We have just learnt that Hello Kitty is not a cat. According to Christine R. Yano, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific she is not a cat, she is a cartoon character. “She is a little girl. (…) But she is not a cat”. Let’s analyze this information with more detail.
If we take a closer look to Hello Kitty we can see that she has a cat head. Even if Christine R. Yano insists in Hello Kitty not being a cat, her head is that of a kitty. Now, the body is totally human. So, if she states that “she is a little girl,” we need to revise Hello Kitty. Okay, Hello Kitty is not a cat, and thus, she cannot be an anthropomorphized kitty. What is anthropomorphism? Anthropomorphism is the act of attributing human characteristics, or human behaviors to animals, objects and even Gods. So, if Hello Kitty was to be a cat, she would definitely be an “anthropomorphized cat.”
However the statement that Hello Kitty is not a cat, leaves us with another, yet more interesting, view about Hello Kitty. If “she is a little girl,” then she must be a “theriantrope.” But, what is a “theriantrope”? A theriantrope is a being who is half animal, half human. The word theriantrope comes from the ancient Greek words: “therion” (wild animal) and “anthropos” (man, human). Theriantropy is used to describe ancient belief systems, according to which half human half animal Gods helped humanity. It also explains spiritual beliefs in animal transformation into the Japanese culture (According to “A History of the Japanese People from the Earliest Times to the End of the Meiji Era”, 1915). In recent times, theriantropy has also been used to explain cave-art paintings from our ancestors.
Even though it can come as a shock to know that Hello Kitty is not a kitty, regardless of her name stating that she is a “kitty,” reality shows us that she is more than a character, as Christine R. Yano argues. Being a theriantrope, makes her special and even more magical than before. She is like a modern version of the Egyptian Goddess Sekhmet. Sekhmet is the Egyptian Goddess of of fire, war, vengeance, menstruation, and medicine. She is depicted with a lyon head and a human grown up female body. Though Hello Kitty has a cat head and a human little girl body, we can argue that similarities are striking. Both have a feline head and a human female body. Only the level of “spooky” and “cuteness” changes in both.
Sekhmet was depicted with a solar disk on her head. She is also wild and it was said that from her own breath came the desert. She was revered and feared. If you take a look to the depictions of Sekhmet, you get the idea of a strong warrior female theriantrope who can either protect you or decide to end up with you. Hello Kitty, on the other hand, is cute and sweet as a home kitty. She represents the good cute girl, who is respectful and playful like a kitten might be.
Though many people cannot stand the fact that Hello Kitty is not a cat, reality shows otherwise. While she can be half a little girl and half a kitten, you can still hang on the idea that she is your best “purry” friend. She might be a theriantrope, but as Sekhmet did millenia ago, she will accompany you, in this case, with her sweetness and cuteness.
While theriantropes were revered and feared in ancient times, in modern times we find cute versions of them. Hello Kitty is not a cat, she is a theriantrope: she has the head of a kitty and the body of a little girl. We have, thus, in a way, returned to the cave, to the Pyramid, and recall our fascination with theriantrope art.