Personality & Development: Meowth

Reviewing the characterization of anime Pokémon
Report error
  • Saturday, July 9, 2011

534Conkeldurr Dream.png
This column has been written by Thomas Smithurst. It expresses the views of the columnist, not necessarily those of Bulbagarden networks.

Perhaps the only Pokémon character in the anime that is truly as memorable as Pikachu (or maybe even more memorable) is Meowth. He is a monumental figure in the minds of countless children across the world. Whether or not the writers purposely created a thick personality for Meowth, anyone who has watched the anime will conclude that he, indeed, had a great deal of character. Obviously, everyone can recognize the work put into his character because he is human-like in his ability to talk, to think like a human and walk on his hind legs. In past installments of Personality & Development, human psychology has always been applied to the characters; however, the relevance of human psychology to characters based on turtles, ducks and seahorses can be considered a hindering criticism to the column. Despite Meowth being based on a cat, his feline traits do not extend much further than physical appearance, other than his fear of water and love of yarn. So, since Meowth’s personality traits are more than familiar to the audience of the Pokémon anime, the psychological and sociological explanations are necessary to further the understanding of his character to the Pokémon community.

Meowth loves you
King of villains
King of love

Meowth’s back story, explaining how he began walking on two feet and ultimately, learned to speak as a human does, began with a renowned and much desired emotion called love. The objective of becoming human-like was to win the love of another Meowth called Meowzie. Love is a strong emotion and despite how an individual may believe they are in love, more often than not the individual is not quite in love. Love, being one of the strongest emotions, is impossible to operationalize; however, physical attraction in relationship formation can be defined. Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues proposed the matching hypothesis back in 1966, which is a popular explanation for how physical attractiveness comes to be. The matching hypothesis states that people form serious relationships with people who are of equal physical attractiveness. Given that our favourite Meowth and Meowzie are both of the same species and appear physically similar to our eyes, viewers may consider them both equally attractive. However, this could highlight one of Meowth’s instincts of a cat’s perspective: being able to recognize what makes a cat attractive. After Meowzie was abandoned by her trainer, who apparently couldn’t afford to keep her, the idea that Meowth was in love strengthened. Besides physical attractiveness, similarity is considered an important factor in relationship formation. Meowth, who was also alone and without nurture, living on the streets, established familiarity with Meowzie. Research in the area has suggested the less attractive reciprocate, will seek out compensating qualities, hence, Meowth sought out to talk and walk like a human, believing Meowzie desired a human-like partner. Since his heartbreak, Meowth has fallen for two Skitty, a Glameow and recently another Meowth (or so he thought; this was actually a Zorua using Illusion). The fact Meowth falls in love, or feels he is in love so quickly connotes that he has a great desire for love, possibly because of an Oedipus complex or great levels of the testosterone hormone. His tendency to fall for other Pokémon, usually influenced by physical attractiveness, suggests Meowth would not be able to uphold a monogamous relationship, a trait common in characters considered villains in naturalistic media.

Wow that is convincing
Who’s that Pokémon?

Although Meowth is a famous villain, he is not at all a good criminal. However, Meowth is a cat of many talents: in addition to his self-taught human-like capabilities, Meowth is a proficient ramen maker and actor, and has dressed convincingly in costume as many other Pokémon species. Like Jessie and James, Meowth stays loyal to Team Rocket, despite the organization not giving him fulfillment in his life. This is where attachment theory can be tied in. Although he must have had a mother, Meowth was alone and unloved for a long time before he joined Team Rocket, suggesting he suffered deprivation and had no attachment figure. For human children, recovering from deprivation is exceptionally hard, but many Pokémon have been showed to recover from the loneliness they felt after their abandonment, whether it be by a trainer or a family. When Meowth first perceived love or respect from Giovanni, he quickly regained self confidence and, although he did wrongly, became an attachment type B-Secure attached. Still to this day, Meowth has always believed Giovanni values him and strives to please him, apparently accomplishing such before Best Wishes series.

Oh no, Will Meowth leave Team rocket this time?
Hey, friends fight, doesn't mean they’re not friends.

Mewoth's relationship with his teammates is more adult, but sometimes seems more childish. The sense that Meowth’s relationship with Jessie and James is more adult is that he does not treat them as superior and they all acknowledge they are on the same level in society. Their relationship can be seen as childish due to the constant bickering and the fall-outs between them. However as Meowth grows older, becomes wiser, and reaches the point where he feels he can leave Team Rocket, his friendship with Jessie and James prevails. In this episode, it appeared as if Meowth had outgrown his blind allegiance to Team Rocket and chose to stay with his friends for their company and love, until Best Wishes where the trio all begin to feel fulfillment in their jobs.

I’m much better at this

The back story and character of Meowth can be considered quite sweet and romanticized, explaining the international love held for the character. If Meowth was ever to actually leave the anime’s main cast and begin appearing as infrequently as Misty and Tracey, uproar would surely begin amongst fans, for Meowth is definitely one of the most loved characters Japan has ever produced and may even be more popular than Pikachu. He wasn’t the first Pokémon to speak, but he’ll always be remembered as the first. The voice itself is perhaps most famous to anime fans, making voicing him a huge honour. Human characters always have clearer personality then the Pokémon characters and the voice of the legendary Maddie Blaustein, Nathan Price, Carter Cathcart, not to mention his voices from other countries, have created a polished personality to match brash Ash and girly-girl May.

Personality & Development
By Thomas Smithurst
Ash's PikachuAsh's SquirtleAsh's BulbasaurAsh's Charizard
Misty's PsyduckMisty's HorseaMeowthMisty's Togetic