Jay Talking

Excuse me, are you a cat?

-- ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE
-- ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE

Look closely and you will discover that many characters are not what they appear to be

It was an online revelation that caused everyone to momentarily pause and exclaim a collective "WHAT?"

And what followed was widespread chaos and confusion unheard of online since maybe five or six days ago.

Some were in despair, others began to question the meaning of life and the very authenticity of the reality we think we live in.

Thousands more simply refused to believe what they read, assuming there must have been some misunderstanding.

But the Los Angeles Times story left little wiggle room.

It said: "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."

In many ways, the shock that greeted this revelation should not have been that big a surprise.

After all, the adoring public - many of whom have shown their devotion by queuing for hours outside McDonald's here in Singapore - had many reasons to believe Hello Kitty was of feline origin.

She looks like a cat, has the word "Kitty" in her name and is only roughly five apples tall and weighs about the same as three apples.

(Note: I did not come up with these units of measurement myself. Sanrio's official website is the one providing these apple-based vital statistics. I think this is a good idea though. We should seriously consider rationalising all our measurements using the apple standard.)

And as if all this wasn't bad enough, in the days since, Sanrio executives have been contradicting themselves every time someone asks if they are sure Hello Kitty is not a cat.

At first, one executive said: "Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It's going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat."

Then just last Thursday, Sanrio president Shintaro Tsuji was quoted as saying: "Hello Kitty is not a cat. If Hello Kitty is a cat, then Mickey is a mouse.

"It's funny saying it, but the reason is because both Kitty and Mickey are idols. If you say mouse or cat, then that rationale cannot be understood."

Confused yet?

For me, all the follow-up explanations are clearly a desperate public relations rescue effort to respond to outrage over the first non-cat revelation.

It is very clear to me that Hello Kitty is not a cat and Mickey Mouse is not a mouse.

In fact, easily 70 to 80 per cent of all the characters you know are not what they initially appear to be.

You would realise this only if you stop to consider the evidence.

1. Singa the Courtesy Lion is not a lion.

He's a man, a lonely man. He's a friend. He cares about courtesy. He once resigned in a huff because Singaporeans weren't courteous to one another.

This is not typical lion behaviour. A lion does not care about courtesy. A lion does not ask the gazelle politely if he may pounce on him and eat him.

A lion could not survive in Singapore as he is unable to eat char kway teow.

Singa wears pants. And sometimes, maybe when he is feeling hot, he doesn't wear pants.

He's never depicted on all fours. He walks and sits like a two-legged creature. At least, we think he does.

Most of the time, he is just standing there with his arms outstretched as if waiting for a hug that never comes.

A real lion doesn't hug.

2. Water Wally is not a water droplet.

He's a man. He is also someone you might not want to trust around children.

Remember that music video a few years ago where he was spying on a little boy showering? Real water droplets do not spy. If they did, we would all be in trouble.

He also walks and sits like a two-legged creature, rather than an amorphous liquid that should simply take the shape of its container.

He sometimes appears in balloon form. Yup, a supposed water droplet that is made up mainly of air, that's believable.

He supports the idea of Newater. There is no way a real water droplet will support the idea of Newater.

3. Sharity the Elephant is not an elephant.

He must also be a boy because the backstory on Community Chest's website is unconvincing.

It says: "Once upon a time, there was a little pink elephant called Sharity. He was kind and loving.

"But Sharity was very unhappy as he was often bullied by his peers because he was the only pink elephant.

"His parents took him away in search of a new home. They managed to find Sharityland, a land of caring and sharing, where Sharity was accepted by everyone there.

"Whenever Sharity was happy, his heart grew and lifted him high into the blue sky."

I am not making this up.

4. The Merlion is not a Merlion.

There is no such thing as a Merlion.

jeremyau@sph.com.sg