“Cats” Is My Sleep Paralysis Demon

By Gigi L.

It has been over two years since the horrific monstrosity known as “Cats” first invaded theaters. It received a not-so-surprising 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the New York Times said it “wasn’t even an epic hairball.” So, in honor of the anniversary, it would be most fitting to discuss what an appalling mess this film is, don’t you think? (As always, spoilers ahead.)

The “Cats” movie is an adaptation of the famous Broadway musical. “Cats” is kind of notorious for being very confusing, so let’s break it down. The musical follows a group of cats called the Jellicle Cats who just hang out in sewers or whatever. Every year, the Jellicle Cats come together to decide who gets to go to the “heaviside layer,” or who gets to be reborn into a new life. The whole musical is just a bunch of songs about the cats leading up to who gets to be chosen. 

Now, “Cats” is a very unique show. This is mainly because, unlike many other classic theater plays, “Cats” does not have a protagonist. Therefore, the traditional musical construct is warped. Allow me to explain. The average musical begins with an establishing song, a song about the setting and sometimes the conflict(s). “Cats” has this. The next song is usually a song that the main character sings. “Cats” does not have this. In theater and musical film, this song that the main character sings is most commonly called the “I Want” song because it is about what the protagonist wants. For example, “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana” or “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.” Villains, on the other hand, have their own special songs. The antagonist typically gets an “I Am” song. This song is not about what they want, just what they are, like “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” from “Little Shop of Horrors” or “Shiny” from “Moana.” It was mentioned twice, so let’s use “Moana” as our example. “How Far I’ll Go” is about how much Moana wants to leave the island and explore the ocean, making it her “I Want” song. This sets up the main conflict of the movie and introduces Moana as the protagonist. “Shiny,” on the other hand, is not about what Tamatoa WANTS, it is only about what he IS. And that is very, very shiny. This is why “Cats” is so different. Since Cats does not have a protagonist, there is no “I Want” song. Instead, the whole musical is basically just two hours of “I Am” songs. Cats singing about other cats…until the end. 

Towards the end of the musical, one of the characters, Grizabella, sings a little tune called “Memory.” For context, Grizabella was once a Jellicle Cat but got the boot for some reason. “Memory” is about how much Grizabella misses the Jellicle Cats and wants to rejoin the club. So, after hours of “I Am” songs, we finally get an “I Want” song. Is Grizabella the hidden protagonist? Not really. This is what makes “Cats” so special, though. It goes against the traditional format of a musical and creates something completely new.

Why do you need to know all of this? It is so you can understand the main problem with the “Cats” movie. They took the musical that is literally famous for not having a protagonist, and guess what they did? They added a protagonist. Not only that, but she is probably the most useless character in the entire movie. 

Say hello to Victoria. Victoria is a cat who just kind of showed up one day and now wants to be a part of the Jellicle Cats. Victoria’s whole spiel is basically: “Oh, you think your life is hard, Grizabella? Well at least you got to be part of the Jellicle Cats for a little while.” This truth is particularly evident in the song “Beautiful Ghosts,” which Victoria sings to Grizabella as she is pouting. The chorus of the song is literally “but at least you have beautiful ghosts,” which says Victoria is more deserving of being a part of the Jellicle Cats because Grizabella already had a chance. Because both of them want to be a part of the Jellicle Cats, you would think this would cause some tension between the two, right? Wrong. At the end of the movie, Victoria literally HELPS Grizabella become a part of the Jellicle Cats again AND go to the heaviside layer. Does this make sense? Absolutely not. Why did they decide to do it? Beats me, bro.

Another thing wrong with creating a protagonist is that Victoria literally does not do anything. At the end of a movie or play, something is supposed to happen to the main character; they are supposed to get something or change in some way, but nothing happens to Victoria. She does not become a Jellicle Cat, and she does not get to go to the heaviside layer. If they wanted a protagonist so badly, why not make it Grizabella? After all, she is the one who gets all the action. SHE gets to be a Jellicle Cat, and SHE gets to go to the heaviside layer.

Movie poster for “Cats,” 2019

One more thing. I know this is a bit off-topic, but it just has to be said. The animation in this movie is absolutely terrifying. I woke up in the middle of the night screaming several times because I had a nightmare that one of these digital rats was going to rip my limbs off.

All in all, “Cats” is just awful. If they had just stuck with the original plot, maybe I wouldn’t be here. Maybe I could spend my Saturday doing something fun instead of writing about dancing furballs. Sorry, but this one’s got to go in the litterbox.