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The Cat Is A Lie
August 27, 2014 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Christine R. Yano is an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii (and currently a visiting professor at Harvard) who has spent years studying the phenomenon that is Hello Kitty. When Yano was preparing her written texts for the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, she says she described Hello Kitty as a cat. "I was corrected — very firmly," she says. posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess (82 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
(and currently a visiting professor at Harvard)

Q: How do you know that someone has even the remotest connection to Harvard?

A: They'll tell you.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:10 PM on August 27 [31 favorites]


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.

So she's an anthromorphized cat, but she is nonetheless a cat. Little girls don't have whiskers and triangular ears set on top of their heads.
posted by orange swan at 6:16 PM on August 27 [18 favorites]


it's a cartoon version of a maneki neko
posted by pyramid termite at 6:19 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


First Tony Soprano, and now this.
posted by box at 6:20 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


hello soprano
posted by pyramid termite at 6:20 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]




You say anthropomorphized cat, I say ailuromorphized human.

let's call the whole thing off
posted by scrowdid at 6:24 PM on August 27 [50 favorites]


I thought this was pretty interesting, from the second link:
Hello Kitty has special significance to Asian Americans.
Yes, she's worldwide. But Hello Kitty has had special resonance with Asians who grew up in the United States.

"When Hello Kitty arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1970s, it was a commodity mainly in Asian enclaves: Chinatowns, Japantowns, etc.," explains Yano. "In talking to Japanese Americans who grew up in the 1970s, they say, 'That figure means so much to us because she was ours.' It's something they saw as an identity marker. This is why the exhibition is being held at the Japanese American National Museum. It's about reconnecting her to this community. It gives the whole thing a certain poignancy and power."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:24 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


She's never depicted on all fours.

A cursory scan of the internet suggests otherwise.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:25 PM on August 27 [28 favorites]


On Wikipedia, Hello Kitty went from a Japanese Bobtail cat to a "Cartoon Cat-like Girl" in a weird edit war.

The latest revision comment:
I must object strongly to the revision of Kitty's species. Nowhere in the reference does it state that she is a human. She is clearly an anthropomorphic cat, very unlike a common housecat, but also not a homo sapiens.
posted by graymouser at 6:26 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Cf Miffy. Someone, somewhere is wrong!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:27 PM on August 27


She's a woman, actually a middle-aged woman. Her name is Kitty. What you thought was a nose was actually a small yellow mouth. Also she chain smokes.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:34 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Hello Kitty is not a cat, and Tom Cruise, never jumped on a couch!

We have always been at war with Eastasia.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:37 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


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.

You know, most people are going to disregard this specification as silly but I like how they emphasize the distinction between "two legs good, four legs bad."

It avoids the more problematic undertones in some of the the Disney universe, specifically the difference in depictions of Goofy and Pluto. Why is Pluto treated like a house pet when Goofy is treated like an equal? Is it because Goofy has sold out to the man, giving up his "dogness" and forcing himself into the culture and customs of the upright walking bourgeois so that he can have a chance at a middle class lifestyle?

This is what we're teaching our children, people.
posted by C^3 at 6:44 PM on August 27 [29 favorites]


NO.


NO NO NO NO NO.


THIS IS BULLSHIT.

BULL




SHIT
posted by louche mustachio at 6:54 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


no, it's CAT SHIT
posted by pyramid termite at 6:56 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Ok, now it's time to delve into the mystery of Chio Chan's dad, while we are at it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:03 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Oh man, Chiyo Chan's dad. According to the Azumanga Daioh wiki, " He may be bullet-proof, a great baseball player, and/or Santa Claus." But more relevant to our conversation, "he finds the color red discomforting, and is inconsistent about whether he really is a cat."
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:11 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Hello ma Kitty, hello ma Kitty,
Hello ma ragtime cat.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:13 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


And I suppose Pussy Galore is not a cat reference, either?
posted by notme at 7:26 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


This is one thing that I will never be sharing as "hey! listen to this fun fact!" I will take this info into a locked corner of my heart and let it die there.
posted by spec80 at 7:34 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


So she's an anthromorphized cat, but she is nonetheless a cat.

The more that humans show Hello Kitty sympathy, the more she is inclined to forget that she is a cat. Feeling that she is now closer to humans than to cats, the idea of rallying her own race in an effort to wrest supremacy from the bipeds no longer has the least appeal.

Moreover, she has developed, indeed evolved, to such an extent that there are now times when she thinks of herself as just another human in the human world.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:43 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Thank you for signing up for Cat Facts! You will now receive fun daily facts about CATS! >O<
posted by tyllwin at 7:43 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


First Tony Soprano, and now this.

Tony Soprano as an anthropomorphic cat Fanfare rewatch!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:53 PM on August 27


So it seems the difference between cat and catgirl is a matter of personal agency?
posted by divabat at 8:00 PM on August 27


It avoids the more problematic undertones in some of the the Disney universe, specifically the difference in depictions of Goofy and Pluto. Why is Pluto treated like a house pet when Goofy is treated like an equal?

I always figured that Goofy is the vanilla one and Pluto is the one that likes to sit around naked wearing a collar.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:03 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


In the grim future of Hello Kitty, there are only LIES.
posted by steveminutillo at 8:25 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Ceci n'est pas une kitty.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:37 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


no, it's CAT SHIT

Have you not read the articles? It's girl shit. She is not a cat.
posted by jeather at 8:44 PM on August 27


Did any of you read the article? She's not a cat because she's a person, not a pet.

Hello Kitty has a pet cat.
posted by subdee at 9:06 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Also most of those Cracked "Fan Theories" are canonically supported wrinkles in the text that make those cartoons better, not worse.
posted by subdee at 9:10 PM on August 27


Hello Kitty has a pet cat and Goofy has Pluto. THIS IS MADNESS.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:19 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Little girls don't have whiskers and triangular ears set on top of their heads.

Cats don't wear glasses or float through the air carrying umbrellas.

At least, I don't think they do.

I showed the article to our office's resident Hello Kitty expert, and she confirmed everything. Although she was surprised and a bit envious that someone has made a professional career out of studying Ms. Kitty.
posted by kanewai at 9:42 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Yano's book on Hello Kitty and the Landover Baptist Church (which she doesn't realize is satire/parody)
posted by Bwithh at 9:56 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


It avoids the more problematic undertones in some of the the Disney universe, specifically the difference in depictions of Goofy and Pluto. Why is Pluto treated like a house pet when Goofy is treated like an equal?

There was previously posed to Ask Metafilter.
posted by alphanerd at 10:09 PM on August 27


Thing is: I have known cats with pet cats of their own. NBD.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:10 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I got the news about Hello Kitty not being a cat from the LAist which contains this gem:
[…] if you've been wondering why Hello Kitty doesn't have a mouth, Sanrio explains it on their website: "Hello Kitty speaks from her heart."
I always thought Hello Kitty was a mutant telepath like Charles Xavier… or Dark Phoenix. I'm just gonna leave this here and let you imagine what happened next.

May I also introduce Romi Mizukami who is "trying to be become Kitty, the icon of Japan"? Thank you. The pleasure is all mine.
posted by mistersquid at 10:50 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


FACTS FOR GIRLS
posted by NoraReed at 10:53 PM on August 27


I just realised that calling Hello Kitty a cat would be like calling a mermaid a fish or a centaur a horse. Sure, she's more cat than human in appearance, but that doesn't make her 100% Cat, which is the definition Sanrio seems to be going by.
posted by divabat at 11:16 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


A Californian friend (who had her first Hello Kitty in the mid-70s) told me her theory about the absence of a mouth-- It allowed projection-- If you were sad, Hello Kitty was sad for/with you and the same for when you were happy. The article says (she usually doesn't have a mouth) but a real Hello Kitty never has a mouth.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:21 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


A Hello Kitty thread?

Furry represent!

(she's a cat)
posted by hippybear at 11:33 PM on August 27




A Hello Kitty thread?

Furry represent!

(she's a cat)


it's way more likely and logical that she's just an extremely committed human furry
posted by Bwithh at 11:37 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


it's way more likely and logical that she's just an extremely committed human furry

If she wants to look like a cat and has a name that includes the word "kitty" and is THAT dedicated a furry, I suggest we all just call her a cat and humor her. Who are we to judge?
posted by hippybear at 11:41 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Next you're going to try and tell me Maromi's not a dog. It's OK Maromi, it's not your fault.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:53 PM on August 27


If she wants to look like a cat and has a name that includes the word "kitty" and is THAT dedicated a furry, I suggest we all just call her a cat and humor her. Who are we to judge?

I was about to be swayed by your compelling and compassionate argument but then I saw this and I am now convinced that humouring Hello Kitty would be liberal tolerance gone mad.
posted by Bwithh at 11:55 PM on August 27


Unfortunately, you have now forced me to make you look at this.
posted by hippybear at 12:01 AM on August 28 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, you have now forced me to make you look at this.

Urrrrgggggghh.

Well, let me just leave you with the nagging, gnawing, nagging, gnawing thought that may be no official pictures of Hello Kitty's purported pet cat Charmmy Kitty and Hello Kitty herself in the same picture at the same time at all - no, none at all. Sure, there are many pictures of the alleged Charmmy Kitty and Hello Kitty's pet hamster, Sugar, in the same picture - why, there are even real-world plush toys of the couple (you mustn't mistake these for Hello Kitty and Charmmy Kitty, oh no). Now, why would Charmmy Kitty and Hello Kitty never appear in the same picture together? Hmmm. Do you know why? Did you notice how much they resemble each other, even though Charmmy Kitty is wearing no clothes? Why don't you use Google Image Search and see - yes, you will see.
posted by Bwithh at 12:09 AM on August 28


Yes, I did notice that. I also noticed that Hello Kitty has an ambiguous tail, which is sometimes not there, sometimes is just a nub, and sometimes is a long tail. (This may be due to some illustrations being unofficial, at least the long tail versions.)

Hello Kitty is problematic. On this I think we can all agree. (Although likely for a multitude of reasons, not all of them having to do with exactly what she is. Some reasons may be existential in nature.)
posted by hippybear at 12:15 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I want Alan Moore to be forced to write a Hello Kitty/Sanrio universe edition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen now
posted by Bwithh at 12:20 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


As if anyone can force Alan Moore to do ANYTHING!

(Beware of wizards worshiping arcane snake gods, is my motto.)
posted by hippybear at 12:34 AM on August 28


People who inexplicably have animal heads are so ubiquitous in children's literature you'd think they'd be a named genre, or there would at least be a good word for what they are (Zocephali? Feracapitals?); but there doesn't seem to be as far as I know.
posted by Segundus at 1:13 AM on August 28


Wait, does this mean that Babar's entire family is a group of people who want to be elephants?

Can I join that family? Because that is awesome.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:32 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


hmmm? All these years I thought Porky Pig was a pig, but apparently not. He doesn’t walk on all fours
and I don’t know any pigs with a speech impediment. Damn, I’ve been duped again!
posted by quazichimp at 1:47 AM on August 28




It looks like Hello Kitty would be a Petting Zoo Person based on current information.
posted by divabat at 3:29 AM on August 28


Kotaku contacted Sanrio and got the definitive word: She's a cat
posted by Auz at 4:15 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


My favorite Hello Kitty fact is that she and most of her supporting cast are in the mobile game Puzzle & Dragons, along with some other unlikely collaborations.

So you can team up Hello Kitty in Valkyrie garb, Batman, an anthropomorphic leek, Satan and a bowl of noodles and use them to beat up assorted Greek deities.
posted by delfin at 4:47 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


So you can team up Hello Kitty in Valkyrie garb, Batman, an anthropomorphic leek, Satan and a bowl of noodles and use them to beat up assorted Greek deities.

Also known as "Saturday Night at the local comic-con."
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:00 AM on August 28


No Hello Kitty discussion is complete without this Margaret Cho clip about Hello Kitty as role model.
posted by ActionPopulated at 5:46 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Hello Kitty being a Londoner is just blowing my mind right now.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:22 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


Kotaku contacted Sanrio and got the definitive word: She's a cat

I believe the truth is lost in translation.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:28 AM on August 28




What about Chococat? I mean, he has cat right in the name. But he posts to MeFi and has a much better singing voice than I do. This shit is tough, yo.
posted by malocchio at 7:07 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Two legs evil, four legs good?
posted by MrGuilt at 7:11 AM on August 28


...and in related news, those tentacle monsters turned out to be charming young Spanish exchange students.
posted by fairmettle at 7:30 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I thought this was pretty interesting, from the second link:

Hello Kitty has special significance to Asian Americans.
Yes, she's worldwide. But Hello Kitty has had special resonance with Asians who grew up in the United States.


I'm curious as to why you found this particularly interesting, joseph conrad is fully awesome. To most of you here, is Hello Kitty an iconic figure separate from her Japanese origins, or is she a Japanese pop icon? Because I totally get that quote. When I was small, Hello Kitty was the only Asian pop figure accessible in North America, and even then you'd have to trek to Chinatown to find Hello Kitty merchandise. Any time my family went to Chinatown for dinner, the trip would have to be accompanied by a visit to a stationery store so I could breathe heavily over their Sanrio merchandise. Nowadays, the Sanrio character pantheon has dozens of characters and you can buy Hello Kitty t-shirts at Old Navy.

It's a little bittersweet for me because Hello Kitty used to be this rare and special thing but now you can find her everywhere. Also, it irks me somewhat that if a non-Asian person wears Hello Kitty or has Hello Kitty accessories they look cute and trendy, but If I (Asian) do the same, I look either "fobbish" or like my mother still dresses me.

That said, oh my god I really want to attend Hello Kitty Con.
posted by Rora at 7:37 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]



Hello Kitty being a Londoner is just blowing my mind right now.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:22 AM on August 28 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


She also thinks Farage would be the best PM
posted by Bwithh at 9:42 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I got the news about Hello Kitty not being a cat from the LAist

I got the news from my friends on Facebook. We are agreed that the only thing to do at this point is set everything on fire.


hmmm? All these years I thought Porky Pig was a pig, but apparently not. He doesn’t walk on all fours
and I don’t know any pigs with a speech impediment. Damn, I’ve been duped again!




SHHHHHHHHHHH don't tell anyone because if he is a person he will be forced...


he will be FORCED...

to wear
PANTS.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:53 AM on August 28


Hello Kitty is not a cat in the way that Legos are actually Lego Bricks.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:48 AM on August 28


ORDER IS RESTORED: Don't Be Silly, Hello Kitty Is a Cat.
When Kotaku called Sanrio's Tokyo headquarters today and asked whether or not Hello Kitty was indeed a cat, a 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 "anthropomorphization" or "personification."

One again, to clarify, I 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."
posted by mistersquid at 12:24 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Badtz-Maru better still be a penguin, damnit.
posted by kmz at 1:30 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Told you so. I have a five-year-old Hello Kitty-obsessed grandniece for whom I plan to knit a special beaded Hello Kitty tam and mittens that she'll be getting this Christmas, so I know from Hello Kitty.
posted by orange swan at 5:09 PM on August 28


Just for MetaFilter, I asked a group of 15 year-old Japanese girls if Hello Kitty is a cat.

The verdict: Our English teacher needs to take a rest. Kitty-chan has ears.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:17 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


It has just occurred to me that Goofy and Pluto are analogous to Talking Animals vs. animals in Narnia.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:46 PM on August 28


The verdict: Our English teacher needs to take a rest. Kitty-chan has ears.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:17 PM on August 28 [1 favorite −] [!]


you didn't take the teaching moment to tell them about furries?
posted by Bwithh at 8:43 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


The Wall Street Journal reports a fresh interview that highlights renewed doubts from Sanrio re: Hello Kitty's cat status



Here are excerpts of our conversation with a Sanrio spokesman, Kazuo Tohmatsu.

WSJ: What is Hello Kitty?

Mr. Tohmatsu: It is a character, a 100% personification done in the motif of a cat. This is nothing new. We’ve always had this setting since Hello Kitty made its debut 40 years ago.

WSJ: So it is not a cat, correct?

Mr. Tohmatsu: We have a character called Kero Kero Keroppi as well, and that character is a frog, because it has elements of frogs in what he does. But Hello Kitty doesn’t [have elements of a cat]. It is more of an anthropomorphism.

WSJ: So it’s correct to say she is not a cat?

Mr. Tohmatsu: It is difficult to answer that question, but our answer is that Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat–a character.

WSJ: Does that mean it’s a human girl?

Mr. Tohmatsu: Well. It’s difficult to provide a specific classification of what she is, or say something definitely, since everything is set in a world of characters.

posted by Bwithh at 11:29 PM on August 28


You'll be telling me next that Pudding Dog isn't really made out of pudding.
posted by arcticseal at 6:49 AM on August 29


More Shocking Revelations From the Cartoon World

Also, Scooby Doo is not a dog, he's Shaggy's terribly deformed younger brother.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are really salamanders. The shells are part of the mutations.

And Dilbert is not a human being, he's an android sent back in time to sabotage American business institutions.

I hope we're all clear now.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:50 PM on August 29


Related: The Hello Kitty Avengers (you figure out what the acronym S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for here)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:24 AM on September 1






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