Maggie Harvey/QUAKER CAMPUS Pokémon, a game that played a pivotal one in the childhood of many, is subject to controversial discussions concerning gender.

Maggie Harvey/QUAKER CAMPUS
Pokémon, a game that played a pivotal one in the childhood of many, is subject to controversial discussions concerning gender.

Gaby Cedeno
OPINIONS EDITOR

After a nostalgia-filled summer thanks to Pokémon Go, all the hype in the Pokémon Community has turned to the new 3DS games Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, which were released on Nov. 18. 

For about a year now, Nintendo has been teasing Pokéfans everywhere with sneak peeks of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Ever since the release date was announced, PokéTubers — people who post videos on YouTube about Pokémon — have been going crazy about these new games, which offer new features, better graphics, a strikingly different structure than the previous games, and, most importantly, new Pokémon. 

As Nintendo posted trailers for the game on YouTube that introducing the new Pokémon, PokéTubers and their followers shared their thoughts on these new Pokémon. Their feelings ranged from pure excitement to utter disappointment. Many expressed disappointment over Popplio, the water starter for this generation. 

People thought Popplio’s first form was just a silly, goofy-looking seal. Then, when its final evolution was revealed, there were some complaints about it being too feminine. Popplio’s final evolution, Primarina, is a cross between a sea lion and a mermaid. It has a pink nose, long eyelashes, wears a tiara made of pearls, and has long blue hair wrapped up in a ponytail. 

Following the reveal of the starters’ final evolutions, Pokétubers posted videos about which starter they were planning to pick. The majority announced that they were going with Rowlet, the grass owl, or Litten, the fire cat. Very few said they were choosing Popplio, and those who did received backlash from some of their viewers. 

Pokétuber Mystic Umbreon announced on his channel that he would be choosing Popplio because he liked its affiliation with Greek culture. “Primarina! Oh my god, it’s freaking adorable,” he says. “With Primarina being based off of sirens and mermaids, I have to have it.” Though he was excited about his choice, some of his viewers were not. 

A person under the username Gerard Joling commented, “All the Pokémon you are choosing are the ones girls or gays choose. Are you gay?”  Joling was just one of the few dozen who called Mystic Umbreon gay. A few of these people threatened to unsubscribe from his channel for Mystic Umbreon’s choice. 

Other PokéTubers who decided to choose Popplio received similar backlash. During his first gameplay of Pokémon Moon, Pokétuber TealGameMaster had chosen Popplio; but when he discovered it was male, expressed his utter disappointment to viewers. “Dammit,” he grumbled. “After that heartwarming scene [of Popplio hugging its new master], we find out it is not entirely what we wanted … [I’m] going to have to reload and try to get [a female] after this video is over because my god!”   

As it turns out, many people who decided to get a Popplio would only accept it as a female. YouTuber brianuuu Sonic Reborn reset the game over and over again, until finally, after about twenty minutes, he got a female Popplio. In the comment section of their video, several viewers expressed their own frustration with resetting the game numerous times just so they could obtain a female Popplio. “You [the YouTuber] got it on the fifth try,” a person with the username The Imperfectionist commented. “I’m on my 17th try and I still don’t have it.” Another viewer under the username Ellie Noir said she was on her 34th attempt. 

According to Serebii.net, a site dedicated to guiding Pokéfans through the Pokémon universe, gender was not a huge concept in the original games (Pokémon Blue, Red, and Yellow). The only Pokémon that were gendered in the original games were the Nidorans because they would ultimately evolve to become Nidoking or Nidoqueen. The male Nidorans were pink and the female blue, which does not seem to be an issue with Pokéfans today. In fact, most forums featuring the Nidoking versus Nidoqueen debate have people arguing that they are equally awesome. Only one forum posted on pokemoncommunity.com had more people arguing that Nidoking was better because he was purple; rather than blue.   

After the original games, Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver gave all Pokémon genders. On Serebii.net, there is a section called “Gender Mechanics” that explains the role gender has in Pokémon. “Almost every Pokémon has a specific gender ratio and the ratio determines how likely it is that you’ll get a male Pokémon or a female Pokémon,” the website explains. “Some Pokémon have a simple 50/50 ratio, while others have a 75/25, and even some as low as 87.5/12.5. Some Pokémon have various differences in appearance.”

Starter Pokémon are the ones that fall under the 87.5/12.5 ratio. The reason people have had a difficult time getting a female Popplio is because all starters are more likely to be male than female. Getting a female starter is rare, unless, of course, you restart your game a countless number of times. Then you’re bound to get it eventually. 

Prior to Pokémon Sun and Moon, there weren’t as many complaints about the starter gender ratio. The only other starter to be criticized for having too feminine of a final evolution was Fennekin. Fennekin’s final evolution, Delphox, resembles a witch. Still, in comparison to Popplio, Fennekin was a more widely accepted Pokémon that placed first or second in gaming polls, whereas Popplio came in last for most polls. 

Another Pokémon that was criticized for being too feminine, though not a starter, is the Gardevoir. Gardevoir’s body resembles a gown, and when it Mega-evolves and turns into Mega-Gardevoir, its gown grows longer and wider and resembles a wedding dress. This Pokémon has a 50/50 chance of being male or female. However, the fact that it could be male at all upset some people.

PokéTuber TheAuraGuardian has a video called “Pokémon with Odd Gender Ratios.” In this video, he goes over the Pokémon that have received the most criticism for their gender ratios and explains how their gender can be justified. Note: this video was made before Pokémon Sun and Moon so he doesn’t talk about Popplio. However, he does talk about Gardevoir.    

“Gardevoir’s gender ratio isn’t as odd as some people would think,” he explains. “Gardevoir’s origins aren’t specifically female. Its Japanese name translates to Sir Knight. Gardevoir resembles a principal dancer, which can be male or female.” 

The creators of Pokémon did make a male-presenting counterpart to Gardevoir called Gallade. While Gardevoir was introduced in the third generation games Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire, Gallade was introduced in Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl. While there is no official statement from Game Freak explaining why they felt the need to make Gallade, some fans have speculated that perhaps Game Freak created the male-appearimg counterpart to satisfy those who were upset by the male Gardevoirs. 

On Tumblr, a blogger with the username FuckYeah, Controversial Characters! posted an opinion piece he wrote, titled “In defense for Gallade (Pokémon).” In this piece, he addressed the claims some fans have made about Gallade being a product of anti-feminism. He defines sexism as “attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles,” then proceeds to explain that, “admittedly, Gallade does have a higher attack stat than Gardevoir does. However, Gardevoir has a higher special attack stat than Gallade does. They balance each other out.”

What many fans neglect to acknowledge is that, though Gallade now exists, Gardevoir still has a 50/50 chance of being female. In most forums, people refer to Gardevoir as “she” or “her.” In a lot of fanart, Gardevoir is sexualized. It is given breasts and appears submissive. 

Another Tumblr blogger, Ask Male Pokémon, posted a piece titled “Male Gardevoir Awareness Week.” In this post, the blogger addresses the underlying sexism and homophobia this Pokemon brings to light. “[Some people] obsess over the sexualization of Female Gardevoir around the internet,” the blogger wrote. “[To] these people, the thought that a male Gardevoir can look just as cute, just as sexy, yet not match their predefined notions of what passes for a ‘Manly’ Pokémon both confuses them and offends them.” 

Gender is an especially hot topic in the Pokémon Community. The Pokemon discussed above are only a few examples of the gender controversy. Veiled by the guise of animated characters and the quest to catch them all, Pokémon is but one demonstration of an overt gender divide present within popular culture.