In the thirty-third episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher Olson (Seems Obvious to Me) and I welcome friend of the podcast Norma Jones to discuss the venerable pop culture brand that is Hello Kitty.

In this episode, Norma and I position Hello Kitty not only as a pop icon but as a heroic figure. In their discussion on how Hello Kitty represents female empowerment from an Asian perspective, they consider how the Japanese concepts of omoiyari and kawaii make the figure a source of identification and inspiration for people around the world. Hello Kitty represents an example of how to be with other people, and her example is very desirable in today’s contentious world.

I am really interested in this concept of omoiyari and how it could shape communication practices. In researching for this episode, I found that it is a Japanese concept on a way of thinking about and acting towards others. Kazuya Hara (Meikai University, 2006, Intercultural Communication Studies) defines omoiyari as “an individual’s sensitivity to imagine another’s feelings and personal affairs, including his or her circumstances.”

According to Hara, this concept is taught in Japanese schools as a “guiding principle to communicate with others” because it influences both intrapersonal communication (how one thinks and feels) and interpersonal communication (how one interacts with others). It is a form of social intelligence, to consciously consider another’s perspectives without judgment, where differences accepted without labeling right/wrong, true/false. There is an idea of acting towards others with a focus on interdependence and awareness of each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and working together to achieve positive change by perspective-taking. All of this helps me think about advice I can give for dealing problems in communicating, such as fractured fandom experiences.

The music at the end samples Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” from 2013, which is a rocking tune, if this old lady can say so.

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