So I was watching Cats, and it got me thinking about disliking things Christian-ly… Like many of you, I grew up hearing, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It’s a good maxim, for a pre-Cats world. Never has a film earned such universal, and creative, derision. Film critics wrote take-downs like they were going for a Pulitzer. I don’t that I’m above this. I certainly didn’t approach the film like I do most. I don’t like the term “hate-watching,” how many describe watching something that is widely perceived to be bad for the purpose of basking in its badness. That term aside, this was 100% why my wife and I decided to rent Cats in the middle of quarantine. In a time that feels absurd, perhaps we felt that leaning into and laughing at absurdity would release some built-up pressure. In another way, I felt an almost innate need to be part of the cultural moment, like a zeitgeist FOMO (fear of missing out) that even applies to bad cultural experiences that the world shares together. Speaking for myself, sometimes I watch things just to feel like I’m part of the conversation. I imagine I’m not alone in this. It is a delicate balance to collectively laugh together at something that is bad without being mean-spirited so as to insult those who worked hard on it. There are so many examples of toxic fandom around movies that make me hesitant to seek out this type of cultural catharsis. Infamously, the actor who played Jar Jar Binks was driven nearly to suicide by toxic fans. ( At the same time, even two of the lead actors in Cats made a joke at the Oscars at their own film’s expense. It sort of signaled that they were in on the joke, and that it was okay to laugh, even if they don’t represent the entire cast and crew. There are multiple podcasts that review and poke fun at bad movies, and they often bring on parts of the cast and crew to join in the fun. Sometimes creative things just get away from their creators, and the madness of it all can only be laughed at, or laughed with. It is a tightrope to walk, since creativity is such a vulnerable endeavor. People have borne their hearts and souls in pieces only to be mocked mercilessly. On the opposite end, artists have phoned-in work just for a paycheck and received thunderous applause. Somewhere in the middle of all that, we hold that creativity is a gift from God that can be held with respect and also a lightness – one that allows for us to celebrate when things resonate and to laugh when it doesn’t, but in a way that doesn’t demean the integrity of those who are earnestly after something greater than themselves. Somewhere, in the middle of all that, is Cats.

Theophany’s mission to bring God to light in film has another branch: a YouTube channel of video essays. Check them out, and don’t forget to like and subscribe while you’re there.

One thought on “Cats!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s