I grew up with Sanrio. Maybe you did too. In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, there wasn’t a single school supply I owned that didn’t have a Sanrio character emblazoned upon it. Okay, whatever, I may have had, like ONE Lisa Frank Rainbow-Dolphin-Unicorn binder. But it was 99.99% Keroppi, Bad Badtz-Maru, and, of course, the grand dame of Sanrio, Hello Kitty herself.
So I (along with every other woman who was once in third grade in the early 1990’s) was shocked, absolutely SHOCKED to recently learn that Hello Kitty is not, in fact, actually a cat.
“Wait, WHAT?” you say. “But the ears. . .and the whiskers. . .and her last name is Kitty. . .wait, are you punking me, because if you’re not, wait WHAT?”
You’re confused. It’s cool. I’m confused too. Solidarity, sister, we’ll be confused together.
So here’s the lowdown. Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii (who is curating an upcoming Hello Kitty retrospective for the Japanese American National Museum), told the L.A. Times that she had referred to Hello Kitty as a cat in her written text for the exhibition, and Sanrio was like “Actually. . .no.”
“I was corrected—very firmly,” Yano said. “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 does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”
I don’t remember Hello Kitty having a pet cat, is this something that happened after 1995 when I stopped caring about Sanrio? This whole Hello-Kitty-Has-A-Cat-So-That-Makes-Her-Not-A-Cat reminds me a lot of that time-honored Disney mystery that goes a little something like: Pluto-Is-Mickey’s-Dog-And-Goofy-Is-Mickey’s-Friend-So-That-Means-Goofy-Isn’t-Actually-A-Dog-But-He’s-Clearly-Not-A-Mouse-Or-A-Duck-Like-Mickey-Or-Donald-So-What-Is-Goofy. Sanrio is SAYING Hello Kitty is not a cat but rather a little girl (then WHY didn’t you name here Hello Little Girl??) but they already have humanoid characters in their pantheon (those star twin kids, the boy has blue hair and the girl has pink hair, come on people, you know who I’m talking about), and Hello Kitty certainly does not look like her fellow human-y Sanrio characters. But Sanrio is right, she’s two-legged, she wears clothes (and bows in her hair, which a real cat would NEVER tolerate) and she does have a pet cat that acts like an actual cat. So she’s a cat-girl hybrid? Like Batman’s Catwoman, but less into organized crime and more into looking cute on pencil sharpeners?
Look, I’m willing to accept Hello Kitty on her own terms. Whatever the girl wants to be, she can be. Cat, girl, or cat-girl hybrid, I will always be grateful to her for making my elementary-school backpacks look awesome.