Hello, 2020! The New Year has arrived. What new projects are you planning? Now, I know you can start new ventures at any time during the year. In fact, I hope you do. But the start of a new year is great for drumming up motivation to renew and change with the calendar. In that spirit, I’ve got a couple of news items!
- The next Quarterly Bestiary is also just around the corner, so I’m inviting beast suggestions again! I plan to open up a space for suggestions before every Quarterly Bestiary post, though I will also consider suggestions made throughout the year. If you don’t want your suggestion to be public, please check out the new Contact page I’ve added!
- I’m getting ready to roll out a new reblog feature on Illuminating the Fool’s Mirror, and it’s a double deal! Rather than sharing one post from another blog examining both mythology and media, I want bring together one post from media blog and one from a mythology blog, connected in some way. I’ve got my first pair of reblogs set and you’ll see them around the Lunar New Year, but I’m still pondering the name. Want to help out? I’ve got a poll running on my Twitter account and I’ll ask for your vote in comments here. Which of the names below do you like? Maybe you just don’t like one, or maybe you’ve got a brilliant idea of your own. Share and be heard!
♦Red Thread Reblog
♦The Reblog Connection
Response to Cats 2019
I sort of promised I’d post my thoughts on the new Cats movie, so I finally took a look. It wasn’t horrible. The opening and closing numbers felt true to the spirit of Cats, and the new song “Beautiful Ghosts” was stunning in dialogue with the classic “Memory.” However, the portrayal of Bustaphor Jones and Jennyanydots, the two plus-sized cats in the cast, felt more like ridicule than fun. I think they were trying to make Macavity more frightening and more complex, but instead he came off as a cartoony villain who couldn’t even do most of his own work (“Make her walk the plank, Growltiger!”).1 I am impressed that they managed to have Growltiger without the racism in his full-length song, although the predictable result was that he barely had a song or a role.
And what about the new Grizabella? Well, Jennifer Hudson definitely made an intense Grizabella. The raw sorrow and rage in her rendition of “Memory” perfectly fit this interpretation of the character. Unfortunately, that was the problem. It almost seemed like this film used the “fallen woman” trope I mentioned in my last post as the basis for this Grizabella. True, her “shadowy sins”2 were not prostitution but the fact she “went with Macavity,”3 but it still made her look like a victim who had to beg for forgiveness. She didn’t even dare to approach Old Deutaronomy herself but had to be coaxed by Victoria.
That whole scene twists the admirable choice to include more people of color in prominent roles into an accidental (I hope) PC fiasco. Macavity and Grizabella are both noticeably dark cats played by black actors. Francesca Hayward is actually biracial, but she’s CGI-ed into Victoria, the whitest cat in the cast. Seriously, why not use the more usual and colorful Sillabub/Jamima? Anyway, Victoria leading Grizabella to pale Deutaronomy’s redemption and away from her dark Macavity past sounds an awful lot like something Gayatri Spivak said about colonizers believing they must save “brown women from brown men.”4 I was also reminded of the “white savior” trope criticized in films like The Blind Side.5 I know Victoria’s savior role is because she is the audience proxy for the film, but I wish they’d either stuck with the community focus of the stage production or maybe finally put Grizabella front and center. Her outside-looking-in perspective and literal glimpses of her memories could have fleshed out scenes and characters in a way that would only work in film. Well, perhaps when a new day comes.
- Cats, directed by Tom Hooper, Heartfordshire: Working Title Films, 2019.
- Lowerre, Kathryn, “Fallen Woman Redeemed: Eliot, Victorianism, and Opera in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats,” Journal of Musicology Research 23 (2004): 289-314. Academic Search Premier, 297.
- Cats, 2019.
- Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” from A Critique of Postcolonial Reason.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent B. Leitch and Peter Simon, 2193-2208. New York: W. W. Norton & Co Inc, 2001. 2204.
- Rebekah, “Top 5 Most Cringeworthy White Savior Films,” OnlyBlackGirl, posted May 15, 2018, accessed Jan. 2, 2020, https://www.onlyblackgirl.com/blog/top-5-white-savior-films.