Poor Popplio can’t catch a break. First people hated Sun and Moon’s water starter because it was considered ugly. Yesterday, Game Freak revealed Popplio’s evolution, Brionne, leading some fans to feel like they have even more reason to dislike the evolution line.
The problem? Brionne looks too ‘feminine.’ On social media, people are criticizing Brionne’s dress-like design, along with its daintiness, for giving the Pokemon too much of a female air:
The main thing detractors are citing is that Popplio can be both a female or a male monster—so they dislike that the evolution seems to lean too heavily in a specific direction, rather than appearing ‘neutral.’ Others may not outright hate Brionne’s design, but they still feel confused about its ‘feminine’ appearance:
“I don’t know how I feel about the design, I just, I can’t get over—why would you make a starter so affectionately feminine?” said TheKingNappy, in a reaction video that mirrors a sentiment shared by some other YouTubers and commenters. “I don’t get it.”
The curious thing is, this type of design decision is nothing new for Pokémon. Some monsters are visually coded in a way that could be perceived very specifically (like Gardevoir, another Pokémon who appears to wear a dress), but the creatures will still available in a male and female form. Heck, Hitmonchan is a Pokémon that straight-up looks like it’s wearing a dress or skirt, but only actually exists as a male Pokémon. Machoke and Machamp are very beefy creatures, but that doesn’t mean the ‘mons are only males. In the real world, some people may choose to adhere closely to stereotypical gender norms, but when it comes to Pokémon designs, it’s not always as clear-cut. A dress-like design does not outright mean a Pokémon can only exist in the female form, and honestly, that should be considered a GOOD thing, not a threatening thing or a confusing thing. There’s no harm in it, other than letting a cute thing be cute.
While some fans cite gameplay reasons for their distress, the underlying issue is clear: looking feminine is unfortunately considered a bad thing by some people. After all, femininity has stigma, including the assumption that it embodies weakness, vapidity, or meekness. By looking ‘feminine,’ Brionne isn’t afforded the chance to also be considered ‘cool’ or ‘strong’ by some people, and that sucks.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve now also got people rushing to Brionne’s defense, citing it’s femininity as a reason to cherish the monster. Just like Popplio gained a large defense squad after the initial backlash, Brionne also seems to be gaining a steady group of supporters who love it just the way it is. By the time you read this, Brionne’s cheering squad may actually outnumber the haters.
“Brionne always acts cheery and positive,” the official Pokemon lore states. “Even when [Brionne is] feeling sad, this Pokémon doesn’t allow its sorrow to show.”
Despite the bashing, I can picture Brionne standing tall, chest puffed out, happily standing by its trainer’s side. You may dislike Brionne for how it looks, but you’ll never gain the satisfaction of seeing it down because of it.