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Tags ethics , sentient being , slavery

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Old 10th May 2009, 01:43 AM   #1
Brian-M
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Ethics of Pokemon and Slavery

I've only seen a few episodes of Pokemon as I was too old to be really interested when the series first came out. Last week I saw a couple Pokemon movies, and this started me thinking.

Isn't it cruel to force the Pokemon to fight each-other? Sure, you never see the Pokemon with permanent injuries or missing limbs, but you don't see humans being eviscerated by giant Pokemon or dying of cardiac arrest after being zapped by a Pikachu either, so we can assume that the show is sanitised for a young audience.

In the movies I saw, the Pokemon Celebi almost died from it's injuries, and Latias died saving a city, so it's clear that Pokemon can be injured and killed like any other living thing, so forcing Pokemon to fight each-other is no different from forcing animals to fight each-other in that respect.

So, if cock-fighting and dog fighting is regarded as cruel, and illegal in many countries, then why should battling Pokemon be different? Aren't these cartoons teaching children that forcing animals to fight each-other for your own amusement is okay?

Thinking it through further, I had another disturbing thought. Some Pokemon, such as Meowth can talk. Even the non-talking Pokemon show a clear understanding of what is being said and what is going on. Clearly Pokemon are not animals, but sentient beings. In other words, people.

So, the humans living on the Pokemon world are abducting the native people, imprisoning them in Poke-balls, forcing them to do their bidding, and treating them as their personal property.

In other words, the Pokemon are slaves, and Pokemon trainers, such as Ash, Brock and Misty are slavers.

Does anyone else find it disturbing that we have a popular children's cartoon that effectively glorifies slavery?

Does anyone else know of a popular children's show based on a morally questionable premise?
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Old 10th May 2009, 02:28 AM   #2
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Old 10th May 2009, 02:34 AM   #3
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It isn't slavery; Pokemon want to fight. It's part of their life cycle.

There's a fine distinction drawn between having them do what they want to do anyway and forcing them to do unethical things. It's subtle, but there.
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Old 10th May 2009, 02:59 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by ArthurWilborn View Post
It isn't slavery; Pokemon want to fight. It's part of their life cycle.

There's a fine distinction drawn between having them do what they want to do anyway and forcing them to do unethical things. It's subtle, but there.

I doubt that being imprisoned in poke-balls and forced to fight on demand is part of their natural life cycle (assuming of course that anything about the fictional world of Pokemon could be considered 'natural' )

Growing crops and getting married could be considered part of the natural human life-cycle. Were slave owners who used their slaves to grow crops for their own profit and made the slaves marry each-other so they could produce more slaves behaving ethically?

If Pokemon wanted/needed to fight, they could do so without human intervention. Claiming that they "want to fight" is just making excuses for humans abducting and imprisoning them for personal gain.
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Old 10th May 2009, 03:45 AM   #5
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I think most children, even the 5 year olds realize they are made up characters.

It's not really different than a small child living out her fantasy with toy soldiers or teddy bears. Mr Bear and Buzz Lightyear also are 'slaves' and are 'sentient' beings in the children world. At least I am pretty sure mine were. As an adult I still sometimes greet Mr Teddy when I encounter him about once a year on the attic. The only difference is these days he never talks back... maybe he's a little grumpy over being locked up in the dark for the last 20 years...
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Old 10th May 2009, 03:49 AM   #6
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There is no question, it's adorable cock-fighting for children.

But, what bothers me is that there was a huge movement of parents rising up to condemn the Teletubby, Tinky Winky, because he carried a purse (and was therefore gay?), yet I've never heard a single parent express concern over a show that glamorizes raising animals to fight each other.

Way to have moral priorities America!
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Old 10th May 2009, 03:56 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Blackadder View Post
I think most children, even the 5 year olds realize they are made up characters.

It's not really different than a small child living out her fantasy with toy soldiers or teddy bears. Mr Bear and Buzz Lightyear also are 'slaves' and are 'sentient' beings in the children world. At least I am pretty sure mine were. As an adult I still sometimes greet Mr Teddy when I encounter him about once a year on the attic. The only difference is these days he never talks back... maybe he's a little grumpy over being locked up in the dark for the last 20 years...
Not to mention the house-elves in the Harry Potter series; but at least they have Hermione and SPEW on their side.
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Old 10th May 2009, 05:13 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by ArthurWilborn View Post
It isn't slavery; Pokemon want to fight. It's part of their life cycle.

There's a fine distinction drawn between having them do what they want to do anyway and forcing them to do unethical things. It's subtle, but there.
That's exactly what the people behind cock-fighting and dog-fighting say, too. They treat the animals in whatever way is needed in order to cause them to behave that way, and then deny any role in causing them to behave that way.

Originally Posted by Aitch View Post
Not to mention the house-elves in the Harry Potter series; but at least they have Hermione and SPEW on their side.
I don't know what a SPEW is, but from what I've been told, human mistreatment of multiple other entire species like that is an issue that's at least addressed out loud in the stories and even comes back to bite the humans, so the audience is being given something to think about rather than something to just accept as an automatic part of the background.
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Old 10th May 2009, 06:00 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
Does anyone else know of a popular children's show based on a morally questionable premise?
Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy regularly exposed their dog to danger, yet I never heard anything from the animal rights people.
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Old 10th May 2009, 06:05 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by wollery View Post
Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy regularly exposed their dog to danger, yet I never heard anything from the animal rights people.
They do incentive their dog with scoobie snacks, so all's well.
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Old 10th May 2009, 06:14 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
DearS.
"love slave"


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Old 10th May 2009, 03:19 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
I've only seen a few episodes of Pokemon as I was too old to be really interested when the series first came out. Last week I saw a couple Pokemon movies, and this started me thinking.

Isn't it cruel to force the Pokemon to fight each-other? Sure, you never see the Pokemon with permanent injuries or missing limbs, but you don't see humans being eviscerated by giant Pokemon or dying of cardiac arrest after being zapped by a Pikachu either, so we can assume that the show is sanitised for a young audience.

In the movies I saw, the Pokemon Celebi almost died from it's injuries, and Latias died saving a city, so it's clear that Pokemon can be injured and killed like any other living thing, so forcing Pokemon to fight each-other is no different from forcing animals to fight each-other in that respect.
everything is supposed to just faint. thats how it works in the game, which is what spawned the series on tv.
Quote:
So, if cock-fighting and dog fighting is regarded as cruel, and illegal in many countries, then why should battling Pokemon be different? Aren't these cartoons teaching children that forcing animals to fight each-other for your own amusement is okay?
i think it becomes acceptable when the pokemon just faint when they lose and have fun most of the time.

but at the same time pokemon is one of the only kids games where you can permanently **** something up and have to start over. I like that in a kids game.
Quote:
Thinking it through further, I had another disturbing thought. Some Pokemon, such as Meowth can talk. Even the non-talking Pokemon show a clear understanding of what is being said and what is going on. Clearly Pokemon are not animals, but sentient beings. In other words, people.
only meowth can talk to humans

though there was an episode where the pokemon got subtitles for their 'speech' (talking by saying their name over and over and over and over and over)

Quote:
So, the humans living on the Pokemon world are abducting the native people, imprisoning them in Poke-balls, forcing them to do their bidding, and treating them as their personal property.

In other words, the Pokemon are slaves, and Pokemon trainers, such as Ash, Brock and Misty are slavers.

Does anyone else find it disturbing that we have a popular children's cartoon that effectively glorifies slavery?

Does anyone else know of a popular children's show based on a morally questionable premise?
the message that bothered me was the focus on materialism as a means to happiness. the south park parody goes "IVE GOT TO BUY IT IVE GOT TO BUY IT" instead of 'gotta catch em all". it is essentially the same message of materialism and happiness via consumption.

pokemon do want to fight though, its just what they do. so its not exactly slavery, and how capable they are of thought shifts all the time outside of meowth.

its pretty weird. but thats what kids shows are all about. teenage mutant ninja turtles? what?

eta- the princess leia slavery outfit in star wars glorifies sexual slavery. that movie is considered kid friendly (despite the whole almost committing incest thing)

Last edited by skeptifem; 10th May 2009 at 03:23 PM.
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Old 10th May 2009, 04:09 PM   #13
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The first Pokemon movie covers the difference between wanting to fight and being forced to fight. It's a primary theme.

Diferrent trainers throughout the series are shown to have different views towards their pokemon. The protaganists generally have deeper and more respectful bonds with the pokemon in their care.

Those trainers that mistreat their pokemon are potrayed badly or are villified.

Meowth learned to talk and walk upright in an attempt to impress a girl. No, really. It's true.
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Old 10th May 2009, 04:11 PM   #14
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oh btw, Charizard.

Ash has a freaking pet dragon. how cool is that?
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Old 10th May 2009, 05:01 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Alareth View Post
oh btw, Charizard.

Ash has a freaking pet dragon. how cool is that?
Geeze. Has anyone told Harry Potter or Saint George?
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Old 10th May 2009, 09:15 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by nails3jesus0 View Post
eta- the princess leia slavery outfit in star wars glorifies sexual slavery.
You mean the one in Return of the Jedi? She strangles Jabba the Hutt to death, so it's not quite the perfect advertisement for sex slaves. Nor, I think, was Jabba the Hutt intended as a role model.
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Old 10th May 2009, 11:53 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Blackadder View Post
I think most children, even the 5 year olds realize they are made up characters.

It's not really different than a small child living out her fantasy with toy soldiers or teddy bears. Mr Bear and Buzz Lightyear also are 'slaves' and are 'sentient' beings in the children world. At least I am pretty sure mine were.
I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone, even 5 year olds are going to mistake Pokemon for real creatures. However, it is possible that the content of children's television shows could shape a child's future opinions on society and morality. (And more importantly, it makes an interesting topic for discussion. )

The 'Toy Story' comparison is an interesting one. I suppose the main difference would be that in 'Toy Story' the toys are artificial constructs created for the sole purpose of being children's playthings. The toys deliberately pretend to be inanimate whenever humans are near, so the owners are unaware the toys are intelligent beings, even if they like to pretend they are.

On the other hand, Pokemon are pre-existing beings with their own independent existence prior to capture, and their owners are fully aware of their nature.

(How many pokemon actually volunteer to 'team-up' with pokemon trainers? Is a slave who accepts his master's authority and willingly performs his given task any less than a slave?)

Originally Posted by Blackadder View Post
As an adult I still sometimes greet Mr Teddy when I encounter him about once a year on the attic. The only difference is these days he never talks back... maybe he's a little grumpy over being locked up in the dark for the last 20 years...
He's probably just hibernating.


Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
I don't know what a SPEW is, but from what I've been told, human mistreatment of multiple other entire species like that is an issue that's at least addressed out loud in the stories and even comes back to bite the humans, so the audience is being given something to think about rather than something to just accept as an automatic part of the background.
If I remember correctly, SPEW is the Society for the Protection of Elvish Workers. Basically, it's just Hermione trying to free the elves, but apart from Dobbins, they don't want to be free.
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Old 11th May 2009, 12:01 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
There is no question, it's adorable cock-fighting for children.
Not quite. There have been a number of children's anime series on this subject, including Yu-Gi-Yoh, Card Captors and a few others.

The theme is proxy fighting. One kid is actually fighting another, but doing so via a proxy - a pokemon, or a card, or whatever. There have been several variations on the theme. The idea is that the violence is at a level removed from the protagonists themselves. It's a way to make violence more acceptable to parents and censors.

These days, with Naruto and Avatar they've stopped bothering putting the fighting at a remove. They just portray the violence as noble and necessary.
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Old 11th May 2009, 12:16 AM   #19
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Cock-fighting. Always a fun visual, the way I visualize it.









What?
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Old 11th May 2009, 02:04 AM   #20
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I want to enslave all teh pokemons!!11!

Originally Posted by Dr Adequate View Post
You mean the one in Return of the Jedi? She strangles Jabba the Hutt to death, so it's not quite the perfect advertisement for sex slaves. Nor, I think, was Jabba the Hutt intended as a role model.
But that was her best outfit in the whole series!
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Old 11th May 2009, 05:13 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Alareth View Post
The first Pokemon movie covers the difference between wanting to fight and being forced to fight. It's a primary theme.

Diferrent trainers throughout the series are shown to have different views towards their pokemon. The protaganists generally have deeper and more respectful bonds with the pokemon in their care.

Those trainers that mistreat their pokemon are potrayed badly or are villified.

Meowth learned to talk and walk upright in an attempt to impress a girl. No, really. It's true.
And yet, Thomas Jefferson is still raked over the coals (rightfully so) because of the dichotomy between his "All men are created equal" point of view and his ownership of slaves. He, by all accounts, treated his slaves well, better than most of his contemporaries, yet this is still seen as his largest moral failing.


On the other hand, it's a *********** kids' show. A wacky anime one at that.
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Old 11th May 2009, 05:36 AM   #22
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If Pokemon didn't fight then they'd never need to go to hospital and you'd never get to meet nurse Joy!
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Old 11th May 2009, 05:40 AM   #23
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There is a satirical pen and paper roleplaying game spoofing the genre, Cute and Fuzzy Cock-Fighting Seizure Monsters.

Yes, it's highly morally questionable if you look beyond the surface. On the other hand the bad people have attack monsters, so the good people have to have bigger and meaner attack monsters to stop them. Right?
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Old 11th May 2009, 09:48 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Dr Adequate View Post
Nor, I think, was Jabba the Hutt intended as a role model.
Really? Then I really need to reconsider some of my lifestyle choices.
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Old 11th May 2009, 10:05 AM   #25
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Funny thing I've noticed. It seems that every animal in that cartoon universe are pokémon. One has to wonder what the humans use as a source of meat...

>_>
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Old 11th May 2009, 07:45 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
But, what bothers me is that there was a huge movement of parents rising up to condemn the Teletubby, Tinky Winky, because he carried a purse (and was therefore gay?), yet I've never heard a single parent express concern over a show that glamorizes raising animals to fight each other.

Way to have moral priorities America!
Eh, you've got your facts mixed up abit. The actor who portrayed Tinky Winky was fired for claiming he played him as a homosexual, and the BBC co-produced the show and did the firing alongside the US producers so you should switch that to "Way to have moral priorities America & England!"

Fear my knowledge of children's television programs!
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Old 11th May 2009, 07:58 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by AkuManiMani View Post
Funny thing I've noticed. It seems that every animal in that cartoon universe are pokémon. One has to wonder what the humans use as a source of meat...

>_>
Finally I am not the only one to notice this! My son gets so annoyed with me whenever I bring this up. You see them eating meat but there are no herd animals - only pokemon. Perhaps this is where the old Pokemon who do not win battles end up - the stewpot.
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Old 11th May 2009, 08:08 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Kthulhut Fhtagn View Post
Eh, you've got your facts mixed up abit. The actor who portrayed Tinky Winky was fired for claiming he played him as a homosexual, and the BBC co-produced the show and did the firing alongside the US producers so you should switch that to "Way to have moral priorities America & England!"

Fear my knowledge of children's television programs!
Hmm, everything I've read says the other way around, that Falwell started the campaign based on his purple color, upside down triangle, and man-purse, and that the firing followed the controversy.
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,615355,00.html

Also, it's easy to assume the firing was because of the presumed sexual proclivities of the character, but according to Thompson, there were a lot of firings when he was let go, including the actor playing Noonoo.

Quote:
I wasn't the only one to get fired. There was a purge at the time I was fired. The bloke inside the Noonoo was fired, and so was Bob Berk, the designer. He was a part-owner in the company, and he designed the original Monty Python's Flying Circus. He still got fired from the Teletubbies though. Last weekend I was out sailing off the coast of Kent, in the Thames Estuary. He sailed past us in his boat.

The Teletubbies might be a children's TV programme, but it's still TV, which is a ruthless, brutal, cut-throat business. People get fired all the time, it comes with the territory - just ask the folks departing TVNZ's newsroom!
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Old 11th May 2009, 08:59 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Dr Adequate View Post
You mean the one in Return of the Jedi? She strangles Jabba the Hutt to death, so it's not quite the perfect advertisement for sex slaves. Nor, I think, was Jabba the Hutt intended as a role model.
Yeah, but come on, you know that nobody cares about the message: they'll still drool over the metal bikini. Not that I care, but the point wasn't entirely a bad one - it was fan service, plain and simple.
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Old 11th May 2009, 09:14 PM   #30
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There is mention of one that is essentially a duck that carries around a leek and uses it as a weapon (which is terrifying if you happen to know details of Japanese homeopathy). Its description suggests it tastes good when cooked with its own leek.
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Old 11th May 2009, 11:30 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by AkuManiMani View Post
Funny thing I've noticed. It seems that every animal in that cartoon universe are pokémon. One has to wonder what the humans use as a source of meat...

>_>

Mmmmm.... I think I'll have Squirtle soup for starters, followed by Psi-Duck in Orange Sauce for the main course and Chocolate Meowth for dessert.
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Old 12th May 2009, 02:21 AM   #32
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Isn't Pokemon the insidious missionary message of shintoist animism? The Pokemon represent the Kami of lakes, animals... radishes... whatever.
So the kids who capture pokemon and make them fight are actually symbolic of modern technology stifling and caging the old nature spirits.
It's just another example of Japanese societies dislike and distrust of the upcoming generation and their disregard of the old ways!
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Old 12th May 2009, 05:33 AM   #33
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I can't believe that we're discussing the multiple philosophical interpretations of Pokemon.

Only on the JREF!
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Old 12th May 2009, 06:16 AM   #34
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What about enslaving Elder Gods and making them fight for you; is that OK?
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Old 12th May 2009, 07:13 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Marquis de Carabas View Post
What about enslaving Elder Gods and making them fight for you; is that OK?
My life is now complete!
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Old 12th May 2009, 07:30 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by paximperium View Post
They do incentive their dog with scoobie snacks, so all's well.
See they had to get him hooked on addictive drugs to do it.
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Old 12th May 2009, 07:32 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Dr Adequate View Post
You mean the one in Return of the Jedi? She strangles Jabba the Hutt to death, so it's not quite the perfect advertisement for sex slaves. Nor, I think, was Jabba the Hutt intended as a role model.
So she took the breathplay too far...
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Old 12th May 2009, 07:34 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by slingblade View Post
Cock-fighting. Always a fun visual, the way I visualize it.
Or the proper term, Cute and Fuzy Cock Fighting Seizure Monsters.
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Old 12th May 2009, 07:39 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by CriticalSock View Post
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No you need the Mini
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Old 12th May 2009, 07:42 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Not quite. There have been a number of children's anime series on this subject, including Yu-Gi-Yoh, Card Captors and a few others.

The theme is proxy fighting. One kid is actually fighting another, but doing so via a proxy - a pokemon, or a card, or whatever. There have been several variations on the theme. The idea is that the violence is at a level removed from the protagonists themselves. It's a way to make violence more acceptable to parents and censors.

These days, with Naruto and Avatar they've stopped bothering putting the fighting at a remove. They just portray the violence as noble and necessary.
The proxy fighting may be the underlying point, but the manifestation matters.

Searching for a replacement for an absent father is a common theme in fiction and in life, in Star Wars, that partly manifests through Luke's relationship with Obi Wan. In a friend of mine, it manifests in dating guys who are 30 years older than her and in an authority position.

Of course kids appreciate the ability to play fight without playing at being violent (they could do without the level of remove, probably), they get the proxy thing on their own level, but the surface story is still there, and the details of how that's done are meaningful.
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