Hot Take: ‘Detective Pikachu’ is Actually About Being Gay

Yesterday, I went through a shocking and arduous transformation, my greatest metamorphosis to date since coming out as gay. Early Monday morning, the first official trailer for Pokémon’s Detective Pikachu was released, and I woke up to a surprising amount of chatter online surrounding the children’s movie. Initially, I rolled my eyes and moved on, knowing that Twitter will literally find — or no, has literally found — a video of a lemon rolling down the street to be fascinating. But after so much discourse on something that sounded so confoundingly stupid, I decided I’d give it a shot and watch the trailer.

To my absolute astonishment, I realized why everyone was so hype about Detective Pikachu; it looked good. So, on November 12, 2018, I came out — as a person who cares about Detective Pikachu.

After some careful self-examination, I decided to watch the trailer again to investigate just why this acid trip of a movie trailer looked so good. It’s about a Pokémon…that’s a cop. It’s also not animated, it’s live action, and the titular character, Detective Pikachu, is a Ted-like animatronic fuzzball, brought to life by a sarcastic and bro-like voice (Ryan Reynolds). Even writing all of this down makes me feel completely insane, like I’ve truly lost my marbles. But this is a real movie that was made with real people’s money, and it actually seems extremely watchable.  And not just watchable — but also brimming with heart and wonder. Bear with me.

Of course, I haven’t seen the movie, and it’s crazy to judge something off a trailer, but trailers are still a vital part of the way we consume pop culture today: they’re free, they’re accessible on any device, and they tug on your heartstrings in all the right ways, if they’re done well. The trailer for Detective Pikachu does just that, with a moving score and haunting, futuristic panning shots of Ryme City, a Blade Runner: 2049-esque place that’s a “celebration of the harmony between humans and Pokémon.”

Now, there are a few common themes in the movie that we’ve seen time and time again in film and TV, and that’s what makes movies so great, right? Widespread relatability and shared experiences. When you break down Detective Pikachu, we’ve got: a broken father-son relationship in desperate need of mending and reuniting; a once-sparkling childhood dream lost; the loss of wonder and being bogged down by the banality of adulthood; and most importantly — and probably the most relatable — loneliness.

At some point in every LGBTQ person’s life, we’re subjected to feelings of despair and isolation, due to being outcasted by a homophobic culture, or family, or friends group, that prevents us from making real connections.

Now, hear me out. I think Detective Pikachu is a metaphor for just that: isolation. In the trailer, our human protagonist, a lonely boy with daddy issues and a forgotten dream of being a Pokémon trainer, meets a Pikachu who can talk. But it’s not that the Pikachu can talk — it’s that he’s the only human in the world who can understand him. And vice versa — neither one of them has ever spoken to someone of the other’s species. They are two beings, born to different worlds, living side by side but never actually communicating — this movie is rich in metaphors, but I can’t help but feel like this one is particularly familiar to me.

I remember the first out lesbian I ever met. All I had known about queer women up until this point was regurgitated stories, harmful stereotypes, and my dad’s coworker, a butch woman who was literally named Ellen. I didn’t have any peers who were queer, and I didn’t even know that being gay was an option for me — all I knew was that I felt different and alone in ways I was never able to put my finger on when I was growing up. I felt like I was walking through a world of people who looked and sounded and acted just like me, but I was never able to forge the connections that my peers seemingly were making with each other or with boys.

Detective Pikachu is that story. Tim and Detective Pikachu seem completely incompatible, because neither one has ever connected with one of their kind in the way that they currently are, and in that moment, when they realize they can understand each other, their worlds are fucking blown open. That is exactly what it feels like, as a queer person, to meet a queer person for the very first time. It’s mind-blowing, and it ruptures open a universe you’ve never explored before. It’s totally freeing, and it feels like you’re being saved, like a helping hand is reaching down to you in your grey, wonder-less cloud of depression and unfamiliarity, and pulling you out of the trenches and into rainbow heaven. Finding a connection like that is the cure to loneliness and isolation, and Tim and Detective Pikachu clearly have that experience in the trailer: Right after they realize that they can understand each other, the little fuzzy, electric protagonist wells up and says, “I’ve been so lonely.” It’s meant to be silly, but it’s also not. Do you see? Movie metaphors!

And lest we forget the opening line of the trailer, which I partially disclosed above: “Welcome to Ryme City, a celebration of the harmony between humans and Pokémon.” To me, that in itself sounds like it’s symbolic of a metropolitan area. Progressive cities, like Los Angeles and New York, are home to so many different cultures and people, which is often why LGBTQ people flee their close-minded hometowns and flock to these coastal cities: to live in harmony with their kind and allies alike. Ryme City, a storied area in the extended cinematic Pokémon universe, is that place for humans and Pokémon: it’s a safe space. In Ryme City, Pokémon and humans seem to be able to live free of judgment. Here, they don’t have to be fearful for their lives while doing mundane activities like walking down the street together, or talking to each other, or falling head over heels for an enchanting Jigglypuff—just spitballing here.

So, call me crazy — I definitely am. But not about this. If you watched the trailer for Detective Pokémon and laughed at yourself for getting choked up over something so seemingly obtuse — don’t. Movies can connect us all in inexplicable ways, but the heart behind Detective Pikachu is actually quite simple: it’s about finding a connection with that person who changes your life.

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