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Christine Yano

Author and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa anthropologist Christine Yano sent shockwaves across the internet yesterday when she revealed to the LA Times a dramatic fact: Hello Kitty is not a cat. The insight led thousands to take to social media to vent in disbelief and denial. As reporter Carolina Miranda put it herself, “mind blown!” The news was picked up in national and international media and drew comments from celebrities like Katy Perry and Josh Grobin.

Yano, a professor in the College of Social Sciences, is the author of a book about the Hello Kitty pop culture phenomenon Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, but it wasn’t until she was preparing text for a Hello Kitty exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum that she was corrected by the Sanrio Corporation, which objected to her referring to Hello Kitty as a cat.

“I was corrected—very firmly,” she told the LA Times. “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.”

Yano is currently a visiting professor at Harvard University and is spending time in Los Angeles preparing for the October 11 launch of the exhibit, Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.

“For me it’s a lesson in buzz and this is how the media works,” Yano told Hawaii News Now. “I find it really fascinating as an anthropologist just to see the effects of buzz and you know this is what I’ve been studying so here it is, live action.”

On Twitter, the hashtag #HelloKittyisNotaCat is still fueling the viral fire while media mentions continue to grow.

As explained in a followup by LA Times journalist Miranda, Sanrio’s position on Hello Kitty’s identity was no secret, documented online in a PDF of their art usage guidelines, which clearly state, “Hello Kitty is not a cat, she is a girl. Please do not make/use animal references.” But now thanks to the power of internet and the love of millions for Hello Kitty, Yano and Miranda carry the heavy burden of breaking it to the world.

Update: The guidelines have been taken down and Sanrio is offering clarification, saying: “Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It’s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.”

In related news, the Peanuts corporation took to Twitter to confirm that beloved character Snoopy is, indeed, a dog.

—By Jeela Ongley

Snoopy is a dog tweet

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