Contrast that with dogs, who, according to the “dog people” lobbying in their favor, rush elatedly up to meet you when you come home. I get that, in the abstract, but I can’t help quoting Meet the Parents: “You need that assurance, do you? You prefer an emotionally shallow animal?” And I see the contrast between these animals as having even more relevance to movies than that. Doesn’t film, television, music, literature, radio, the web — doesn’t all media — break down along cat-dog lines? Either it dashes right up to you, tongue out, pleading for your attention, or it strikes a pose wherever it happens to sit, meeting you halfway if you care to approach — and not particularly minding if you don’t?
Of the myriad possible cinematic sins, only one strikes me as unforgivable: giving in to and thus baldly expressing terror that the audience might stop watching. I figured this out while watching Slumdog Millionaire, a movie constantly crapping its pants over the slightest possibility that you’ll look away. This syndrome breeds countless other ills, including but not limited to the tiresome “hyperkineticism” of cinema’s past 25 years and the blunt melodrama of its last hundred. While I no longer have any skin in the cat versus dog game, I care deeply about the cat versus dog media game.
Cat media: Bookworm. Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Charlie Rose. Jim Jarmusch. Entitled Opinions. 3:AM Magazine. Experimental video. In Our Time. David Lynch. New Directions Books. With Hidden Noise. Editions of Contemporary Music. A Piece of Monologue.
Dog media: Jerry Bruckheimer. Reality television. Hot-talk stations sweatily eyeing their Arbitron numbers. Fully SEO’d Social Media Hubs. 24-hour coverage of celebrity dating. Designed-to-be-viral videos. Gawker. Cable news broadcasts crammed with scrolling sub-screens. Dan Brown. The Black Eyed Peas. Maxim. “Productivity” pr0n. Turbocharged tips to jack your strat.
Yes, I admit to the simplification of presenting two extremes on an actual spectrum. But consider the core idea: cat media knows it’s good, and thus doesn’t mind if you don’t seek it out right away. Dog media doesn’t care if it’s good, as long as you’re absorbing it. I only want to experience media that has the confidence of a cat, media that doesn’t care whether or not I like it, media that refuses to fall all over itself in the mad scramble for my attention, my ticket sales, my quarter-hours spent listening, my page views. (Bonus points if it goes in the water, if it’s hairless, if its ears fold down, or if it’s got a cool poofy tail.)