Friday, May 28, 2021

JUSTICE FOR TEAM ROCKET! MY COMPLETE UNCENSORED THOUGHTS ON "POKEMON": A Minor Re-Examination Of The Worst Television Show of All-Time.

So, about a week or so ago, I got unexpectedly caught up in a discussion over "Pokemon". A few people didn't agree or understand the perspective where I came from on it. They mentioned a few things about saying a lot without saying much.... which is true enough. I mentioned how I always associated it making American television air, around the same time when "Looney Tunes", more specifically, "The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show" getting canceled from network television, which was around the same time, and I always considered that a heretic crime that's forever altered daytime and childhood television for the worst ever since. That said, I was criticized for several points, one of which was that I had a surprising lot to say for a show that I clearly hadn't seen much of, which I found hilarious, 'causing I was holding back what I really thought about "Pokemon".

So, perhaps I should express myself more clearly? What do I really think about it? Well, to give my brief thoughts....

(Deep breath)

"POKEMON" IS THE WORST, MOST OFFENSIVE, IDIOTIC, IRREDEMABLE PIECE OF GARBAGE EVER PUT ON TELEVISION!

The fact that it's still around and still popular is nauseating! Literally, no other TV show has offended all concepts of good taste, good children's programming, and good television. No other blatantly obvious toy advertisement has ever so forcefully forced it's toy products in my face so artlessly and ineptly, and not even for a product that makes any goddamn sense or has any redeemable quality in either it's play or in its execution of its concept. It represents everything wrong with Saturday morning cartoons, but like ten times worst then I ever thought I could be ever offended by! Watching this show feels like somebody physically trying to forcibly tie me down and force open my eyes open "A Clockwork Orange"- until I give in and bought their stupid toys for fear of my IQ being eroded from having to listen to any more of this inane, inexcusably bad show. Anybody who likes it, should be taken away from the human race as soon as possible so that we don't regress as a species, and anybody whose ever let their kids watch it, should've had them forcefully taken away from them and sent to new loving home, while they spend at least twenty years in jail thinking about the horrible abuse they inflicted on them by allowing them to watch television this obscenely bad!!!!!

(Deep exhale)

So-um, eh, I'm in the negative column on this show, to put it lightly.

That said, though, perhaps that initial reading of the text, from however many-ish some-odd years ago, might be a little bit misguided and outdated. I've been told that I'm wrong about this periodically by several friends and acquaintances of mine, some that even I respect, and more then a few times by Child Protective Services, who have so vehemently disagreed with my position that I've been warned never to call them again or face legal consequences... Perhaps I need to give it another shot. So, instead of responding to that thread again, I did that, very reluctantly, but I gave "Pokemon" another shot.

I didn't have too much in my immediate schedule to do or watch, so I decided that in some downtime between the other stuff I did, that-eh, you know what, it's on Netflix and available through other streaming avenues, maybe I should watch a few more episodes of the series. See, if there is some supposed redeeming values and morals to it. Some kind of legitimacy to "Pokemon", not as something I would enjoy but maybe as a fictitious world in which some good stories could be told, that I could see why others would enjoy it. I didn't watch everything, there's like way too many episodes of this series to go through all of it in a short time, but I think I watched a decent amount to see the gist of the series.

So, I spent a free hour there, a free hour or two there, watching "Pokemon" when I had the chance for a few days or so, and now, after thinking it over very carefully, and after giving it a fairer shot..., my original opinion, it still stands. In fact, I probably would say it's worst now then I first thought, 'cause OMG, this is fucking rancid! Not because of how I associate it with Looney Tunes becoming a relic of a past era in my mind, that was my issue, and especially in hindsight a totally unwarranted and unfair comparison to make. but because, Jesus, what in the-, what the fuck is this?!?!?! Nobody should ever watch this! This is the single worst made-up universe I have ever seen! This is the single worst anything I've ever seen! There is no lower level to my barrel that's more bottom then this!

Why are kids as young as ten going on long adult journeys with no supervision and out to capture and control a bunch of animals through battling those small, and why is this fucking insane-ass sport even treated like goddamn currency in this universe?!?!?!?! Why aren't these Pokemon revolting against these people! The character and dialogue are mostly lazy bad exposition, the main character Ash, is,- he's just awful. Like literally, he's terrible; he wants to be this trainer but he doesn't study or try to learn or even prepare a plan, he just wants to collect and fight his Pokemon until he usually lucks into wins, and gets declared great by everyone around him, even though clearly he isn't skillful or knowledgeable in this damn thing, not compared to literally everyone else. He clearly is an egotistical moron who keeps injuring his little animals by putting them in horrible situations for them (Not that this whole world isn't a horrible situation, BTW, why are some of these Pokemon in labs and others free like animals; are they like clones or mutants, some of these... Science is another thing really disturbing thing about this world.), even when he's offered help and guidance he keeps insisting on doing it on his own, which makes him, just stupid, why?! Take the fucking help?! Who are you trying to impress!?!?! Why do you have to do all this shit on your own for?!?! I'm told there's some moral lessons, but all I see is, if you're an obnoxious obsessive prick who can change his mind on things instantly, sometimes with literally no real inciting reason, then you too can,- can run the Pokemon world, whatever?!?! (Yeah, I get the idea that he's supposed to be the self-insert for the audience learning, but he's still too stupid to live! If he's so excited and waited his whole life to start becoming a 2nd generation, mind you, Pokemon trainer, shouldn't he be a little more knowledgeable about this, and not just be like every other idiot kid who I had to suffer being around in school. (Sorry, but Ash is a bad call and a bad protagonist.)

Yeah, I stand by my stance on it; this is utterly unwatchable dreck on a brain-meltingly stupid level. Looking at it now, it reminds me why I hate most of those RPG card games, those Magic the Gathering types- where you have to keep collecting rarer and rarer cards to attack; it's not an equal game of skill that everyone can play, it's about collecting so much of the game that you utterly destroy everyone else, that's no fun to anybody trying to get into a game. It's like playing poker, but everybody has extra aces if they need them but you! That's no good lesson for kids. I swear to god, this should've been banned from public consumption and we've should've been a lot more people upset about it's existence. If you actually got benefits or personal or emotional insight from this, then I have to seriously question how and why you didn't have that kind of insight before, or just presume you didn't or still don't know what personal or emotional insight is..., 'cause my god...., I always hated this, and knew instantly it was offensively bad, but holy hell, I am instantly reevaluating other things that I thought were crap and seeing them in a much better light because of how horrendous godawful this truly is! I have no frickin' idea how I'm the only one who treats this material like the absolute worst thing of fucking thing of all-time that it is! It absolutely, positively, is the absolutely worst thing I've ever seen, and the fact that it's promoted and advertised to kids is just like, horrific on so many levels!

(Long deep exhale)

That's what I thought of the first season or so anyway.

I mostly watched episodes from that season, but I also skipped around and looked for other episodes and later runs of the franchise as well... I won't say it ever gets good, I doubt it does, like I said, I didn't watch enough to make that judgment, but, I will say that, it technically gets better. Sometimes a lot better, some of the later seasons even look like some really nice animation, (The animation was also bad technically on the show, but honestly, that was always the least of my issues.) and some later series, which I suspect are reboots even have main characters I don't want to choke the second I see them. They even have stories that are actually somewhat well-told and compelling. Good main characters too, like the main girl in the "Diamonds and Pearls" series, who seems fairly smart and observant about Pokemon, she's creative in how she gets out of situations, thinks well on her feet, knows her shit, and is way more mature then Ash ever friggin' seemed. Yeah, compared to the first seasons, okay I kinda get why, in later seasons, some people, myself included, could watch them, and, let one's kids watch them, and not have their kids taken away for letting them do so.... (So, yeah, alright, maybe that Judge was right and I do owe those families an apology...)

They also thankfully got rid of a lot of the in-your-face music sequences and other superfluous side-garbage that's technically not new even for "Pokemon", or children's shows but in the early seasons, it somehow feels truly worst then any other time I've seen that kind of stuff on children's programs. I don't know why exactly it was always worst in "Pokemon"; I've seen the technique in other shows decades earlier, even in shows I still like and admire, but...- perhaps it's just because it's such a bombastic sell job...? Like it's always presuming that we just like "Pokemon" without really trying to sway us to like it?! Like, other shows that would suddenly have characters rapping to a music video of the clips of their show or have little trivia games to and from the commercial breaks, always seemed like they were trying to connect you to other aspects of the material. Asking you to join in with them, and early "Pokemon" seasons sequences like these just feel like Ronald McDonald trying to come through the TV and grabbing you buy the throat and saying, "Go buy McDonald's! Go buy McDonald's! Only, with Pokemon, which, like,- I know I'm not a gaming guy in general, but at least I'd know what "McDonald's" was before the clown grabbed at my throat. (Thank god there's streaming now, 'cause there's a lot of fast forwarding through some really questionable ideas, especially with the music and trivia segments.)

"Pokemon" is both trying to simultaneously explore the entire "Pokemon"-based world through this Ash character as he raises his main Pokemon Pikachu and through all the other Pokemon and Pokemon-related characters he meets, but it also seems to expect us to know and like the world of Pokemon to begin with, without giving us any reason or explanation why we should. (Not that they could make this thing appealing....)

Actually, let me take that back 'cause this criticism isn't fair; my introduction to the franchise is through this, this ungodly TV show; I was not familiar at all with the video game, which apparently came first. I honestly always thought this was a card game first, I was so confused by this thing and why it was this multimedia phenomenon so suddenly.... (Yeah, I might've just missed this, but I really don't remember "Pokemon" being that popular, at least in America, before the cartoon series came out.)

Maybe that's what I'm missing here... Even still, there were video game based and inspired cartoon series before and to all their credit, none of them ever felt like they were just trying to sell me the game, or the toy. I mean, a lot of those shows sucked anyway, but there was always something more off with Pokemon compared to those. Like, I knew to never to take the "Super Mario Bros." TV shows or "The Legend of Zelda" ones seriously and as representatives of or in relation to the games, even as a kid. They took the characters and aesthetics and essentially just created some random regular short animation episodes and they were bad, but they were also essentially harmless. Even something like that "Sonic the Hedgehog" Saturday morning show, which is actually a good show (I liked the other Sonic too from that time as well) while complex in its narrative, never felt like I was being a forced to play the games the show's were based, I felt like I was being told a story. "Pokemon" never gave off that kind of vibe that I shouldn't be caring quite a bit about it, quite the opposite. (And I guess technically that worked, 'cause I do end up caring a lot about it, just not the way that they wanted me to care.)

Now, my favorite animated series franchise based on video games is the Carmen San Diego shows, both the original "Where On Earth..." series from the '90s and the recent Netflix reboot, are some of my favorite animated series of all-time, but those are educational games first of all, so I never felt like my brain was trying to eat its own tail watching them, but also, they were mystery-based. There is a "Player" character in both adaptations, but they were never attempts at self-insert protagonists like Ash is supposed to be. They also weren't that particularly accurate to the games themselves. I mean, I guess "Where on Earth..." was basically just finding clues and globetrotting 'til you caught Carmen, but that's kinda just naturally how a mystery goes and the fact that we had detective characters themselves within the narrative, also meant that, it felt more like watching "Murder, She Wrote"- or, maybe not that show, but a normal mystery story. (For the newer series, it was probably more "The Fugitive" then anything else.) Also, they weren't trying to be exactly like the games anyway, and that to me is a benefit; movies and TV shows either based on games or trying to tell their story like video games, are usually crap, 'cause what works in a first person medium, like a game, doesn't work when you're observing them as a third person.

"Pokemon" is a fantasy story, that seems to want to keep it's first person storytelling. At least, that's what it clearly seemed like, after I played the game.

Yeah, after watching all these episodes, and still ranting and raving; I decided to try the game, which yeah; I did grow up with a Nintendo, but not a Game Boy, so I never heard of this. I found an emulator of-eh, I think it was "Pokemon Red", the first "Pokemon" game to hit America, and yeah, it's very similar to the original first season television series. I tried for about an hour or 90 minutes, before I just got tired of walking around and trying to figure out where to go.

I'm not a natural fantasy-adventure gamer to begin with; there's exceptions, but I don't really enjoy most of these kind of fantasy games, and I especially don't on early Nintendo systems. I'm the one who never liked playing "The Legend of Zelda" as a kid for the same reasons, I felt it was just annoying, trying to find shit when I'm trying to shut my head off. I like them better then say, old DOS adventure games which required me to use my imagination, but this is a genre of video game that I don't think made sense until the technology was good enough to really give us a more three-dimensional worlds and worldviews to explore, like N64 or Sony Playstation; I certainly would be throwing my Game Boy out a car window if I had to play this on there. (Or, in my case, a Sega Game Gear.)

So my judgment is suspect here in terms of being a game reviewer, but that said, is it a good game to begin with? (Shrugs) Maybe. I can't speak to the dozens of other "Pokemon" games, but this first one, um... well, I certainly didn't like how when it was scrolling Professor Oak's introduction to the world of Pokemon that, it specifically gave me the notes that in this world, "For some people, Pokemon are pets. Others use them for fights."

Ehhhhhhhhh, for those who aren't in the camp that the premise of the whole franchise is flimsy and has some truly disturbing undercurrents in it, just to let you know, that early, early line in the beginning of the franchise, doesn't help. I'll get to the more elaborate thoughts I have in that regard later, but-eh, this leads to other questions... For instance, where's the "Pokemon" game where I'm just raising a Pokemon as a pet? Cause, in the game, I have to have my Pokemon fight in order to evolve, which makes no sense if they can just be pets too; like, can't they grow as they eat and drink and age as they go, as pets?! And don't say that's stupid and wouldn't be an entertaining game either, 'cause there's a bunch of games even back then, that were just raising a pet. I remember Tamagotchis; I didn't get those either, but even those, I kinda just shrugged off as 21st Century versions of The Pet Rock, and those games actually have you interacting and raising your pets like a pet, and I could definitely see how one can learn a lot of early childhood lessons from those.

Now, as to the show, they strayed from this idea of retelling the story of the video game the longer the particular series seemed to go, apparently, which is probably for the best, especially since I think it's kind of a bad idea in general to try to tell the story that way to begin with also. It's one thing to set something in the world of the game, it's another to recreate the game entirely, and that seems to be what the majority of the early episodes were doing. They even went out of their way to replicate the names and details of the city, and frankly, I can't think of a game where I would ever think that's the best approach to adapting it. For one, I'd just  be replaying the game, so if I liked the original game, I'm just bored waiting for the things I know are coming up, and if I don't like the game, then they're just recreating a hellish experience for me, and on the other other hand, if I don't know the game at all, then especially for these early seasons, I'm just confused as to my everything's so accepted in this world, and even if I did seem somewhat interested..., doing that with this game in particular....

Um..., okay how can I explain how this feels... Uh, maybe, if I can find this clip..., it'll be the miracle of miracles if I do, but; c'mon Youtube, don't fail me now....

(Twenty minutes later)

And, yes! It's here! Okay, I can actually show this and not have to explain it too much....


Okay, so this is an episode of "Jesse". It was Christina Applegate's first sitcom after "Married... with Children"; she's a young single mother who's got a crush/on-again-off-again thing with the art teacher next door. It was created by the same people behind "Friends"; it lasted two seasons and it's a terrible sitcom. Obviously not "Pokemon" bad or I wouldn't be using it as a positive example of anything, but it was a mess of a show on between "Friends" and "Frasier" so you put up with it despite the show being a complete mess. (Cool theme song though) Anyway, there's this one episode that apparently always stuck with me. It's this episode where Jesse goes on a date with a cute guy to a "club," not realizing that it's not a nightclub, but a D&D club that he's apart of.... and as the date goes on, if you skip to the 15:05ish-to the 16:15ish part, where she learns about how long it takes to get through Level 1 of the game... yeah, that's kinda how this feels like to me. Even if I was somewhat interested, just trying to get into this on a deep enough level to where I would understand enough of it, really doesn't feel like it's worth it, in really any form, including the video game, much less a television recreation of the video game, that I don't have any real control of, and just seems to constantly be bombarding me to care about or have to care about enough to spend money I don't have on it.... (Depressed sigh)

Anyway, speaking of straying from the video game narrative, thank goodness, I did look at one episode of "Pokemon" from season 2 in particular, where Meowth's backstory is told; I was specifically told that if I didn't feel some level of emotions that my soul would be questioned.... So while I skipped around randomly when I did stray from the first season, I specifically went out of my way to watch that one, tsk... um, it's...- (Sigh) well, it's definitely not the worst episode of the show; but-eh...- (Sigh) Alright, I'll just say it, that episode was just "Oliver & Company


I mean, I love "Oliver & Company", so it's not a criticism per se, and it's not exactly a complete remake or anything. Basically, it's taking that kind of story and twisting the details, creatively into a villain origin story and that's admittedly pretty clever. And the idea of Pokemon learning English is kind of a neat way to explained that odd detail fairly well, but I didn't feel emotional towards it at all. Maybe I am "Soulless", but I've also seen that done better in other media and other kids media at that, even back then. (The episodes of the '80s version of Alvin & The Chipmunks", the '80s/early '90s one anyway, where we learned about the Chipettes origin story came to my mind) In fact, I ended up hating Meowth more as the episode went on; I mean, he did all that himself, just to try to convince some other lady Pokemon to get with him, despite her clearly not being interested, time and time again. Take a fucking hint, you dumbass thieving stalker; she doesn't want you! She doesn't want you rich, speaking English, walking on two legs, and certainly not by beating up the one guy who was there for her when she needed somebody! She might be a bitch, but Meowth's just an obnoxious egotistical prick; I don't care that his backstory is somewhat sympathetic, he's an asshole and his motives undermine that whole backstory's sympathy.

You know, who I actually did feel a little sympathy for going through these episodes? Team Rocket. Jesse and James anyway, Meowth can suck it, but them, I genuinely felt sad for them the more I thought about it. I mean, they live in a Pokemon-based universe, where your entire status in life seems to be based around how good you are at training Pokemon, and they suck at it. As far as I can tell, and I tried to do a little research on this, so maybe I'm way off on this reading but I couldn't find a particular backstory to deny this offhand..., but it seems like they became these obsessed robbers and thieves, trying desperately to get Pokemon any way they can, because they don't have anything else in this world. Pokemon is status, it's currency, it's literally everything, and there doesn't seem to be much else. Even those who supposedly have other stuff to do in life, like that first gym master who has a bunch of siblings to take care of, also seem to first, still has to be good at Pokemon, so really, they have no choice but to be these outlandish eccentric villains; it's their only choice in this world. In a real world, where Pokemon wasn't everything, just, a thing, I bet they would be happier and more successful, being computer hackers or birthday party entertainers or something else, but they don't have any other options.

I felt sorry for them. They reminded me of, well me, whenever I was the one person who didn't like something that everyone else did and was ostracized for it back in school, which, happened a lot to me, I might add. And frankly, their situation is way more fucked then I ever was in simply because I hated "Scooby-Doo" or whatever it was that week that everyone loved except me. It's everybody else being so obsessed with Pokemon in this world that leads them to being equally obsessed with Pokemon even though it's not something they're good at or that they should do; I guess they do like "Pokemon" enough to keep doing this, but it's also the only option they're really given. They don't have a chance or really much of an opportunity to be anything else. So yeah, if I had to pick a side in this thing, Team Rocket all the way.

But that just shows how really dumb this world is, that I mostly find the villains the most relatable and sympathetic. I also jumped on the bandwagon in which some consider this show's lesson to be about how owning these pocket monsters and having them fight is basically tantamount to enslavement, and yeah, as I kinda alluded to before, I do see that. I'll admit though, that I think it's a bit of a disingenuous criticism, but then again, I also remember Michael Vick's dogfighting ring scandal happening around this time as "Pokemon" was big,... Honestly, I can forgive people for not seeing it this way, especially if they watch later series or played the video game but once it's been pointed out, I can't un-see it entirely. I get not caring in a video game about it, but when they're really tangible characters in a medium like television and not just, another weapon to circle in and out depending on the situation you walk into, the more disturbing nature of the premise come to the forefront. If you give it, any amount of real thought, it's all very disturbing.... It's always gonna be there in the back of my mind that essentially this game about scooping up field mice in order to watch them try to bop each other's heads off.

That said, let's say that issue I can get okay with, and naturally, if it's done well, you can make any concept and story good if done right, which yes, I believe one can. So, let's say that some of these later seasons are actually decent and worth a damn, overall does that mean that I'm still being too mean on the original?

Well, subjectively, I don't think I'm mean enough to it, but objectively...- Well, that's a more difficult question to answer. On the one hand, I'm kinda just sick of constant reboots of old series, particularly children's series to begin with, even if some of them are better then the originals, or in this case, if future series of "Pokemon" are better then the original. I could be wrong here, but I think these later series aren't so much reboots but just, the same franchise telling a new story with some similar characters, but with new protagonists and the story is more clearly ending at like a season or two, and not potentially something that could run for awhile; similar to other Japanese programs actually. The question in my mind, has to become, was/is "Pokemon" something that was worth rebooting and reinterpreting? Well, again, subjectively I clearly don't think so, but, now that it's been so long, and because society sucks and I've lost this war, then, yeah, sure why the hell not. Try to find something interesting or different or even good in this world and tell other newer stories, find something good that can be pulled out of this world. I can't claim I wasn't thinking about how I would do "Pokemon" if I had to.

Personally, if I absolutely had to give a pitch, my initial re-imagining would be, first to get rid of Ash, 'cause I hate him. They probably wouldn't accept so instead, I'd reconceive Ash, or at least the role of the show's main protagonist that Ash represents. I'd have him being an older young male character, perhaps a 13 or 14 year old, who only recently moved into this Pokemon universe with his family, and have him become an accidental Pokemon trainer, not somebody trying to follow in a family legacy or anything of that sort and then have Misty and the others help guide him through the journey and other new friends and acquaintances that he has to go through and he goes along with it, 'cause, although this version of him, he might not understand or even agree with the practices of this Pokemon world, he understands it empathetically and has formed a loving bond with a Pokemon who enjoys the fighting aspects of being a Pokemon, so he's an older young male who's now reluctantly embarking on this Pokemon trainer journey, not for him, but for his Pokemon who he's grown attached to. It'd be kinda like how a parent wouldn't want their kids playing a violent sport like football or something, but because he's so good at it, and wants to be playing so bad, that they reluctantly do what they can in order to help him get the best possible chance at success at it. So now we have a character who doesn't know the world, but also shouldn't, so it makes more sense when he fails upward and stumbles his way into success sometimes and even though he means well enough and is naturally talented at Pokemon, he needs a lot of help and is willing to take it more and more often from those characters that do know the world..., and so-on and so-forth. That's where I would at least start with this, if I had to create a concept from scratch. Perhaps that is an idea they did later or, or will do later. (Don't worry, I won't ask for credit if they do; I'm not watching it even if they do that.)

Anyway, so yeah, like, "Pokemon"'s still awful, I can't pretend that it's not the most offensive thing to all my critical instincts. There was better out there at the time, and frankly always has been, especially so when talking about it's earliest seasons, which unfortunately was when it was at its most popular.... I think there's genuinely little there that's worth a damn and yeah, I will still look at people like they've got dog turds hanging out of their mouths if they mention being a fan of it or liking it or finding it a good piece of nostalgia from their childhood, 'cause that,- that-..., look, it might now be apart of people's nostalgia, some pieces of their nostalgia past are just bad and not worth remembering, and this is one of them.

Even as a kid, who watched and liked a lot of bad cartoons growing up, this would've banged every get-this-off-my-TV-right-fucking-now nerve I would've had even at my youngest. However, okay, there's stuff in here that's not that terrible and fairly decent once you see how the show's clearly evolved. I still don't think it's a franchise that should've been given that opportunity but yeah, okay like, it's, probably, not technically the worst thing ever. Parts of it actually do look like they're fairly good. I'm not gonna keep going and find out, but yeah, there's my complete, uncensored thoughts on "Pokemon" and how they've changed. I guess I'm glad I gave it a few extra tries overall, and saw why it at least had potential to be good. I did have biases against this show in the way, and I think I did honestly cleared out a lot of them. Obviously, I didn't get converted or became a fan and obviously my opinion hasn't completely changed in terms of the quality of this show, but I'm glad I decided to take the time and flush this out a bit.









Also, why do I have to catch them all?! There's 898 of these, can't I just catch the important ones? What do I need them all for?! Doesn't that sound, just a little obsessive? (Sigh)

Yeah, I need to play a different game.



No comments: