Monday, January 05, 2015

Hello Kitty Magic

We were looking for something special to do in LA that would give our girl a break from the challenges of Dementiaville (aka helping take care of grandma).

Of course our girl Sweet M would always go for Disneyland. But the Magic Kingdom with holiday crowds and a new and not-so-great disability access program didn't sound too magical to me.

Where would we find our magic? Turns out it was at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo where the current show is Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. Our girl was watching the evening news one night and heard about the exhibition, told me about it, and we got organized to go. I'm so glad we did.

Gown for Lady Gaga made from
Hello Kitty plush toys.
Sweet M was enchanted — she was in what I can only call an aesthetic rapture. Part way through the exhibition she was just exploding with joy: "It's just *so* beautiful!" she exclaimed. If an anesthetic is supposed to make you feel nothing, an aesthetic should make you feel something. And feeling she was: just thrilled at the scope and scale of the Hello! exhibition — at the massive, fantastic kawaii cuteness of it all.

As we turned the corner into the second to last room of the exhibition, slipping passed the gown for Lady Gaga made of Hello Kitty plush toys, I came upon signage that read:
One of Mr. Tsuji's* passions has always been products that foster "social communication." Thus the "hello" of Hello Kitty carries the meaning of reaching out in friendship. Sanrio's early goods focused on the means of communication— such as stationery, pens, and erasers — each with the cheery visage of Hello Kitty. . . . 
And then, on the very next wall:
For some Western critics, Hello Kitty's mouthlessness symbolized powerlessness.
But Japanese people understand things differently. They assume Hello Kitty's design to be an abstraction. A typical Japanese comment: "Hello Kitty has no mouth? I never noticed."
I had never noticed either, so it's not just a Japanese thing. No mouth! And social communication as the emphasis of the earliest product lines . . .  How perfect is it that the Kitty is one of the characters my communication-challenged girl loves most?

And the fact that there was a dress worn by Lady Gaga in the show made this outing even cool enough for her to talk about today, the first day back to school. As you may know from earlier posts here, finding a way to love what she loves and still be cool isn't the easiest thing for this seventeen-year-old Kitty fan. But Hello Kitty works some magic, making her developmentally atypical tastes a moment of cool.

Thank you Kitty-creator Mr. Shintaro Tsuji and exhibition curators Christine Yano and Jamie Rivadeneira! You've made one autie-Kitty-lover and her mom ever so happy.

* Mr. Tsuji is Hello Kitty's creator and the CEO of Sanrio that markets the Kitty's product line.


audball said...

Fantastic that you found something for Sweet M! I always find it interesting how we, in the US, try to see things through our own cultural lens. Hello Kitty seems pretty empowered to me! She has lots of friends, enjoys plenty of activities, and seems pretty creative :) Sometimes a cute kitty is just that: a cute kitty!

Autism's Edges said...

Hi Audball! So happy to hear from you! It has been a quiet year at the blog, but a busy year elsewhere - dealing with my mother's care, the battles with the construction sites, and so much else. And this year it will be transition planning for our girl since she'll graduate from high school next year. Hard to believe that she's 17. Amazing all that happens in ten years, and yet how fast it flies by! Happy new year! -MV

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Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that I stopped by and that I still enjoy your once/twice a year posts. I always learn something.

Signed, Talmud-quoting anonymous from Ohio & Mom of a 17 yo young man on the spectrum