I would like to make one thing clear: Mario is a PoC.
No, I’m not trying to say that Italians are PoC. Of course, they are not. Obviously, it is firmly established within the canon of the Mario universe that Mario’s nationality is Italian. However, nothing has been said about his ethnocultural identification. Indeed, there is serious reason to believe that the famous plumber we all know and love is not white.
Looking at the trailer for Super Mario Odyssey released at E3 2017, Mario runs alongside “New Donkers”, residents of New Donk City, of the unreleased game’s main stomping grounds. Gamers around world marvelled at the difference in bodily features between Mario and the New Donkers. This anatomical difference has led many to ask: is Mario human? This question is so endlessly problematic, it barely even warrants discussion. Mario has been through enough; he doesn’t need his humanity called into question simply because of his short stature, and relatively large eyes, face, and nose.
The simple answer is that Mario is a PoC. He clearly is a representative of a little explored minority within the Mushroom Kingdom, the “Marios”. (Why “Marios”? In the games, Mario’s last name is Mario — his full name is Mario Mario. He must therefore be the chosen one of his people, given their name that he is their chosen representative in the Mushroom Kingdom)
Let me ask you this: are Wario and Waluigi PoC? Well, of course they are. Of all the characters in the Mushroom Kingdom, the two bizarro plumbers are perhaps the most clearly coded as PoC, given that their speech, usually consisting of the word “waaah” seems to indicate an ethnic language not understood by the Marios. Many might argue that if they are PoC, then Mario and Luigi are white. Not true. This type of thinking is marionormative, in that it establishes Mario and Luigi as the “normal” through “othering” Wario and Waluigi. Face it: if Waluigi is a PoC, which he clearly is, Mario must also be a PoC.
The final piece of evidence to support this theory relies on an accurate understanding of power dynamics within the Mushroom Kingdom. I ask you: which group holds the most power within the Mario universe? Uninformed readers might suggest the Marios are — however, they would be wrong.
Based on extensive demographic, economic and political analysis, I would argue that the most powerful ethnographic group is indeed the Koopas. These turtle-like people hold the majority of the power in the series, from soldiers, to air power, to clerical positions. Most importantly, the Koopa King, Bowser, and his koopaling children are the main power brokers in the Kingdom — they have castles, vehicles, control magic, and are responsible for most of the major plot points in the Kingdom’s storyline. For the majority of the series, Bowser is the actual head of Mushroom State affairs, not Princess Peach. They even possess aspirations of imperial conquest — invading foreign lands like Isle Delfino in Super Mario Sunshine. If there is a group that represents whites in the Mario universe, it is clearly the Koopas.
Thus, in fighting the dominance of the Koopa empire, the Marios are clearly coded as anti-imperialist. To say Mario is white is not only ignorant, it causes the erasure of his counter-hegemonic mission.
Face it: Mario is a PoC.