PETA + anime = FAIL

5

October 11, 2012 by Julia

Listen, I am a friend of animals.  I actually can’t even watch any scene of violence against animals in movies or on tv because it freaks me out–animal abuse is disgusting, and stopping it is one of the issues to which I donate. I have no desire to be a vegetarian, but if I have a choice and can afford it, I choose vegetarian-fed, wild-caught (including gifts from individual hunters), and/or humanely-raised meat and seafood options.  My pets are all rescues from no-kill shelters (I wanted to rescue pets who were bound for death at the ASPCA, but these kind of fell into my lap and I couldn’t say no to those little faces), and I do not buy anything from any pet store that sells animals from puppy or kitten mills.

I have set forth my “cred” so no one can say that I don’t understand or don’t care.  I do, on both counts, which is how I can say that PETA does more harm than good.  Seriously, PETA is known for slaughtering animals (check out this blog for background, about PETA, the Humane Society, and other kill shelters)  They have no credibility, and they should disband so the money they receive in donations can be directed to organizations that actually save animals’ lives.

Even before I learned the above information, I distrusted PETA, because I am a devotee of the rule of law rather than the extra-legal methods employed by PETA.  Strengthening punishments through the legal system for people who abuse animals?  Cool, I agree.  Physically attacking and shaming people who engage in entirely legal and not directly violent activities, like wearing fur coats?  I don’t like that at ALL.  There’s just something about angry mobs that turns me off…

So anyway, as you guess, this headline set me off:  PETA Releases Pokémon Parody Game.  You can play the game and read the release here.

I played the “game” PETA invented for this press release, and I only lasted about two minutes before I was thoroughly disgusted.  The various Pokemon revolt against their human trainers (who are all covered in blood, making it extra creepy), and you have to fight against the humans as the Pokemon.

The Pokemon don’t just have their regular powers–they’ve gained new powers, including things like “Protest,” “Petition,” and “Bullhorn.”  When the Pokemon win, they lecture the humans, who inevitably have their minds changed.  Out of the four trainers, the first represents someone who owns animals on her own terms (i.e. never walking her Tepig because she doesn’t have time), the second represents animal testing, the third represents eating and wearing clothing made from animal products, and the fourth represents using animals for entertainment, such as circuses.

Additionally, as you proceed through the game, you get treasure chests, which give you access to videos.  I assume these videos depict animal abuse, so there is no way in hell I’m watching them.

Aside from the “game” being heavy-handed and creepy, the big problem here is that PETA clearly does not know anything about Pokemon.  Frankly, I don’t know that much either–but I do know enough to know that PETA is wrong.  Here is a video by someone who knows more about the series than I do, giving PETA what for.

Apparently in Pokemon: Black & White, the villain was a character who manipulated someone who wanted to free Pokemon, in order to push some plan for world domination.  In case you didn’t play Black & White, by the way, PETA helpfully spoils the ending for you in its creepy “game.”

There are different ways to interpret this plotline (i.e. you could take the position that freeing Pokemon is a noble pursuit, but this other dude corrupted it), but one popular interpretation is that the hero of the story is merely defending slavery, and Think Progress (surprise!) writes that the goal is to “marginalize animal welfare advocates.”  Well, maybe.  I don’t know.  I doubt it (probably, they just needed a good cause for the villain to hide behind), but hey, you never know.  What is obvious, though, is that PETA is only using Pokemon as a cover–the issues it brings up, as set forth above, are real issues in our world, not in the Pokemon world.  Its so-called “game” could be about any franchise whatsoever, because it’s about things PETA thinks are evil in reality, not in the game.

To drive this point home further, consider that the things listed in the PETA game don’t even happen in the Pokemon world (as far as I know).  Even Pokemon used for “fighting” are treasured   friends of their trainers.  When a character violates this sacred bond, he is portrayed as the villain and taught a lesson, not glorified.  Yes, the canon storyline punishes abuse.  Is the slavery argument valid?  Perhaps, depending on how you view Pokemon.  But this screencap right here?

This is a direct contradiction of the Pokemon story!  Ash’s entire character concept revolves around him being friends with his Pokemon, and taking good care of them!  This isn’t a parody of Pokemon unless you completely re-write the series and then criticize the re-written series you just made instead of the original.  Absurd!

What I’m not saying is that cartoons or television shows directed at children should never be viewed critically.  Of course any television show that glorified actual violence against animals is going to be criticized by the public; I certainly wouldn’t want my kids becoming desensitized to animal abuse.  But seriously, PETA jumped into something here about which it knows nothing, wasting any legitimate argument it may have had against one specific aspect of Pokemon, or shows which actually depict animal abuse positively (are there any?).

I don’t really appreciate PETA using geekdom to push an agenda, especially when PETA has to lie about the content of the series/games to make its “parody” work.

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5 thoughts on “PETA + anime = FAIL

  1. Ish says:

    So… how long until Nintendo of America deploys their legion of lawyers? Should we start a pool?

    Look, I’m all on board with the freedom of folks to spoof the products of any other content creator… but there are limits to how far you can push it.

    I’m not a lawyer — and I’m certainly not an expert or even a well-read amature in IP law — but even given the “fair use” allowances for satire or parody, this seems like prime lawsuit bait. PeTA has created a full game which directly mirrors the mechanics, interface, goals, and plot of the Pokémon titles, but they’re also using the trademarked names of all the various Pokémon characters, and have implied that Nintendo supports animal abuse.

    Again, I’m not a lawyer, but this looks to me like probable copyright infringement, trademark infringement, with a dash of libel on the side. It’s not a slam dunk case, but my “Paralegal Sense” is tingling… if I were a legal assistant working for one of Nintendo of America’s IP attorneys, I’d be drafting a memo right about now.

    • Julia says:

      I went back and forth on bringing up infringement as an aspect of this. Without going through the four fair-use factors and the case law for each one, courts draw a distinction between parody (which requires that the parody work take enough of the original to draw the connection) and satire (which can stand on its own without reference to another work). Since this is clearly an attempted parody, another issue to consider is whether the parody commented on the specific work excerpted, or merely stole the trappings of another work to comment on something totally different (courts are generally unimpressed by the latter lack of creativity). There is a great summary of all of the important factors to consider in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

      As you can probably tell, I am a bit dubious that PETA actually comments on the real Pokemon show or game–it seems to me that PETA largely used the characters and world of Pokemon to comment on the real world, not the Pokemon world. However, in the interest of free speech, the courts set the bar really, really low. If the subject matter of the work being parodied is remotely related to the message of the parody, the courts will usually say it’s a parody (see, e.g., Mattel, Inc. v. Walking Mountain Productions). Further, although PETA used the structure of the game, nothing is used without being modified or transformed. So, I think PETA would make it past the first fair-use factor (regardless of whether I would agree with the court), and would probably win on the others as well (for example, PETA only used five of the Pokemon and five of the humans, and the game does not compete for Pokemon’s customers).

      This use of the Pokemon trademark might be in commerce (PETA uses the game to seek donations), but only because PETA itself expanded the definition of “commerce” in PETA v. Doughney. PETA would probably win on a trademark infringement claim, though, because the use is parody that will not create a likelihood of confusion. No one is likely to think that the parody game is made by Nintendo–and if it interferes with sales, it would be because of moral objections, not because the parody is a competing product.

  2. Stuart the Viking says:

    AH! I see that you have fallen into the same trap that so many other people fall into with regards to PETA. PETA isn’t really about animals at all. It merely serves as a way to suck money out of gullible people, and give a political venue for brainless celebrities. Any animals that are helped or harmed is merely a side issue.

    Anyone who really wanted to help animals would be for MORE ownership. An animal that has an owner has a vioce. Someone to protect it and care for it. An animal without an owner is a stray, and has no rights because it doesn’t have someone to stand up for it and protect it and care for it.

    You think a lot of animals are killed now, look at what the world would look like if nobody was allowed to own them. Cows running wild? Packs of wild dogs (I’ve seen what happens when domesticated dogs roam free and form a pack. People used to dump unwanted dogs off in the rural area I grew up in. They are dangerous AND they tend to starve anyway). People won’t put up with the lack of safety. With nobody to speak for the animals they’ll just end up in a hole.

    s

    • Julia says:

      Oh, I completely agree–PETA is all about getting money and attention, and they could care less about animals (otherwise, why would they be murdering so many of them?). They PRETEND to care, though, so it’s fun to pick apart their pathetic attempts to perpetuate the myth.

      • Ish says:

        I’ve confronted PeTA members on this — actual Kool-Aid Drinkers, not just the “useful idiots — and they basically all fed me a line about it being better to die free than to live as a slave. Yep, screw the fact that Canis lupus familiaris (aka, dogs) have been genetically tweaked to be companions to man for over 15,000 years… Oh sure, the species could not hope to survive for logn without man and would not exist in the first place if not for man… we’re enslaving them. Uh-huh.

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