When I first scrolled through my Twitter feed and spied the Bowsette hashtag, I had no idea of what was to follow. What I believed to be a niche deviantart trend quickly evolved into something of a monster - kind of like Peach, really. But perhaps the most amazing thing about the phenomenon was that despite the internet's belief it was undermining Nintendo's family image, it turns out Nintendo had beaten Twitter to it all along.
Here's a quick refresh. In September, Nintendo introduced a new power-up item into New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe called the Super Crown. The (quite innocent) object is used to transform Toadette into a Princess Peach version called Peachette - but naturally, this sparked a debate amongst Nintendo fans as to how the crown actually worked. Under the assumption it could morph any character into its Peach form, cartoonist ayyk92 applied the concept to Mario lore - namely, as a way to solve Peach's continued rejection of Bowser. And just like that, Bowsette was born.
The Super Crown's some spicy new Mario lore pic.twitter.com/7DQe6UXvLQ— haniwa (@ayyk92) September 19, 2018
Over the course of the next few days, thousands of artists started producing their own versions of Bowsette, and various debates emerged over how she should look. Blonde or red-headed? Pale or tanned? Bowser-esque or humanoid? One of the near-unifying factors, however, was that the artwork was most definitely NSFW, which meant I got plenty of strange looks when researching it in the office.
At the height of her popularity, Bowsette became the no.1 trending hashtag in Japan, and over the course of five days racked up 150,000 mentions on English-speaking Twitter. Nintendo, in contrast, had absolutely nothing to say on the topic.
It was an incredible explosion of creativity (among other things) that spread in a heartbeat, and I couldn't help but admire the inventiveness of the creations. Thinking back on Bowsette, however, I'm still trying to pinpoint the exact reasons for her rapid ascent. Aside from obviously becoming a new kink for vast swathes of the internet (Bowsette quite easily won the crown for most searched-for video game character on Pornhub this year), I think it was also about deliberately trying to subvert Nintendo.
The company is defined by its family-friendly image: and the Mario series is truly the face of this brand of childish innocence. Just remember the reception to Stormy Daniels' comparison of Trump's penis to "the mushroom character from Mario Kart". Plenty of disgust, but also unbridled joy that someone had inadvertently trampled all over Nintendo's years of careful marketing, quite horribly, on the largest stage in the world. Another iconic moment of 2018.
Much of the discourse surrounding Bowsette was to similar effect - it was about producing an adult, highly sexualised character in a space that has been scrubbed of these traits. In some ways, it was refreshing to see a more rock and roll woman in the world of Mario - something the internet really wants, apparently, as shortly after Bowsette came demands for indie rock Rosalina. Peach and Daisy have traditionally been cutesy damsels in distress, while Rosalina has always had a calm demeanour. Watching Bowsette grab the bull by the horns and bring chaotic evil to Nintendo's world was hilarious.
Yet the tail of Bowsette didn't end there, as it turned out to have a stunning twist. Just when everyone was imagining Miyamoto shivering in a dark corner with tears glistening on his cheeks, an unexpected revelation emerged: Nintendo had already thought of Bowsette. Sort of.
With absolutely perfect timing, mere days after Bowsette made her online debut, Nintendo published a book of concept art sketches called The Art of Super Mario Odyssey. Within its pages, fans found a drawing showing what would happen if Bowser took over Peach's body using his own Cappy, and the result is eerily familiar. Sure, the method to reaching Bowsette is different: but she has the iconic tail, teeth, horns and spikey choker. Also, it totally confirms red-headed Bowsette theory.
Why did Nintendo choose to abandon her as a concept? Maybe because they had some kind of inkling that the internet would react in the fashion it eventually did - although I doubt the officially-sanctioned Bowsette would ever have produced the same reaction as taboo, underground Bowsette. Perhaps it would have made Mario lore too complicated after all - and how would Mario be able to defeat Bowser if he were stuck inside Peach's body? It, er, doesn't lend itself to great gameplay.
In any case, the smug people on the internet who thought they'd upset Nintendo got shown up - totally by accident - and it was wonderful.
So where does this leave Bowsette now? She's still doing pretty well - even after her golden age of popularity, she still has a cult following, to the extent that on Halloween in Brighton I saw two Bowsettes and one Booette in a single nightclub. There have been mods, other characters given the Bowsette treatment (even Solidette Snake, for instance), and next year she's getting her own fan convention in Japan. I think it's unlikely we're going to see something like Bowsette again for quite some time, however, so make the most of the new artwork while it's still being produced. And the porn, if you must.