Hey, Geeks, welcome to Your Favorite Thing Sucks, where I get to talk about all the worst parts of your favorite things. Recently I went through a box of my old stuff and came across an old Gameboy with a Pokemon Red cartridge still crammed into the back of it. I admit — it made me nostalgic. But the thing about rose-colored glasses is that red flags just look like… flags. And Pokemon has a lot of things in it that should make people pause.
Pikachu is angry. Probably not as angry as he should be.
Pokemon is Really Just Sentient Cockfighting for Children
You know what I would do if I was a single mother in an anime? Probably NOT let my 10-year-old child drop out of school so he can walk around the country dog fighting sentient beings. And honestly — at the core, that’s what Pokemon is. Cockfighting for 10-year-olds. I don’t even really feel like I need to write the rest of this article, because that’s where we stand. The entire premise of the games, manga, anime, and overall concept is that the hero of the story travels the world looking for animals that show varying degrees of sentience, and then capturing them so they can be used to fight other sentient creatures. Wholesome worldbuilding, that.
However, we’re definitely going to talk more because that is really only the tip of the crazy, crazy iceberg.
The Government and Economy in the Pokemon Universe are… Really Weird
Have you noticed that the entire economy of the Pokemon universe runs on the capture and servitude of wild monsters with varying abilities? Pokemon are an integral part of this civilization — nearly every NPC has at least one Pokemon doing SOMETHING for them. But do you think that Pokemon gets paid? Of course not. It’s not slavery if they’re not human, no matter how sentient or intelligent the thing is.
Furthermore, it’s obvious that the practice of capturing and battling these creatures is government-sanctioned because Pokestops are free and literally no one ever tries to get these students to go back to school. (Who even needs school when you can make a living cockfighting?) No one seems concerned for the safety of tweens that are planning to go throw balls at 30-foot-tall rock monsters. In fact, everyone seems proud of young trainers.
Why? I’ll tell you why: Because they’re spry little gits that can travel all over the country without breaking hips or thinking to demand hazard pay. Even the town elders and scientific community seem completely okay with (and even endorse) these child labor policies — professors are the first people to tell children to go forth and hunt — while conveniently gathering any of the data (and accolades) that come from the excursions.
Pokeballs Can Be Lots of Things, None of Which Are Good
The thing about this government-sanctioned capturing of creatures is that once you have them, you have to house them somehow. Just… not necessarily in a humane way. That’s what pokeballs are for. No one actually knows WHAT the inside of a pokeball is like, because for some reason they can’t be used on a human being. (As far as we know. It would NOT surprise me that pokeballs have been re-purposed as inmate housing in prisons somewhere in this world where dogfighting is the primary source of income). But even if they’re miraculously designed to be a perfect home for whatever Pokemon is forced to reside within, they’re still a prison for beings that, again, are sentient.
I’m not even sold on the idea that the pokeballs are programmed with some sort of Pokemon utopia — with something as mass-produced as pokeballs in a world with such little respect for their slave-creatures, it seems way more likely that those pokeballs are just filled with a void. A void interrupted only with forced fights and pain, or (if you’re really “lucky”) a master that is about to force you to breed. There isn’t even the sweet release of death from this hellhole — Pokemon can be brought back to fight again and again. An eternity of darkness only interrupted by pain and blood.
The Government Is Into More Than It Lets On
Even if we put aside the fact that the government is condoning and profiting on the immoral capturing, battling, and enslavement of sentient creatures and then encouraging these acts to be carried out by wayward teens, there are some dark things happening. Cloning, in particular, has been used for some messed-up stuff (see: Mewtwo) and has subsequently been labeled as bad. But it couldn’t have been completely renounced, right? Because even if we disregard the fact that captured Pokemon can be uploaded into computers (which implies a transference of data rather than actual flesh and blood, and thus might not count as true cloning), it’s impossible to ignore all of the identical human beings in government positions throughout the world.
There is no way every Joy and Jenny are simply cousins. It also seems that Jennys and Joys are not allowed to hold any jobs other than that which their name assigns them. Humans cloned or bred for specialized tasks by a government that, at its core, seems amoral at best? Sounds probable. Even Pokemon professors seem part of this government-controlled scheme, though not as obviously as the Joy army. They’re only grouped by plant-based names. So innocuous at first glance, but you have to question it. Can a child called Bridget become a Professor someday? Or are humans created for their jobs and given a codename early on to distinguish them and their future (and possibly forced) career?
There Are a Lot of Unanswered Questions
There are so many other little things that rub me the wrong way about this universe. What do people eat? Do they eat Pokemon? If not, how do they determine which animals are edible and which are battle-worthy? Why don’t pokeballs work on fainted pokemon but work better on sleeping pokemon? Why doesn’t that apply to Snorlax? You need a flute to wake that bugger up just so you can hopefully put it back to sleep and capture it! And what about the Pokemon that are allowed to hold jobs? Especially important ones? What’s the vetting process on that? Or does it not matter how qualified a creature is as long as they’re only working on other creatures? Does anything matter as long as it helps the battle-based economy in the long run?
You’re damned right this thing has a degree that lets it perform medical duties. How dare you question that?
Overall, I love Pokemon and have for a very, very long time. But it’s one of those things that you can’t look at too closely. Otherwise, you have to come to terms with being a wicked person that should have started fighting pitbulls two generations ago.
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.