Get in, loser, we’re going to the Heaviside Layer
In which I implore you to stop worrying and love the uncanny valley.
|Louis Peitzman||Jul 19, 2019|| 14||2|
Oh, are you tired of talking about the Cats trailer? Are you tired of seeing Dame Judi Dench covered in hair? Are you tired of trying to parse the phrase “digital fur technology” and how whatever it means doesn’t feel like much of an advance from what they did to Whoopi Goldberg in the 1999 TV movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland? Tough shit. We were promised a life-altering experience, and we were gifted a trailer that completely uprooted our sense of self and our perception of movie musicals, CGI, and cats as a species. The world is a fucking ceaseless parade of horrors. Can we just take a moment to enjoy gathering together in awe and horror at the decision to give humanoid cats boobs that make them look like the furry-inspired fantasy of Catwoman becoming an actual cat on Batman: The Animated Series?
We are going to keep talking about Cats now and forever, because jellicles can and jellicles do, you humorless ghouls. (Congratulations, that song is now in your head until the end of time, at which point we will still be discussing the choice to give the felines in the Cats movie human hands and feet, a nightmare-inducing contrast we have only begun to analyze the implications of.) Cats — the musical and now the film — is one of those pieces of art that I can never quite get a handle on when it comes to my own interest. Am I being ironic or sincere? The answer is yes. It’s not about whether or not you love or even like Cats. It’s about the fact that this was ever a thing, and that it endured for so fucking long, and then it was revived, and now there is a movie. The man who gave us “The Waste Land” wrote a book of poems about cats, and now Sir Ian McKellen has whiskers. We simply can’t talk about anything else. I will show you fear in a handful of kitty litter.
I know this is a big ask, but try to think of life before the Cats trailer. The world of Cats has always been dark and fascinating. There is so much joyful and haunting minutiae to uncover. Remember when Andrew Lloyd Webber went on American Idol and tried to explain what a “glamour puss” was to Jason Castro? I can’t find a clip online, so you’ll have to just trust me that this happened. (You can also watch Jason Castro’s performance of “Memory,” though I can’t in good conscience recommend that you do that.) Remember when ALW publicly feuded with Nicole Scherzinger because she had the audacity to not do Cats on Broadway? (I’m still sad we were robbed of her “Memory,” as she is one of the all-time greatest interpreters of ALW’s music. Watch her “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” if you think I’m kidding.) Remember when a woman sued Rum Tum Tugger for gyrating his pelvis at her too aggressively? I mean, my god.
Which brings us to the movie, unequivocally the cinematic event of 2019. (Yes, it comes out the very same day as the concluding Star Wars Episode IX, and I stand by my assessment.) I have many questions after watching the trailer. Did no one think it would look odd to have the cats be cat-sized but also look mostly human? The scale is troubling, to say the least. They mostly just look like tiny furry people, which is… terrifying. Why are some of the cats wearing fur coats? It’s not quite cannibalism, but it makes me feel the same way I did when I once saw a pigeon pecking at fried chicken. (New York City, baby!) Why would you give us so much of Jennifer Hudson’s “Memory,” which is the entire selling point of Cats? Why does the tagline insist that I will believe when I have believed in cats for as long as I can remember? Why am I always so attracted to Munkustrap? (The answer, in this case, is Robbie Fairchild, but my Munkustrap lust is, sad to say, consistent.)
I am excited that I am only five months away from having these questions answered! (Fact check: none of these questions will be answered.) And while I know there are a lot of Cats takes out there already, I am having the time of my life with millennials online. Cats Twitter is a blast, you haters. Cats Twitter is a stirring reminder that we can still have fun losing our collective minds over the 2019 interpretation of an idea that was out there even in the coke-addled ‘80s. I am not asking you to embrace Cats — cats famously hate that — but I’m suggesting you at least give in to the madness and find some magic in it. That doesn’t mean forgetting that shit is really fucking bad out there: it just means stepping back and allowing this messy, ridiculous, uncanny valley-steeped extravaganza to spark joy in your otherwise hardened heart. Cats has gleefully broken my brain, and honestly, that’s more than I dared hope for. I, for one, welcome our new digital fur overlords.