The story that broke Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times rocked social media, and had a lot of people questioning whether everything they know is wrong: Hello Kitty isn’t a cat.
Anthropologist Christine Yano received the news when she was writing the annotations for a Hello Kitty show at the Japanese American National Museum:
That’s one correction Sanrio [the owners of Hello Kitty] 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.
However, it turns out Hello Kitty isn’t human, either. RocketNews 24 contacted Sanrio and got the straight dope, which comes down to a difference in terminology: Hello Kitty is a 擬人化 (gijinka), which they translate as “a personification or anthropomorphization” — like Mickey Mouse or, in a parallel some have drawn, like the pipe in René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images. They further added that Hello Kitty does indeed have a mouth, it’s just not drawn (most of the time, anyway).
All this comes as the world is celebrating Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday: Hello Kitty’s head designer, Yuko Yamaguchi, was a guest last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the first-ever Hello Kitty Con is coming up soon, the Japanese American National Museum is holding a Hello Kitty retrospective (this is where the trouble started), and Viz Media is about to release a 40th-anniversary tribute book.
Meanwhile, there was some reassuring news in this crazy, upside-down world of ours: The Peanuts folks weighed in to let us know that Snoopy is indeed a dog.