God Help Me, I'm Starting to Like Pokemon (Within Reason)
In a recent blog post, I wrote of a terrible crisis that was threatening to tear my family apart: my four year old son Declan’s obsession with Pokemon. My son is like me. He’s an obsessive. He’s an enthusiast. He is a fan. When he likes something, he likes it with his whole heart and soul and every fiber of his being.
He doesn’t always like things worthy of his all-consuming obsession. He’s four years old so a lot of what he has loved in the past has been hot and sometimes lukewarm garbage, like Mutt N’ Stuff and various iterations of Scooby-Doo. My son has often loved television shows that are terrible but at least they made sense. I could understand them and their appeal. Watching them did not make me feel like I’d taken way too many psychedelic mushrooms and am losing my grasp on reality, but in a bad way.
Pokemon, on the other hand, made no fucking sense to me. At all. I was bewildered. Perplexed. Flummoxed. Stumped. Confused, even!
And that was frustrating because Declan adores Pokemon and I love things that make him happy. I love the look of overwhelming joy Pokemon gives Declan even if I struggled to understand, among other things, the nature of its appeal and Declan’s attraction to it.
So I did what I usually do when I want to understand something. I studied it. I researched it. I threw myself into the world of Pokemon. I figured that the more Pokemon I watched, the more I would get out of it. That’s the way the world generally works. If you’re interested, then the world is inherently interesting.
So I decided to become interested in Pokemon, if only for my son’s sake. Besides, it’s not as if my son is the only Pokemon enthusiast in the world: it’s a global phenomenon that has lasted decades in myriad forms so there has to be something to it.
It took some time but I found myself slowly warming up to Pokemon. I started to enjoy the cartoon’s fever dream quality, its sense of stylized unreality, its complete disconnect from our world. I began to find the cross-cultural aspects of the cartoon, as a Japanese show re-dubbed and consequently re-conceptualized for American audiences, fascinating.
Also, because I possess the mind of a small child, it pleases me when I see a cute animal or monster or what have you repeat its name over and over again. I’m not sure why. Probably because mentally I hover around the age of a toddler but much of Pokemon consists of adorable creatures saying their names over and over. So I enjoyed it on that level.
I suppose you could say Stockholm Syndrome had set in. Declan’s Pokemon phase doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon so I figure that if I am going to be subjected to a lot of Pokemon I might as well learn to enjoy it.
To give myself a more concrete investment in Pokemon, and more specifically individual matches, I’ve started gambling with Declan on the outcome of Pokemon battles. I don’t like to brag, but I am doing VERY well. I’ve won thousands off Declan. He’s a great kid but boy is he bad at predicting the outcome of Pokemon matches. Jigglypuff alone has won me a couple hundred bucks.
I’ve come to appreciate the character design and the sheer scope of its world-building but what I like best about Pokemon is that coming around on it gives me one more thing to do with my son. Instead of feeling distanced by his fascination with a perplexing but wildly popular phenomenon it can be something that brings us even closer.
To be honest, I still only half-understand Pokemon but to paraphrase A Serious Man I have learned to embrace the mystery. Besides, I don’t have to understand the rules of Pokemon, only that it makes my little dude positively giddy, and that’s all that really matters.
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