What on earth did cats ever do to Hollywood directors in a past life? If you could name all the films that feature a cat as a key character, at least ninety-five per cent of whatever you could name more often-than-not tend to feature cats as either one of the baddies, or at least an accomplice to the baddie, just look at how menacing Lucifer from Cinderella looks in the above picture with Lady Tremaine!
Whilst it is true that there are handfuls of film that present kitties as furr-iendlier characters, particularly The Aristocats and Shrek 2, which places cat characters at the forefront of the story and eventually save the day, cats are generally on the side of the baddies, and usually are about as trustworthy as a wallet inspector! In this blog, we at Kitty Café look into the largely unfortunate reputation cats have garnered on the silver screen.
Historically, the cat’s poor reputation on-screen can be traced back to ancient Western superstition, in which cats (particularly black ones) were deemed to bring bad luck to humans. Later, in Medieval Europe, cats became notorious for their apparent association with witches, and were subsequently viewed as demons in disguise. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is arguably the first internationally-known media which features a villainous cat character; Graymalkin, the cat of the three witches.
Cats also have most likely suffered from the much-made-of rivalry between themselves and dogs. Dogs traditionally tend to be placed in heroic roles due to their centuries-long reputation as ‘man’s best friend’. Moreover, dogs have regularly been characterised by various cultures as loyal, protective, faithful and loving. For example, in the Far East, dogs are viewed as kindly protectors. This contrasts to the view that cats are independent, disloyal, cold and uninterested beings (we all know that’s not true here!)
Another notable factor, is the fact many film directors simply happen to prefer dogs to cats, and being stereotypical rivals, have commonly resulted in cats
Tom (Tom and Jerry)
Even from the early stages of television and film going global, cats have been seen as the bad-guys. One of the most iconic examples of the villainous kitty is of course Tom from the Tom and Jerry TV series. One of the most famous on-screen rivalries of all-time almost-always places the main feline character of the show as its most villainous antagonist. Tom stops at no-end to torment and even try to eat Jerry occasionally, whatever the cost (although almost always unsuccessfully).
Sylvester the Cat (Looney Tunes)
Suffering succotash! Sylvester J. Pussycat is very much the Warner Brothers’ equivalent to Tom, but somehow even more incompetent! Sylvester constantly harassed numerous characters within the Looney Tunes universe, most notably poor little Tweety Bird and Speedy Gonzales! His pride is his constant downfall however and his dastardly schemes always eventually blow up in his face (often literally!)
No prizes for guessing who this not-so friendly kitty-cat was named after! We’ve saved the worst 'till last here...A gluttonous, wicked and devious antagonist who is cruel to Cinderella despite her kindness to him, plots to eat the Chateau mice who are her friends, and most sacrilegious of all, gets Bruno (the family’s pet dog) into trouble by pretending he has attacked him, rather than the other way round. Probably not a very good example to use for arguing the case of cats in film!
Paw-sitive fictional cats
Fear not, dear reader, not all cats are irredeemably bad in films! Some filmmakers have made cats heroic characters or even the star of the show!
Puss in Boots (Shrek)
One of Cinema’s most beloved felines! This smooth-talking Tabby (granted, not hard when you’re voiced by Antonio Banderas!) is a match for any Hollywood baddie. An absolute master of manipulation with his impossibly cute stare, even the most hard-hearted of villains could resist, before pouncing on them to save the day! That’s not to say he’s completely infallible though, shine a spotlight in front of him and he’s yours!
The Aristocats cats (The Aristocats)
This classic film remains Hollywood’s greatest celebration of our furry friends, with an endless barrage of jazzy songs about how wonderful it is to be a cat! (don’t pretend you haven’t hummed along to “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat”, we know you have!) These pampered pets go on an adventure back to the heart of Paris with the help of the fabulous Thomas O’Malley. All our heroes are adorable, they sing catchy songs and they even help save the day! We here at Kitty Café approve!