It was June 2009. The Glee cast's rendition of "Don't Stop Believing" was the most popular single in America. Swine flu was raging worldwide. The tax day protests that launched the Tea Party began popping up across the U.S. months before. Unbeknownst to all but a handful of devoted Pokémon fans, against that backdrop unspooled a message board thread that ranks among the most perfect in internet history.
Titled "The name rater in Eterna City REFUSES to change my Duskull's name! HELP!", the post on RarityGuide.com's Pokémon board began simply enough. A poster named pokepizza had recently traded for a friend's Duskull (a type of Pokémon), which the friend had given the cute if unimaginative nickname "dudeskull," and pokepizza wanted to change it.
A few more experienced players drop in to commiserate and offer advice. Justin, a certified expert Pokémon trainer, explains that it's impossible to change the name of a Pokémon that's been traded to you. Perhaps if the friend could be convinced to assist?
That would be great, pokepizza counters, if it didn't force him to tell his friend that he thought dudeskull was a lame name. (He always chooses lame names for his Pokémons.) He proposes a more clandestine solution: steal the friend's DS, trade dudeskull back, rename it from the friend's DS, trade it back again, and restore the DS back to its owner before anyone is the wiser.
The only way such a flawless, well-considered scheme could go awry? If the friend himself—also a RarityGuide.com regular, perhaps—were privy to this very thread. And what are the chances of that?
Ethan is a regular at the RarityGuide, it turns out. As a matter a fact it was HIM WHO TOLD YOU ABOUT THESE FORUMS in the first place, pokepizza.
Right on cue, he arrives, materializing from the shadows like the Gastly in his avatar. And he thinks dudeskull is a cool name.
"It's not what it looks like!", a less hardened Pokémon trainer might shout, sacrificing the naming endeavor to salvage his friendship with Ethan. But not pokepizza. Dudeskull might be a cool name, he shoots back, for a gangster.
Ethan, no slouch himself, is not going to take abuse laying down—especially not from guy who would name a Psyduck "yellowducky." That's even a more lame name!!
(Psyduck, for the illiterate, is a Pokémon that looks like a yellow duck. If naming a Duskull dudeskull is unimaginative, naming a Psyduck yellowducky is tantamount to suggesting that Picasso's Guernica be retitled Malformed Horse Yells At Lightbulb.)
And Ethan isn't finished. Pokepizza's literalist streak goes even further. He named his Zubat—a blue bat—bluebatty, and his Turtwig—a green turtle—greenturty.
Abashed, pokepizza proposes a compromise: if you hate yellowducky so much, just give him back to me. We'll reverse the trade—you can have dudeskull back, too—and pretend this dustup never happened. Friends?
Realizing how hard Ethan is owning him, pokepizza tries to save face, pretending that he never wanted the trade-back in the first place. You can't fire me 'cause I quit!
They squabble about trading some morebefore a third poster named scribble enters in an attempt to calm everything down.
"Why are you siding with Ethan?", pokepizza the paranoiac wonders. "Are you his friend?"
Oh my god, are you Sean who sits to the left of us in the chemistry class?
Then, pokepizza—something of a gender essentialist in addition to a bad friend and onomamaniac—reveals the true reason dudeskull has given him such angst and cognitive dissonance: Duskull is a female Pokémon, not a dude, dude.
(He even looked it up in the dictionary.)
Ethan, undeterred, has an epiphany: gender is a spectrum, not a binary, and the heteronormative status quo must be crushed. Maybe calling a female Pokémon dude makes it even a funnier and cooler name.
Plus "Dudetteskull" wouldn't have sounded as good.
The matter of gender set aside for a moment, the pair gets back to arguing about a potential trade. When that fails, another interloper advises pokepizza that Duskulls aren't so hard to catch—maybe he should just get another one and name it what he likes. That doesn't pan out either, and soon we're discussing another trade. Predictably, that disintegrates as soon as it begins.
Suddenly, Ethan is in a conciliatory mood, and reveals himself to be quite matronly about dudeskull's diet. If pokepizza is going to keep her, he should know that she prefers sour poffins to dry ones—because of her impish nature, of course.
Pokepizza, fixated still on the name, is having none of it. This friendship really is over.
Finally, after six pages of arguing, a forum moderator enters the fray and shuts the thread down. This is the way the greatest Pokémon flamewar in the history of internet message boards ends: not with a bang but a whimper.
For more on the great dudeskull debate, see this helpful YouTubed version.