Bombshell news from today’s LA Times! Hello Kitty—a brand beloved by innocent children and sarcastic teenagers—is not actually a cat. This from Christine R. Yano, anthropologist and Hello Kitty scholar. “Hello Kitty is not a cat,” she clarifies. “She’s a cartoon character.” Sure, sure, you’re saying to yourself, I get it, the representation of a thing is not the thing itself, images are treacherous, Ceci n’est pas une kitty. But this goes deeper than a philosophical argument. I’m saying that, in the fictional universe inhabited by Hello Kitty, she is not a cat. And although she is one of the most famous examples of how Japanese culture has permeated the global mainstream, she is not Japanese. And also, Hello Kitty’s name is not Hello Kitty.
“Hello Kitty” is, in fact, a young London third grader named Kitty White, who lives with her parents George and Mary and her twin sister Mimmy. It’s unclear if Mimmy is an identical twin or a fraternal twin. I mean, like, Mimmy looks exactly like Kitty, but Kitty also looks exactly like a cat, and as we have already established, she is not a cat, and so perhaps the Whites of London town live in a universe where there’s no such thing as a cat and also the sky is made of Jell-O that tastes like arsenic waffles.
But but but! As Professor Yano explains to the Times, cats do exist in the Hello Kitty-verse. See, Hello Kitty—who is not a cat—has a pet cat. “It’s called Charmmy Kitty,” she explains. So somewhere in London there is a little girl named Kitty White who looks like a cat but is not a cat, but she has a cat who is a cat named Charmmy Kitty. Which means that Kitty White turned her first name into her pet’s surname and gave her a different first name, which makes as much sense as anything else I’ve written in the couple paragraphs. I guess this is sort of a Goofy-Pluto situation? Like, same genus but different species? Like, Kitty White’s ancestors got visited by a Monolith and evolved into Cat-People? Sort of like how, in our universe, we put chimpanzees in cages because they throw feces at each other, but we let Michael Bay throw feces in our faces because we share a common ancestor?
In fact, as Yano explains, Hello Kitty was originally conceived in the spirit of Anglophilia. “Hello Kitty emerged in the 1970s, when the Japanese and Japanese women were into Britain … So the biography was created exactly for the tastes of that time.” While we’re going down the rabbit hole here, it’s worth pointing out that original designer Yuko Shimizu got the name “Kitty” from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books, wherein its clearly established that Alice has a cat named Kitty. “What a pretty name for something that isn’t a cat!” is probably what Shimizu thought to herself.
In conclusion: Hello Kitty is not a cat, Pluto is not a planet, and dinosaurs had feathers. And so reality continues to punch your childhood in the face.