As you probably know (if you follow my endless deluge of tweets), I'm a huge fan of the cat. Wild ones, ancient ones, domesticated ones, fictional ones. I named my present puss Jones (see above), I've rescued more than a few strays, and I always (always) tap on the kitten cages at pet stores. Call it a Hellboy Complex if you like, but this cynical, sarcastic wise-ass generally morphs into a child when he crosses paths with a kitty cat. Two is even worse, and if one's a little baby kitten ... forget it. I'm mush. For years I've heard the silly dismissals of cats (they're sneaky, they're cold, etc.) and watched as they became easy victims in movies involving mad scientists, serial killers, and heroic dogs. But no more. The cat is presently the most popular pet on the planet ... things must change! (Rowr!)
Think on this: one of the loudest and stupidest scenes of Independence Day involves us cheering over a DOG ... while thousands of people one block away are being obliterated. Compare that with Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, in which a poor little kitty is ... treated very unkindly. And it never stops: Dogtooth, Re-Animator, The Boondock Saints, Pet Sematary, Let the Right One In, The Collector, Apt Pupil, Gummo, Splice, May, The Last Exorcism ... and more broad comedies than I care to mention. If you're a schmaltzy comedy, cut to an adorable dog tilting its head; but if you're a farce, cut to a sneaky cat getting squashed by a sofa. In a drama, a cat is a pointless prop, an irritant, or an instant symbol of spinsterism.
But cats are freaking awesome, dammit!
So why has the cat become the default villain / punching bag in the grand scheme of moviedom? It's not because they're dumb or ugly or unpleasant ... it's because, for the most part, they refuse to be trained. Cats don't like being forced to do stuff, and dogs ... are pretty cool with it, which is why Lassie is the hero, and Sassy is the scurrilous little feline troublemaker who fell into the paint and ruined the porch. Cats work well if you need a familiar beast with which to shock an audience for a scene or two ... but the dog has the acting talent. Full credit there: dogs are performers, cats are spectators.
Which is just another reason I love the fuzzy little things so much.
Expect more pro-cat film analysis very soon. This rampant felinism must stop.
(Inspired by this very clever article by The Guardian's Anne Billson.)