I’ve seen some criticisms of how the movie Detective Pikachu handles its disabled lead villain. Simply put, some people don’t like the use of the trope of a disabled person going to great lengths to be “normal,” as people interpret that as meaning implies that their life is worth less or is unbearable because of their disability.
On the one hand, I can understand not wanting your life to be seen as “less” because of a disability, and wanting people to realize that you can be happy and fulfilled despite the limitations it puts on you.
But this criticism rubs me the wrong way for two reasons. Spoilers below.
First, I am not going to police how disabled people feel about their disability. Demanding that all disabled people be happy and content with their disability – or even want it – is far worse than implying that they might be unhappy with their limitations. It seems to feed into the idea that being disabled is an “identity” – I’ve seen people talk about the “disabled community” – rather than a simple problem that your body has, and thus nothing negative can be said about it, and you have to be proud and happy.
And before you challenge me on this, I am facing a disability in a few years’ time. I will not accept anyone telling me that I shouldn’t be angry about this, or that I shouldn’t want to be “normal.” You don’t get to dictate how I feel and what I want, and how I feel is not wrong or incorrect. Got it?
The second problem is that… no, being disabled isn’t the villain’s motivation for wanting to merge people with Pokemon. It was his original motivation, several years ago, in that he was looking for a cure for a debilitating disease that put him in a wheelchair. But by the time of Detective Pokemon, his plans have evolved drastically – they don’t really have anything to do with his disease anymore. I don’t think he even mentions it in the present.
That’s because his plans for merging people with Pokemon include merging every human with a Pokemon, not just himself. He believes that Pokemon are superior to humans, and that he would be elevating humans by giving them Pokemon bodies. So not just disabled humans, but all humans are considered by him to not be good enough. That his his motivation, not escaping his disability.
In fact, he seems to be the only one who doesn’t benefit from his plan, because his method of “merging” with Mewtwo just involves controlling him with a mechanical headset. They don’t merge physically, meaning that he is still confined to his wheelchair in the long-run, even if he can temporarily transfer his mind to Mewtwo.
This is what happens when you do a surface-level critique of something based on tropes you think are “problematic,” without actually examining the plot and characters for what they actually are. I would understand having an issue if the villain’s motive was “I want to escape my disability by merging with a Pokemon,” but that isn’t his motivation, and pretending that it is is just disingenuous.