Cats is running away. It’s January 2020, and nothing can save Cats. The $100 million budget has barely kept the A-list littered cast in theaters for three weeks. Even now, showings have been pushed to twice a night at theaters increasingly more distal from each other. I saw the film buzzed at midnight on 12 ounces of gas station coffee at the same gigantic cinema I trawled as a child. The tan cinderblock and neon fortress pretended that it would protect me as I hovered beneath an awning, chugging a medium drip. There was art to be seen, and to be seen immediately, and to be seen immediately as caffeinated as possible. There was pandemonium behind Cats, and I had waitlisted the release for far too long. Entering the cinema as anxious as possible, I hoped to find repose in finally experiencing what had been heralded the nightmare that emptied hell.
I left the theater at 2 in the morning with an insatiable void for answers. I found many on the internet. I read Facebook post after op-ed, digging relentlessly for anything that could help me explain my feelings about the movie. What had just happened?
There was one point in which Tom Nicholson quotes H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulu in his piece for the Esquire:
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
Sure enough, I found yet another Call of Cthulu quote in a separate Facebook post by Evan Valentine. Valentine quotes Lovecraft in an epigraph, saying “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” Further writing “the cats themselves were not meant for the world of man,” Valentine reads Cats as a litmus to gauge our ability to grasp reality.
I joined in on the terror-based merriment- Cats is bad and the internet made it so. Nicholson tells us that Cats is a conduit into the tumult of truth or respite of darkness. Cats is the long-form CGI-laden Dear John letter siphoning society from truth and brevity. It wasn’t the 2016 election, police brutality, the prison-industrial complex, food desserts, white saviorship, infant mortality, debtor’s prisons, the Australian wildfires, big money in politics, or the Climate Crisis that rips us from each other. It was the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats.
To the internet, not even switching to metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes can save us now. “To think of the money wasted in creating this monstrosity is to wonder if we really deserve nice things at all, or if hell is empty, and all the Jellicle cats are here” writes Hannah Woodhead for Little White Lies. For Woodhead and countless others attempting to reconcile Cats, we are in a train car suctioned by gravity into the deep end of late-stage capitalism. I mean, Judy Dench breaks the fourth wall. Society is done for.
Through the bravado of the Cats apocalypse, I began noticing the severity of our cultural tumult. I needed to calm down.
To garner some expertise on the subject, I sat down with former President of Her Campus at SLU and former theater kid, MaryCait Dolan. She loves Cats. Opening with “Cats is weird as hell, and it’s not supposed to be anything other than that,” Dolan adores the chaos and theatrics of the musical and recent film. For Dolan, Cats is a masterpiece and historical storytelling in its purest form. It’s supposed to be a mess, and maybe the film adaptation of it is just a meta-aware existentialist dance party clotheslined into one of the most hectic and uncertain decades any of us have ever entreéd.
James Corden leaps into a trash can and celebrates eating feces via song. Idris Elba wears 8 layers of furs and kidnaps Judy Dench. Jennifer Hudson cries the entire time. Mice have human faces. Cockroaches have human faces. Everyone is singing and everything is CGI. I paid money to sit and watch it for the two-hour runtime. Because of me, Cats lost $71 million instead of 12 dollars more than that.
Cats is humbling, and the widespread panic even more so. Cats brings us together. Maybe we can take a step back and calm down a little. We decide if Cats is a big deal or not.