So You Want To Be A Pokémon Master? The Agenda of the Pokémon Professors

The road to becoming a Pokémon Master is often treacherous however it is not the journey itself, rather your own identity that hangs in the balance. The objective in every Pokémon game is clear, you collect the region’s eight Gym Badges, which allow you to face the Pokémon Champion and become a Pokémon Master. Along your journey you interact with many people but ultimately the Pokémon Professors and the reigning Champions take the most interest in your progression, often acting as helpful guideposts along the way. However why is it they take such an interest in you to begin with? What is this ingenuous light that you seem to resonate that means they must guide you forwards? Is there a reason that it is you who must represent all love and trust between Pokémon and people?

The young trainer you control is usually from a small town in the outskirts of a region and always the silent type of reasonably humble beginnings. However one day it is decided that you are to have your first Pokémon and set out on your very own adventure, an apparent rite of passage everyone must take in their lives. However not every trainer has been afforded the same luxury of receiving both a starter Pokémon and a Pokédex, many having to find their own means of obtaining their first partner (think of Wally in Ruby/Sapphire). One might believe therefore that because you are lucky enough to live in the same town as a Pokémon Professor then you get special treatment. However during Black 2/White 2 and X/Y the player have their Pokémon delivered to them from afar while the Professor’s lab is on the other side of the region. In one case the player character isn’t even aware they are to receive such an honour, Bianca exclaiming “that Professor Juniper! The normal thing to do is to get an OK before sending someone clear out here, right?” Even this dutiful assistant is perplexed about the sudden interest in you. However judging by your mother’s conversation to Juniper, it would appear the two know each other already; “you never change” she tells the woman on the Xtransceiver. Perhaps they are just old friends, but when she tells you “she called me today for the first time in ages” one may begin to question what exactly this relationship once was. Furthermore when asked if you’d like a Pokémon and Pokédex the game of course forces you to say yes making the act of asking the question somewhat redundant. Why can’t you say no? Has an agreement already been made that you will become a Pokémon trainer?

Behind that dazzling smile lies a broken bitter man...
Behind that dazzling smile lies a broken and bitter man…

Certain Professors seem to choose you because you can overcome issues that they themselves begrudge in their past experiences. Professor Sycamore used to train in battle before giving in to the idea he wasn’t good enough. Yet he is the only Professor to battle you throughout the series suggesting he’s still holding onto some regrets there. Professor Oak is even more disturbing overall, seeming to favour Red over his own grandson, asking you to see the Pokémon he is now too old to find and later on seeming to just give out a Pokédex on a whim to a trainer from New Bark Town. All this adds up to a somewhat saddening concept. Agatha of the Elite Four lambasts him, “that old duff was once tough and handsome… now he just wants to fiddle with his Pokédex” suggesting that there’s some kind of lost potential there, at least from her perspective. Only he seems to use Red as a means to improve his grandson’s attitude, telling Blue “You have forgotten to treat your Pokémon with trust and love! Without them, you will never become a champ again;” by defeating Blue, Red has taught him a lesson that perhaps Oak himself once struggled with having perhaps also taken Agatha’s somewhat aggressive approach to Pokémon training. Where does this leave poor Red however, is he really the kid everyone adored or simply a pawn to settle family affairs? Perhaps he now sits atop Mt. Silver in seclusion because he is angered for being used and the entire point of Gold/Silver’s protagonist is a means for Oak to reconnect with the child he used and to remedy his guilty conscience. Yet these are two top authorities in the Pokémon world and yet they seem to hold desires within them that they attempt to project over the player along their journey. However why is it so important that they put these pressures onto their disciples? Well perhaps these trainers need to hold certain responsibilities, ones which a weak trainer or one as arrogant as Blue cannot handle.

Professor Elm, even your artwork doesn't give me much confidence.
Professor Elm, even your artwork doesn’t give me much confidence.

Then there are Professors such as Elm and Juniper who play a different role in determining future Pokémon champions. Professor Elm has no authority with the Pokédex despite being a regional Professor like his peers, suggesting that he is not trusted to give out the device without giving the agenda away, being inept enough to have his lab broken into and his Pokémon stolen. Professor Juniper however seems to betray certain urgency for her Pokédex holders to take up the task, as when you answer no to her questions in Black/White she shifts into a somewhat passive aggressive tone saying “here is what I need from you”; no is not an answer. Rather yes is “the best possible answer”, betraying a hint of anxiety built up during the process of asking such a supposedly no brainer question.  Perhaps then, with Juniper Sr. still on the scene watching over her, she struggles to conform to the terms that bind her in this matter and is still developing the hard shell that the other Professors have mastered. This situation is not unlike Professor Birch who shrugs off your potential pass on the invitation to go see his son/daughter on Route 103. Perhaps Professor Birch, a pro at plugging the agenda, has set up an entire scenario that ultimately sucks in the protagonist making it seem like they have chosen this journey for themselves. Of course you could also be Rowan, who already has his champion in Cynthia set up and soon to have Lucas/Dawn up their too. Saying no to these people is not an option, somehow they need you to say yes to their requests and they will make that happen, otherwise they fail as Pokémon Professors.

That there across his face is the shadow of the oppressed...
That there across his face is the shadow of the oppressed…

Ultimately it is all for ensuring that a safe champion, one they can be sure will plug their ideals of love and trust between all Pokémon and people. The trainer on their journey is of course told that it is there strong bond with their Pokémon that triumphs over all and that they should continue to use their Poké Balls to spread this feeling to everyone.  Indeed if you look at the Pokémon world as a whole, everyone has a strong love for Pokémon and a neighbourly sense of duty to anyone who comes their way. Yet despite this, several villainous factions such as Team Galactic and Team Flare have tried to destroy the world and rebuild it again, attempting to defy the peace and love the world currently lives in. Perhaps, like many critics have stated, the plot of each Pokémon is too light-hearted and hollow to amount to anything, however what if this light-hearted nature is just a fragile mask to promote a world where everyone conforms to a certain ideology. This way if we tried to pick back the pieces, the love and trust is not genuine from the people, but practiced as a social conformity. There have been wars in the Pokémon world as we know from the backstory of X/Y and Lt. Surge, however in the time period we play the games in, no such war exists because the world is in peace. So why want to destroy it? Are individuals such as Cyrus and Lysandre really megalomaniacs, or are they just unable to conform to an ideology that is forced upon them? Perhaps someone like Giovanni is the true hero of the Pokémon series, because he runs a faction who defy the ideas that are reinforced every time a Pokémon Professor has one of their disciples become Pokémon Champion. This is never the more evident than during Black/White when Team Plasma asks trainers whether keeping Pokémon inside Poké Balls is really fair on the Pokémon. Of course the problem is never truly discussed because thankfully Ghetsis is an evil git who has manipulated N all his life and is out to steal everything from everyone. This then confuses N and ultimately leads him to decide in Black 2/White 2 that his singular idea prevented him from realising that “by accepting different ideas, this world creates a different chemical reaction… someday both ideals and truth will come together… Then Pokémon and humans will be freed from the oppression of Poké Balls.” Ironically, this revelation reinforces the dominant, singular ideology in the Pokémon world. He becomes the only character in the series to take two different ideologies on board, but in the process he condones the practices that are being plugged to the masses unbeknownst to all but a few.

I hope we see N again in the future. He has more depth than the entire cast put together.
I hope we see N again in the future. He has more depth than the entire cast put together.

The Pokémon series has never been known for narrative triumphs and we simply accept that everyone is happy with the world in which they live. Admittedly it can seem like a utopian dream. However, the silence of player characters such as Red and the Black/White protagonists, alongside the underdevelopment of N’s side of the story suggests that there could be a cover-up, a hidden agenda, behind all the love and trust. It would be sad to think that the Pokémon world is being strung together by the people we think we trust the most but we cannot simply ignore the fact that some people are out to destroy a world that is seemingly so good. Are they really the evil ones, or are we just being made to believe that? Perhaps the true state of the Pokémon world is that to avoid war like in the past, an ideology must be maintained at all costs, whether the trainer who is chosen knows it or not. The next time you play your Pokémon adventure, just think what your journey is really for. Do you believe that in order to have peace you must reinforce an ideology that is unwittingly plugged to the people, or do you believe that freedom to choose your own path is more important than world peace?

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