WALL OF TEXT: POKEMON. I don’t understand this obsession with Pokémon. After seeing the lines of people at stores recently trying to buy packs and packs of the cards, I’m even more mystified. I grew up in the sub-generation just before Pokemon. I was in High School when Pokemon got popular, so I didn’t understand it then. We elder millennials (Xennials?) laughed at Pokemon when it was new because it made no sense to us. We’d grown up with Ninja Turtles and Transformers and ReBoot and Tiny Toons and Carmen Sandiego. Pokemon was just annoying, something all the younger kids were into. Younger meaning those who were in middle school while I was in high school in 1999. Those younger kids, it turns out, are still considered the same generation, but they weren’t to us at the time. I’ve been able to comprehend Pokemon, thanks to playing the original GameBoy game on emulator years ago, but its continuing endurance baffles me. What are people getting out of it? What is the appeal? Why Pokemon? If someone were to ask me how the stuff I was into as a kid appealed to me, I could answer: “nonhuman superheros saving the city from evil aliens trying to take over the world!” The appeal of Pokemon has always been “kids capturing wild animals to force them to fight other captured animals for glory and money.” The moral implications of pokemon are just... crap. Pokemon itself is g-rated dogfighting. Really, if you break it down into its constituent parts, that’s what’s going on. Still, when I played the GameBoy game as an adult (just to be in on what the generation after me grew up with), I admit to feeling a rush watching my numbers go up as I battled my captive animals against other trainer’s captive animals again and again. I can imagine feeling that as a kid, but if you think about it now, it’s kind of villainous. Think about it. Every villain in every story ever told wants control of something, be it a nation or the world or even just an individual. Villains in stories are always trying to exert control over something or someone. In many ways it’s what we desire. Control. We recognize having control of other human beings means they cannot pose a threat to us, meaning they cannot exert any control over us. We fear being controlled by someone else, so we tell stories of authority gone wrong, and we know the best way to avoid that is to have control. Somewhere at the bottom of our minds, evolution crafted us to think this way, and I think Pokemon has tapped into this desire in a way no other franchise has. Even as kids, we recognize this. I think it goes even deeper than that, down to mankind’s deepest instinctual desires. On some level, to some extent, we all want to be dominant in the group, in control of everyone else, receiving the benefits of their labor and free to claim the opposite sex for our own. In command of others. The unchallenged authority. Pokemon has endured for so long because it appeals to our base nature so nakedly. Ash is always portrayed as loving his Pokemon and caring for them deeply, but he’s clearly using them for his own ego and financial gain. Human beings using other intelligent creatures for their own benefit satisfies a desire so deep we don’t want to admit it’s there: we want to be Zeus. To be in total control of others and to act with impunity. The Ninja Turtles protected the world so people could live their happy lives without the threat of being taken over by some evil-doer trying to exert his will on them. Pokemon allows us to be the evil genius who is in the process of enslaving the world, but since the captured creatures are happy and content in their life of servitude, it can be presented as a good thing here. Yeah, I never liked the implications of the world of Pokemon. Digimon feels like a mutually beneficial relationship between man and creature, in which both need one another to accomplish something. Pokemon does not. The Pokemon do not need the kids for anything, but the kids need the Pokemon to win tournaments and such. Kids get to be the villain in the world of Pokémon, one who cannot be satisfied until every last creature is captured and subjugated. It’ll never get old.


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