The Pokémon Problem

When I was younger, I loved Pokémon. I loved the show. I loved the video games. I loved the trading cards, both as collectibles and as a game.

pokemon-logoWhen I got older, I broke out the old Game Boy and started Pokémon: Gold again.

I got extremely upset when I realized that I was taking part in a country-sanctioned animal-fighting league.

Pikachu ThunderboltI’m not going to get into the logistics of that. For the purpose of this piece, I don’t care.

I’m more worried about the psychological ramifications of having wild pets put into fighting situations.

The Pokémon, especially in the show, are given personalities. They’re given characters. I know that I fell in love with Pikachu’s happy attitude. Hell, I loved all of Ash’s Pokémon. They all were fighting for their loving master.

Only, their loving master is rarely seen feeding them. Outside of Pikachu, the Pokémon spend most of their lives trapped in Pokéballs or with Professor Oak, at least until Ash frees them from his ownership.

The_inside_of_a_Pokeball_by_z_e_a_l_o_u_sThe fact is that, in the video games and in the anime series, the Pokémon are kept in captivity unless they need to fight.

Think of it like this; if you let your cat or dog fight other cats and dogs, would that be right?

And remember, your dog and cat can borderline talk to you.

These animals are captured and made to fight until fainting or death. That’s kind of messed up.

hurt_pikachu_by_thunder_pikachu-d4weqc9Remember when I mentioned how much I loved Pikachu’s attitude? That’s the happiest gladiator I’ve ever seen.

And maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it certainly feels like the Pokémon that fight for their trainers are, for the most part, enamored by the god-like influence their trainers have. They develop a level of Stockholm Syndrome to the point that they feel that, come death or damage, they will win for their trainers.

And then, back to the Pokéball.

Ash_and_Pikachu_in_Future_EpisodeI will say this though: Ash does show that he cares legitimately about his Pokémon. Pikachu hated his Pokéball, so Ash kept him outside. Charizard was a very temperamental Pokémon, but Ash put himself in physical harm to become friends with him. Compare this to trainers like, off the top of my head, Lt. Surge, who forced his Raichu to evolve to become “more powerful,” and you see that Ash did care.

And to be fair, MadameAce has informed me that both the modern show and games have focused more on what happens if a trainer treats their Pokémon improperly. Specifically, the treatment has been brought up by a Team Rocket scheme. And, quite honestly, just because it’s a scheme doesn’t mean it’s not viable.

I love Pokémon, but at an older age, I have trouble watching and playing the games. I just cannot ignore seeing animals getting forced into battling and everyone being seemingly okay with it.

4 thoughts on “The Pokémon Problem

  1. Pingback: Start Button’s Pokemondays to start Monday 09.09.13 | Thestartbutton

  2. Pokémon has many varied interpretations that easily go 180 and still make sense. Yours is one of many however, I have few problems.

    In the anime, most trainers are good people. Most humans are good people. Evil exists but its much rarer. In the anime, pokeballs are routinely broken out of, its a portable home, a much superior explanation than viewing as a prison which they break out of all the time, which can’t be a prison.

    Franchise makes it clear pokemon enjoy battling which is easy to explain, for evolutionary, competitive, or defensive purposes. Training business is ironically safer than in the wild where you can easily get eaten. Which is why I never understand why people start screaming cognitive dissonance of pokemon forced to fight when its clear when they have choice. Gameplay assumes they always do and gameplay makes it look too easy and you battle everywhere. Realistically its not the case. You wouldn’t battle most of the time nonstop.

    Stockholm Syndrome is possible for pokemon but it denies them of a choice too. For example its a hostage and captor relations. Sounds similar. Except the pokemon is usually much stronger than you. A Hostage much stronger than a captor? What’s preventing it from killing you? Again multiple reasons but the syndrome isn’t the best one. Can it occur? Yes, but usually no. Even the games depict pokemon shaking the balls with their own emotions. In the manga, pokemon can actually see outside world, balls top half are transparent actually. In other words games and show mention pokemon wanting to leave if they were unhappy. So at least in paper.

    Recent game, XY discusses the fact that plenty of Pokemon have abandoned their trainers, unhappy with their treatment or lack of skill. NPC words but exists. Its just the game sucks at world building and the show is too kid friendly.

    In other words from what I noticed, many who think pokemon are nothing but real world animals and that battles are just dog fights but that’s too superficial of an argument and it unfairly forces out standards to theirs. It’s a different universe plus pokemon have clearly much more different makeup and viewpoints than non sentient animals. They can be loving yet brutally savage. ITs a dangerous world in the end. Pokémon battling could not have occurred if Pokémon opposed it from the beginning and pokeballs didn’t always exist either. The fights are much more similar to boxing or martial arts.

    But if you dislike it because of the violence that is understandable and fine. Just be aware most of the people aren’t competitive trainers and live calmer lives.

    Like I said, pokemon can turn a 180 and still makes sense. My only problem is the potential ownership of a sentient creature but I see its more trainer coach relationship.

    • And that’s a fair assessment. Since writing this, I did purchase Pokemon X and did find the changes in the implied Pokemon/trainer relationship to be refreshing. I also read pieces theorizing that the reason your character, rival and the game’s Elite Four are the only ones who can raise as many as six Pokemon at one time is that it takes a savant to do such a difficult task, akin to zoo trainers and whatnot.

      Still, it is hard to get rid of the stigma I had. I still flinch a tad at the concept of beating another animal to the process of fainting, but I’m dealing.

      • I did not realize you so readily responded, sorry for not seeing this earlier.

        You said it was a fair assessment, well thank you although regardless from what I see, any positive and negative interpretations depend on few essential factors. Probably the most important one would be, the consent factor. If the pokemon does not desire consent then no matter how ideal the training I can spin off, it would become very questionable at the very very least. Worst would be forced kidnapping from family. Although yours dealt with the aspect of battling not capturing so much.

        Of course those who didn’t want to be captured, it is very possible to enjoy later on and get much more out of life. Ash’s Pikachu being a good example of this.

        Likewise in retrospect for those who consented could still end up worse.
        Damien’s Charmander is a good example of this. In fact you could argue his was a case of the Syndrome as well. In BW, which I never played though, there is a dialogue from a Plasma grunt saying the patrat grew attached to him despite him mistreating. Another plausible case of the Syndrome, although the grunt starts warming up. Which of course you would wonder if it becomes genuine love, would you still call it Stockholm syndrome.

        And there are probably those who just didn’t exactly care much either so consent or not is secondary, as long there was free food and getting stronger could be a bonus or not. Ash’s pidgeotto is a good example of this. Iris’ emolga could be an example too although that critter wanted to tag along but didn’t want t do anything else.

        It’s not so black and white (indeed a game title too, ironic), because many of them have situational factors built into it.

        **** “I did purchase Pokemon X and did find the changes in the implied Pokemon/trainer relationship to be refreshing.” ****

        I suppose this has to do with Pokémon Amie? I saw it and its a lot of fun. Some say it also provides the closest look what the inside of a pokeball looks like too at least game wise.

        I mean their message was always the same but each game added more on it. Red and Blue didn’t have much other than some NPC statements or Oak’s famous “why Blue lost” in the end of the Champion battle. In fact few argue Red And Blue could be seen as slavery simply because the mechanic of friendship did not exist. But of course gameplay mechanic arguments are usually not a good way to approach it and should not usually be seen as literal.

        **** “I also read pieces theorizing that the reason your character, rival and the game’s Elite Four are the only ones who can raise as many as six Pokemon at one time is that it takes a savant to do such a difficult task, akin to zoo trainers and whatnot.” ****

        It is true that in the games, heck in fact manga too, and anime as well vast majority of people do not raise that many. Especially if you look at the anime, humans are not overpopulated and probably the most environmentally friendly fictional humans you may meet, especially after the Kanto season. Zoo’s don’t seem to exist other than the one in a Kanto city I forget, instead we have safaris.

        Hoenn saga and Johto saga had wildlife preserves where trainers were not allowed to go there nor capture I believe in the anime. In fact where May’s bulbasaur comes from, the pokemon despised being captured so the locales erected a wall. May’s bulbasaur however willingly left and no one cared.

        I suppose respect and skill comes down much to these things. People have different ideas. One fanfic utilizes wild pokemon hearing gym and elite 4 leaders and going to them to get stronger. Which brings me to mind we never really explored history of pokemon. There are many interpretations that can go, good or bad. This one seems to work with the franchise best.

        It’s very interesting.

        **** “Still, it is hard to get rid of the stigma I had. I still flinch a tad at the concept of beating another animal to the process of fainting, but I’m dealing” ****

        And you have every right too. While there are key differences between dogfights and pokemon battles, one clear difference is that the former is detrimental while the latter is actually a boon for them, the fact several species look like animals don’t help. I don’t refer to pokemon as animals but again several species do and it doesn’t help. Then again ironically many animal lovers love pokemon and I have seen many statements of pokemon made me love them more or be kinder or etc etc.

        And of course even controlled violence is still potential dangerous violence and of course in the wild pokemon battles are likely quite more lethal especially in predator and prey ones. Then again you have few types like ghost types or fighting types. The former likely are more amoral and the latter, well their name speaks for themselves in training all the time.

        Unfortunately gameplay focuses on battling. MAnga does too but that’s what brings the money. VIolent actions runs all genres or most of them. Shooters, platforms, RPGs. Nearly all of them do. RPGs especially many have similar elements to pokemon. The whole monster/human bonding mechanic is not just in pokemon but many series do have them. Anime does try to expand a bigger worldview at times though. I suppose that is why some criticize on the battling but I say that is partially because its gameplay and of course its what brings entertainment.

        I thank you for your article, I thought you deserved a thoughtful response.
        I tried my best.
        While my first one was more of a franchise point of view, there are few important factors. As I said, consent, and not everyone sees battling the same for example. Francise focuses on the ideal trainer I suppose.

        Happy Thanksgiving. (Well not yet but still)

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