Monday, September 1, 2014

Hello Kitty and control of the creator

So there was a bit of a modest Internet hub bub last week when the people at Sanrio announced that Hello Kitty, that cute little cat that seems like it's been everywhere for the last 40 years or so, is not actually a cat at all. She's a little girl names Kitty White. She lives in London. She has parents. She even has a cat of her own. This is all from the people at Sanrio.

People were jumping at the chance to write the punniest headlines for this story. Others were claiming childhoods were ruined. Minds were blown. They didn't know what to do now that this creature that they'd known as a cat was actually not a cat at all.

My second favorite thing I read about everything Hello Kitty was this article in The New Yorker. It's a send up of my very favorite thing I read about Hello Kitty. It's this explanation of what she is from a university professor.

Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.

Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist at the University of Hawaii and Harvard, quoted in the Los Angeles Times on August 26th

 I love that statement for it's matter-of-factness. "Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character." Yeah, Christine. No kidding.

No, she's not a cat in the strictest sense. But she is an anthropomorphic cat. She has some human features, like walking upright. I don't think there's anyone out there who was confused by this. She's like Goofy or Mickey or Donald.

So, say what you want, Sanrio. Hello Kitty is a cat, and there's not much you can do to make it otherwise.

This did bring up a question I have, and the seven paragraphs up to this point have all just been lead up to this. But when does a creator lose absolute control of his or her creation?

When does a creator lose control of a creation?
All of this Kitty stink reminded me of Star Wars. We all know that it went supernova when it was
released in the 1970s. There was the merchandising -- the toys, the bed sheets, the Underoos. Then there were the novels. They took the original stories and created an expanded universe. New characters. New adventures. New history for future movies to be based on.

Except when the new movies were announced, starting with the seventh, creators had to go back to the expanded universe and determine what was and wasn't going to be canon. There were whole parts that were left out. It's like they were saying that those elements didn't actually happen for the purposes of continuity. Those events were girls, not kittens.

So, here's my question again. And I want to clarify that I know, in the end, a creator has the ultimate control of his or her creation. What that person wants to do with it or say about it, they can. I just wonder is there a point of no return with something that becomes popular. Does the creator lose some bit of control because there are so many people who love what they've created? Does that crowd of fans have some sway? Do their expectations/should their expectations of what will/should happen have any influence on the creator and the next steps forward?

I'd love to hear what you think.

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