Thursday, June 15, 2006


Some modern cultures are struggling with movie star childcare practices and bizarre political realities; other cultures couldn't care less, as long as they own the name of the cheese.

Japan too is embroiled in a cultural life and death struggle, as usual uniquely its own, at understanding the deep and growing hunger among the young and not so young, male and female alike, for... for... cuteness, something cute, anything, any old cute thing, even grotesquely cute, just find it, make it up if you have to, but fast, bring it here, popularize it quick, hurry up we're running out -- ahhh: that's cute.

And now it seems the nation itself is beginning to look analytically at the phenomenon.

It's always nice to be prescient. I did a little ramble about 20 years ago on a certain aspect of Japan I found even in its early stages to be somewhat pathological in its intensity:

“This terminal cuteness, that is eating at the vitals of the country, sapping its very lifeblood, is nothing like the vacant Western cuteness of anguished clowns painted on velvet, or weeping ragamuffins with stylized cowlicks and eyes as big as dinner plates; it is even more relentless than the corrosive kitschy cuteness that is burying mad collectors in matching salt and pepper shakers; it supersedes the Disney cuteness of sexless animals yearning for their mothers, it is cute with a big C, a big U, a big T, a big E, in bold and throbbing hi-glo pink neon letters underlined in red and gold, with heart-shaped fireworks going off behind it and a background medley of the cutest melodies of the decade...”

Since then it's been getting relentlessly cuter around here...


Anonymous said...

Hello Kitty! Oh, Gawd, not Hello Kitty!

samcandide said...

Yes well someone in the world has to keep up the Cuteness Appreciation Quotient. May as well be Japan.

(Back when I was editing game guides I had to memorize the spellings of hundreds of Pokemons ...)

Robert Brady said...

Treacly horrors...!

Eric Pyle said...

I saw a Todai professor interviewed on TV a while back who said that cuteness gives Japan the ability to compete with America in the cultural export business. He said that for years America had dominated the field by exporting the idea of freedom all over the world, but that now Japan has a comparable product: cuteness.

Whatever you think of America's success or failure in exporting freedom, this was perhaps the saddest dumbest thing I had ever heard on the TV.

Cuteness is as important as freedom? Both of them are merely products for capitalist gain? This was stated on TV with a straight face? It was stated by a real Todai professor?

And in local cuteness news: the Hiroshima Art Museum has entered the cute arena by adopting an "image character" named Gogh-kun. It is a cartoonized version of Vincent van Gogh, true tortured genius. They have a big-headed Gogh-kun suit (like a sports team mascot) who prances around at opening parties, and they stick Gogh-kun decals on the walls of the exhibition spaces. In a way, I suppose this is actually effective, because it would inspire in all true artists the desire to emulate the real van Gogh: by committing suicide.

Robert Brady said...

Poor Vincent. Poor art. Warhol saw it coming. Gogh-kun: right down to the ragged clothing, emaciation, missing ear, absinthe delirium and fatal gunshot wound?