Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: a (hopeful) second chance after sexualization of female characters


Courtesy of Nintendo Life

Ranging from Grand Theft Auto to the Pokémon franchise, video games have historically featured blatant misogyny. Whether female characters served subservient roles, were overly sexualized, or weak relative to their male counterparts – sexism is ingrained in video game culture. In light of the new Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, set to release November 18, 2022, Pokémon is on track to move past their dark past. 

First released in 1996, Pokémon Red and Green was a Gameboy video game that followed  trainers given a base Pokémon and going through the virtual world amassing power. Even with pixel graphics, the protagonists were predominantly male, with only one female trainer included. While the games had apparent issues the game still focused more on the gameplay and Pokémon than highlighting flawed character interaction. 

However, the franchise drastically pivoted with the release of the Pokémon anime in 1997. As the graphics expanded from their pixular state with the Gameboy game, the gender gap became only more apparent. Focusing on character interactions, they began sexualizing minors. Brock, a prominent male character, constantly pointed out the physique of the young female trainers. With the intention of holding a comedic effect, the trainers he admired were 10-12 years old, on average. The female trainers served primarily subservient roles, being weaker than the male trainers.

In recent years, the franchise has begun to recover. Within the last decade, the Pokémon game series has begun to even out gender roles. They offer equally-powered female characters, and began emphasizing Pokémon over characters. Lasting impacts can’t be measured for certain, but with the animé still having a large fan base, the stereotypes still persist.

While the franchise may never be able to repair their damage, their newest game, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, follows an eclectic group of students from the Paldea region. The game stops focusing on gender, fixing many of the expressed issues. 

Outside of plot, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, available on the Nintendo Switch, will include some of the most advanced graphics out of any of the games in the series. With realistic 3D rendering alongside highly-detailed scenes, the days of black and white pixels seen in Pokémon Red and Green are long in the past. 

The game returns to its basic premise of catching Pokémon. Rather than highlighting the characters, it shifts its focus to the array of Pokémon available throughout the game, moving the franchise in the right direction. With an anticipated solid plot line, stellar gameplay, and prodigious graphics, look to the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet November 18.