Ty Burr explains why parents just don't understand

By Ty Burr
November 17, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

”Pokémon: The First Movie” defines a new generation gap

I haven’t seen the new Pokémon movie. I have no intention of seeing the new Pokémon movie. In fact, I’m downright happy not to see the new Pokémon movie.

Why? Because it wasn’t made for me, or for anyone like me. Because the attempts of a fortysomething guy to grok this phenomenon — it’s far more than a fad by now — are exquisitely beside the point. More precisely, it’s the inability of anyone over the age of, say, 11, to understand why Pikachu and his li’l mutant pals would matter that in fact… makes them matter.

This is a good thing.

Every generation deserves a hermetic cultural explosion that is theirs and nobody else’s. It’s not important whether that explosion is in the field of music (the Beatles, say) or movies (”Easy Rider”) or novels (Kerouac’s ”On the Road,” or even Goethe’s ”Sorrows of Young Werther,” which set off copycat suicides among youthful readers back in the 1770s). Nor does the age of the affected population block in question much matter. No, the crucial thing is that a mass of people share an intense experience that is confoundingly, disturbingly foreign to everybody else. Suddenly, a connection is forged among the members of the generation that “gets it” — if only because no one else does.

I’d hazard that it’s the same with Pokémon, except that, for the first time, the folks feeling the brunt of the impact are under the age of 10. How will that play out? It’s anybody’s guess, but in years to come expect rock bands called Magicarp, businesses called Tangela, and children named Muk. Expect thirtysomethings in the year 2022 to casually mention the Jigglypuff Sing attack the same way baby boomers reference phrases like “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” or “She came in through the bathroom window.” And, unfortunately, expect some people to spend a lot of money for shrinks because, decades earlier, they were cheated out of Charizard cards at recess.

What it’s about, finally, is having a planet of your own, one whose denizens and laws and geography are shared by your peers — and decidedly not by the people who control your life. It’s about having a measure of mastery over an encyclopedic body of lore, and if it’s make-believe, so much the better, because the grown-ups won’t care. It’s about having a secret.

Sure, the people at Nintendo are making pots of money off these kids, but I bet that even they don’t fully understand what they’ve wrought. They’ve created a common, binding language that, for good and for weird, will sustain a generation for the rest of its life — or at least up to the gates of the Butterfree Rest Home.

So enjoy the movie, kids — and keep the details to yourselves.

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