We’re going to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to talk about something that has no inherent value on its surface. It might not even have value in its depths.
Super Mario Odyssey came out for the Nintendo Switch last October. It’s a great game and it got rave reviews, which is why it’s weird that it’s come up again on the front page of Reddit this past month, with a discussion of whether or not Mario wearing a sombrero is racist.
Yeah, the sombrero thing is getting old. I think it’s a gut reflex by every Mexican person to cringe when they see someone wear a sombrero when they’re definitely not supposed to be wearing a sombrero. To be clear, anyone can wear a sombrero, but not everyone should wear a sombrero.
Sombreros are like cowboy hats. Some people have the swagger and the chops (“chops” being a totally measurable and scientific term) to pull off a cowboy hat. I, for instance, do not. I get that. If I showed up to the office tomorrow wearing a cowboy hat along with my typical hoodie, jeans and sneakers, there’d be a conversation about it. That’s just the way the world spins. So it goes for sombreros. I’m Latin American and I still can’t pull off a sombrero.
But Mario can pull it off. He absolutely can. Here’s the thing: when Mario puts on the sombrero and plays his little guitar, he’s really building a lot of bridges. He’s a Japanese character–of Italian descent–putting on Mexican garb, being controlled by Nintendo Switch consoles all over the world. He’s as cosmopolitan as it gets. He’s like the greatest diplomat, tucked away in a game called Super Mario Odyssey.
So he gets a pass. I actually got a little pumped when I saw him don the hat and poncho because I’ve been playing Mario games since I was a little kid. This just made me feel like the character I’ve always recognized recognizes me, too.