A History of Pop Culture's Obsession with Human/Cat Hybrids

It's kind of surprising that in the year since Avatar appeared, the cultural aftershock has been "EVERY MOVIE MUST BE IN 3D NOW" instead of, "WE NEED MORE MOVIES STARRING HUMAN/CAT HYBRIDS!"

After all, mankind has been obsessed with the idea of combining humans and cats into a new fictional creature for as long as written records exist. Look at the old Egyptian gods and goddesses:

The Goddess Bastet, seen here in a housewife's dress,
about to club a burglar with one of the figurines from the mantel.

This obsession seems to be based on the assumption that cats are adorable and graceful, but not very useful, while humans are versatile and intelligent, but not very cute. So if you combine the two, you get ... the best of both worlds, I guess?

That might be the theory, but over and over again what we find instead are creations far creepier and/or ridiculous than what either species is on its own. Just look at ...

#5. The Cast of Cats

For those of you unfamiliar with Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats, it ran for 18 years on Broadway in the 80s and 90s and was immensely popular, mostly appealing to people who enjoyed its catchy pop showtunes and were willing to stare uncomfortably at people prancing around in disturbing costumes while listening to them.

It was based on a book by T.S. Eliot, who died in 1965 and could have done nothing to stop this.

If you think about it, they are taking an actor who was probably hoping to star in Les Miserables or A Chorus Line or something, painting their face like a cat, putting a clown wig with pointy ears on them, then asking them to prance and wiggle around while they sing their solo. I find aspiring actors as insufferable as the next person, but that is just cruel.

As you can see, they went to a lot of trouble to paint the cat faces to be as feline as possible. But in this middle ground between cat and human, you get neither the cute face of an actual cat nor the handsome/beautiful face of a Broadway actor. You get something about 180 degrees in the opposite direction from both, in the general direction of mimes.

And by that I mean, you get the stuff of nightmares.

#4. The Thundercats

Uh oh. I know there's a cult following of Thundercats, but I have to ask how much of that is an actual enjoyment of the show and how much of that comes from (1) the nostalgia rush of seeing something you remembered as a kid becoming popular again now and feeling good about having been in on the "ground floor," or (2) being British.

Surprisingly, Thundercats was way bigger in the UK than when it was first shown in the U.S., where it only got two seasons. I don't exactly understand how this happened, but somehow they showed the first season over the next five years in the UK (if this is correct) and the Brits also got a ton of new merchandise never sold in the U.S. Almost all the Thundercats fan sites you'll find today are hosted in the UK somewhere.

My point here is that despite the buzz from the recent Thundercats revivals, the original show was to He-Man as Go-Bots was to Transformers. We kids weren't high-falutin' animation snobs, mind you. We watched this, fairly unironically:

... and still we sensed that Thundercats was something to make fun of. We would say, "Thundercats, ho!" and giggle because we had no idea what a ho was but we knew it was a dirty word. Other than that, I don't even remember what the show was about, so our only actual criticisms were the "ho" thing, and their creepy-ass cat faces.

I like how they even actually threw in a bit of mime-eye there in case it wasn't creepy enough. Anyway, bad animation with beefcakes running around in disturbingly homoerotic undies, we could handle. Bad animation with cat-faced beefcakes in undies, that was crossing the line.

#3. Halle Berry as Catwoman

It's important to make a distinction here between Halle Berry as Catwoman, and Catwoman in general. Catwoman is normally a sexy female thief who happens to wear a burglar suit with cat ears. She doesn't go "meow" or lick herself any more often than Batman goes "eeeeeEEEeee" or eats a fly.

But Halle Berry's Catwoman (and Michelle Pfeiffer's to a lesser extent) really pushes the "cat" part. She actually dies and is reincarnated as some kind of avatar of the Egyptian cat goddess, which gives her catlike abilities and actual feline behaviors, like an orgasmic reaction to catnip:

... and a sudden desire to order milk at bars:

The makers of these Catwomen are always going for some kind of connection between cats and female sexiness, but the only real connection you've got there is the slinky walk. Pretty much no other cat behavior is sexy when you have a woman do it (well, outside of very niche audiences I guess). The makers of this film keep bringing up different alleged "catlike" behaviors with the clear indication that the audience should find this sexy or mysterious, but it always just comes across awkward and creepy.

I think they should have stuck to giving her powers that cats don't have, like the scene where she catches burglars in a museum and surfs on one of them.

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