All this talk about eyes and cuteness has got me thinking about the attraction of cuteness – or “kawaii” as it is called in Japan where it has become such a huge phenomenon. I have been doing a little reading and web browsing and have come up with some interesting articles around the topic:

How Hello Kitty Came to Rule the World by Edward Gomez in the SFGate July 14, 2004. Gomez looks at the product, the marketing and the culture that surrounds Sanrino Company’s biggest icon and the original kawaii character. “women became servants to their salarymen husbands who brought home the bacon but rarely saw their kids. Stuck in new, remote bedroom communities [outside big cities], women wanted comfort, and Hello Kitty, with her soft features and homespun story, was just the kind of nurturing creature to help them escape the hostile, industrialized urban world.”

Wired Magazine’s article Cute Inc from issue 7.12 1999.
“Tarepanda (“droopy panda”), a genderless sandbag of a bear so weak that it cannot walk, but has to roll slowly from place to place (at 2.75 meters per hour, according to company literature). ‘At first we worried because it doesn’t look like it’s alive,’ Suemasa recalls. ‘But this turned out to be one of the elements that made it sell.'”

Cute by Kitty Hauser from the London Review of Books, April 2004. “Cute culture has thrown Richie and other writers off track because it doesn’t conform to what the baby boomer generation expects of youth culture. Cute is not rebellious – at least not in any obvious way. It isn’t cool. It doesn’t seem to be about sex. It doesn’t want to overthrow capitalism – cute is hooked on brand-names. It is cosy, not angry.”

The Cute and The Anti-cute
, Daniel Harris (author of Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism) Harper’s July 1993. Worth reading – interesting if not brief (it’s an extract) and cynical look at the aesthetics of cuteness.
“Cuteness is not an aesthetic in the ordinary sense of the word and must not be mistaken for the physically appealing, the attractive. In fact, it is closely linked to the grotesque, the malformed. The grotesque is cute because the grotesque is pitiable, and pity is the primary emotion of this seductive and manipulative aesthetic, which arouses our sympathies by creating anatomical pariahs, like E.T. or the Cabbage Patch Kids.”

More stuff on cute: Cute Formalism, All things Kawii, and a very brief thing on “babyfaceness” with some of the key facial features.