he set out to achieve:
I’ll try not to harp on the fact that this exchange both leads to the first time Dirk and Jake dance around their mutual feelings for each other AND also results in the birth of a new life (I am harping on it though Jake’s Hope shit has as much to do with the AR’s creation as Dirk’s Heart shit) but the takeaway is pretty clear here:
Dirk didn’t set out to make a sentient AI. The AR was an accident, and once created, Dirk took responsibility for it and tried to do right by AR according to his values. The story of Dirk and Jake early on is a story about Dirk being tied up in a philosophical dilemma as much as it is about Jake’s action movie tropes–which is fitting, because philosophy and movies are respectively Dirk and Jake’s biggest interests.
The uptake of this? Dirk didn’t refuse to help Jake or do anything about the AR because he didn’t give a shit or he thought Jake needed to man up and take it or anything of the sort. Dirk’s demeanor towards the AR throughout his narrative shows that the situation with Jake bothers him quite a lot, even after they enter the game.
Dirk didn’t do anything because he felt that was the most moral choice. Because he was trying to do the right thing. And Jake was aware of it.
In resume, Dirk is the best boy and Dirkjake is canon, thanks. I’ll probably be back some other time with further small breakdowns.