You know about BuzzFeed, right? It’s a website where young adults write posts about how you can “Win at Adulting” (translation: pay your bills, floss, etc.) or how Taylor Swift “slayed” while wearing cute shoes at Starbucks, and it was either “Too Pure” or “Everything,” or possibly produced so many “Feels they couldn’t even.”
If more than 15 people leave a semiliterate comment to one of these life-rearranging events, then “People Can’t Handle” or the “People Are Shook.” It’s a lingo designed to speak to the tribe and let the grown-ups (or olds, as they’re charmingly known) know this isn’t for them. Naturally, I look at it every day so I can get annoyed.
“Someone threw shade at one of the ‘Stranger Things’ actors,” I say to Daughter, “and the rest of the cast clapped back hard.”
“Hard back-clapping. I think someone was rekt.”
“Please stop. Dad, it’s not written for you.”
“I know. But you should be insulted that it’s written for you.”
But I kept reading. Hold on, this might be germane. “People are freaking out over the ending to the new Pokémon movie.”
This got her attention. Not because she’s playing Pokémon games; she has college applications to finish. But you mention Pokémon to a certain age group, and it just lights them up. Neurons dormant for years start firing.
The post had a video of the end of the latest Pokémon movie, shot on someone’s phone — because everything is saved on your phone so you can watch it later, which you won’t.
It was an emotional scene, I gather. Ash — that’s a character, not fireplace residue — is asking Pikachu why he didn’t save himself.
If you don’t know, Pikachu is a much beloved banana-colored hamster, and the only word he speaks is his name. In this movie, however, Pikachu speaks in complete sentences. The audience gasps. They groan. There are muttered curses and general dismay, because Pikachu is not supposed to talk.
Here’s the thing: You could tell from the sound of the gasps and curses that the audience reacting to this gross betrayal ... was composed of adults. Young men who could marry, drink and be conscripted into battle were shook because, more or less, Winnie-the-Pooh had said, “Honey? Nah, I’m good. I’m more into agave these days.”
This is the point where I could go into an anti-millennial rant. They never grow up, they don’t buy cars or houses, they’re killing the breakfast cereal industry because they don’t want to wash the bowl, they never put down their phones, they’re shook and can’t even.
But I get it. And it’s actually rather sweet.
If you’re a parent, you probably endured the Pokémon phase. So many cartoons, all the same. Ash, a young man who apparently left home and school, wanders around in the woods with Brock, an older squinty guy who has no visible means of support, and they lure wild monsters into small, impossibly cramped balls where they are kept against their will until Ash and Brock bring them out to fight other monsters.
Every parent thought, at some point: “My child is involved in the Fantasy Football version of cockfighting. Great.”
Their enemies were Team Rocket, an arrogant and incompetent duo whose appearance was always announced with verse: “Prepare for trouble! Make it double! To protect the world from devastation! To unite all peoples within our nation! To denounce the evils of truth and love!”
Me: “What does that mean, unite all peoples within our nation? A nation would, by definition, already be united.”
Daughter, after a long pause: “They’re the bad guys.”
Each of the Pokémon — there were, I think, 92,038 — had its own power, so they’d battle their newfound enemy using SuperForce WaterFire Attack.
Imagine if you could combine politics, religion, sports, world history and zoology into one thing: it would be Pokémon. It was something so vast and so completely loved that the fans never forgot what it was like to be young, and I’m sure they all once had the same thought: “I wish they were real.”
At a very early age Daughter chose the name Dawn for her handheld Pokémon games, but she spelled it Done, and was required to use that name for years. She’ll always be Done with the Pokémon, but like many in her generation, she’ll never be done.
There will be a politician someday who makes a Pokémon reference in a speech. “The other side tries to tackle our structural deficits with accounting tricks.” Pause, smile. “It’s not very effective. Votes? We have to catch ’em all!”
That person will be president.