To the uninitiated, all the "Poke-Talk" that has hit the airwaves with reference to the most popular children's fad in years is nothing more than nonsensical gibberish. After all, with characters with names such as Pikachu, Squirtle, Wartortle, Blastoise, Charmander and Bulbasaur, only a child's mind could be so nimble as to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of the craze. Adults are just too dim to comprehend the complex world that is Pokemon.
Take for instance this explanation of how the Pokemon card game is played, taken from the official Pokemon trading card website (www.wizards.com/pokemon/):
In the Pokemon trading card game, one of your goals is to collect each of the cards, similar to your goal of collecting each of the Pokemon in the Game Boy game. But not all Pokemon cards are as easy to catch as others. The Energy cards are the most basic and most common kind of cards. Your Pokemon cards, Evolution cards, and Trainer cards come in four different varieties: common cards are marked in the bottom right-hand corner with a [dot]. Uncommon cards are marked with a [diamond], and rare cards are marked with a [star].
Leaves one a bit baffled, spurring dreadful memories of waking up midway through high school math to find yourself lost in a sea of numbers and equations. But to the child's mind Pokemon is a never-ending ocean of entertainment that combines the best of all fantasy worlds into one grand-unified theory of play. For besides the figures themselves, there are the cartoons, the video games, the cards, the apparel, the books, the music and, as most parents found out last weekend, the movie.
So what's one to think of all this Poke-Popularity?
From a shallow, parental, consumer perspective, it seems to be an economic win. Regardless of which merchandise a child craves most, parents don't have to shell-out much more than $10 to keep their little ones satiated. Unfortunately, as many parents have found, keeping up with the some 200 characters and all their paraphernalia adds up quickly. That part of high school math you remember. And the marketing philosophy behind Pokemon overtly implores the child, as the creators of the South Park animated series so aptly put in their recent spoof of the craze, to "Buy! Buy! Buy!" This leaves parents with children who become four-foot toy addicts, deprived of a 12-step program to help break the habit.
As an economic case study, it is consumerism at it's best. As a sociological phenomenon, it is greed, avarice and warped priorities at their worst.
With these little Pocket Monsters (that's what Pokemon abbreviates), children are initiated into a world of modern market capitalism in which there is no alternative to instant gratification and where the utility of any product diminishes overnight. Hooked at an early age, they are primed for an adult life of fast cars, fast food and fast fantasy, all available with the swipe of a credit card.
Now this is not meant to be an indictment of childhood indulgences. Kids need to be kids. But this is a warning that the very children you cherish as integral parts of your life are nothing more than facts, figures, demographics and potential profits to some "marketing whiz" out there.
Happy holidays. Have a Poke-rific time.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com