Hello Kitty

 

One of the world’s most famous little girls from southern England does not even look like a human girl; she has been easily mistaken for a “kitty” through her motif since 1974. She adorns a trademark bow on her left ear. She is Kitty White, better known as Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty made her debut in Japan in 1974 thanks to her creator, Yuko Shimizu. The Sanrio (the company that owns Hello Kitty and other characters) merchandise was a “vinyl coin purse with a picture of a white cat sitting between a bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl, designed by Yuko Shimizu” (Woodgate 2017). (https://www.afr.com/lifestyle/hello-kittys-multibilliondollar-success-story-20171203-gzxp84) The coin purse played the role in Sanrio’s philosophy of "small gift, big smile" as one of the small, sensible, and inexpensive products advertised ornamented with kawaii (adorable) cartoon characters (Wood gate 2017).

 

Hello Kitty merchandise became available in the United States in 1976. The merchandise became anything from plush, coin purses, backpacks, clothing, to short movies. As a Hello Kitty fan who was born and raised in the United States, I was first exposed to the character during my childhood in the 1990’s.

I discovered Hello Kitty through shopping for movies at Suncoast (video store). The VHS cover and title appealed to me. I have been and remain a cat lover (unaware that the character is not a cat) and thought all of the characters were cute. The movies taught young viewers life lessons such as table manners, hygiene, and the importance of family and friendship. Some of the movies were specials of Hello Kitty “playing” fairy tale characters such as Snow White and Cinderella. Hello Kitty also went on adventures with her twin sister, Mimmy. The theme song has a happy-go-lucky tune that made me smile as a child.

 

Hello Kitty! Play with us today

We'll laugh and sing on this lovely sunny day

All your friends are waiting for you

Ready to run and play

Everyone will gather 'round

This is what they'll say:

When we see your friendly smile you brighten up our day

Hello Hello kitty! Hello dear friend

Your smile's pretty like a flower that's in bloom

Love is in your heart and things are happy too

Hello Hello kitty! Play with us today

(https://lyricstranslate.com/en/hello-kitty-ost-hello-kitty-opening-english-lyrics.html)

  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=20&v=dmx4eX6SO48)

I have always been a fan of female leads in television, movies and other forms of media. The female lead(s) who has goals other than finding a guy to fall in love with acquiring bonus points from me. Hello Kitty, is the Elementary School age should focus on what real girls this age should: making friends, discovering the people they want to become, being their own heroes, and loving themselves. Male characters should not be the only ones with these liberties. I found myself getting weary of the cliche, princess needing a prince to rescue her, marry him, and being satisfied with her life.

 

 

Photograph by Bibi Philippou

I turned thirty this year, but I remain a fan of Hello Kitty and the other kawaii. I have been seen walking down the street adorned in Hello Kitty T-shirts and sunglasses. During summer break, I had the opportunity to “meet” her at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. Hugging her and taking a photograph with her made my inner eight-year-old self-jump with glee. I wish I could live in the Sanrio world. The closest I have been to this wish is meeting Hello Kitty and sleeping in pajamas with her face.

November first of this year will be Hello Kitty’s forty-fourth birthday. She is an adult inside of a school girl’s body. She is showing no signs of slowing down. The Hello Kitty-themed Shinkansen bullet train in Japan debuted this year along with a new café in Irvine, California opening on September 14 of this year. Taiwanese airline EVA Air has a Hello Kitty jet. Fans can travel Sanrio style.

 

Photograph by Kyodo News via AP

Photograph by Jakob N. Layman