From the moment the first Cats trailer was released, I was obsessed. I always thought I didn’t like musicals, but Cats awakened something in me. I can only chalk it up to a combination of two things: a stacked, A-list cast and their disgusting little CGI cat bodies complete with human hands.
I watched this recording of the Rum Tug Tugger song on private browsing about a hundred times in awe, in hopes of understanding the source material more. Was this what the whole musical was like? They just sing about being cats?
I realized while watching the film that not much of Cats as a concept made sense. It’s hard to understand the plot when everything is shown through song, so my interpretation of their lives might be incorrect, but it doesn’t really matter. Through song, the cats known as Jellicle Cats have to convince an old cat (Old Deuteronomy, played by Judi Dench) to let them die and live a better life. The audiences see this all through the experience of Victoria (Francesca Hayward), a new cat who is abandoned in an alleyway.
But which cat really deserves to die? If it were up to me, every single one of them would be dead. They’re all repulsive. But in the world of Cats, death isn’t a punishment. It’s a reward given to the saddest cat of them all. Which cat really deserves to go to the “Heavyside Layer,” which means death? Is it the innocent Victoria? The busty Bombalurina? Or the possible trafficking victim Grizabella?
I swear to God, this was longer than the 3.5 hours I spent sitting in a theater watching The Irishman. Nobody can convince me otherwise. Spoilers ahead.
Our introduction to Victoria is when her owner drops her off in an alleyway. She’s writhing around in a sack. Once the cat’s literally out of the bag, we follow her throughout the movie as she arrives on the night of the Jellicle Ball, when Old Deuteronomy (Old Deut, as she is lovingly called) picks one of them to have a better life. Technically, Victoria is not a contender, as she is not a Jellicle cat, but her kind nature makes it seem like she has a real shot at going to heaven.
Does she deserve to die: Absolutely not. She just got there! These cats have spent all year waiting for this. This bitch can wait.
James Corden’s enduring fame baffles me, but that’s not really the point of this. At first, it seems like Bustopher’s only defining characteristic is that he loves to eat and is fat. But as his song continues, you realize he’s the life of the party who is really good at finding trash to eat and sharing the trash with all his buds.
Does he deserve to die: No! Maybe if he was a bit more sad and less generous.
A huge takeaway from watching Taylor Swift as Bombalurina is that her character should have been played by Rita Ora. Bombalurina is a bit of a sexpot (to be fair, all the cats are), but she doesn’t at all make a case for why she deserves a better life. She loves drugs (catnip) and gets all the cats high as hell by sprinkling some gold dust on them while dancing with Macavity, the cat they are all scared of. This bitch is thriving!
Does she deserve to die: She’s never gonna have it better than she does now. She’s living it up!
Gus is the most disgusting cat by far. He’s really old, and in one scene he’s in some type of closet lapping up milk off a saucer while standing up. It’s truly a standout moment of utter depravity in a movie that’s more disgusting than I can describe. He deserves nothing good.
Does he deserve to die: Maybe if he wasn’t so gross.
Jennyanydots is a lazy cat who seems to live in an actual home. Why is she a Jellicle? She’s also quite cruel; she makes mice and cockroaches dance for her, but still kills them. Yes, the cockroaches and mice are also humanoids. She’s evil!
Does she deserve to die:
No, she’s cosplaying as a poor cat.
Jason Derulo had to adopt a British accent to play Rum Tum Tugger, who is a curious cat. I squealed when he appeared because he’s really just Jason Derulo dressed as a cat—he’s utterly himself.
Does he deserve to die: I’m rooting for everybody black, I guess. Which is why he is third.
Spoiler alert: she actually ends up going off in a balloon in the end because she’s chosen to die. Grizabella spends much of the movie looking pained and leering behind lamp posts at all the other cats, who have shunned her. It’s not entirely sure why everyone avoids her, but my guess is that she is a sex worker or performer. I know that sounds insane, but it makes sense when you watch it. Anyway, she’s the only truly sad cat! Every scene, she has snot running down her face from crying. She’s not really trying to have a better life, as she has resigned herself to being an outcast.
Does she deserve to die: Yes, but not as much as who really deserves to die.
Macavity is the villain. Throughout the movie, he’s described as being wanted by the Scotland Yard! He’s a criminal and possesses the power to teleport people. He’s truly sneaky and menacing and absolutely deserves a better life. He’s the only cat actively trying to escape his circumstances and tries to cheat by teleporting other cats to dock so that he’s the only Jellicle remaining, meaning he wins by default. It’s not fair, sure, but he truly wants it.
Does he deserve to die: YES! Because he’s really putting some type of effort into seeking out death.
Sarah Hagi is a writer living in Toronto.