I love animals. A lot. So much so, that when Sunday errands demand a trip to Petco, my boyfriend enforces the rare, but admittedly necessary, “car arrest”. I am no longer allowed to go within 50 feet of an animal adoption for it ends up with uncontrollable, mascara-stained tears for at least an hour. This behavior is not limited to “real life”, either. When I was a child my parents had to fast forward past the part in The Neverending Story when Atreyu’s horse, Artax, dies in the Swamps of Sadness, “For whoever let the sadness overtake them would sink into the swamp,”… oh sweet irony.
Despite the fact that I’ve just described myself to be a huge crybaby, I’m actually quite the tomboy. At age ten, I was the first kid on my block to own the NES (that’s the “Nintendo Entertainment System” for you non-gamers). It came packaged with what has arguably become the most prolific video game of all time: “Super Mario Bros.” I spent hours of my childhood in this whimsical Mushroom Kingdom trying desperately to save Princess Toadstool – the ultimate 8-bit damsel in distress – from Bowser, the evil Turtle. As a ten year old girl, it was challenging, magical, and empowering to quest & conquer via my controllable super-hero plumber, Mario.
The controversy I’m about to expound upon concerns PETA, “Super Mario Bros. 3″, and the newly released “Super Mario 3D Land”. In “Super Mario Bros. 3″, Nintendo enhanced what is known in video-game speak as “Power-Ups”. If you’re not a gamer, Power-Ups are AWESOME. Imagine you’re sitting in really crappy traffic when you notice a beautiful and seemingly otherworldly leaf fall upon your windshield – SUDDENLY your car is transformed into a magic carpet for 10 minutes, allowing you to fly; bypassing all the poor saps stuck in said traffic, whilst you glide happily home. That, my non-gamer friends, is a Power-Up.
In “Super Mario Bros. 3″ these Power-Ups came in several new forms including, “Raccoon Suit” which allowed Mario to fly, “Frog Suit” which allowed Mario to swim fast, and the “Tanooki Suit”…. which is now the focus of our conversation.
The “Tanooki Suit” is a rare Power-Up in the video game which allowed you to not only fly, but turn into a statue. In Japan, the Tanuki (proper spelling) are actual animals – raccoon dogs to be exact. And they’re REALLY CUTE.
Nintendo is a Japanese company, and the Tanuki are a rich part of Japanese folklore. These adorable little creatures are thought to possess magic and the power to shapeshift by using leaves. They are also symbols of good luck, bearing eight special traits that bring good fortune and can often be found in the form of statues outside Japanese restaurants.
“The eight traits are: a hat to be ready to protect against trouble or bad weather; big eyes to perceive the environment and help make good decisions; a sake bottle that represents virtue; a big tail that provides steadiness and strength until success is achieved; over-sized testicles that symbolize financial luck; a promissory note that represents trust or confidence; a big belly that symbolises bold and calm decisiveness; and a friendly smile.”
Did you hear that, dear readers – Tanuki’s have SAKE and HUGE BALLS. If I wasn’t a fan already, the Tanuki may just be my new favorite animal. Their testicles are so enormous that Japanese kids have a schoolyard SONG for them:
Tan Tan Tanuki no kintama wa, Kaze mo nai no ni, Bura bura bura
The Rac-Rac-Raccoon’s testicles are, Despite there being no wind blowing, Swaying, swaying, swaying
Ok so… the Tanuki are winning all the awards in my book. And bravo Nintendo for giving Mario the in-game cajones to ward off all those evil turtles in the Mushroom Kingdom.
Oh… but wait… I almost forgot:
PETA… *sigh*. This is the official statement from the PETA website:
When on a mission to rescue the princess, Mario has been known to use any means necessary to defeat his enemy—even wearing the skin of a raccoon dog to give him special powers.
Tanooki may be just a “suit” in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur. Play Super Tanooki Skin 2D and help Tanooki reclaim his fur!
First and foremost, as an animal lover, i’m disgusted to hear that any creature is skinned alive for their fur. But this is not news; it’s sad practice that is carried out in hundreds of countries. So how do we stop it?
BLAME SUPER MARIO BROS.! …. ????
PETA. Listen. I want to support you. I love animals. But you have a tendency to go really overboard. Mario is not “sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur.” NEVER in the game does Mario kill a raccoon and skin it alive – he gains the suit by catching a leaf. What you’ve done, PETA, is massively misrepresent the most beloved video game of all time, by taking a childhood icon and turning him into a bloodthirsty villain:
The above graphic is actually the “Start Screen” from PETA’s own Mario Video Game! PETA’s version of Super Mario Bros. features a sadly skinned alive Tanuki chasing after a flying Mario through a very macabre Mushroom Kingdom, stained with bloodied coins and pipes. As the Tanuki, your goal is to catch Mario and “get your skin back”.
But here’s the rub, PETA. I NEVER caught Mario. In fact, I – as the bloodied Tanuki – DIED dozens of times, and I’m really good at video games. I would love to know what happens if the Tanuki actually catches Mario – does the Tanuki kill him? How exactly does he get his skin back?
Of course… the gaming community freaked out. Mario fans everywhere defended their hero and attacked PETA.
“Mario often takes the appearance of certain animals and objects in his games. These have included a frog, a penguin, a balloon and even a metallic version of himself. These lighthearted and whimsical transformations give Mario different abilities and make his games fun to play. The different forms that Mario takes make no statement beyond the games themselves.”
”Mario fans: Relax! PETA’s game was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, a fun way to call attention to a serious issue, that raccoon dogs are skinned alive for their fur.”
Let’s get a few things straight. There is nothing “fun” about animals being skinned alive. And making a poorly developed video game where I end up dying continuously as the very same animal they want me to save is seriously counterproductive.
But, what is “fun” about all this nonsense, is knowing that PETA doesn’t give a shit about turtles: