This article appeared in the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine
A Hong Kong woman was recently made to host her friend’s wedding dressed as Hello Kitty. Perhaps it was an attempt to paint the woman as a lunatic; perhaps the bride had always disliked her. But in all probability it was consensual, with even the groom giving his browbeaten approval.
It also seems likely that some day men will wish they had said something about this subject earlier. Hello Kitty has been part of Hong Kong culture – as she has been part of global pop culture, an ambassador for girly Japanese kitsch, or “kawaii” – for years now, inspiring “girls” of ever-advancing years to eschew female empowerment, etcetera for a nostalgic attachment to pre-pubescence.
No doubt cutesey intonation is a harmless enough affectation. No doubt the fixation even enhances some women’s femininity. But as the Hello Kitty generation moves beyond young adulthood, one wonders whether the things it holds dear are entirely befitting.
The mystery of it is that Hello Kitty is pretty rubbish: a character who is hardly a character at all and has no mouth. Unlike Garfield or Topcat, who like real cats are selfish, lazy and borderline delinquent – though no less ingratiating for all that – she has nothing to teach young women either about themselves or the natural world. This is not generally acknowledged by members of the Facebook group “hello kitty is not stupid or ugly she is adorable.”
In Yuanlin, Taiwan, there is a Hello Kitty-themed maternity hospital. Of course, if the pains of childbirth are too daunting to begin with, the Hello Kitty product range includes branded condoms. But the greater risk, surely, is that these mothers will simply end up an embarrassment to their children.