Episode 322: Hello Kitty: The Horrible Sanrio Dystopia

The Overthinkers tackle Sin City 2’s box office flop, the taxonomy of Hello Kitty, and the appeal of watching live video game streaming on Twitch TV.

Pete Fenzel and Mark Lee overthink Sin City 2’s box office flop, the taxonomy of Hello Kitty, and the appeal of watching live video game streaming on Twitch TV.


→ Download Episode 322 (MP3)

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10 Comments on “Episode 322: Hello Kitty: The Horrible Sanrio Dystopia”

  1. Cell Machine #

    I feel like I just went to a Philosophy meets Pop Culture class. Thank you for Overthinking the Epistemology of Hello Kitty for me. :)


  2. Redem #

    I am reminded of the Robot chicken skit from a several years ago” Straight From Hello Kitty’s Mouth ” who had the subtitle “Hello Kitty is adorable and cute, but she’s still a cat.”



  3. JosieFM #

    Okay so Fenzel probably only pulled it out to go with the cat theme, he mentioned the Josie & The Pussycats movie as being on the “did worse than Sin City:A Dame To Kill For” list and guys. GUYS. We need to talk about the Josie and the Pussycats movie. And I’m not just saying this because it’s my name.

    So I don’t know who else saw or remembers this movie, but it’s actually a pretty bizarre satire of late-90s MTV and the era of CDs selling in the tens of millions. The plot is about corporations literally brainwashing teenagers to make them chase trends and buy crap they don’t even want. Every single surface packed with logos and product placement to the point of absurdity, as a way of indicating that this is actually a horrific corporate dystopia. According to this movie, every tragic early celebrity death was actually an assassination to protect the conspiracy. It’s basically a movie that seethes with resentment at its whole reason for existing. Of course it wasn’t successful, it’s pretty weird and contradictory for what is otherwise a formulaic teen-oriented musical comedy. The things that make it work at all are the over-the-top performances of Alan Cumming and Parker Posey as ridiculous evil record executives, and the hilarious parody boy band played by Seth Green, Brecken Meyer, Donald Faison and one other guy.

    I know all of this because it was a favorite of my sister’s when she was in middle school, so I’ve watched it many many times on DVD, and our family still quotes it frequently. But seriously, this is a movie that is splendedly overthinkable.


    • Connor Moran #

      I literally also came to this here comment section to say how much Josie and the Pussycats needs some OTI treatment. For one thing, the movie is an overlooked and criminally underrated gem–it’s just flat-out entertaining on a surface level with great acting from Parker Posie and Alan Cumming and pretty catchy music. But as you say it is also a brilliant send-up of its era in popular culture. I would argue that it is to mass consumer media what the Verhoeven Starship Troopers is to militarism.

      In short, it’s jerkin’.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        I saw this movie back when it was available for rent in video stores — I quite enjoyed it, and the descriptions are bringing parts of it back. Maybe it’s worth a rewatch!


  4. Emily #

    Wow, great podcast, and one that really got me thinking, which probably means a very long comment, I apologize in advance. While I believe that authorial intent is more or less irrelevant, the culture is not necessarily a largo homogeneous blob. While coporation don’t really shape and change culture, rather cater to culture, I believe the intent of the corporation does actually matter. While the author may create the work there role was largely in the past, but the corporation continues the work, and operates in the future/present.

    Something that this discussion reminded me of was manga/anime series Sailor Moon. In the original manga there were a couple of fairly important gay characters, when this was turned into an anime, some more background characters were developed and became gay. The creator of manga, and thus the creator of Sailor Moon later stated that this was never her intent. However when the anime was licensed to be dubbed and broadcast in america (and other countries) the show was re-scripted and re-edited rather clunkily to remove any hint of gay relationships.

    This created some obvious problems and tensions when fans of the american anime went online and found out about the orginal sexulities in the Japanesse version. This created general resentment among fans of the american version, and the loss of revenue associated, yet, if the dubbed version had kept the orgianl sexultiaies this might have been offesive to some people, and caused the same loss of revenue. Today (sadly this only happen in the early 00’s) this would only happen more quickly and on a much larger scale.

    This raises the obvious questions; a) should a company (Sanrio) change the product (Hello Kitty) to better fit the cultural context of the times, and b) how do you manage different cultural contexts in many different markets, given the internet and how connected the world is.

    Hello Kitty was created in an extremely different cultural context than exists today, in fact the reason she is british, is that 70’s Japan was infatuated with the british, and being british represented the cute friendly image that Hello Kitty is associated with today. Today for many people British does not hold the same connotation, in fact for many americans Japanese culture probably holds a similar cultural connotation that British culture once held for Japan. Should Sanrio change the backstory, for certain parts of the world? Should they choose their biggest market and cater to them? Or in today’s example what should Sanrio do if say the majority of Asian countries wanted Hello Kitty to be a girl, but the majority of western countries wanted Hello Kitty to be a cat.?

    We’ve seen hollywood increasingly struggle with attempting to appease a global audience, and usually the result is a very bland movie. There are also tons of examples were big corporations trying to separate out marketing in a country level flops. (ie the Australian TMNT movie poster)
    I have no idea what the answer is, but I think that while corporations have to walk a very fine line of catering to both the wider global community, and the smaller country/region level, and today these can still be very different things.


  5. Connor Moran #

    Not sure if this was intentional so I want to give props if it was or point out a coincidence if it wasn’t. When you discuss the idea of pointless sequels, the example you pick is Robocop II. Robocop II is noteworthy for being Frank Miller’s first project as a screenwriter.

    (Also the film that solidified Ivin Kershner’s claim to being the world’s greatest director of science fiction sequels.)


  6. Crystal #

    My sister and I were in love with the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. It has two songs by the fake boy band Du Jour (Of the Day–so clever already!). One of them backdoor lover–totally went over the heads of our preteen selves. It’s about anal sex, people!

    The soundtrack was amazing and catchy and totally indistinguishable from actual pop music.

    A side note– I was terrified to listen to this podcast because of the Sin City mention. Such a horribly sexist movie. You might as well call it Sin City: The Patriarchy–where men are either white nights or rapists/serial killers and women are virgins and whores. Also boobies!!! Seriously, the movie actually has this line: “She’s a dyke but god knows why. With that body of hers she could have any man she wants.”

    What is the point of making such a movie? Or a sequel to it (besides $$$–not a valid artistic reason IMO).


  7. cat #

    As someone who watched several of the princess fairytale episodes of Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater, I’m going to weigh in and say Hello Kitty is definitely in the Goofy position of the matrix. She does talk. Also, as someone who has a vague recollection of buying Sanrio products and possibly playing a computer game, I can say that they are very consistent about the brand. Any fan would know her back story. I think I’ve purchased wallets and diaries that provide the details of her bio.

    Oh, and as a Cat, I’d like to just point out that Kitty can be a given name.


  8. pinoy #

    I am outraged. Boycott Sanrio!


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