In a sense it should not be surprising that an aesthetic of smallness, helplessness, vulnerability, and deformity might find its prominence checked in the culture industry of a nation so invested in images of its own bigness, virility, health, and strength. Conversely, in post–World War II Japan, an island nation newly conscious of its diminished military and economic power with respect to the United States in particular, the same aesthetic (kawaii) had a comparatively accelerated development and impact on the culture as a whole — not only saturating the Japanese toy market but industrial design, print culture, advertising, fashion, food, and even the automotive industry. There are historical reasons, in other words, for why an aesthetic organized around a small, helpless, or deformed object that foregrounds the violence in its production as such might seem more ideologically meaningful, and therefore more widely prevalent, in the culture of one nation than in that of the other.
From here it is only a short step to see how the formal properties associated with cuteness — smallness, compactness, softness, simplicity, and pliancy — call forth specific affects: helplessness, pitifulness, and even despondency
Realist verisimilitude and precision are excluded in the making of cute objects, which have simple contours and little or no ornamentation or detail.11 The smaller and less formally articulated or more bloblike the object, the cuter it becomes—in part because smallness and blobbishness suggest greater malleability and thus a greater capacity for being handled.
And while the avant-garde is conventionally imagined as sharp and pointy, as hard- or cutting-edge, cute objects have no edge
to speak of, usually being soft, round, and deeply associated with the infantile and the feminine.