This week, I listened to On the Media’s “ Their Eyes were Watching Cats” podcast and I was incredibly happy I did. Cats have seemingly taken over contemporary society with countless memes and you tube videos in their honour. I knew cats were becoming a phenomenon, so I was impressed that On the Media decided to address this seemingly trivial issue.
During the podcast, the question as to whether these cat videos and memes were art came up. The base to that question is “what is art?” Of course, there most apparent answer is “no.” But, a contemporary culture expert said the new obsession with cats could be classified as art because they are a new “culturally significant phenomenon”. I’m not sure if I agree with that but I do wonder why cats have become such a phenomenon.
Mr. Shapiro a perpetuator of cat videos on youtube said that cats help us to look at ourselves with more humour and are a form of protest against society’s rigidity without being violent. He said that by dressing up a cat in a suit, we are mocking ourselves. I think what he means is we take life so seriously but seeing a cat do it, makes us realize that things are never to be taken too seriously.
The idea that cats as a new phenomenon also breaks gender stereotypes came up. In history cats have been associated negatively with women from black cats as witches to today’s crazy cat lady. Having a cat meant you were lonely but with the advent of cat videos, having cats seem fun almost cool.
An interesting topic that arose in the podcast was “why cats?” There are tons of cute animals out there, an answer that was brought up was that we are reverting to forms of ancient Egyptian cat worship because cats are so indifferent they never look happy so watching them act so silly but having dead-pan expressions make it even better. Mr. Shapiro said the reason it could not be dogs is because unlike cats they are not hypnotic and while “dog owners want their dogs to be humans, cat owners want to be cats.”