Cat People!

(The movies, not the pet proclivity.)

For this round of Intertitles, I talked about the sexual subtext of the Cat People films, and how that subtext changed alongside the cultural conversation that was happening in the respective eras in which each film was made (or did it? I mean, it did, but did it? This would be funnier if ladies having sexual feelings wasn’t somehow still a hugely controversial hot-button issue).

Was this partially an excuse to mumble “…with gasoLEEEEEEEN” under my breath about a hundred times while I wrote it just like I did when I was [redacted impressionable age] and watching it for the first time? Yes. (Two bucks says I pulled the VHS off the Cult shelf because there was a David Bowie section and thought maybe he was in it. I guess they can’t all be The Linguini Incident.)

Was this also an excuse to talk about two very interesting, if pitfall-ridden, attempts to examine the sexuality of their heroines by presenting sexual desire as a literal monster while at the same time textually pointing out that said women are surrounded by cultural pressures and taboo circumstances and also just plain assholes so maybe this is not at all their problem, really? Probably.

Was this also an excuse to talk about the tagline on this poster, “To Kiss Her Meant Death By Her Own Fangs and Claws!”? Almost exclusively, because look at that thing. Amazing.

These are films absolutely riddled with problems. The othering/racism is more subtle in the 1942 version than in 1982’s eyebrow-raising origin montage and truly facepalmy housekeeper, but it’s still there. And almost without exception, everyone surrounding the heroine is too stupid to live, which makes it extremely hard not to root for Irena to just leopard out and finish them all. But as sexual fables they’re telling, and even though they are a really strange original/remake pair in terms of tone and quality, the sympathetic/monstrous subtext is very much of a piece. Though, only one has this puppy going for it as a theme song:


Not that the movies are competing, but if they were, the 1942 version wins for Best Endless Creepy Setup and the 1982 version wins for Best Theme Song. (Also for Most “What Exactly Are You Telling Me Here?” accidental text, but that’s a different award.)

Check out the whole breakdown over at Strange Horizons!

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