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A cat is a cat. Except when it’s not. Here are just some of the narrative functions of CATS ON FILM. Please note: a cat can – and frequently does – belong to more than one category at a time by performing several narrative functions simultaneously.

CATAGONIST: a cat which is one of the central characters or protagonists in a movie. (The AristocatsThe Incredible JourneyThat Darn Cat!The Cat From Outer Space)

DC helps himself to Tom Lowell’s sandwich in That Darn Cat!

HEROPUSS: a cat which behaves in a heroic manner – chasing off demons, trolls or vampires, and generally saving lives. (Cat’s EyeThe MummySleepwalkersLet the Right One In)

CATZILLA: a badly behaved or downright evil cat which causes embarrassment, destruction, pain or even death. (The UncannyTeam AmericaInfernoLady and the TrampHausuEye of the CatThe Incredible Shrinking ManCats & DogsCats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty GaloreStuart LittlePet SemetaryThe Sentinel)

CATPANION: a cat, usually domestic, which keeps a human character company, and provides them with a pretext to talk out loud when there are no other humans in the vicinity. (The Specialist, Bright StarThe Long GoodbyeLittle WomenBell, Book and Candle)

PUSSILLA: a hybrid of CATPANION and CATZILLA, a feline familiar or companion of a villain, often (but not always) a WHITE CAT OF EVIL. (You Only Live TwiceAustin Powers: International Man of MysteryThe Three Musketeers (1948), Night of the DemonThe Godfather)

CATPERSON: a human who dresses up as a cat or who generally behaves in a catlike manner. (Cat PeopleBatman ReturnsCatwoman)

CATGUFFIN: a pretext for characters to behave in a way that might otherwise be construed as irrational or uncharacteristic, for example go wandering off on their own when there is a monster on the loose. (AlienThe GetawayThe Tomb of Ligeia)

CATSHOCK: a cat which jumps out unexpectedly to provide a cheap scare, something I suspect they do more in horror films or thrillers than in real life. I realise not all cats behave in the same way, but I lived with a cat for 15 years and can’t recall her ever once jumping out at me like that. Dog people or people who are nervous of cats, though, often try to explain their antipathy by claiming, “They jump out at you.” (Alien)

tombofligeia02

“Not ten minutes ago, I tried to kill a stray cat with a cabbage” (The Tomb of Ligeia)

CATAPHOR: a cat which is a symbol, usually of human feelings or emotions. (The Three Lives of ThomasinaBreakfast at Tiffany’sThe LeopardWalk on the Wild Side)

CATSCALLION: the wild card. Cats as jokers, popping up in the most unexpected places for no logical narrative purpose other than to introduce a major human character, provide a surreal non-sequitur or screw around with someone’s brain. (The Third ManThe Man With Two BrainsGoLa peau douce, La nuit AméricaineThe Prestige)

MULTICAT: a multiplicity of cats, all in the same place together. (Six Degrees of SeparationThe Italian JobLet the Right One InHellboyL’Atalante)

CATRIFICE: a cat which is harmed or even killed in the course of a narrative. (ReanimatorA Short Film About KillingGummoBad Boy BubbyDogtoothNovecentoSnakes on a PlaneThe Fly (1958), This Gun for HireBucket of Blood)

A MAJOR CAT MOVIE: a film in which a cat plays an important role, or in which a cat features in more than one memorable scene, or in which cats provide the film with its overall theme, metaphor or punchline, or all these things. Or just because I say so. (The SentinelChacun cherche son chat, Batman Returns)

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21 Responses to Categories

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  21. Renée Camus says:

    This is awesome. Really smart and useful. In fact, this whole site is great! Thank you!

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