LOS ANGELES — Marching in a broad circle outside the Universal Studios headquarters on Monday, a group of about 200 cats demanded “more cuddly representation” in television and film.
The felid contingent included house cats, pumas, bobcats, tigers, lions, leopards and even a few jaguars, each holding signs with messages like “Cats are more than claws!” and “Stop The Stereotyping!”
“What do we want?” a house cat shouted into a megaphone.
“Cuddlier representation!” the crowd of cats shouted.
“When do we want it!”
“After our nap!” they replied in unison.
Monday’s protest was prompted by Universal Studios’ 2022 thriller, Beast, but protest organizer Buddy the Cat said the felid group was protesting “decades of tropes and injustices committed against cats by Hollywood and TV.” Examples include the undead cat in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, the rampaging lion in Dutch horror-comedy film Prey (called Uncaged in the US), the many murderous felids in the CBS series Zoo, and Jackson Galaxy’s My Cat From Hell.
“We’re tired of always being cast as villains while dogs are the heroes. Take a cat like me, for instance,” Buddy told a reporter. “It’s easy to mistake me, with my razor sharp claws and ripped physique, for a threat to humans. But really I’m just a cuddly little guy who likes chin scratches.”
Linus, a 14-year-old Bengal tiger who starred as Richard Parker in the 2012 hit Life of Pi, said he was a young actor who didn’t know better when he agreed to portray the threatening antagonist.
“Now that I’m older and I have all this Frosted Flakes money coming in, I can be picky about the roles I accept and only choose movies I think will be Grrreat!” he told an interviewer. “But what about the next young tiger, or the jaguar fresh off the boat from the Amazon, who doesn’t have the power to tell the director a certain scene is offensive?”
Linus also took issue with the script, in which the writers have him refusing to share fish with Pi.
“Did you see the boat? It was filled with fish! What am I, some sort of glutton who’s gonna eat 200 pounds of fish while the human starves?” Linus asked, bewildered. “I mean, according to Hollywood we’re angry, dangerous, murderous criminals and we stuff our faces all the time. No wonder people are scared of us!”
Beast stars British actor Idris Elba and tells the story of a widowed medical doctor who takes his two daughters to South Africa, where they stay with a family friend and embark on a tour of the native wildlife.
Unbeknownst to them, an adult male lion is on a rampage after a team of poachers entered the reserve the previous night and slaughtered his entire pride. While Elba’s character, his two daughters and his friend (Sharlto Copley) explore the reserve, they discover the mutilated remains of an entire village’s population and eventually come face to face with the murderous lion.
“What’s all this barney, then?” Elba said when asked about the felid protest. “Well that’s unfortunate, innit, mate? I played a tiger in The Jungle Book, a proper tiger. I love cats.”
The actor, who rocketed to fame off the strength of his portrayals of Stringer Bell in American police drama The Wire, the title character in British detective thriller Luther, as well as major roles in franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Trek reboot movies and science fiction action-adventure Pacific Rim, said he’s taken the cat’s criticism to heart.
“Me and me mate Buddy, we like to grab a pint on the regular, d’ya know what I mean?” Elba said. “This tosh with the movies, it’s gotta stop. Me mate Buddy is a good bloke, innit? So if he says Hollywood has to have more positive portrayal of cats, then that’s what we’ll do.”
In addition to their negative portrayal in films, which felids likened to the offensive portrayal of Italian-Americans as mafia figures, many cats cried foul at the idea that one of their kind would harm the beloved South African actor Sharlto Copley.
“That’s a very offensive portrayal,” said Chonkmatic the Magnificent, King of All Cats. “Sharlto Copley is the guy who made District 9, about aliens who eat cat food. Everyone knows cats love District 9. We wouldn’t lay a claw on Sharlto!”