Pokemon craze fuels unhealthy competition

TUCSON, Ariz., (U-Wire) — Longing to “keep up with the Joneses” enslaves the consumer masses of America again, this time by name of Pokemon. The movie itself had Americans throwing $52.1 million away in its first five days, but the cards cause much more turbulence. An 11-year-old Tucson boy from Amphitheater Middle School was arrested this week for threatening a classmate with a four-inch knife in his gut if he didn’t fork over some Pokemon cards. The suspect faces possible probation or youth prison. No doubt he would be rehabilitated by the wholesome and violence-free environment of youth prison, where he would be exposed to constructive occupations such as rape, drug abuse and fashioning shanks out of sporks.
Pokemon is supposed to be about friendly competition, which is all fine and dandy, but that could easily be found in a soccer ball or in a scholastic competition. All kids will be reading this winter, for example, is the inside of the Hallmark card from Grandma before they tear into the shiny packaging surrounding their beloved cards and wipe the beads of saliva away from their frothing mouths.
Friendly competition has mutated into trying to get the best cards, and the most of them. On Nov. 11, a sixth grader in Cleveland darted in front of a car after he stole a card from another student and was making his escape. The next day, in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif., two preteen boys who had allegedly stolen 170 cards from local elementary schools were arrested. A Sarasota, Fla. boy was tempted with a pack of cards by 33-year-old Dennis Moore, who agreed to hand them over if the boy allowed him to burn his forearm with a cigarette. Moore, a carpenter with no prior convictions in the county, inflicted two burns on the boy, the size of a dime and a quarter.
Pokemon conflicts could end if parents didn’t buy the damned things, but with the pressure children can inflict, for many parents nowadays, life must be like getting an ocotillo enema 24/7. The living room is twaddled in Teletubbies and the kids are swaddled in Baby Gap. Not only do today’s parents have to dust their $4,000 collection of retired Beanie Babies, they must constantly place classified ads for the stacks of Pogs in the garage that block minivan entry to feed the habit for the Pokemon cards, which cost as much as $100 each.
With 151 Pokemon characters to choose from, this can be a time- and finance-consuming pastime. Even Burger King tempts the youngsters, selling Pokemon figurines with its meals. In Brookfield, Wis., a local father, upon finding out that the restaurant had sold out of the toys, threw a toy at the drive-thru cashier and shouted obscenities before leaving. Was he an irate collector? No, his kids had been haranguing him for the toys and the pressure finally broke at the fast food joint.
Bubonic Pokemania reaches as high as government authorities. Customs officials confiscated a $50,000 shipment of apparently counterfeit Pokemon cards in September while being shipped through O’Hare International Airport from Japan.
Pokemon does not subsist on the kids it enraptures. When was the last time you saw a world-weary youngster, eyes bleary and hair stringy, in front of a Toys ‘R Us waiting for the latest shipment of the bright-eyed toys? It is the parents that keep this booming industry booming. They are the ones with the disposable income, not the children. They are the ones that have to deal with the whining and the endless commercials. They have to worry about their children being thought of as inferior by the others if they don’t show up to school with a backpack bursting with a college education worth of cards. They are the only ones that can retrieve the confiscated cards from the school offices.
Parents must shell out $7.50 a pop for little Avery and Mackenzie to see the movie for the 10th time. The children may be the naive ones who reach for the brightly flashing shiny seizure-inducing bait of … well, whatever it is that Pokemon offers, but it is the parents who facilitate. This is no longer a harmless toy in action, teaching kids the thrill of winning and how to lose gracefully. Every time parents go into the toy store with Junior gnawing at their kneecaps, they are defrocked of their dignity not by playing a game, but by aiming to be “better” than the other kids.
Ashley Weaver’s column originally appeared in Friday’s University of Arizona paper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat.