Japan’s always been ahead of the curve with things like technology, crazy capsule hotels, and vending machines for literally *everything*, but the one thing that they’ve been strides ahead on but barely made a fuss, is gender norms.
Chuck your mind back to the late 90s – surely you got up at the crack of dawn everyday, crept into the lounge room, and waited patiently for Cheez TV to start (I’m sure some of you had yr sexual awakening to Aerobics OZ Style, too.)
There would have been one show that you hung out for, probably around 7.30, when you were scarfing down your heavily-sugared cereal – Pokémon.
You too wanted to be the Very Best, that no one ever was, and the show itself was quietly showing you that you could be that, no matter how you dressed.
Remember Team Rocket? They’re the ones we wanna talk about here.
Jessie and James were the bumbling, kinda clumsy, barely-evil team who managed to get their wild plans foiled by a literal ten year old every episode.
Something would eventually go wrong and they’d go flying off into the sky, where they probably crash-landed, scowled about Ash Ketchum ruining things again, and regroup to come back the next episode.
What they *did*
get right though was being able to defy gender norms through their fairly-regular ‘disguises’ which usually involved gender-swapping or making themselves look like extremely convincing dancers, wise old dudes, Nurse Joy
& Officer Jenny
, the list goes on.
Even though they were shithouse at being baddies – seriously, they even fucked up the Team Rocket motto every time – the duo (and Meowth) were subtly smashing gender norms way before it was on the radar.
There was one episode – that did actually get banned in the United States – where James had a set of inflatable breasts and dressed in a pretty skimpy bikini. Actually pretty tame for anime illustration, but seemingly enough to cop a ban in the States.
The thing about that ban though, is that it was because of sexualisation – which is fair enough and probably isn’t the best for Pokémon‘s audience, but it was nothing to do with the fact that James was sporting a bikini.
Nobody really noticed this until they looked back some 20 years later, either.
Maybe it’s because at the age we were obsessed with Pokémon, we really didn’t give a shit about who wore what. Or maybe we just weren’t aware or bothered with things like gender norms.
These things didn’t matter to us, we just wanted to watch mass amounts of cartoons before eventually skipping off to school for the day.
No parental outrage over the gender-bending characters in one of the most popular cartoons in the last few decades. Nobody screeching ‘what will this do to the minds of our CHILDREN?!’.
It’s almost as if, and this is a wild take here, dressing in literally whatever clothes you want makes no difference about you as a person at all. Rly makes you think.
Image: Pokémon Company.