Between Hello Kitty, anthropomorphized Disney candlesticks, and the prevalence of doe-eyed sticker-comments on Facebook, it’s safe to say that cuteness has permeated everything. But what makes something “cute,” and how might there be something disquieting going on beneath all the sugar and spice and everything nice? The philosopher Simon May has spent a lot of time thinking about what cuteness has to tell us about the shifting boundaries between ourselves and the outside world, and how it plays with the dichotomies of gender, age, morality, species, and even power itself. After all, cute is adorable, and kind of harmless—but for all that, it’s also a little bit unnerving. This episode originally aired in 2019.
Go beyond the episode:
- Simon May’s The Power of Cute
- The sweet and sinister art of Yashimoto Nara
- Art historian Elizabeth Legge wrote about Jeff Koons’s Baloon Dog and the Cute Sublime in her paper “When Awe Turns to Awww …”
- And here is an entire book on Hello Kitty: Christine R. Yano’s Pink Globalization
- For a primer on cute scientific research, see Natalie Angier’s article “The Cute Factor”
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