Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Games NewsOpinion

Pokemon Go’s Blanche Might Be Nonbinary, But We Shouldn’t Necessarily Be Celebrating Yet

Yesterday, a report from Pokemon Go’s Professor Willow referenced Team Mystic leader, Blanche, using they/them pronouns. This was exciting for many fans, because before this, references to Blanche blatantly lacked any pronouns at all. Their entry on Bulbapedia even states that their gender is unknown because of this.

The report reads “Blanche became visibly upset, which tends to happen when things don’t go to their carefully curated plans.” This usage has led many to the conclusion that Blanche must be nonbinary, since it would seem they use gender neutral pronouns. 

And honestly? It’s hard to blame people for jumping to that conclusion. Outside of queer indie game spaces, there’s an absolute dirth of representation for nonbinary and other gender nonconforming folks. Aside from Apex Legends’ Bloodhound, it’s hard to even think of other canon nonbinary folks in triple A/mainstream games. 

But that’s also where this gets a bit tricky. So far, there’s yet to be a confirmation of Blanche’s gender identity outside of the they/them pronouns, so it’s hard to say how they identify. As noted in the Pink News coverage, not everyone who uses they/them identifies as nonbinary, and not all nonbinary folks exclusively use they/them. 

And while it’s exciting to see gender neutral pronouns being used in a wildly popular game like Pokemon Go, it rings a little hollow without a real confirmation from Niantic. It also raises the issue that comes up whenever we discuss how marginalized people are represented in games: how will this be depicted in the game itself?

As we’ve seen with the discourse surrounding Overwatch, there’s a fine line between what lore is divulged in outside materials, and what actually makes it into the game. Like Overwatch, Pokemon Go is a fairly barebones game, so it might be hard to implement more concrete representation. But hopefully they can take something as simple as Blanche’s pronouns and include them on screen going forward. 

While it may seem like a small gesture, adding in-game references would take the representation to the next level, which is honestly sad in and of itself.

A giant like Pokemon Go canonically using they/them pronouns for one of its faction leaders, though not necessarily revolutionary, could potentially be extremely validating for nonbinary and gender non-conforming fans, and could open the door for other franchises, particularly those aimed at a younger audience, to be more inclusive with the kinds of characters they depict. 

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