Some would say I’m a bit of a tom-boy, but when it comes to Hello Kitty, I’m all girl. If, somehow, you’ve missed the ubiquitous feline adorning girls and women alike, let me tell you a bit about her; if you came here trying to figure out if she’s actually diabolical, I’ll get to that. Hello Kitty is the star in the line-up of successful characters created by Japan’s Sanrio Company, Ltd. (Sanrio, Inc., is its U.S. subsidiary). Now at the ripe age of 40, she is more popular than ever and is one of the most successful brands in the history of marketing. She is so popular that Sanrio–without advertising–brings in $7 billion a year from her character alone.
Sanrio’s perspective is to spread happiness, love, and friendship. Their success in selling seemingly innumerable products, running popular theme parks, and even having Hello Kitty painted on airplanes (EVA Airways), shows that people desire to connect with those values.2
The adoration of Hello Kitty’s mouthless face is a bit of a mystery, however. There are some who find her face disturbing, but her popularity seems to prove the correctness of one of Sanrio’s ideas that by having no mouth, the person looking at Hello Kitty imagines her to have reciprocal feelings. True to the company’s perspective, Sanrio has also said that Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth because she doesn’t represent any particular language group—instead, she “speaks from the heart.”3
In a new twist (August 2014), Sanrio proclaimed something even stranger, however, saying that Hello Kitty wasn’t a cat, but a girl. The company does indeed seem to change with the times, which of course would be just “good business practice” according to many. But why would insisting that Hello Kitty is a girl and not a cat—even though she looks just like a cat (but with a short tail)—be a good business decision? Would people identify with her even more than they do now? (I doubt it, myself.) Maybe Sanrio is just trying to get back to Hello Kitty’s roots for her 40th anniversary . . . er, birthday. See, Hello Kitty is not the character’s name, actually, but Kitty White. She’s a “girl” (cat-girl mix?? Or woman, since she’s 40?) from the United Kingdom and not Japan, despite what some publications there would make you think; “she was born in southern England on November 1, 1974. She is a Scorpio and blood type A.”4 OK . . . .
So, Hello Kitty’s creators, keepers, and fans might seem a bit obsessed, but is Hello Kitty actually evil and to be avoided by all God fearing folk? A controversy started a number of years ago revolving around a rumor like this: Hello Kitty’s designer was thankful to an idol/god of some sort for healing/helping her daughter, so she dedicated the design or creation of Hello Kitty to it.5 Since the lady who came up with Hello Kitty was single and childless at the time,6 either this rumor is completely false or the details are now wrong. In any case, imagining for a moment that this is true simply for argument’s sake, let’s look at how a Christian might respond. Let’s also look at two other concerns over immorality or evil possibly related to Hello Kitty that have concerned Christians.
What to do about things sacrificed to idols
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verses 14-33 (of the New Testament) Paul argues that it is better to not eat food that is sacrificed to idols/demons. The Christian sits at the table with Christ and so foods shared at an altar to a demon don’t belong there. He acknowledges that we have freedom in Christ and that the demons have no power over us, but he also calls on us to not make another person get the wrong idea about our alliance or beliefs. However, does this example apply to a non-food Hello Kitty product that was made in a factory and purchased at a retail store? Was the product offered in any way to a demon? This is extremely doubtful. The rumor or urban legend seems to have no validity in the first place, and Christians should not be spreading false reports and gossip.
Sanrio’s Hello Kitty contract with the band KISS
The Polish Catholic priest Slawomir Kostrzewa has been on a bit of a crusade that the western media is happy to make fun of. His cause is educating parents about toy and cartoon products that are increasingly dark and death related, products that seem to idolize death, the undead, and witchcraft, and calling on parents not to buy these products. Often, these products combine the cute and loving with Satan and sin, so that children may become immune to the ideas of evil and hell.
Since his own long writings and videos are in Polish, it isn’t the easiest thing to get at Kostrzewa’s own words. But there is an article out there you can read with Google translate (or whatever service or program you use) that presents much of Kostrzewa’s thought and argument.7 His case against Hello Kitty is two-fold: one, the availability of disturbing products that are not for children, which is discussed separately below, and two, children’s products that are made with death-approving or demonic symbols and associations. Only certain lines of the feline’s products have such associations–not all Hello Kitty products have skulls and other reminders of death on them. Of particular concern are the products based on Sanrio’s 2012 contractual agreement with the band KISS. The band KISS evokes death, rebellion toward God, and the serving of darkness, in its live performances. Why Sanrio chose to associate Hello Kitty with this band and what it evokes is a mystery.
Whether the members of KISS worship Satan or not, the perception is often made by youth that they do, or that Satan and the dark side are cool. Lead singer Gene Simmons has certainly made it clear that he respects neither Christians nor God,8 so the band does not represent Godly or even tolerant secular values. So, would you want your child having a KISS product (Hello Kitty or other), or would you boycott all Sanrio products because they made an agreement with KISS that concerns a small line or products? That is up to you. Of course, if a person investigated all companies that s/he buys products from, there would no doubt be few companies found worthy of support in a Christian sense. Most people, and thus companies, are of this world and make decisions based on worldly ideals. I personally think that Sanrio made a bad business decision when it associated the wholesome Hello Kitty with such an unwholesome band.
Unsavory or not-made-for-children Hello Kitty products
It’s no secret that Hello Kitty appears on products everywhere, and many of these are not for children. Sanrio is adamant in its policy to not have guns made with Hello Kitty on them, so if you see such weapons they are privately (and unlawfully) produced. Otherwise, though, Sanrio seems quite free with its Hello Kitty license. There are “adult” Hello Kitty products out there, but I’m going to assume that a parent would not buy their kids these products or take them into stores that sell “adult” products! I personally have only seen them in online images and wouldn’t know whether they are licensed by Sanrio or not (as might be imagined, there is a huge “knock-off” industry devoted to Hello Kitty).
Since these Hello Kitty products exist, it seems likely that other cartoon characters are used in the adult products industry as well. If someone is making Mickey Mouse S&M products and you happen to find out about it, would you boycott all things Disney? This simply is a whole other realm that is not associated with children and would only be known by children or teens if an unscrupulous adult informed them in some manner. If you’re interested in knowing about some of the more weird or questionable Hello Kitty products, licensed or not, Hello Kitty Hell is a site devoted to driving up its site views . . . I mean, having this information in a centralized location.
To Enjoy or Not to Enjoy Hello Kitty
Compared to many of the toys and dolls for girls out today, most Hello Kitty products are definitely cute and innocent. There seems to be no validity to the rumor that the original design of Hello Kitty was dedicated to a demon and his work. The issues of inappropriate designs on some products, and products that aren’t meant for children, are issues that can and should be addressed by parents with their kids. Personally, I love the wholesome and fun Hello Kitty products (and simply avoid the far smaller number of questionable ones). They make me feel happy for whatever reason someone wants to come up with. Hello Kitty evokes mental associations of real kittens or puppies, of brightly colored and beautiful things like flowers, butterflies, birds, and cakes, and thus makes me feel happily free of cares for a time. I don’t see how there’s any harm in this from a Christian perspective.
For more on Hello Kitty and a Christianity, please see my earlier article, Hello Kitty is satanic and bad for Christians (>^_^<) KIDDING! Thank you!
Sources & Notes
- At 40, Hello Kitty is timeless
- Hoover’s Company Profiles: Sanrio Company, Ltd.
- FAQ: Why Doesn’t Hello Kitty have a Mouth?
- Turns Out ‘Hello Kitty’ Is NOT a Cat and Never Has Been
- A version of the rumor from 2010 can be found at Hello Kitty Devil Worship
- What is This Thing Called Hello Kitty?
- Ks. Slawomir Kostrzewa: “Devils have become fashionable and a great sell” (translated from Polish)
- Snopes.com: KISS, KISS Rock Band is of the Devil