WARNING; SPOILERS FOR CATS
The film adaptation of the Andrew Loyd Webber musical Cats was released on the 20th December and has severely divided opinion with some watchers being more upset than the result of the general election. The reviews have gone from criticising the vocal technique of some of the actors to how deeply uncomfortable the animated cats are. This can be summed up in the quote from the Boston Globe “My eyes are burning. Oh God, my eyes” (If you want half an hour of entertainment, go and read the reviews of the film. It is hilarious)
When I went to watch it, I was well aware of these issues. So, before I entered the cinema I decided to switch off my die-hard musical theatre fan and actor brain and watch it from a 2019 basic trash perspective. From this vantage, I really enjoyed it (even if the musical theatre part of my brain was screaming as it was engulfed in flames). It has a simple plot line, all of the songs where familiar (even if they did put some of the songs to a standard pop beat) and it had a feel good ending.
So, as I was watching the end credits, I was thinking that my mother hadn’t wasted money on the tickets. The directors came up first with all of the other main production people on the film. And then the names of the actors began to appear on the screen. The first name to appear was James Corden. I was horrified and livid. The film had committed many crimes up until this point. This was the one that made me the angriest and fundamentally the most disappointed in all those that where associated with the film.
Some of you reading this may think that that is a slight over reaction to the situation. At the end of the day, does it matter what order the names descend in? It’s just a list with no meaning to it. Why does it matter?
The order of a credits scene is incredibly important, in the same way the order of the bows are on a stage. The acting world is strongly based on a hierarchy of leads being the most highlighted and then these being followed by whoever featured most in the performance next. This is seen in programmes, the order of the bows on a stage performance and, the order of the credits on a movie. Therefore, whoever the leads are in a film should be placed at the top of the credits screen.
I would like to point out that this has nothing to do with the job that Corden does in the film. He is fabulous. If the credits where in the order of how well they acted, sand and danced throughout the film then he would deserve to be at the top. His singing is on point along with his acting plus his comedy timing is as perfect as anyone would expect when knowing Corden is in the film. However, this does not change the fact he is a supporting actor and therefore should have been lower down in the list.
The person who should have been top of the credits list was Francesca Hayward, who played Victoria. While her singing at points was not up to standard (though, to be fair, I don’t blame her for that as it seems to be a theme throughout the film and suggest a production team failing than her ability) her dancing was impeccable and her style brought back the original feel of the much loved musical. Her acting throughout gave us continuity and guided us through the Jellicle Ball. As the lead actor in the production, she should have been at the top of the credits and fundamentally she deserved to be. Why wasn’t she?
The reason I am so concerned with this is from a feminist point of view. Some people may roll their eyes at this and shrug it off as a feminist being over-zealous about inequality. However, particularly in the acting industry where there is great inequality such as the sexual harassment of (mostly but not limited to) female actors and directors being mostly male it is important to have such discussion. I would also like to point out that I am not accusing anyone of purposeful sexism. However, sexism does not need to be conscious. Cats is fantastic for female leads, particularly in this instance where Old Deuteronomy was gender swapped. Hayward and her other female co-stars of Judi Dench and Jennifer Hudson all did fantastic jobs with their roles, from Dench carving out a new pathway for her character that has never been explored before to the perfection with which Hudson sang the memory climax. As the leads of the movie, they all deserved to be at the top of the credits list. However, their talent was fundamentally shunned by a less deserving actor.
This film could have been a perfect opportunity to explore strong female characters representing different aspects of femininity, from Taylor Swift owning her own sexuality in McCavity to the power portrayed by Dench to the more quiet character that Hayward plays of the outsider. The amount of female talent that went into the film should be celebrated. However, it has been brushed aside by other actors fame, position and friendship within the acting world. The poor vocal technique, the brutal murder of a classic musical and the fact the movie is always “two seconds away from turning into a furry orgy” (Matt Golder, Collider) are all forgivable. The lack of respect for the female lead is the most disappointing and is not acceptable in a modern day film.