N asks:

Are bad dads a constant in the Pokémon Universe? Like i can’t remember for the life of me a single good father in the franchise. Hell, the entire plot of the Detective pickachu movie hinges on a son being unable to recognize his own father’s voice.

Well, I can think of… a couple of good dads: Professor Birch, in Ruby and Sapphire, seems to have a very strong relationship with his child, May/Brendan (whichever one isn’t the player character), while Norman, the player character’s father, is away all the time because he works in a different city but seems like a decent enough parent when we actually get to see him.  Bianca’s dad in Black and White… doesn’t really “get it,” but he’s at least trying not to be a $#!tty dad.

There is a standard explanation for this one, and there will always be one person who brings it up, which is: “absent fathers are a theme in Japanese fiction because Japanese fathers work 500 hours a day and are never around.”  That’s… true, and it explains a lot of the $#!ttiness of many Pokémon fathers – like Palmer in Diamond and Pearl being so distant from Barry, or Hau’s unnamed father in Sun and Moon being off in Kanto somewhere doing god knows what.  I think a lot of it really is just Pokémon’s own priorities, though, and a general lack of interest in the families of the player or other major characters (it would be fair to say, I think that the plots of these games are not what you’d call “character-driven”).  Like… fathers who are absent or distant because they work all the time are also a theme of American fiction; American fiction has practically created entire genres out of emotionally stunted men’s obsession with their $#!tty father figures.  But that’s not what the fathers of Pokémon’s main characters are like; they’re just not there, with no explanation and no relevance to anything.  Plenty of other characters have fathers who clearly exist, even if they’re not around very much or aren’t very good parents.  It’s also fairly common for both parents to be equally absent (as in Brock and Misty’s cases; I don’t think we ever meet Hau’s mother either).  I think the presence of the main character’s mother in each game is, in most cases, something of an admission that, at a bare minimum, it would be weird for a child to grow up completely alone.

3 thoughts on “N asks:

  1. Note the username used: N had a LEGENDARILY bad father, even aside from how horrible he was to everyone else.


  2. I think it’s an odd choice that Pokémon keeps doing this with the main character’s father every single generation. There isn’t any reason they need to keep doing it, but they seemingly choose to as some kind of dumb tradition.

    I remember first playing Red/Blue and thinking that my dad’s absence was cool and mysterious. Where was he? What was he off doing? Probably something badass and heroic that would make me super proud of him, but that loses its charm after a while. Apart from Hoenn, you never encounter your father in any of the towns in your home region. He never stops home to visit, even after his own kid becomes the champion and saves the world. You can’t even call him on the phone or write him a damn letter. Does your mom even have any contact with him? Why must it be this way every single time?

    It’s also strangely sexist for a franchise that never had too much of a problem with sexism. Aside from the first games, you’ve always been able to choose your character’s gender, and there’s always been a good mix of both male and female Pokémon trainers to encounter on your journey, including powerful gym leaders and Elite Four members. So why is it always your mom who is stuck at home alone while your dad is out playing Pokémon and having adventures? Just once I’d like to see the roles reversed.


    1. Regarding that last comment though, I think that assumes that “your dad is out playing Pokémon and having adventures” as opposed to, you know, being missing or even dead. Or more charitably, divorced. And it’s not like the mother characters are always at stay-at-home moms who do nothing; your mom in gen IV is an accomplished Contest Coordinator (you can even go up against her in Super Contests, IIRC) and your mom in gen VI is an accomplished Rhyhorn jockey (which is pretty damn badass, when you think about it). For me, instead of showing the main character’s father, I’d rather see the mother character take a more proactive role in the story. Doesn’t have to be anything super proactive (because the games are, ultimately, an escapist fantasy for little kids), but something similar to gen IV, just more.


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