As Vox’s chief Cats correspondent, here are some of the things that have happened to me in the four months since the first trailer for the musical’s live-action film adaptation was released, as we wait for its December 20 release date:
- I’ve had to explain the plot of Cats repeatedly, and get people to understand that I’m serious when I insist that Cats is about a depressed feline sex worker whose reward for leaving the brothels and returning to her judgmental cat brethren is getting to die
- I’ve been summoned to high-level staff meetings to discuss the impact of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals on society
- I was briefly harassed when some random Twitter users mistook my Voxsplainer on why the cats in Cats are sexy for a different Voxsplainer on why humans sexualize cats
- I’ve thought more about what makes a Jellicle Cat a Jellicle Cat than I have since I was 10
And still, readers, none of this has been as surreal as watching the latest trailer for Cats.
To be clear, the latest trailer is pretty much just like the first trailer. The Cats are still rocking the uncanny valley aesthetic that exists between the Instagram cat filter that scares your actual cat and a creepy talking children’s toy you find in the attic of a dead relative and try to burn before it follows you home, twitching its tail and saying, “My name’s Bombalurina, what’s yours?” as you desperately seek an escape.
The cats are still sporting that terrible CGI fur, and everyone still looks like this:
Yes, that’s People’s Sexiest Man of the Year 2018, Idris Elba. Yes, the magnificent, too-good-for-this-world, perennial “next James Bond.” Yes, he’s sitting naked on top of a giant plaster Egyptian cat covered in horrible blurry CGI fur that somehow still allows us to see his cat nipples.
Technically, all of these details were present in the first trailer, too. But where the first trailer left room for hope that the film’s heady mix of camp, familiar music, and good intentions could prevent it from being a total trainwreck, the arrival of the second trailer has made everything all too real. This horrifying live-action version of Cats is coming. There is no escape. It’s really happening.
Who allowed this? The easy answer is Cats director Tom Hooper, aided and abetted by Cats creator Andrew Lloyd Webber, but the more difficult answer is that maybe the universe allowed this. Maybe the universe looked at us, at all our sins, at the human race teetering out of control, and thought that after a year of escalating climate change, more mass shootings, democracy eroding, streaming wars, and “OK boomer,” the cap-off that 2019 needed was a parade of blurry dancing anthropomorphic furry cats, presided over by a terrifyingly orange Judi Dench, choosing who will ascend to cat heaven.
Why does Judi Dench look like a creepy revivalist preacher who’s about to faith-heal the cat whose hand she’s holding? Why is she wearing a fur coat? Isn’t she a cat who’s covered in fur? Why am I doing this to myself? Why did this show run on Broadway for 18 years?
My favorite Cats song is “Macavity.” Once, as a child, I named my cat Macavity. That was a better time — a time before all I had left were the burnt-out ends of smoky days, the stale, cold smell of morning, and this Cats trailer.
Anyway, there’s a new Cats trailer! Cats, now and forever. Cats.