PETA’s brutal Pokemon parody is too hard-hitting

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As valid as arguments regarding humane treatment of animals and veganism may be, should children ever be the target of political agenda?

In a “fun way to tackle a serious issue”, PETA’s Pokemon parody Pokemon Red, White and Blue smothers children with gore in an attempt to promote veganism.

Whilst Pokemon was among the reasons I did not spend my introspective childhood years alone, PETA would also have you believe it is the reason I enjoy a double cheeseburger.

First, Pokemon encouraged animal abuse. Now, as PETA Marketing Innovations Director Joel Bartlett put it in a press release, the Pokemon brand “hoodwinks kids into believing that Happy Meals are made up of cuteness and fun,” and is used to “sell the corpses of chickens and cows.” At least, as far as PETA sees it.

It is not quite the same argument as the one which says Grand Theft Auto causes real life violence but it is in the same ballpark.

It has often been noted that, for all of its brightly coloured declarations about the importance of friendship, Pokemon had the player make slaves of its ever-growing roster of pocket-sized monsters. A coming-of-age tale in which you are encouraged to participate in cock fights with strangers, travel the world and earn badges of honour to prove that you are indeed, the best there ever was.

Pokemon is a tale of discovery and violence or, Full Metal Jacket for children – you encounter interesting and stimulating creatures from another species and kill them / force them to fight until the point of passing out.

Until now, Pokemon has never been received allegorically by the public at large. At least, no more than The Very Hungry Caterpillar was a frank investigation into the culture of waste in Western society. However, with the news that Pokemon’s latest iteration is one of Nintendo’s most pre-ordered games ever, the continued ubiquity of the Pokemon brand opens it up to the realms of parody exemplified by PETA’s game. Furthermore, it is not only the imitation itself but the associated ire that proves the sincerity of any given form of flattery.

peta pokemon

In short, PETA sincerely believes that a colourful Flash game aimed at children is a suitable package for graphic depictions of animal slaughter.

 

This in itself problematizes PETA’s position – sensationalist depictions of Pokemon in chains, missing appendages and covered in blood hardly pave the way for an intelligent and nuanced discussion. The inclusion of a live action slaughterhouse video in this parody is as subtle as being Rickrolled by Jason Voorhees.

By calling out McDonalds on their use of Pokemon iconography, PETA draws attention to their own exploitative use of the Pokemon brand. There is a great degree of irony present in PETA criticising the way in which McDonalds use Pokemon to sell their products before then using the brand so brazenly themselves.

By targeting children with their political ideals via the use of a flash game, PETA only manages to weaken the legitimacy of its argument. The manner in which corporations such as McDonalds target children is a matter worthy of debate, as is the often abhorrent treatment of animals – that said, targeting children with one sided, sensationalist media masquerading as a game cannot be considered the correct way to begin a meaningful dialogue on the issue.

In the game’s press release, PETA asserts that Pokemon: Red, White and Blue “reveals the reality, showing kids what really happens to chickens killed for the restaurant chain.” By putting their political agenda in the body of a game that is aimed at children and not at adults with an understanding of parody, there is something inherently toxic about PETA’s Pokemon rip off.

And what are PETA likely to achieve with Pokemon: Red, White and Blue? By callously targeting children, PETA are likely to be met with indifference and aversion to their message. Furthermore, the few minutes of gameplay that PETA’s Pokemon parody offers is hardly enough time to radically reorganise views on the meat trade which, for Pokemon’s young audience, are not yet fully formed.

peta pokemon ending

The need for public education on such a pertinent issue is ongoing but with overblown and heavy handed messaging that relies on shock value, PETA may be damaging themselves more than the multiple targets of their recent campaign.

PETA’s argument is painted in college-common-room shades of black and white even whilst it is splattered with the pop art red of Pokemon innards.

PETA states that they hope the game “will inspire players to choose kindness and go vegan.” Throughout the game, the consumption of meat is portrayed as evil. By then asking that you “evolve yourself” and “change your life for the better” by going vegan, there is an indication by PETA that being vegan is a prerequisite for showing kindness and empathy towards animals. By dealing in absolutes, PETA’s position is exclusionary and shallow.

Surprisingly, Pokemon: Red, White and Blue is a competent Pokemon rip off. Its hand drawn Pokemon are crisply drawn and the ham fisted dialogue often raises a wry smile.  For a company which so openly disapproves of Pokemon, PETA have a tremendous amount of knowledge of the games intricacies and recreates them faithfully. That said, the gore covered facsimile of one of Nintendo’s premier franchises does not add anything meaningful to the animal rights debate.

The reiterant bullishness of PETA’s message here is as intelligent and convincing as throwing red paint on a fur wearing catwalk model. Tellingly, selecting Group Hug or Protest during battle is all but ineffective whereas repeatedly slamming an opponent is the most successful approach – the efficacy of this choice reflects PETA’s bludgeon-like approach to spreading their message.

If it has done one thing and nothing else, PETA’s Pokemon parody has aligned Nintendo and McDonalds in a way I did not previously think – they are both multi-national corporations whose success can be attributed to their ability to repackage the same product and sell it to you repeatedly for several decades.

Perhaps PETA should take note.

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