My Dad, Tom Nook
by Gaby Aveiro-Ojeda
Another announcement drops, and the crowd goes wild.
I think raccoons are cute. I live in a building where my garbage and recycling bins are frequently raided by a mama raccoon and her children. Honestly, I would rather our garbage feed a furry family adapting to the city than left in a rotting pile somewhere. Yet raccoons are generally seen as dangerous, dirty, and rabid, amongst other things, while at the same time being infantilized as animals who are vandals because they dare eat our garbage. In various northern indigenous stories (such as that of Azeban), raccoons are known for being trickster a spirit who adapt to the occasion, much like they do today. Raccoon-like animals (coati, tanuki) in other places around the world are also viewed similarly—rejects who are treated like pests despite only doing their best to adapt to invasive cities.
So, I am, for lack of a better term, an avid Tom Nook supporter. Since it was announced that a new Animal Crossing would be coming eventually, the conversation about what Tom Nook represented began to escalate. The most popular read became the one where Tom Nook is a capitalist, albeit not as aggressive in his ways as other capitalists we know, who seeks to imprison you in a chain of endless debt and labour. But I sympathize with the humble tanuki, who is often mischaracterized as a ruthless landlord rather than the giving orphanage owner he is. Not to say the villager is an invader character, but you do move into unfamiliar land and Tom Nook is kind enough to get you set up. If you find his ways to be of a capitalist, maybe you can re-examine ask yourself: why do I view this tanuki as being malevolent, instead of reading his character as one who wants you to pay your dues as someone living on the land he’s always lived on?
Let’s be real for a second—Animal Crossing isn’t the most culturally sensitive or racially conscious game out there, especially when its main theme is one of cuteness and harmlessness. We could focus on these things instead of spending our energy on the eponymous Tom Nook. But nonetheless, the blame once again falls on the raccoon-like creature who is treated as evil and harmful, unlike the stories it originally belongs to.
The conversation around Animal Crossing would greatly benefit if we can pivot from placing blame on the resourceful tanuki and instead reflecting on how race can be handled better in this series.
And you know, how the next game should give me the ability to have curly-ass hair. ◒