Now that may seem surprising, so allow me to convince you.
Ask someone to explain this guy’s personality, and you’ll probably get: stuck up, rude, hypocritical, so on and so forth. All of which are true. He’s nice on the outside but a jerk deep down, right? Karkat’s opposite? Well, sort of. The thing you don’t realize yet is that Kankri and Karkat have more in common than they have opposite one another. In fact, the only real difference between them is their place of origin. Allow me to explain.
(Warning: this character analysis may cause you heartache and have you falling madly in love with Kankri. At least if I do a good job it will.)
First, let’s break down Karkat’s character, and why he’s such a beloved character (or in my opinion, one of the greatest characters ever created). He’s a mutant blood, and he has to hide this fact, or else he will be instantly murdered, because his society believes that mutants are too weak to join the imperial fleets and fight for the Condesce. So what does Karkat do? He sharpens himself into what he thinks of as the perfect weapon, and defies every stereotype his society would place on him.
Karkat wanted to be a threshicutionor, a job that would have him murdering countless other trolls who were disloyal to Her Imperial Condescension. He strived to be a leader, to show no weakness. He makes fun of any weakness that he sees in others. Karkat idealizes romance because he knows he can never fill a quadrant without revealing his blood (and therefore genetic material) color. In short, Karkat strives to be the perfect troll, over-compensating for his own weaknesses. He turns out to be terrible at romance, and faints at the sight of blood, making it clear that he is actually closer to his society’s perception of what he should be than what would make him comfortable to know.
Now let’s compare this to Kankri. Instead of growing up on Alternia, he grows up on Beforus. Which many people assume to be the “nicer” Alternia.
Oh, how wrong you are if you think so.
Beforus wasn’t any kinder to mutants than Alternia was. If you don’t believe me, just look at Feferi’s intro again. In her world, which is what Beforus is, she wanted to change the term of “culling” from “killing” to “taking care of”, which sounds all nice on the surface, but isn’t. Feferi practices her idea of culling on her cuttlefish, which she LOCKS IN CAGES, pretending to help them, when really all she does is like to watch them because she thinks they’re cute.
To help get this through your head, let me compare this to homophobia versus fetishizing homosexuality. Being a mutant on Alternia is like facing homophobia: people hate you, want to hurt you, all because of the color of your blood. Being a mutant on Beforus is like being fetishized for being homosexual: people treat you as a pet, an accessory, something of interest to look at and study, something incapable of thinking for itself. Both are forms of discrimination, both strip a person of their pride and dignity, it’s just more subtle in the second form.
This is what Kankri would have had to face because of his blood color: being taken into someone else’s household, and given special treatment, as if he was incapable of taking care of himself. He would be cooed at and basically nothing more than a pet or fancy toy to the troll who was culling him.
And you know what Kankri did? He proudly displayed his blood color anyway.
What else did he do? Well, he strived to be the exact opposite of what his society expected him to be: instead of being a cute, docile plaything, with no opinion of his own, Kankri is more than opinionated, he attempts to be as disagreeable and unlikable as possible so that no one could ever think of him as someone that they want to overprotect and pamper. More than that, he is condescending to those who actually do accept help from others, in the same manner that Karkat is mean to anyone who shows weakness.
Kankri takes it even farther by completely rejecting any and all emotions, choosing to be logical instead and not let his personal feelings interfere with his “lessons”. Because emotions are something that, in his opinion, only someone immature and childish would be ruled by.
Except that there are irregularities. Despite wanting to be seen as sympathetic as those with disabilities, he insults Mituna and expresses the opinion that he believes he’s worthless. Why? Because Mituna is Latula’s matesprit, and Kankri is jealous. Or how Kankri idolizes Latula’s strength to deal with her “disability” because he has a crush on her, though he admits to no such feelings.
Where else do we see this? In Equius, and his emphasis on the hemospectrum. Equius doesn’t actually believe in it. He questions it when speaking to Gamzee, and forgets to enforce it when Karkat is the leader. Vriska has to remind him that he shouldn’t be “taking orders from a filthy lowblood” like him. These irregularities means that Equius doesn’t actually believe in the hemospectrum at all, he just wanted to, because the hemospectrum was easy, it meant he knew who he had to listen to and who he didn’t, who was supposed to act which way, and how he was supposed to interact with each person. It makes things easy, and Equius likes things easy. In short, he lived in a delusion, and that’s why Nepeta can stand him, because Nepeta can see into people’s hearts (like how she knew all along that Karkat was a nice guy) and she knew that Equius didn’t actually believe in the hemospectrum.
Both Karkat and Kankri have created their own delusions, and they ABSOLUTELY BELIEVE IN THEM. They have to. If Karkat realized back on Alternia that he was actually weak, he might as well just resigned right there, because he would have had to face the fact that he never would have survived to adulthood. And if Kankri realized that he was actually rather immature and hurting others rather than helping them, he would know that he is every bit the child that the others see him as. And maybe, just maybe, he would believe that he actually needed to be culled.
This is actually paralleled in Porrim’s story. As any woman probably knows, growing up in a sexist world means that young girls often end up rejecting anything seen as “feminine” even if they actually enjoy it, just because they want to reject the stereotype that society places on them. Porrim is this phenomenon personified: even though she likes being the motherly type that she is expected to be, she does not like the fact that her society wants to force her into motherhood. The difference between Porrim and Kankri is that Porrim has found a nice even ground, when she can be feminine and enjoy feminine things, and still be herself, and not defined by her gender.
And while Kankri rejects his role as a child, Porrim rejects her role as a mother, and together they are perfect together. It is obvious that Porrim has pale feelings for him, as she is his only friend and remains patient with him even as he insults her ideas about feminism. And beyond that, she tries to shoosh him farther in the comic.
Kankri, on the other hand, treats her with great disrespect. I believe in my secret shipper heart that this is because he returns her feelings, but is conflicted, for two reasons: 1, admitting to his feelings means that he enjoys being taken care of, which is dangerously close to being coddled, and 2, Porrim is fluid with her quadrants, meaning that he believes he doesn’t have a chance with her to start with. Notice how he insults her promiscuity, despite the fact that openness about sexuality would be something that Kankri would support. Therefore, it makes sense that what he really disapproves of is not promiscuity in general, but just Porrim’s promiscuity.
But despite his feelings for her, he rejects them, because he doesn’t want to be taken care of. He doesn’t want to become her pet.
This also explains Kankri’s revulsion to being called “Kanny”: it’s a PET name.
There is also a part in which Kankri tells Karkat that he can’t imagine dating Porrim because it would be too much like dating a sister, and this gives me even more reason to believe that there is a history of romantic feelings between them. Remember that Kankri has the mentality of a child, and it seems possible that he only said this to hurt Porrim, maybe because of an earlier perceived rejection from her.
(Both Porrim’s rejection and Latula’s decision to date Mituna could explain Kankri’s dedication to celibacy; he’s over-compensating for his romantic losses just as Karkat over-compensates with his obsession with romance.)
Anyway, moving away from shipping, just the fact that Porrim likes Kankri despite all his quirks is reason enough to prove that there is more to Kankri that meets the eye.
So why is Karkat so likable while Kankri isn’t? Because Karkat had his lies shattered already, when he had to watch his friends kill each other off. That was his moment of clarity, and he realized he wasn’t this great and powerful leader, and all his confidence was shattered.
But Kankri hasn’t had that moment yet, not until he becomes the Sufferer, and his life is on the line, and he has to watch lowbloods be murdered.
And remember that the Sufferer REMEMBERED BEING KANKRI. That means that the Sufferer had to watch all that murdering and torture knowing that the highbloods committing those crimes he once called his friends. And that’s Kankri’s wake up call, and look at the troll he became because of that. He took all that pain and used it to become a savior of the troll race, a martyr for the lowbloods.
And if you really want to hurt, it’s likely that the Sufferer remembered being told about his fate from Karkat and the others. It’s likely he knew what would happen, and that he believed, like the immature child he is, that he could have changed things, that he could have convinced the Grand Highblood and Dualscar and the Condesce with his words that they weren’t actually evil. And in doing so, he fulfilled his own destiny. So that might explain his rage at the end, knowing that he was going to die, and that his death would mean the Dolorosa’s enslavement and sexual slavery, and the Psionic’s mutilation, and the Disciple’s exile and loneliness, knowing that he had doomed them with his error of judgment.
In short, Kankri is one of my favorite characters, and hopefully now you see why.