CATS! And the Weird Mind of TS Eliot | by Maggie Mae Fish

CATS! And the Weird Mind of TS Eliot | by Maggie Mae Fish

The speaking on Eliot is a difficult matter,
For he’s long and gone and can’t pen a rebuttal
And being a cat should my opinion even matter? Though he made claims about us that weren’t
even subtle We’re white and we’re black, and we’re
medium-sized? We’re three named and blind and possess
jeweled eyes But did Eliot ask a cat, how we self-identify?
Did he watch us from windows and then just surmise I am a cat, and I have but one name;
And all of them mine, not for human eyes And if Eliot so boldly laid us to claim;
Allow a cat to rebuttal with my thoughts on his lies. Yeah, I have a lot to say about Cats, but
I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, somehow. Cats is a movie about anthropomorphic cat
people who are constantly aroused. It’s a movie about a highly stratified, very traditional
feline society, which also happens to be a ritualistic death cult, MEOW. It’s a movie that defies visual description
with uncanny computer generated effects, bizarre body movement, and distracting camera work.
So the 2019 version of Cats is the story of a very ordered society, told in the most jarring
way imaginable. Spoiler alert! Although I think spoiling this
movie is kind of impossible. It’s like “spoiling” a psychedelic mushroom trip. But what little
plot there is involves a group of cats coming together for something called the Jellicle
Ball, which is a talent show where the winner–chosen by Old Deuteronomy–will die and be reborn.
Confused? Don’t worry, I watched both the 1998 DVD version, and the 2019 theatrical
version multiple times, and I’m still confused. Cats is also based on the poetry of the godfather
of modern poetry, TS Eliot. Most of the lyrics are derived from Old Possum’s Book of Practical
Cats, which is full of children’s poetry that Eliot wrote to his younger relatives,
then compiled for publication in 1939. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats fits into
a subgenre of children’s book that detail the physical and personality traits of different
races. It does for cats what a book like Bozo and His Rocket Ship did for humans, which
was published in the 40s. It assigned stereotypical, cartoonish traits to various human cultures
around the world. Books like this were designed to teach kids that different types of people
fit into different, predefined categories. Or to put it more bluntly: they’re designed
to teach harmful racist stereotypes to children. Meow. Speaking of old school racism and institutionalized
violence, TS Eliot also happened to be a fascist sympathizer. He did reject the label fascist,
but don’t get me wrong: he didn’t reject fascism in favor of anti-fascism. Instead,
Eliot labelled himself a “royalist.” He was a devout Christian and identified as Anglo-Catholic.
Which is an ultra conservative movement that argued for the supreme authority for the Church
of England. Eliot did not believe in the separation of Church and State, but rather the superiority
over the state. Between his royalim and Anglican faith, Eliot believed that kings are literally
chosen by God to lead a country. In Eliot’s brand of royalist thinking, the
body of the king represents both the human manifestation of God on Earth, and the personification
of the state. The king is the “head” of state, to the metaphorical body politic. Even
today, the British Monarch holds the title “Supreme Governor of the Church of England,”
and the canon law of the Church of England states: “We acknowledge that the Queen’s
most excellent Majesty, acting according to the laws of the realm, is the highest power
under God in this kingdom, and has supreme authority over all persons in all causes,
as well ecclesiastical as civil.” And here in America, there’s a terrifying and indisputable
rise in royalism and Christian dominionism. The idea of democracy offended TS Eliot, since
democracy implies that everyone has basic human rights, and that everyone deserves a
say in politics. He was a big fan of Charles Murras, the anti-semitic, anti-parliamentarist
philosopher, who happens to be a hero of Steve Bannon. Eliot was also buddies with countless
awful people. Like Wyndham Lewis who described Hitler as “a man of peace.” Of course,
Eliot wasn’t just a fan of antisemites. He was also a vocal anti semite himself, often
saying things that sound like they could’ve been pulled straight from a Richard Spencer
blog post. In his lecture series After Strange Gods he outlined what he thought was the right
way to organize society: that being, a bunch of ethno-nationalist states where race-mixing
is not allowed, and everyone is segregated by race and religion: “The population should
be homogeneous; where two or more cultures exist in the same place they are likely either
to be fiercely self-conscious or both to become adulterate. What is still more important is
unity of religious background; and reasons of race and religion combine to make any large
number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.” And on whether he’d be okay with those ethno-states
tolerating each other, he continues: “[A] spirit of excessive tolerance is to be deprecated.”
(p19-20) When it comes to bigotry, Eliot showed what we in the 21st century would call “his
whole ass.” In Eliot’s worldview, you are merely a cell
within the larger organism that is the king’s body that we call “society.” And if that
body gets sick how does royalism respond? Well, in 1988, Prince Philip, husband of Queen
Elizabeth, said this: “In the event that I am reincarnated I would like to return as
a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.” The goal of royalism
will always be for the King to hold the power. Democracy’s end goal is for the people to
hold the power. Facism uses the mass appeal of a popular movement like democracy, to achieve
its end goal of a dictator holding power. Fascism is just royalism with a little thing
we Millenials like to call, a rebrand. Love a good rebrand! Ahh! The overlap between royalists and fascist-leaning
conservatives in the United States has been present in conservative propaganda since forever.
From Donald Trump “joking” about never stepping down from the Presidency, to Liberty
Hangout, the group that Gun Girl is a part of tweeting this: “It is far more preferable
to live under a Monarchy than a Democracy. Democracy is mob rule of the government estate,
and is a soft form of communism,” to the dedication to Ann Coulter’s 1998 book High
Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, where she wrote: “to my parents,
who see virtues in the British system.” Okayyy… In today’s political terms, Eliot would
align with the Christian far right, have a photo of Thanos on his Twitter, and his own
column in Quillette, where he’d compare celebrity skull shapes. Yes, Eliot may have
wanted a king, rather than a fascist “dictator.” But whether you call your tyrant “your majesty,”
or “mein fuhrer,” or “the Queen mum,” what difference does it make to the people
who are oppressed by that regime? So it’s no coincidence that Cats contains
a hell of a lot of fascist imagery and ideology, but like, for kids! To start, let’s compare
Cats to Umberto Eco’s essay “Ur Fascism” where he laid out fourteen properties associated
with fascist ideology. He argues that only one of these needs to be present for facist
ideology to thrive. Most obviously, there’s the whole death cult thing, where death is
ritualized and glorified, with the promise of rebirth. Fascist leaders encourage the
masses to seek out death through military service or stocastic terrorism. Veryyy fashy. There’s the cult of tradition as a means
of denying progress in favor of reinforcing old power structures. Instead of using the
scientific method to discover new knowledge, or using rational thought to arrive at reasonable
conclusions, the cult of tradition demands that you look back to the past for all the
answers. According to Umberto Eco: “[T]here can be no advancement of learning. Truth has
been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure
message.” Much like the Jellicle Ball, whose message is, if anything,… OBSCURE. “Up up up up to the Heaviside layer.” There’s popular elitism which argues that
we the people are the chosen people. “I believe you truly are a Jellicle Cat.” Ah yes, the Jellicle Cats, much more important
than… all of the other cats. We also see the characterization of Old Deuteronomy
as the Patriarch, or in the case of the movie it’s a matriarch, but with exactly the same
power and assumption of absolute privilege Am I saying that Cats is inherently fascist?
No. Am I saying that Tom Hooper, director of the 2019 Cats is a fascist? No. Am I saying
Andrew Lloyd Webber, the writer and producer of Cats, is a fascist? No, at least not provably. I am saying that both versions of cats are
based on writings by an extreme bigot and elements of his bigotry and his fascist sympathies
are undeniably folded into the meaning of the play and therefore film. The original
poems contained child-friendly, sanitized versions of Eliot’s beliefs, and the play
and musical sanitize them even further, even if they’re unrecognizable at first glance. So, more importantly for us the audience:
is it okay to enjoy Cats, considering it’s problematic origins and the fashy ideas behind
it? Well, first off, a lot of the songs f–ing slap, and that’s always good. But what I
really like about Cats the stage Musical–despite its fascist-inspired origins, and its weirdly
ritualized death cult–is: watching these incredible dancers, actors and singers come
together in a performance that celebrates the human body and what it’s capable of,
feels… really liberating. It’s an example of content being in conflict
with style. The style of the original stage play was already at direct odds with Eliot’s
fashy beliefs, and I loved it. And now, the 2019 version, Eliot’s ideas are another
step removed, this time extra, extra removed thanks to the hyper-alienating CGI and bad
costumes. The result is a movie so abstracted, so inane, so unrelatable, even though it’s
terrible, and at times boring, it’s a kind of accidental parody of those same fashy beliefs.
And the best movie to watch when you’re coming down from a mushroom trip. Or maybe
the worst, I’ll get back to you on that. This liberating feeling I get from Cats emerges
from that conflict between the original source material and the 1998 play version: the tension
between the play’s stuffy, fascist origins, and the weird, kinetic dancing that celebrates
the human body. And I’m legally allowed to speak on this
because I got an A+ in “Modern Dance” class which, yes, was a prerequisite in college
and yes, was also the only dance class I took in college. So. There’s two reasons I love the dancing. First, I like the dancing and body language
for its own sake. Body language is heavily policed in our society. restricting our body
language is one of the first ways that we’re conditioned by society to “behave,” to
fit in, and to signify our class. Many of the first rules we learn as children dictate
the way we sit, stand, and move through a room. You’re told to “sit still,” and
not just told to sit still, but told how to sit still. Every aspect of our body language
gets critiqued, not only by adults, but by our peers too. Even the way you throw a ball can be characterized
as “throwing like a girl.” We assign gender markers to actions that have nothing to do
with gender or sex, and then we restrict those actions to specific groups. What we are “allowed”
to express with our body language depends on our status in society. Even the way that
we look at someone else can be considered offensive. Just think back to when you were
a kid, and adults would threaten you: “Don’t you dare give me that look.” The cats’ fluid, expressive body movements
break free from those constraints. Their bodies become a means of expressing emotion, rather
than an object that contains your emotions. That’s what I love about dance in general. In fact, the reason I got an A+ in my Modern
Dance class was because I had no formal dance training. Other students, who had grown up
perfecting ballet poses and difficult tap dancing configurations, had a lot of trouble
unlearning those more rigid body movements. I had no trouble because I was terrible at
regular dancing. So terrible in fact I was laughed out of the general dance audition
a month before. This modern dance class was the first time I didn’t feel like a total
failure because I hadn’t attended a private arts high school. I did, however, play a lot of sports in High
School and my modern dance teacher EFFING LOVED IT. Our teacher would be like “move
across the floor any way you want!” and that freedom was difficult for a lot of people
to deal with, since this was supposed to be a DANCE CLASS. It was honestly just pure luck
that our teacher loved my skinny chicken arms and I couldn’t pierrette to save my life,
but she was a brilliant modern dance teacher who instilled in me this idea of unlearning
the ‘right’ way to move. The ‘right’ way to be. And learning that every muscle,
every gesture–no matter how unconventional–could be used to express something. Modern Dance
offers a type of freedom that personally spoke to me, and when I see Cats on stage I am amazed
by the beautiful ballet and tap choreography, as well as the moments when it honors weird
body movements that remind us there is no ‘right way to be.’ And secondly, I love the dancing because TS
Eliot would’ve hated the dancing. Eliot was very concerned with the decline
of cis, heterosexual culture. His most famous poems all deal with his fear that men were
turning into soy boys, which might give you the impression that TS Eliot was a “Chad.”
But the reality as far as I can tell is that he was pretty meek. He wore pale makeup so
he would look more like a corpse, which I guess made him some sort of conservative goth.
He was terrified of women, even just the sight of a woman. His biography on TS Eliot dot
com notes that when he was at Oxford, if a female student walked into the same room as
him, he couldn’t even look at her. If seeing a woman enter a classroom was upsetting enough
to make him turn away, I’m pretty sure watching this… would’ve made him spontaneously
combust. When Eliot finally did marry his first wife
Vivenne, it was a disaster. Vivenne and Eliot’s friend Bertrand Russell had an affair behind
Eliot’s back, and Eliot eventually committed Vivenne to a mental hospital against her will
until she died. When he was 68 he remarried his 30 year old secretary MEOW. The more of
Eliot’s poetry you read, and the more you read about his sex life, the more you realize
he was a miserable curmudgeon who was terrified of sex and women and therefore hated both.
He was so violently upset by even the thought of interacting with a woman that he would
experience what he called “nervous sexual attacks.” I do want to be sensitive to the
fact that some people have experienced trauma, which leads them to fear sex, or some people
are simply aromantic or asexual, and I think that’s dope. But TS Eliot’s outlook feels
uncomfortably similar to a modern day MRA or even a violent incel. Seriously, we’ve read tons and tons of his
poetry and a bunch of books about him to research this video, and literally every detail we
learn about him reveals yet another layer of his weird misogyny. For example, Eliot’s
poem “The Love Song of Saint Sebastian,” contains these lovely lines: “I would come
in a hair shirt/I would come with a lamp in the night/And sit at the foot of your stair;/I
would flog myself until I bled…/I would come with a towel in my hand/And bend your
head beneath my knees…/You would love me because I should have strangled you/And because
of my infamy;/And I should love you the more because I mangled you/And because you were
no longer beautiful/To anyone but me.” Now, I’m just as into kink as the next girl,
but this is not kink. He’s romanticizing an abusive relationship. It’s also like,
was all you had to do to be a successful writer in the 1920s, was just release your private
LiveJournal poetry? Eliot also strictly adhered to rules about
what physical actions men or women were allowed to enjoy. To Eliot, men were supposed to penetrate.
And women were supposed to be penetrated. And not just penetrated by weeners, but even
if that penetration is done by a weapon. Eliot wrote those lines from The Love Song of Saint
Sebastian after viewing these three paintings in various galleries in Europe. The paintings
depict Saint Sebastion being martyred. As biographer Lyndall Gordon explains in her
book Eliot’s Early Years, “The three paintings show innocent, firm-fleshed youths exposed
to penetrant arrows. In a letter to Conrad Aiken, Eliot noted the eroticism and emphasized
that, for him, a female saint would have been more appropriate.” This is literally a painting
of someone being murdered, but Eliot looks at these arrows and thinks: “Hey, it’s
my weener. So that should be a woman.” What? Eliot was so obsessed with sex and the gender
binary, he had to project his obsessions onto what is supposed to be a religious spiritual
image. Ew! And Eliot is a seminal figure in Western writing.
I cannot stress enough how much influence this guy, with his bananas ideas, have had
on how we as English-speaking people view art, or who has the right to create art, or
what that art should say or portray. The values that the western canon reflects lead directly
back to Eliot’s sick fetishes and fucked up livejournal posts. By the way, TS Eliot I know you think only
women can be penetrated but.. You’re really missing out. So, yeah, Eliot would’ve recoiled at the
sight of horny cats joyfully dancing to his poetry, and I love the fact that a movie based
on Eliot’s poetry conflicts so dramatically with his source material. By the time we get
to the current iteration of Cats, Eliot’s original meaning is a bit muddled. From the
baffling off the cuff cut-aways– “Look what the Cat dragged in.” [cricket chirps]
— to the static Hopper shots that stop the action in place, to the wildly different acting
style choices–all these aspects obscure T.S. Eliot’s work to the point of parody. We
now have rowdy screenings where we MEOW at the screen, and lap up milk and throw glitter
into the air when T. Swift shakes her catnip bottle. So it’s kind of perfect, because
on a literal, pragmatic level, facism is absurd. It makes no sense. It’s inherently self-contradictory,
by design. It demands that you deceive yourself about the world around you. And then it demands
that you live in denial. “Oh shit!” Eliot also loved stillness. Eliot’s poetry
is very static, very still, lacking in movement. The imagery in his poems often tends toward
death, decay, and rot. In The Poetics of Fascism, a deep dive into the fascist ideologies in
the work of TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, Paul Morrison writes: “Eliot privileges stillness.”
But this stillness isn’t just a lack of physical motion. It has larger cultural implications.
Morrison continues: “He is thus opposed to any poetic that maintains or exacerbates
the tension between the socially actual and desirable, between what is and what might
be.” Eliot doesn’t just want the human body to remain still. He wants all of culture,
all of society to remain still, and his poetic grammar reflects that. He is a poet who refuses
to imagine a different or better world, which kind of seems like it defeats the purpose
of writing poetry, but okay, MEOW. Although Eliot eventually moved to England
and renounced his American passport, he was born an American. The history of America is
a history of cis, straight, white, land-owning men policing bodies, most explicitly in the
genocide carried out by European colonizers against the people already living in America;
and the slave trade, where black bodies were stripped of autonomy and even personal identity,
then ordered to perform specific types of labor, as if their bodies were viewed as one
part in a larger machine. So the baseline reality in American history has always been:
people in power have the right to manipulate your body, more than you have a right to manipulate
your own. And this power dynamic continues today, in how black and other marginalized
bodies are policed by… the police. Or how reproductive rights are policed by men. Or
how terves try to exclude trans bodies from public spaces. Terves have taken the policing
of body language to such a literal degree, they want your genitals to be the sole determining
factor in your entire future. From the tiniest flick of the wrist being used to condemn someone
as gay, to the “wrong kind of look” being used as proof that someone is a psychopatic
pervert, or the way that my own voice and face are labelled as “trans” by creeps
in the comments section even though I’m cis–we are constantly told that we can’t
simply exist in physical space. We must exist in the appropriate way. In the middle ages in Europe, these kinds
of rules about how to present yourself in public were codified in the Sumptuary Laws,
which governed what kinds of clothes different genders or social classes were allowed to
wear. It was a way to order society at the whims of the monarch. But since we Westerners
really excel at internalizing behavior that causes self-harm, we’ve learned to enforce
these customs on ourselves. Self-policing language is baked into our everyday interactions. The theorist Thomas Yingling gave this description
of how we reinforce society’s values specifically through our body language: “One is taught
young, for instance, that homosexuality is semiotic, that there are signs of it, and
that one ought not to produce those signs. Even as children, perhaps especially as children,
gays are taught to hide their own signs and substitute those of the dominant culture:
boys who are sissies internalize quite early that the signs of their sissihood are, absurdly,
for they seem self-produced and contiguous with identity, their enemy. They may in fact
recognize that those who object to these signs are also enemies, but the outcome is more
often than not the repression of the signs of sissihood (assuming here that children
have not yet the code words ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’). One false, and therefore true, sign is enough
to bring on danger in certain situations, literal exposure to persecution. So the problematic
of the sign is forced upon the homosexual at an early age–and in a manner that differs
experientally from that detailed, for instance, in Afro-American texts, for there the sign
of difference (blackness) is not considered to be within one’s control.” So even though
moving your own body in a certain way may feel more natural to you, we’re taught to
fear this bodily self-expression in the mirror and in others. Through childish bullying,
we alienate ourselves from our own bodies. Then alienate other people since we are conditioned
to make value judgments based on how they move, how they look, how they dress, how they
carry themselves. This idea really gets to the heart of why some people were upset at
the straight-washing of the Magical Mr Mistopholese character. In the live musical version, Mr
Mistophoelse was this beautiful, unbridled expression of body language. And in the new
version, he’s explicitly straight, and just so happens to not have any of that same expressive
body movements. Hollywood limits bodily expression by typecasting
actors who look a particular way. Deformity and disability are associated with mental
illness, impotence, or evil. Heroism and virtue are associated with good looks. In film, comedy and horror are the two main
genres that allow extreme bodily expression. Comedy allows the body to be penetrable, to
be gross, to be deformed or smushed into odd positions. But in comedy the body also usually
bounces back. Physical manipulation is temporary, which gives us a sense of relief in the end.
We are reassured that the body will heal. In horror, however, the body is penetrable,
gross, deformed, and smushed, but these unsettling body movements are used to terrify us. In
horror, the body does not bounce back. Mutilation is permanent and it explores our fear of mortality.
One example I want to point out is in the Silence of the Lambs. Buffalo Bill is demonized because the character
both transgresses traditional gender roles (by skinning a woman alive to wear her skin,
and yearning for a female identity) and traditional well-behaved society (by being a weirdo recluse.) In contrast, Hannibal gains the trust of those
same people because while having committed almost the exact same crimes as Buffalo Bill,
but he doesn’t transgress his traditional gender roles (he skins a MAN alive, thank
you very much, and does it in a very MANLY way) and traditional well-behaved society
(Hannibal has the mannerisms and co-ops the signs of being a ‘gentleman.’) Lecter
uses “civilized” body language as a means of making us not only identify with him, but
even empathize with him and root for him. On a literal level, their physical crimes
are remarkably similar. But on a symbolic level, their social crimes are polar opposites. Yes, the crowd will cheer for a serial killer,
or a war criminal, or a tyrant, as long as that monster speaks with a particular cadence,
dresses in a particular way, and regurgitates particular euphemisms to excuse their own
violent, abusive behavior. While certain genres benefit from stillness,
or use it for particular effect, one genre that is usually full of movement and expression
is: musicals. Which is another weird thing about Cats 2019! Tom Hooper loves shooting
static closeups during the more dramatic songs for some ungodly reason. These are my least
favorite shots in the whole movie, and they bring the energy to a dead halt. In these
shots, you can feel the actors struggling against the stilted, unnatural framing, and
it’s a bummer to see Hooper’s shot selection sabotage these actors’ performances. Cats are famously unmoved by others,
Each cat is it’s own King of it’s own land,
Socialist, we’d be called by others, A bad word, I’ve heard, when uttered by
men Even if you haven’t seen Cats, you’ve
probably heard that it’s basically two hours of cat characters introducing themselves,
then singing songs about their own ridiculous names and what they do in their spare time.
The silly name motif is one of the many things about Cats that feels random and pointless
at first, but when we dig deeper we see that it fits right into Eliot’s stratified view
of the universe. Eliot didn’t view names as private property. To him, your name is
inherent to your identity, handed down to you from your parents, whose parents handed
it down to them, and so on and so on. In The Poetics of Fascism, Morrison writes: “Names
mean, or are one of the means whereby, the subject is initially placed, put in its place,
in relation to the social, which our culture tends to manage through the reproduction of
family names.” From birth we are labelled by our parents, and these labels are spoken
so casually, so matter-of-factly, that they end up being baked into our identity, especially
for a first born son who is given their father’s full name. Like the way that kings will assume
names like “William the Second,” or “Henry the Eighth” when they take the crown. They
are folding their identities backwards in history, laying claim to the identities of
their forefathers, or even to people they have no relation to. By extension, these kings
and queens lay claim to all those previous people’s lands, properties, and divine rights.
It’s just one of the many ways that people in power use language to perpetuate their
power, or as Morrison puts it: “to reproduce the world as it has been conventionally produced.”
into the very fabric of the TS Eliot poems that Cats is based on. Morrison writes: “Humankind
is enjoined to recognize, not invent, spiritual realities, and so ‘The Naming of Cats’
is finally about the recognition, not the giving, of names.”
Fascists obsess over names, especially Jewish names, like the way that they’ll use triple
parentheses around a jewish name online to signal the twisted idea that jewish names
echo throughout history for their supposed crimes. So to someone like Eliot, your name reveals
a deeper truth about your identity, about your family lineage, and about your place
in society. We see this with Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, whose identity is bound to
his job. He doesn’t just work for the rail line, he is “of the railway train,” and
everything we learn about him is simply the details of his job. I can imagine Eliot sitting
on a train, watching the ticket agent collecting tickets, and Eliot is just totally unable
to imagine that that ticket agent has any life beyond the walls of the traincar. To
Eliot, that working class person is nothing more than a function of the train that Eliot
is paying to ride. Simply part of the larger machine. One name that Eliot uses to perpetuate the
past is Old Deuteronomy. Eliot pulled the name Deuteronomy from the old testament. Deuteronomy
is set right before the Iseralites enter the promised land. The laws that were first codified
in the book of exodus leviticus and numbers are reiterated and expanded upon in the book
of Deuteronomy. The name Deuteronomy even points to the idea that the book is a copy,
a repetition, or a reproduction of those same laws. So the character Deuteronomy represents
the law physically manifested in the body of the King. But more importantly, try to
image the book of Deuteronomy from Eliot’s point of view. From his point of view, or
someone like Mike Pence, or any other militant theocrat who sees the church as superior to
the state, Deuteronomy describes an ethno-state where religion and law are one. It’s their
fantasy, man. “There is no freedom without the law!” To defy one’s leader who embodies the law,
is to defy the lord God himself. Rhetorically that leader becomes God, and we see this idea
reflected in fasist propaganda. Like in the 1930s when a Nazi pastor used this slogan
during a confirmation service. He who serves Hitler serves Germany. He who serves German
serves God. Don’t question me, or you’re questioning God, okay. In Cats, all the characters, without exception,
seem to view their society as a given, as simply “the way it is.” They are seemingly
unaware that their society is constructed, and that it’s absolute wacky-town. None
of the Cats ask who am I? What does this all mean? Or why does this Deuteronomy guy get
to pick who goes to the heaviside layer? The entire play is them saying this is who I am
this is who I am this is who I am, and, this is what I do this is what I do this is what
I do. Even the villain Macavity isn’t trying to disrupt the hierarchy. He’s simply trying
to become the one who benefits from the hierarchy. He’s the Joe Biden of the Cats universe. As a royalist and traditionalist, Eliot believed
that there was an ideal structure of society an order dictated by God himself. One that
involved a divinely-inspired king at the top, with the unwashed masses at the bottom. In
his poetry, Eliot often describes a world that is crumbling. A world that’s about
to end. Eliot didn’t feel like the world was crumbling around him because of the mass
destruction and countless death brought about by World War I. He felt like the world was
crumbling because kings and their families were literally being killed off by revolutions,
and the idea of a society without a king to tell everyone what to do, was terrifying to
him. In 1918, just as Eliot’s career as a writer was really taking off, World War
I ended. As a result the German Monarchy was abolished under the new constitution. And
also in 1918, Nicholas the Second, the last Emperor of Russia, was executed with his entire
royal family. This is the summary of their execution from Wikipedia: “Nicholas was
shot several times in the chest… Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga, and Maria survived the first
hail of bullets; the sisters were wearing over 1.3 kilograms of diamonds and precious
gems sewn into their clothing, which provided some initial protection from the bullets and
bayonets. First they were stabbed with bayonets and then shot at close range in their heads.” That description is a nightmare. Even to someone
like me, who thinks royalty is inherently immoral and corrupt– “DEATH TO TYRANTS!”
–and to someone like Eliot, who believed that a country’s royal family is the physical
embodiment of that country, killing off a royal family was the equivalent of wiping
an entire off the map. It would be apocalyptic. Eliot doesn’t weep for the death of the
modern world. He doesn’t weep for the ten million or so soldiers who died in World War
I. He doesn’t weep for the millions or so civilians who died around World War I. He
weeps for the deaths of a handful of inbred, authoritarian tyrants whose bejeweled grip
on world politics was slipping. That’s why Cats has repeated references
to the good old days of Queen Victoria. That’s why Eliot says we should be “proud to be
nodded to or bowed to by Bustopher Jones.” That’s why Eliot characterizes Old Deuteronomy
as not just a leader, but as a kingly father who spreads his seed to create this noble
cat society. Yes the society in Cats is bizarrely inbred, just like a royal family. So to sum
up my hot take: Cats is royalist propaganda, but poorly made so it is wonderful. “No. Hey- No. I’m serious – Hey! Come
on–” Between the World Wars, Eliot was one of the
most highly regarded critics of literature in the West, and he knew it. Here’s Eliot
writing to a friend in 1919: “As it is, I occupy rather a privileged position… My
social position is quite as good as it would be as editor of a paper. I only write what
I want to – now – and everyone knows that anything I do write is good. I can influence
London opinion and English literature in a better way. I am known to be disinterested…
There is a small and select public which regards me as the best living critic, as well as the
best living poet, in England. . . . I really think that I have far more influence on English
letters than any other American has ever had, unless it be Henry James. I know a great many
people, but there are many more who would like to know me, and I can remain isolated
and detached.” Eliot uses words like “isolated” and “detached”
as if those are good things for a critic to be, and I couldn’t agree less. But what
I want to point out is how those words “isolated,” “detached–” they aren’t expressive,
or personal. It sounds more like a self-imposed prison sentence. And notice how Eliot takes
on this attitude of “it’s lonely at the top” as if he’s positioned himself as
the King of Poetry. Throughout his career he repeats this idea
that he has the right to render final judgement on writing. For example in After Strange Gods,
the same anti-semitic lecture series I mentioned earlier, Eliot reassures the reader that he
only cites worthy authors: “I am sure that those whom I have discussed are among the
best; and for my purpose the second-rate were useless.” Eliot gets to decide what is good
poetry and bad poetry. If your work doesn’t align with his values, it’s not just bad
writing. To someone like Eliot, it means your writing is useless, and you’re a bad person.
You might even be bringing about the fall of western civilization. And Eliot’s words
did carry authority and power. As a critic and publisher, he absolutely had power over
which poems and novels might live or die. I want to decide who lives and who dies. Oh,
I don’t know. I think we can draw a very important comparison
here, between the way our society privileges stillness in body language, and the way that
Eliot privileges stillness in writing. Not just his own writing, but the entire Western
canon. By freezing our body language, society discourages us from expressing ourselves,
and makes it harder to bring about change, progress, and revolution. Eliot used his status
as critic and poet to freeze language, writing, and culture, in order to control what people
read, and what they thought about writing. In “Tradition and the Individual Talent”
Eliot even goes so far as to say there are literally only two types of emotions you can
feel: the “ordinary” or the “perverse.” He writes: “One error, in fact, of eccentricity
in poetry is to seek for new human emotions to express; and in this search for novelty
in the wrong place it discovers the perverse. The business of the poet is not to find new
emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express
feelings which are not in actual emotions at all… Poetry is not a turning loose of
emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an
escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know
what it means to want to escape from these things.” In Eliot’s view, a poet must limit themselves
to “ordinary,” socially acceptable emotions. It’s yet another example of how he tries
to “reproduce the world as it has been conventionally produced.” In this view, if feelings of,
say, homoerotic love aren’t already visible in public, it’s because they must be “perverse”
and therefor are not valid emotions. Ordinary! Perverse. Ordinary! Perverse. And notice how, whenever Eliot describes someone
or something he doesn’t like, he uses language with implicit bias–like the word “perverse.”
I wonder why he would do that. As the political scientist EE Schattschnieder wrote: “The
definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power; the antagonist can rarely
agree on what the issues are because power is involved in the definition. He who determines
what politics is runs the country, because the definition of alternatives is the choice
of conflicts, and the choice of conflicts allocates power.” Similarly, Elaine Scarry
writes in her book The Body In Pain, “Political power… entails the power of self-description.”
This is why internet trolls and alt-right weirdos spend so much time insulting you with
weird euphemisms, or denouncing you in long, judgemental statements that have nothing to
do with the argument at hand. They’re interested in limiting the boundaries of the larger debate,
and assigning moral value judgements to their opponents’ identities. Think of the way
that conservatives label anyone they don’t like as a “terrorist”–from non-violent
peaceful protesters; to antifascists; to conventional terrorists; to the head of another country’s
military. “Terrorist” comes to simply mean “anyone who disagrees with me.” Then
think of the way that Blackwater employees, who travel across the world to massacre innocent
civilians like bands of roided out serial killers, get labelled a neutral term like
“contractors.” Or think of the way that the word “oligarchs” is now apparently
a slur against rich people. People in power good! Regular people, bad. And this binary thinking is integral to the
poetic grammar of Cats. This is this, and that is that. Everything is either this or
that. There’s no room for nuance, no personality, no complexity. Your memory I’ll jog. And
say a cat is not a dog. You are ordered to categorize different races. Cats are this,
dogs are that. And this order to categorize is told to you as if it’s from your own
memory. Your memory I’ll jog. But if it really was a true memory and if it really
was a deeper truth then we wouldn’t need the reminder. This relates back to how fasicm
pretends to unveil a deeper truth, as if all knowledge is already present in nature. As
if there’s nothing new to learn ever. Truth has already been spelled out once and for
all, and we can only keep interpreting it’s obscure message. So the bigot teaches you
a bigoted idea, then gaslights you into thinking that you had the idea first, and that bigotry
is simply a naturally occuring truth and not and ideology. I want to turn to my favorite example of Eliot’s
criticism: his response to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Animal Farm is an animal allegory
for Soviet Russia, where violent, tyrannical pigs are stand-ins for Lenin and Stalin. In
1944, Orwell submitted the novel to the publishing house Faber and Faber, where Eliot rejected
it for publication, saying: “Your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals,
and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact, there couldn’t have been
an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue), was
not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.” To Eliot, some people–or pigs–are inherently
“superior” to others and have a God given right to dominate. To him, the idea of a dictator
isn’t necessarily bad. You just need the right “kind” of dictator. We don’t need
those stinky communist pigs. We need royalist, or Nazi, or fascist pigs! We just need “public-spirited”
benevolent dictators who we can hand total power to, without question. And then hope
that they’re nice to all of us filthy normies. We just need a kindly old, Old Deuteronomy!
Reincarnate me, daddy MEOW. Reflecting on Eliot’s criticism of Orwell,
I can’t help but think more about the words “authoritarian,” and “dictator,” and
how–in an extremely literal sense–those terms describe someone who “authors” or
“dictates” national politics and culture. We see this in real time every day. When a
reporter asks Donald Trump a question the question is worded as “DO you take responsibility?”
“No I don’t take responsibility at all.” He gets to define the terms and even defines
the limits and responsibilities of his own office apparently. Similarly, Eliot was trying
to be a kind of “dictator of literature,” controlling what kind of emotions and ideas
are allowed to be represented. And that’s why the Western canon is so white and male:
bigots like Eliot have engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign on literature for centuries. Hey, George Orwell, do you have any criticisms
of Eliot you’d like to share? Oh you do? Okay cool. In the early 1940s, Eliot published
a set of poems called Four Quartets. A fragment from those poems was adapted into the song
“The Moments of Happiness” in Cats. Orwell just happened to write a review of Four Quartets.
In order for it to make complete sense, it helps to know that Marshal Petain was the
French officer who the Nazis put in charge of Vichy France during World War II, as a
puppet of Nazi Germany. So, Orwell writes: “Obviously a scepticism about democracy
and a disbelief in ‘progress’ are an integral part of Eliot; without them he could not have
written a line of his works… But the negative Petainism, which turns its eyes to the past,
accepts defeat, writes off earthly happiness as impossible, mumbles about prayer and repentance
and thinks it a spiritual advance to see life as ‘a pattern of living worms in the guts
of the women of Canterbury’– that, surely, is the least hopeful road a poet could take.”
Eliot’s poetry was such a bummer, even George Orwell– who went on to write 1984!–was like,
“dude, lighten up.” And Orwell is getting at an idea I mentioned earlier: Eliot was
a poet, who refused to use his imagination to… imagine a better world. Orwell’s writing
says stuff sucks, but it could and should be better. Eliot’s writing says stuff sucks,
so how bout you just go and die now you worthless nobody as I live in extreme comfort and absolute
privilege. And to put this in context, Orwell wrote his criticism in 1942, as World War
II was raging in Europe. As ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA people, and political prisoners were
being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Just as Eliot thought the true tragedy
of World War I was the decline of European aristocracy, apparently he saw World War II
not as a horrific attack on democracy by authoritarians, but rather, as an opportunity for the newly-democratic
governments he hated to roll over so Hitler and Mussolini could bring about a world order
that more closely resembled his royalist fantasies. Isn’t it wild that this video started out
being about Cats and we’ve ended up here? It’s an amazing example of how someone’s
personal beliefs are ever present in their writing. Eliot was highly aware of that fact
actually when he wrote this in his 1927 essay A Note on Writing and Belief: “I cannot
see that poetry can ever be separated from something which I should call belief.” And
he repeated that sentiment in The Use of Poetry and Use of Criticism: “One’s taste in
poetry cannot be isolated from one’s other interests and passions.” Of course, like
any good fascist-sympathizer, Eliot was also a massive hypocrite. Here’s Eliot responding
to criticisms of his poetry The Wasteland by claiming ahhhh it doesn’t really mean
anything and you’re all reading too much into it. “Various critics have done me the
honour to interpret The Waste Land in terms of criticism of the contemporary world, have
considered it, indeed, as an important bit of social criticism. To me it was only the
relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life; it is just a piece of
rhythmical grumbling.” That’s the early 20th century version of “keep your politics
out of my video games.” Eliot claims that you cannot divorce your poetry from your beliefs.
But then also refuses to allow that same kind of interpretation of his own work. The rules
do not apply to the king. Of course his poetry is political, because
all art is political MEOW. It’s like he knows his ideas are awful, but instead of
interrogating why he feels this way he runs from his emotions. Like in that earlier quote
when Eliot said “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotions, but rather an escape from
emotion.” What are you trying to escape from, man? In that same essay, he also makes
this weird argument about how we need to depersonalize poetry. He gives an example from Chemistry,
where he compares a poet to a bar of platinum. Eliot describes the metal, or, poet, as inert,
neutral, unchanged. He desperately wants to remain unaffected by anything which is basically
the equivalent of turning off your humanity? What the hell is the point of poetry if your
goal is to remain unaffected? It’s like he sees emotions as toxic chemicals and he’s
dressed himself up in an emotional hazmat suit to avoid ever feeling anything. And after
shielding himself, uses literary criticism as a baseball bat to beat the emotion out
of any poem or novel unfortunate enough to be read by his cold, dead eyes. Because if
Eliot doesn’t feel it, it must be, perverse. Weirdly, Andrew Lloyd Webber also engages
in this denialism about the deeper meaning behind his work. Theatre director Harold Prince
recalled the moment when Webber first played the score of Cats for him, saying: “I looked
at him curiously and said, ‘Andrew, I don’t understand. Is this about English politics?
Are those cats Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Gladstone and Prime Minister Disraeli?’
He looked at me like I’d lost my mind, and after the longest pause said, ‘Hal, this
is just about cats.’” But in this behind the scenes video from the Cats the Musical
youtube channel, Webber straight up says that you cannot understand Cats without understanding
the source material of Eliot’s work. “Really, when Cats really works is when we remember
the central premise of T.S. Eliot’s writing.” So if the central premise of Eliot’s writing
is a miserable, anti-humanism that resembles the ideas of a Nazi stooge… if his writing
contains anti-progressive misogyny, and blatant royalism… then what does Webber think he’s
saying by adapting Eliot’s writing into Cats?! “Remember, the central premise of
T.S. Eliot’s writing. In his 1920 essay “Hamlet and His Problems”–spoiler
alert T.S. Eliot thinks the most celebrated Shakespeare play has many problems– Eliot
argues that every emotion in a work of art must correlate to a specific material object
or set of physical actions in that work. He calls this theory the “objective correlative,”
since an object must correlate to an emotion. He argues that if there’s no concrete metaphor,
then the emotions aren’t valid and that piece of art will be a failure. As if emotions
and poetry are somehow objects or tools to be used for a specific job, “I have his
mojo” instead of things to be felt to enrich your life. Eliot’s opinion on emotions also reminds me
of Kirk Cameron who conveniently sees physical objects as proof of God’ love. “This is
a celebration of the eternal god taking on a material body so it’s right that our holiday
is marked with material things.” Eliot argues that Hamlet is an absolute failure
of a play, because there is no object that correlates to Hamlet’s feelings of existential
dread. Which is kind of funny because the absence of a symbolic object is kind of the
perfect metaphor for existential dread, but that’s beside the point. Since we already
know that Eliot is scared of his own feelings, and that he’s a bootlicking royalist, it
becomes clear that Eliot’s hatred of Hamlet is actually rooted in the play’s radical
questioning of the cosmic order, its doubt in the existence of an afterlife, and it’s
violent conclusion where the entire royal family is slaughtered. Now compare Hamlet
to Eliot’s favorite Shakespeare play, Coriolanus. Coriolanus is the story of a successful Roman
general who has become so popular, he’s pretty much assured to be elected consul–one
of the state’s highest political offices. But Coriolanus despises the commoners, and
only runs for consul because his controlling mother pressures him into it. He hates the
poors so much, he can’t even be polite to them long enough to get elected. “Should
the people give up someone who speaks for them?” “I’ll give my reasons more worthier
than their voices.” The Romans exile Coriolanus for his insults, so he turns traitor, and
joins the enemy Volsci army to march on Rome for the final confrontation. Eliot hates the
play where the main character questions the nature of royalty, and he loves the play where
the main character takes a steaming dump on democracy. But Eliot’s love of Coriolanus is also fascinating,
because I think Eliot misses the actual point of the play? The character Coriolanus isn’t
just portrayed as being anti-democracy. Shakespeare goes out of his way to show us that there
is something fundamentally wrong with Coriloanus’s emotional state, that his wrath is a perversion
of nature. Early in the play, Valeria, a friend of Coriolanus’s wife and mother, says that
she saw Coriolanus’s son catch a beautiful butterfly. The boy teased the insect for a
while, then put it between his teeth and ripped it apart. Coriolanus’s mother responds by
saying “On on’s father’s moods,” which means, “Just like his dad!” Much later
in the play, as daddy Coriolanus is headed for Rome at the head of the Volsci army, the
terrified Romans describe Coriolanus as someone who is just as eager to murder little insects,
as he is to murder his fellow Romans. Coriolanus’s lack of empathy, and his lust
for violence against the lower class, is an ideology that’s teachable, and he’s passed
it down to his own son. I wonder what type of children’s books Coriolanus reads to his
son at night? Speaking of emotionally unwell characters
eating bugs. You might have seen this clip going around
on twitter because it’s horrifying, and while it may seem like just another random,
hilarious clip from this weird movie, the lyrics are pulled almost verbatim from Eliot’s
poetry. “She thinks the cockroaches just need employment
/ to keep them from idle and wanton destroyment / so she’s formed from that lot of disorderly
louts / a troop of well-disciplined, helpful boy scouts.” It’s like conservative propaganda in poem
form. Cockroach is a term commonly used by racists to describe various ethnic minorities
and immigrants, and this series of lines reads as a list of negative stereotypes. That minorities
are lazy and jobless. That they’re prone to violence and crime. Plus, they’re a pool
of people seen as exploitable for military recruitment. What’s most upsetting about
this whole scene, though, is Jenny Any Dots’s joy. Hooper and Webber may or may not be aware
of it, but there is something fundamentally wrong with Jenny Any Dots’s emotional state. And no, it is not the unzipping of the skin,
I grew up on SpongeBob, unzipping your skin to reveal more skin, and then doing it again
to reveal a third layer of skin isn’t weird to me, it just makes sense, I would do it
every day if I could. Sorry. No, what’s upsetting is seeing Jenny Any
Dots casually eat her own entertainment. We see just how disposable these commoners are.
She swallows them without a second thought. With no regard for their inferior insect lives. More than maybe any other scene in the entire
film, the cockroach scene shows how absurd the ideology within the society of cats is.
This scene feels so wrong because we see the bugs’ face and we recognize them as human.
Then we see Rebel Wilson’s face and we recognize her as human. So, we’re seeing a human eat
other humans with no sense of guilt, no sense of being emotionally effected at all. And
the bugs just keep on dancing and smiling without missing a beat. In fascism, or royalism,
or whatever you want to call it. The lower classes are expected to accept their role
without question. This is what Eliot meant when he said Animal Farm needed more “public
spirited pigs.” We need leaders who will smile as they lead you to your death. Can
someone PLEASE tell me that they are not posing in the shape of a Nazi flag. Please, just
someone reassure me. Literally, actually, I know that this is not the Nazi flag, but
if someone could just make an hour long video just saying “Maggie, that has nothing to
do with Nazis,” because later, they all hold up their hands like this. And it was
written by a Nazi sympathizer. I’m sorry, I know this has nothing to do with anything,
I’ve just been in lockdown for days, and I’ve just seen this movie so, so many times.
Anyways, here’s some poetry that I’m really proud of. Eliot was, like many others, a silly human
we’d say Afraid of his own kind, his own people, his
own face Who believes poetry can only say what has
already been said explicitly Who strangely believes there are traits by
ethnicity But he’s long and gone and cannot utter
a word Which is maybe better, from all that I’ve
heard But since he never reached out for comment
Never went tit-for-tat You now know of Eliot from the view of a cat So why do I enjoy this trash fire of a movie?
It’s kinda hard to put into words, and I spent the better part of an hour trying. You
have this work of art that on one level is unquestionably rooted in fascist propaganda,
but on an aesthetic level, it’s revolting and seemingly inane. And at the same time,
I also find it strangely pretty, in a horrifying, gaudy kind of way. And Idris Elba exudes sexuality,
and the dancing rules. And the music is really catchy, even if the new version’s audio
mix is terrible. It’s as if this movie shows you fascism, but then also makes you revolted
by that same fascism, unintentionally, with an added scoop of expressive dance. Maybe
it’s accidentally Clockwork Orang-ing you? Brainwashing you into disliking the ideas
contained in the movie itself. “I’ve learned me lesson, sir!!!” Or maybe it’s like
Springtime for Hitler? An accidental parody of itself? “Springtime for Hitler, and Germany!”
I don’t really know! I love the experience of Cats. It’s like they were trying to paint
a modernist masterpiece, but when they were painting it they tripped down the stairs,
so they ended up with this whole other surreal mess of spilled paint which is also a masterpiece
in its own way? Overall, it’s an experience I can’t put into words. But that’s okay.
Because not every experience or emotion can be reduced to a simple object or sentence,
MISTER ELIOT. And that’s what the experience of Cats feels like to me: it feels like the
inability to express my own emotions in mere words. It makes me want to be more conscious
of my own feelings that I don’t have words for. And I think that’s beautiful. So thank
you, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, thank you, T.S. Eliot, and thank you, Tom Hooper, for making
me fall in love with the two hour experience of realizing you’re all a bunch of hacks. Thanks you so much for watching! And a very
special thank you to all of my patrons, without whom, this video would not be possible. IF
you want to help me make more videos like this, head over to Patreon dot com slash maggie
mae fish. Be sure to like, comment, subscribe, and hit the notification button so you don’t
miss my next one. You can follow me and all of the lovely people who lent me their voices,
on Twitter. Links in the description. Stay safe, thanks again, and Save Martha.

100 Comments on “CATS! And the Weird Mind of TS Eliot | by Maggie Mae Fish”

  1. Most of the Internet: "Cats" is awful! It makes no sense!
    More nuanced Internet: The play was pretty strange too, maybe this shouldn't be surprising.
    MMF: The original poetry (and poet) are so F'd up that the madness of the movie is the best quality.

  2. Elliot noticing Saint Sebastian's beauty is absolutely correct as that saint has historically been described as kinda gorgeous (and probably assexual, btw), but Elliot being incapable of dealing with the fact that he found a man beautiful and complaining that a female saint's death should have been made sexier instead is… wow, wrong on so many levels!

  3. Really got sucked into the bit about fascism and genuinely forgot this video was about Cats. Was kind of shocked when you brought it back 😂

  4. This is SUCH. A GOOD. ANALYSIS.
    Seriously, the links drawn between fascism, the poetry, the historical context and personal attitudes is chef's kiss magnifique.
    I wish Modernist scholars were more willing to confront the fascism inherent to Eliot's work. I felt quite shunned trying to apply such critique to the modernists, or even in raising my internal recoil at their ideas, both in undergrad and masters; it seemed like spoiling the party, that people just want to enjoy and revel in the poetry's genius or whatever, and blithely say that they were men and women of their time etc etc.
    Essays like these justify my response at the time. And I think there is a lot of beauty in Eliot's work too – Prufrock is one of my most favourite poems, and always will be. But to ignore the historical attitudes engendered into works is to suggest that one ought to be selective about reading history into literature, when it fits, when it is comfortable to do so. And that is a privilege to those who may read these works without ever being inescapably drawn to their history

  5. I'm really glad this video had a demonstrative shot of Jim Carrey popping out of a Rhino's anus. This clip is used far too sparingly for my taste.

  6. Your “fursona” confuses me; what are these feelings? Are Thundercats fascists? (is ‘are’ a word, check it’s papers).

  7. This was really good as always…
    Just one thing… the "erotic" st sebastian paintings were really kind of a thing for Renaissance italian painters, many of whom were gay or bisexual. St Sebastian nowadays is kind of a gay icon (in the literal sense)
    I dont think Ts eliot's interpretation of the paintings as carrying eroticism are completely off

  8. My only thought coming out of this was – was living in St. Louis part of the Bible Belt and how much did that contribute to how screwed up he was! (Still not a chance in hell I'm watching that film though).

  9. Wow, I literally thought it was originally just a bunch of cute, harmless kids' poems about different types of cats.

  10. Now I'd truly enjoy a deep dive into the works (and Antisemitism) of H.P Lovecraft with Maggie dressing in a pseudo-Cthulhu costume. Anyone? Just me? Ok. I'll see myself out.

  11. Come for the cat woman, stay for the interesting dissection on the political and cultural ramifications of T.S. Eliot's engrained fascism

  12. "… a blog where he compares celebrity skull shapes"

    Wait, what? Somebody actually thinks phrenology is a valid science?

  13. You are fucking brillaint, and long could I go on that — long may you continue, live long, and prosper, and a fourth point of joy; so it doesn't sound just like a runaway Star Wars line. Thanks for all the hard critical, antifascist, poetic, and work of powerful scenic moves (and costumes!)

  14. it's great that you like all the dancing, but the play still has a fascist subtext, plus it's ridiculous and dumb. Cats is garbage. Amazing work exposing it.

  15. I just did a pandemic check-in with my parents and subjected them to a rambling, poor attempt at paraphrasing what I learned in this video. Yep, thanks, I guess?

  16. Oh thank god… I couldn't take more than a minute of that opener. Nailed. It. The terrible thing is that I don't mind a touch of T.S. Eliot now and then, but that's why Cats getting any bigger than Memory references ruins me. It'd be like the world suddenly communicating like Terry Pratchett writes (for me) – incredibly detailed and creative, but ultimately *maddening*.
    Interested to watch the other 97.8% of this video.

  17. Ironic given that the black cat often used as an anarchist/left-libertarian/anti-fascist symbol as far back as 1918.

  18. OMG This was like a who's who of all my favorite Internet people XD

    Not even checking the credits I recognized:

    Sarah Z
    Lindsay Ellis
    Robert Evans
    Three Arrows
    Innunedo Studios
    Cody Johnson

    Love it!

  19. It is really easy to dunk on Eliot's violent sexism talking about St. Alexander, but you can't tell me that someone couldn't write a 25 page queer theory paper on those 3 paintings.

  20. I'm taking this video as permission to never have to try to interpret The Waste Land. Thank you for that.

  21. Haha, I thought the title says "the weird mint of T.S.Elliott". = D

    (Which I thought was a reference to catnip, because in my native language of finnish, catnip is named kissanminttu (free translation: cats mint).)

  22. My one critique would be the title: ‘Weird’ would imply that there’s something enduring to Elliot’s personality and writing.

  23. I think the static close-ups worked. It takes advantage of film by showing unspoken reactions of the other characters to the cat who is singing in that particular scene. That's a big part of the play, that you get to see almost all of the cast on stage at all times and they are reacting to one another but on stage you don't get to see more subtle emotions like Munkustrap being annoyed by Mr.Mistofelees' stalling during his song.

    And also it seems there were only able to really finish the cg on one character per shot. So all of these shots focusing on one character_s and hiding problem areas like shadows really helped.

  24. I was actually just thinking the other day about how I was jonesing for some of that sweet Maggie Mae content cuz it had been so long! Lo and behold Mother Maggie hear'd my prayers and felt my withdrawals and deigned to come down from on high and blesseth me with a FAT WAD of Maggie Mae. Hell yeah! That's the good stuff. Gimme the full hour, Mags! I want the FULL HOUR! AHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!!🤯🤯🤯🤤🤤🤤😴😴😴 That's the good stuff…

  25. Every video Maggie makes changes me on a molecular level, my whole upbringing is being deconstructed in a way I could never articulate. Thank you.

  26. False. No one's favorite Shakespeare play is Coriolanus. I think that's one of the signs of being a sociopath.

  27. I take solace in the fact that somewhere out there in some parallel universe, there's probably a version of Cats inspired by Robert E. Howard that features jacked felines beating the shit out of wealthy oil executives.

    I just wish I could watch it.

  28. Fantastic, I especially enjoyed the section on your take on dance and human movement. Really woke me up to that kind of social programming I got as a kid in regards to that where expression is weakness. Also really broke down interesting passages for dummies like myself

  29. your at-home makeup produced a more convincing, more aesthetically pleasing cat person than all their millions and cgi

  30. We drunk viewed Cats 3 days ago. This video was beyond awesome. You are the most CatBae. 👍👍👍

  31. You had me with the pegging, but the cucumber bit really sealed it. Also, all that intellectual stuff. That was cool, too.

  32. Great vid but I think the analysis of Silence of the Lambs is a bit surface-level. Buffalo Bill is explicitly stated to not be truly transexual, rather obsessed with the act of transformation (hence the butterflies). I always thought that he interpreted his dysphoria as gender-based, when it is actually due to his psychopathic urges. However I understand that the film visually codes him as trans, and in 1991 was roundly condemned by lgbt+ communities for stereotyping. Director Jonathan Demme felt so bad about this backlash that, ever the humanist, he then made the first studio film about the AIDS crisis with Philadelphia. The queer community has a tricky relationship with the Hannibal franchise, especially considering the importance of the tv show's recharacterization of its central dynamic as explicitly homoerotic.

  33. Maggie, I'm a huge fan of your work and this video is both entertaining and very informative as a deep dive into Eliot's um, weird. I would love to see you tackle the works and adaptations of Kurt Vonnegut. As a fan of his work I will acknowledge that most of the fans I've met and conversed with about Vonnegut tend to be oddly weird, MRA, chad-esque type men that just makes me hate myself for being a fan of Vonnegut's works. I don't know, I think there is something to that and you just seem like the right person for the job to figure it out and give it the MMF brand. Keep up the great work, you're awesome! Cheers!

  34. Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat says, fascism making the trains run on time is a lie designed to make you think there's a silver lining to fascist ideology. There isn't. DEATH TO TYRANTS. Good night.
    (tapdances away)

  35. Hey is that the voice of Cody Johnston? The voice of Cody's Showdy?. The Fair and Balanced™©® show?

  36. As much as I want to comment about the intro to the video and the inevitable journey into my mind, heart and soul it is sending me into I just have to say


    Great video as always!

  37. Two things: One, I had no idea TS Eliot was like this so this was a very educational and insightful take onto why this movie is so fucking weird.

    Two, my body was not ready for Maggie Mae Fish as a Cat.

  38. 47:22

    Honestly I’m amazed that William Wordsworth didn’t crawl out of his grave and punch eliot in the face over that one.

  39. holly shet, thanks for the plot upfront – i had no idea – never seen it or read on it before as musicals irk me

    i think maybe he was gender dysphoric and it may has conjured a jealousy of the only feminine form accepted by the cultural cliques he was born into – the natural woman

  40. This is amazing- I would love to collaborate with you about the kind of traditional culture – specifically bawdy and rebellious folk ballads- that royalists and fash deny a place in their curated versions of “tradition.”

  41. Have you seen
    The bigger piggies
    In their starched white shirts?
    You will find the bigger piggies
    Stirring up the dirt.
    Always have clean shirts
    To play around it.

  42. You know, I'm starting to realize all through college my English courses always talked about Eliot abstractly, and only used excerpts of the Waste Land as examples of his work without context.

    I can't imagine why.

    Also, Maggie is the best, the discussion of policing body language and how the worst among us can use that coding to hide themselves was excellent, remember always kids that Beauty is the shroud evil wraps around itself, Save Martha.

    P.S. Stay safe MMF!

  43. Quick appreciation, whoever made the prop for that performance of the 10 Commandments actually used the Paleo-Hebrew script and as far as I can tell they basically just swapped the Paleo-Hebrew characters with the modern Hebrew characters (as in where an Aleph would be there is the Paleo-Hebrew equivalent). That's really cool imo. Language probably changed between Biblical Hebrew and whenever the first writing of the ten commandments was, but it's super nifty regardless imo.

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