Totes Adorbs

A philosopher digs into the subversive meaning of “cuteness”

A stylized pink-and-white cat toy waves hello
Courtesy Princeton University Press

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.

Go beyond the episode:


Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.

SubscribeiTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast

Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)

Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up