The world’s most common thought systems, the ‘-isms’ of the world – conservatism, liberalism, fundamentalism, fascism, etc – are ideologies.
Collins dictionary defines Ideology as ‘a body of ideas that reflects the beliefs of a nation, political system etc. ’. Yet it is difficult to define the word and the concept of ideology as those that often arise create contradictions. Terry Eagleton highlights some of the definitions and discusses this problem, for example he says that if ‘ideology means any set of beliefs motivated by social interests, then it cannot signify the dominant forms of thought in a society’.
In fact one of the only aspects of ideology that is generally agreed upon is that it is nearly impossible to sum up this vast idea in a sentence. Critics such as Kracauer distrusted ideologies, as a liberal theorist he was confidant that man, confronted with real experience ‘will shape his life in terms of the real’. He was a believer in the use of science in order to gain a proper understanding rather than dealing in ideologies. Some modern writers believe that ideology is a popular way of thinking because ‘they are simple and appear to offer simple solutions’.
In this case ideologies fail because they are too inflexible yet still clung on to because they offer some form of security. The concept of ideology is most generally associated with power relations. Power is not a connected force or phenomenon, nor an exclusively political phenomenon. Power and power relations are woven throughout all our practices and ideas, power is exercised in every relationship, group, and social practice, and it is not necessarily detrimental.
On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that social order relies, in varying degrees, but ultimately, on the ability of one person or group to coerce another person or group, and that the basis of Law, however rationalised, is the authorised use of force. The significance of this is that there is not one set belief in what ideology is, it is based purely upon the individual and their social and psychological contexts. Everyone has had a number of different influences and experiences upon their lives and this leads to what their ideals are and essential what their ideologies of different elements of life are.Following the lead of other interactive toys such as Tamagotchi, ‘loveable egg’ and Furbys comes the new world-wide craze of pokmon.
Originally titled ‘Pocket Monsters’ in Japan, this new obsession stems from the Nintendo GameBoy video game that has spawned an industry in its own right. Pokmon today is inescapable; it is played on home video game consoles, broadcast in the animated television series and heard on the radio. This is not to mention the huge amount of merchandise ranging from T-shirts, pencils, cameras and jewellery.In Japan there are more than a thousand pokmon products for sale making it a five to six billion dollar industry that crosses over into virtually every entertainment medium and licensed product that can be imagined.
At the heart of the pokmon phenomenon is the trading cards. A Company named Wizards of the Coast, which claims to have sold more than two million starter sets alone, introduced the card game last January. Not all kids watch the TV show or play the video games, most simply collect the cards and it is the collecting that has caused the majority of the problems with the search of the most elusive rarer cards.Pokmon has been hailed as wholesome entertainment and also proclaimed an evil, it is this contradiction in these opposing ideologies of the game that I intend to focus my ideological analysis.
Whilst looking at some of the cards that have been involved in both arguments I will investigate the moral outrage that has developed from this simple child’s game. I will do this by discussing the debate raised by different groups and the ideologies that they associate with Pokmon and using the trading cards and the animated television series to exemplify their arguments.This crack down on pokmon comes from the home, at school and more recently in America from the church. Although the mania surrounding pokmon has reached Britain it has not as yet quite reached the extremes that it has in America and Japan.
Two of the cards that have disturbed many people are the psychic pokmon Abra and it’s evolved form Kadabra. Kjos Ministries says that Pokmon has supernatural powers because ‘Some Pokmon grow, or evolve. The “Energy cards “that” make your Pokmon bigger and more powerful facilitate this.And what is the source of this power It is the pantheistic power of the occult, not the supernatural power of God’.
These two cards are the basis of most if not all of their argument. It is true that Abracadabra (orabracadabra) has been a word long associated with occult magic but this today is more of a link with children’s entertainers and pantomime. Webster’s dictionary defines it this way – ‘1) a word supposed to have magic powers and hence used in incantations, on amulets, etc. 2) a magic spell or formula’.
Cowart, a pastor at the church, says that it is no accident that the two Pokmon called Abra and Kadabra are ‘psychic cards with magical powers’. On the Abra card we read ‘Using its ability to read minds, it will identify impending danger and teleport to safety’. There are also some of the occult symbols on Kadabra. He has a pentagram on his forehead, SSS on his chest and he is giving the satanic salute with his left hand, all of the above have occult significance.
Yet looking at the picture the markings are more like lightning bolts than three letters and the pentagram is a five-pointed star.The reasoning for these names and poses are exactly for this association, to link them with the mystical and unnatural but just as poisonous bugs are linked by the colours black and yellow. In reference to the names, when translated into the English language most characters were given new names to benefit the American children. Hence names such as Squirtle which is a water type and Bulbasaur which is dinosaur with a plant bulb on his back.
The association is necessary so that children could easily relate to their pokmon and understand what types they were.Other problems that the church has are other contradictions with the bible and their teachings. The fact that they evolve and the inclusion of ghost type pokmon exemplify this. In reaction to these negative viewpoints, the question must be asked of why pokmon is so popular if so many people oppose it Essentially for your average child it is pure entertainment.
They enjoy collecting the cards and playing the games. It must be remembered that children can be quite stubborn and will not do something if they do not enjoy it.The reason that parents do not just ignore pokmon and refuse to pay for the merchandise is the fact that today it is important in the lives of children. By this I mean that if a child that was heavily submerged in pokmon paraphernalia were to be suddenly removed they would automatically feel left out with no basis of communication with others.
This is evident within social circles of children that feel that they must be accepted. An important aspect of pokmon is that is one of few games or activities that will include both of the sexes.It appeals to both girls and boys, providing some social glue and bringing kids together. Kathy Merlock Jackson a popular culture researcher refers to it a ‘conversational currency’ allowing ‘kids who are socially shy or inept common ground and an entre into peer play’.
As many people that choose to dismiss it have praised the idea of pokmon, many feel that it can educate children and influence them to work and play together with friends. James Deacon who wrote an essay entitled ‘The Craze That Ate Your Kids’ is not a negative writing but looks at the intellectual benefit that can be reaped.He also notes that the pokmon world is actually quite detailed, ‘when looking at each character in detail and see their picture, – there is an image of strength and control’. Giles Wilson, a reporter for BBC News online claims that pokmon is actually an introduction to the reality of economics, Pokmon can train children into understanding issues such as speculation, scarcity, supply and demand and obviously trading.
On trading she says ‘when you’re swapping, everyone becomes a buyer and everyone becomes a supplier – it’s an economics purist’s dream’.Also the merchandise that is available for children can help in the learning process, pokmon watches for the young and calculators and stationary can all help and make learning more fun. This is the side of pokmon that truly intrigues parents as well as the fact that pokmon, although they do battle, the theme gives good examples of morality such as working together and appreciating what you have. These and other lessons run throughout the series and video game – in some ways becoming more important than the battling itself.
Essentially, with pokmon as with most things people will always over react and attack things that are popular and attempt to find the bad side of things. What must be remembered taking into account the dangers that the value of the cards possesses it is one of the most wholesome forms of entertainment around for children. Other forms of entertainment that have become popular such as WWF wrestling, South Park and even Looney Toons to an extent are popular forms of entertainment yet what they teach can be considered to be even more dangerous.