While you weren’t looking and while the interwebs was going crazy about the recent revelation of #HelloKitty not being a cat after all, this other thing cropped up.
But before that, just in case you missed the big news, Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii (and currently a visiting professor at Harvard) who has spent years studying the phenomenon that is the “cat”, suggested that Hello Kitty is not a cat, as previously assumed by many for 40 whole years.
According to Yano, while she was preparing her written texts for the “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, she described Hello Kitty as a cat. “I was corrected – very firmly. That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature,” she said.
Corrected. By Sanrio, Yano said.
After which, all meow broke loose, starting from this article from Los Angeles Times. So, as we were saying, while you weren’t looking, Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku.com put on his investigative journalism hat as Kotaku called up the “home” of Hello Kitty, Sanrio (Tokyo headquarters). They asked whether or not Hello Kitty was indeed a cat, to which the spokesperson explained, “Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It’s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.”
The specific word that the Sanrio spokesperson used to describe Hello Kitty was “gijinka” (擬人化), which means “anthropomorphisation” or “personification”. What is this anthropomorphisation, you ask? It’s attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being. Such as the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”, or Disney’s Goofy, or Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Minnie Mouse, or all the characters in “Cars”, for example.
You know the drill.
Brian also asked the Sanrio spokesperson, “Then, it would be going too far to say that Hello Kitty was not a cat?” The spokesperson replied, “Yes, that would be going too far.” Of course, you may now question, why did Yano say, “Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature.” then?
She’s not wrong per se but she also didn’t exactly call Hello Kitty a human being either, like TIME assumed in their “Apparently Hello Kitty is a Human Girl, Not a Cat” article. To be honest, we agree with Brian on the points he put forward about this in his post. Perhaps “little girl” could be referring to the fact that Hello Kitty is a perpetual third grader despite celebrating her 40th “birthday” this year?
And, among cat lovers in Japan, it’s very common for cats to be referred to as “girl” or “boy,” instead of by the Japanese gender markers designated for animals (namely, “osu” or 雄 for “male” animals and “mesu” or 雌 for female animals).
And just in case you think it’s wrong for Hello Kitty to have a pet cat (Charmmy Kitty) because she’s an animal herself well, Disney’s Mickey is an anthropomorphic mouse and he has a pet dog named Pluto. Remember Pluto (as in Disney’s, not the no-longer-a-major-planet)?
Also, let’s take this into consideration – How many dog or cat lovers often call their pets “baby girl” or “baby” or “naughty boy” here? It doesn’t necessarily suggest that you have a human pet. It’s just a term of endearment because your furkid is probably more than just a pet and perhaps often treated like a member of your family, even.
Something to think about? We’ll leave you to it.