Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hello Kitty: One Nation Under Cute

This is a short article on the history and social implications of kawaii, the Japanese culture of cute.

"Psychologists believe that cuteness is a function of resemblance to human infants, to whom we're programmed to respond sympathetically because of their helplessness. And Japan may have a surplus of unused parenting instincts, given that the country has one of the world's lowest birth rates (and one of the highest ages of marriage)."

They claim that adults not only substitute cute objects for children, they also wish to be a child. This is an entirely new view on how cute can permeate a culture. It introduces the idea that social rigidity can have a far reaching effect on its members. When you are allowed to be independent at a young age and then forced into a highly structured adult life, you can want so much for your youth that you begin to live it. It is less a statement about cuteness and more about independence. The widespread popularity of cuteness is more a result of intense marketing and a consumer-driven society.

You can read the whole article at Psychology Today.

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