helloooo kitty

Weekly trips to a Sanrio store were essential to ten year-old me. I was consumed by the cuteness of everything–from the characters to the items sold at the store, I had to have it all. To me, Hello Kitty wasn’t “foreign” in the sense that I have never seen anything like it. Because my parents are from Hong Kong, I’ve been exposed to cutesy characters and stationery, etc before. However, Hello Kitty in the States was exciting to me because there was nothing like it in the U.S. market. No other franchise expanded into every aspect of daily living like Hello Kitty did. I couldn’t purchase a Barbie rice cooker or fly on a Barbie airplane. There weren’t stores dedicated to selling all Barbie everything. Walking into Sanrio stores was magic in the sense that everything that I ever wanted or needed as an elementary school student was available. To me, I wasn’t appropriating Japanese culture by avidly consuming Hello Kitty product; I just genuinely enjoyed Hello Kitty as a brand. However, I can see how Hello Kitty is being used in mainstream media as an accessory to be edgy and cool, referencing the eccentric Japanese kawaii culture. By doing so, American mainstream media belittles a part of Japanese culture–merely labeling it as something exotic and funny. My thoughts on the Hello Kitty brand though is that it is mostly consumed by people who actually just really enjoy the brand and relative cultural appropriation is little compared to those who love the brand.

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