I remember the first time The Exorcist ran on network TV. It was obviously much tamer than the theatrical version, but that was perfect for me, as I was probably nine or ten at the time. I watched it with an older sister until she chickened out, leaving me alone in the den. Moments later, I found myself in my parents’ room, turning on their little TV where I could watch it from the safety of their king-sized bed while Mom read a book and Dad practiced his chess moves. My sister joined us again and we watched until the bitter end, all while Mom tried hard not to look up from her book. The next day, she told us it was probably more disturbing to listen to the sounds without paying attention to the context than it would have been to simply watch.
More than three decades later, I understand what she meant. I’ve been listening to a strange symphony from our TV — a bizarre cacophany of shrieks, groans and more disturbing and/or inexplicable sounds. I’m likely to keep hearing them in my head when I go to sleep tonight, possibly causing nightmares.
So, what creatures are responsible for this? Demons? Zombies? Mass murderers? Nope, it’s Pokemon.
They’re all I’ve been hearing tonight. In fact, they’re all I’ve been hearing since October, when Christopher bought the “Soul Silver” Pokemon game for his DSi. I thought that fad had passed with the 90s, but it’s all the rage in our house. It’s become sort of a sub-culture at the Bain res — it’s all they talk about. And I don’t have a clue what they’re saying, thanks to character names as weird-yet-uninspired as anything George Lucas ever thought up. Electabuzz. Magnemite. Spinarak. The list goes on. The only thing I’ve understood that’s Pokemon-related, I wish I hadn’t heard.
It seems they went searching for funny Pokemon videos on Flipnote Hatena, an animation site with user-generated content — where most of said users are prepubescent boys who think it’s funny to add bad words, bad drawings and/or bad attitude. Our boys think they’re hilarious, and will often quote their favorites to one another out of the blue. This happened at breakfast, when Christopher looked across the table and said, “Hey, Matthew — ‘Screw gravity!'”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Screw gravity!” This was met with raucous laughter from both of them.
“Where did you hear that?”
“On a Pokemon flipnote. Snivy and Tepig were talking to each other.” [I have no idea what that means.] “All of a sudden Snivy went, ‘Pffft! Screw gravity!’ and just started floating away!” More raucous laughter.
“That’s not a nice thing to say.”
“Why? What does it mean?”
“It means f… forget gravity, or the heck with gravity. It’s like they’re saying they don’t need gravity; I guess that’s why one of them flew away, because he defied gravity in a sense. But saying ‘screw’ something is a really rude way to say that. You haven’t said that word at school, have you?”
“Good. Make sure you don’t.”
“Well, I did tell Jake about the Flipnote during recess, so I said it then.” [Great. Now my kid is that kid, the one who teaches the good kids bad words.]
“Thanks for letting me know. Just don’t say it anymore.”
And I know he won’t. This is the same kid who looked at me sheepishly during church last week and asked if it was okay that he’d sung the lyric “hell” along with the rest of the hymn we’d just finished. So I’m confident I’ll never hear “Screw ______” from his mouth again.
Too bad I can’t say the same about other Pokemon-related topics. Of course, I haven’t heard either of them talk about Pokemon tonight; instead, I’ve been listening to the Pokemon talk about themselves. And it’s worse than the sounds of The Exorcist.
The boys have been playing their newest game, PokePark Wii. From what I understand of the plot, Pikachu is on a mission to find stuff — and during his (her? its?) travels, meets lots of other Pokemon who either help or challenge Pikachu to duels and other competitions. But as Pikachu encounters each of them, they say only one thing — their name. Over. And. Over.
Those insipid names. Umbreon. Gengar. Ambipom. Gastly. Espeon. Dusknoir. Chimchar. All spoken in ridiculous voices that could only belong to anime. These things speak their own names so much, it’s like listening to a Sean Kingston CD. But at least Sean does it to somewhat of a reggae beat. The music that accompanies Pikachu’s travels sounds more like a mix of horror movie soundtrack and white noise. It’s probably best described as a drone. It would be hypnotic enough to put me to sleep, were it not for the constant interruptions by self-promoting Pokemon, or the unholy shriek of “Chuuuuuu!” that Pikachu releases when attacking.
You know the old saying about staring into the abyss? How if you stare into it long enough, the abyss stares back? Well tonight, I’ve been listening to the abyss. And if it listens back, it might just hear me scream.