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19 Dec, 2019 12:41

Even outrage about 'whitewashing' animals can't make 'Cats' the movie interesting

Even outrage about 'whitewashing' animals can't make 'Cats' the movie interesting

The Hollywood movie 'Cats' featuring an all-star cast with Taylor Swift, Judi Dench and Idris Elba is being premiered in cinemas around the world and apart from the bad reviews – the claws are out for a social justice cat fight!

Why all the outrage? Anthropomorphism might be one reason – the uncanny way cats were imbued with human traits, emotions, or intentions.

Far from purrfect, the characters with real human noses and freak faces look simply strange. Throw in disturbingly human hands and bizarre feline body proportions and 'Cats' could still be a contender for the creepiest and most disappointing movie of the year.

Filmmaker David Farrier described the trailer as "truly one of the most disgusting unsettling awful things I've watched in a long time."

But let's paws there. Apart from the very real problems of dodgy CGI and nightmare-fuel humanoid animals, 'Cats' the new live action Andrew Lloyd Webber musical movie has deeper social issues – or at least a solid effort has been made to find them in it.

The movie has been accused of character whitewashing. Mixed race principle dancer Francesca Hayward plays Victoria the White Cat and, as she was born in Kenya, this has released an angry woke online cat-astrophy. One Twitter fan expressed their rage at covering up the dancer's heritage; "You wouldn't know the black lead was black unless you knew her already!"

The actress herself didn't seem to feel oppressed, though: "Obviously I would never have agreed to be a part of something that would change the colour of my skin had I been playing a human," she said. "The bottom line is, I'm playing a cat. There is no more discussion. I am a cat that's white, let's not read into it."

It's not so simple in a woke world that believes it's important that only black performers should be cast as the animals in 'Lion King' (who are not even anthropomorphic). Should, then, cat fur colour not be equivalent to human skin colour?

Those with common sense, of course, think that it shouldn't even matter.

But as ubiquitous BAME (black, asian, minority ethnic) casting briefs now are – from genies, who are not real creatures, to that musical about black Alexander Hamilton, who historically was white, it's a social squabble when it comes to blind colour casting in the entertainment world. Or are we all just being catty?

Race and visual issues aside, the film has now been declared a "must see" for the wrong reasons, and as it opens this week and the reviews are out, 'Cats' on the silver screen has joined the list of "bad films" that cinema (and musical) lovers should not miss.

I say wait till next year and try to find the DVD from your local cat rescue charity shop.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.