The Problem with Pokemon
No, I’m not about to rip into the (many) problems with the modern-day era of Pokemon. As much as I’d like to do that I don’t even know enough about Gold/Silver/Crystal to even begin to fabricate an argument higher in thought than “it sucks pretty bad”. This article is about a peculiar video of the same name, specifically the November 30th, 1999 episode of the television show In Focus, a religiously-charged broadcast that airs on WVCY TV30 in Wisconsin. This shoddy public access tape traveled all the way from Wisconsin down to the bowels of South Texas to meet me, like a stroke of destiny, in a Goodwill store. I always lurk the VHS section of any second-hand store because I have a knack for the awkwardly cringeworthy and that’s simply the place for the best pickins. Nestled in between a copy of The Land Before Time 45,713 and Popeye cartoons in Spanish lied this VHS — a simple black tape with a homemade type-written label reading “THE PROBLEM WITH POKEMON”. I bought it with a smile on my face knowing this would be superb, and it was.
I don’t know much about In Focus but according to the VCY America website it’s still in production and the hosts are still as hilariously stupid and biased as always. Essentially In Focus is your run of the mill church-based call-in show programming full of “JESUS DID IT” as an excuse for everything and their response to anybody who thinks otherwise is to, quite literally, hang up on them. Pokemon was a “big thing” in the late nineties and as you can imagine these Bible-thumpers were all over this opportunity to tell the world how Satanic and evil Pokemon were because church-going kids were yet again distracted from a boring as hell book by flashing lights and a naturally awesome video game that can only be described as “badass”.
Here’s the opening sequence to the show. It’s going to blow your fucking mind:
After having seen that I want to remind you that an actual human being had to sit down and put that together and someone else thought that was suitable for their show. No less than two people were involved with this monument of fail and for a station that boasts “broadcasting to all 50 states” that means the entire country is going to have to see what you make… and this is the best they can do. You can see what level of crazy we’re dealing with here just by watching the intro. It starts out simple enough with important faith-based issues like “abortion”, “politics” (so much for that separation of church and state, right?), and “faith” (for added redundancy). Somewhere along the line, though, the guy who put this together was clearly so impressed with that “swoosh” effect that he threw in as many possible topics that he could think of and we are left with “law enforcement”, “education”, “news”, “divorce”, “pornography”, “justice”, “creation/evolution”, and my personal favorite: “inner city”.
If you’re keeping track with me than we aren’t even a minute into this show and it’s already spiraled down into insanity and then the actual broadcast starts wherein we are greeted by… nobody because the anchor fails to introduce himself at all until a graphic shows up a full minute later informing us of who exactly is talking. Our fantastical unnamed host runs through a plethora of Pokemon franchise information such as “maybe you’ve seen the recent movie” to the term “Burger King paraphernalia” to basically any other phrase that could be replaced with “if you’ve been living under a rock, here’s Pokemon”.
After tumbling through at least 15 different places one may have heard about Pokemon our host Jim gives what is quite possibly the worst handoff in television history to their “local expert”… who apparently is also named Jim and is also a host of- oh wait, no he’s not. Someone just dicked up the graphics. Jim… or shall I say THE REAL JIM states that he’s going to be getting into a lot of Pokemon-oriented topics including “where they get their power” and somehow tries to meld that sentence with an invitation for you to call your friends and have them tune into In Focus as well because, as Jim claims, “it’s going to be a great show”. The end result is an English sentence that sounds like it was translated to Spanish and then back to English until it made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Bizarro Jim (his real name is actually David Brown) is quick to start rambling on about how “new age” Pokemon is in its efforts to replace the Bible’s teachings of morality with… well, Boulderbadges and Thunder Stones I guess; he too never completes that thought. If either of the two of these hosts had any TV broadcasting education whatsoever they must have gone to the equivalent of DeVry University to get said “education”.
David makes no hesitation to rain on everyone’s parade by reading off a laundry list of criteria that someone of equal religious disillusion can use to gauge how Satanic Pokemon (or anything for that matter) is by comparing the media in question to a battery of observations that clearly aren’t impossible or biased in any forseeable way. After this soapbox speech of crazy you’d think David would summarize his point by showing the camera a piece of Pokemon merchandise that broke these magical declarations of the Bible, but no he flashes to the camera an NWO Sting wrestling figurine… then Darth Maul from Star Wars along with some Star Wars books… then some Star Trek nonsense… then a Marvel Comics Ghost Rider and Venom figurine… then the obvious candidate, a Harry Potter book. Jim tries to step in and make some relevance out of what Old Man River is babbling on about but David goes right back along showing a package of the ill-fated Mythos trading card game followed by Magic: The Gathering until Jim finally tries to summarize his seemingly Anti-Christmas speech by asking David about the Pikachu plush toy he brought with him.
Jim introduces the Pikachu as “cute and cuddly” which gives David the opportunity to start talking about how Satanic the iconic character is and “not to be fooled” by its cute appearance. David goes on a miniature tangent rant about Time magazine featuring Pokemon on their cover which is then revealed to be a lead-in to “magazines devoted entirely to Pokemon”, which is said as David simultaneously flashes a Game Boy player’s guide to the camera… something more akin to a book and not a magazine. David has brought all of these little artifacts into the studio with the sole purpose of blasting them but I feel that he fails to realize that he pretty much bought copies of everything he intended to label as “demonic” effectively adding money into said “new age” companies and further perpetuating their products.
David takes a moment to explain the origins of Pokemon, correctly attributing the name to “pocket monsters” and then linking it straight to Japan. You can almost see the glimmer in his eye as you feel this bizarre wave of xenophobia take over the broadcast; you know David hates the Japanese because earlier in the broadcast he calls Eastern religions “incorrect” — those “Oriental” countries… as he calls them, come on David just be out with it already and say “Chinamen” you know you want to!
David then whips out his trump card, a VHS tape of Pokemon episodes called Psychic Surprise. He is floored to be able to show this and he tells us to get ready for the first clip and they show… wait for it… wait for it… the theme song. They then proceed to meticulously rip apart the lyrics to it and only analyze the parts that kind of resemble anti-Christ doctrines like “being the best” and somehow twisting “travel across the land” as a means of conquering worlds which if these jackasses are paying any attention is exactly what members of their church did to “spread the gospel”, and by “spreading gospel” I of course mean “crusading”. They confuse the marketing term “gotta catch em all” with a demand for kids to ACCEPT SATAN INTO THEIR LIVES.
Basically these winners ignore the phrases in the theme song that talk about “defending the world” and virtues like having courage in favor of blasting only what their agenda-riddled… agenda… can apply to. Reverend Gary Oak (for lack of a better name for David) flexes his Internet prowess by showing the camera that he has printed out a character sheet from the Pokemon website and talks about how Brock is a bad role model because he likes girls; “hormonal” as the paper says. Really? He’s 13 years old and he likes women? Holy shit sound the alarm there’s a kid going through puberty who found out he likes girls! Clearly this is reason for alarm and David cues up his Pokemon VHS tape to specific scenes where Brock is seen macking on the ladies. Utterly disgusting. What is wrong with this young man who clearly doesn’t want to make love missionary style and through a hole in a sheet? For shame, Nintendo, for shame.
Jessie and James cross-dress as a disguise and that’s bad. Brock likes girls and that’s bad. There’s sex in my pokeyman and that’s satan. David quotes his favorite relevant Bible verses to make a point so just to counterpoint I am going to do the same. What, you think someone of my caliber doesn’t know the Bible? Well that’s an inappropriate assumption now isn’t it? Fuck you. And as I quote Ezekiel 23:20:
There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.
I’m not going to really explain that quote in detail because it has an air of prostitution with just a hint of bestiality thrown in for good measure but seriously, from a morality standpoint which of those is the lesser of evils? Bad guys being cross-dressers… or comparing cock sizes and cumshots with livestock?
The best part of this broadcast, however, is when they open the phonelines to viewer calls. Now normally I’d find hilarity in them sitting in silence for the next 25 minutes while nobody calls because nobody is watching their stupid program but then again we’re dealing with humans here and when humans are in a large group they tend to lose intelligence exponentially so yeah there’s a lot of callers. Despite the assumed intellect of the people calling in there’s such an amazing spectrum represented ranging from insane grandmothers rambling about Stephen King to young children doing their best to defend Pokemon and politely telling the hosts of this show to “suck it”.
The very first caller is a man who seems like he thought his example through but he makes the mistake of saying you should make your children aware of Pokemon so they do not fall for it. David steps in and literally calls BS on that (he says “Yeah, I’m not buying that”) because he knows that a giant turtle that can blast a sea at you has more kid appeal than some dickhead who can simply part a sea and even telling a kid about how monumentally awesome that is will effectively sell him to the dark side for good. More and more people who call in take the same stance much to the despair of the hosts. The second caller is my favorite in the entire tape, perhaps because I can understand what she’s talking about but the hosts clearly cannot. She calls in and acknowledges that the psychic type Pokemon can use telekinesis and connects to the Stephen King movie Carrie, a story of a girl who has pyrokinesis (she sets things on fire with her mind). Jim has no idea what she is talking about and it’s such an epic moment that I felt the need to go through the over-complicated process of transferring the segment to digital video. Enjoy.
All of the kids who call in do so to defend their interest and believe it or not for kids they raise some mature points that the hosts of In Focus blast down with the type of logic that belongs to preschoolers. Eric, the very first young caller, skips no beats in pointing out that David has been incredibly exclusive in his choice of Pokemon to attack noting that he’s stuck primarily on the psychic types and absolutely none of the others. He challenges David on live television asking where Pikachu gets his “occult powers”. David’s response? He hangs up on the caller, badly rehashes some nonsense about fighting, and they take the next one. The next kid who calls, Casey, insists that it’s not a bad game because it teaches responsibility and says that you have to take care of your Pokemon, to be a good keeper in other words. I was rooting for Casey to take it home for us and tell David where he can shove those anti-Pokemon pamphlets but her argument quickly falls apart and they kick her off the show as well. Mark, another caller, flat out acknowledges that the bad guys are the ones who cross-dress so he asks “why would people want to do that if that’s what the bad guys do?” David is taken aback and once again has to drudge up the same “BUT TEH GOOD GUYZ HAS TEH OCCULT POWARZ SO DEY BAD TOO”.
Forget what I said about Iesha though, because a caller named Jason is my true favorite caller. The first thing he says is that he is disappointed with the Poke-bashing. Jason notes that it’s a passing fad and then goes on to question what the difference is between the violence and antics depicted in Pokemon compared to those in Looney Tunes, raising a bunch of questions in the process and effectively bringing the roof down on WVCY’s fun house. Jason summarizes his call by saying that claims from shows like In Focus are indoctrinating parents to stifle the creativity of their children by blocking them from otherwise harmless media. David tries to quickly pick up the pieces claiming that Looney Tunes never have “occult” powers and that Bugs Bunny never cross-dresses. You can see where David just made a mistake because Bugs Bunny cross-dresses as a disguise gimmick in a number of cartoons and Jason jumps on that immediately. David, defeated, arrogantly declares that it’s clearly different because Bugs Bunny is an animal… somehow making it okay? Jason doesn’t say it but come to think of it isn’t Pepe Le Pew a lot like Brock in that all he does is chase after women? You know what, screw it. Here’s another video just because Jason is my hero. Godspeed, Jason.
In summary these religious nutcases are just that, religious nutcases. They’re looking for a reason to be crass and belligerent and to rain on people’s parades by injecting one book of fairy tales into another and claiming that their stories supersede those of all others. They claim that kids being mean to younger siblings and begging for Pokemon cards from their parents is a sign of falling for Satan but I say that’s simply a phenomenon called BEING THIRTEEN YEARS OLD. Replace “Pokemon” with any other fad in the history of forever and you will have the same exact stories of bullying and average pre-teen mentality. These people are just butthurt that no sane kids except for Moral Orel think that Christ is radical enough to warrant the attention that everything else popular with kids gets. Party poopers will always be party poopers and so long as the First Amendment covers this insanity then people like the fine folks at In Focus will be able to talk out of their asses for an hour each week about whatever topic they feel is brainwashing kids into worshiping the Devil be it Harry Potter, Pokemon, or the entire decade of the 1990’s.
It gets better, though. The wonderfully inept company behind this production, Logos Communications (Logos pronounced “low-goss”), said that they have a pamphlet of information about Pokemon available for a “minimum” donation of $5. That seems a little steep for Xerox’ed copies of “ITZ TEH DEVAL” but just for the hell of it I sent Logos a “donation” of $6.66 and asked for their “Problem With Pokemon” information. We will see how that goes. During the credits of the show they say you can have a copy of the broadcast for $20 meaning somebody paid twenty bucks for this damn thing and I got it at a Goodwill for ten cents; that’s a bargain, folks. I should also mention that even though this was taped a decade ago I still tried calling the phone number to the show and it rang. And rang. And rang. Somewhere out there is a lonely telephone in a television studio ringing, and nobody is there to answer it… and that’s kinda scary if you picture it in your head.