By Emily Inkpen
I’m sitting on the ferry with my mother on our way back from a short four days in France. It’s been a lovely break involving wine, an open fire place, a bargainous pair of black leather boots, and a handful of newly discovered Depot Vents. All in all not much to complain about, but now we’ve returned to a workable, if deplorably slow, wifi connection, the differences in our generations have become startlingly clear.
For exactly 10 days, 17 hours and 20 minutes the world has become increasingly engaged in the Twitch Plays Pokemon extravaganza, and I have watched enthralled as between 60 and 70,000 people struggle to make a single character move in a coherent fashion through the pokeverse. What’s doubly fascinating and wonderful in my opinion are the amazing mythologies that have cropped up around the action, involving the religion of the Helix Fossil, with its prophet Bird Jesus, and the opposing forces of the Dome Fossil and the false prophet Flareon.
To me there is nothing more wonderful than pure internet-based silliness surrounding classic culture, and the unrelenting creativity of the worldwide community on this subject is a marvel to behold.
Bearing all of this in mind, now consider the fact that I find myself on an extended trip with only my mother for company. My mother, the same person who refused to let me invest in pokemon cards when I was a kid because she wouldn’t let me ‘get sucked into trends’, the same person who wouldn’t let me watch the cartoons or play the games because of the ‘violence’ involved.
Of course I did collect pokemon cards, I had a motley selection of people’s ‘swaps’, and I snatched episodes of the show when my dear ol’ mum was distracted elsewhere... but that’s beside the point.
What’s interesting is that mum is clearly embarrassed by my enthusiasm. When I bring up events from the redit thread she glances around nervously as if to dispel any thoughts that other people might have about her being interested in the subject. Of course no one cares, everyone on the ferry is far too busy with themselves and engaging their children (who are too young to know about pokemon) to worry what interests me. But without fail, every time the subject is raised mum’s voice goes up several decibels as she says “Oh for goodness sake, how ridiculous.” and asks questions like “and you really think people care about this sort of thing?” at which point I refer to the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who evidently do care... and this is dismissed again with a, slightly shrill, laugh.
It’s not that she’s embarrassed about how wrong she was during my upbringing, she’s embarrassed in a very basic way... in the same way that a teenager is when forced to pair up with the class geek in an activity. Which is strange because she’s my mum, but I guess I have to reconcile myself to the fact that she was never the class geek herself.
What I love is the fact that after years of fruitlessly trying to plead the case of pokemon and win my right to engage in this subject openly, the world has come together and proven the place of pokemon in our classic culture... but it’s not her classic culture.
My mum is currently flicking through a magazine laughing at the witticisms of mid-level celebrity guest writers, while I wallow in the glorious hilarity of the internet hive-mind. Hers is regulated, mine is not, an elite set get to contribute to hers, anyone can contribute to mine. Maybe it’s the anarchy that makes her uneasy, but through the years my personal geek label stuck and I found a way to embrace it. It’s much easier to enjoy things when you’ve stopped worrying about what other people might think of you for doing so, and in my experience the cool people are those who are unreservedly enthusiastic about their thing, no matter what that thing might be.
Either way, I enjoyed watching her squirm as I labeled our joint pub quiz team the Helix Fossil Prophets, and listened to her laugh-talk with the quiz-master, “Oh I’m sorry, that was my daughter.”
It does one good to be taken out of one’s comfort zone from time to time.