Greetings again from the darkness. There are so many ways to divide the world, but few lines of demarcation are clearer than ‘dog people’ versus ‘cat people’. Being firmly planted in the former group, while being confounded by the latter, it was for edification purposes that I agreed to watch Mye Hoang’s documentary. We got off to a rocky start when a Mark Twain quote popped up: “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” Nope, Mr. Twain and I will simply disagree on this.
We are all too familiar with “crazy cat lady” syndrome – an often reclusive, usually elderly woman, whose love of cats has resulted in a veritable feline zoo in her home. The memes are all over social media, and they are usually good for a chuckle and a cringe. But what about the stereotype of men and cats? In the 1970’s and 80’s the catchphrase was “Real men don’t eat quiche”, and there was even a (comical) best-selling book by that title. But men with cats … well that’s a stereotype that never needed a book. Even many women shy away from the guy with a cat. It’s this baggage and history that inspired Ms. Hoang to explore the topic. Well that, plus her own husband’s personality shift associated with a cat.
The filmmaker first introduces us to “Nathan the cat lady”, which is how he’s known to his 300,000 Instagram followers. He’s an actor and has 4 cats, each of whom play into his popular, often humorous posts. But it’s not all fun and games for Ms. Hoang. As she shifts from California to New York City, the camera turns to David, a homeless immigrant and former construction worker. David’s story is the most poignant, and actually seems a bit out of place with the other 8 subjects in the film. In fact, David and his cat and his story could easily have been the focus of an interesting documentary short.
“Real men” and their cats make up most of the rest of the film. A fireman, long-haul trucker, trainer/stuntman, and avid hiker are included. Each offers up a tale of how their own mental well-being was transformed by their pet cat. There is also a segment on a non-profit cat rescuer whose mission is to minimize the number of stray cats strutting aimlessly. Perhaps these stories resonate a bit more as we approach two years on the pandemic calendar. One thing is certain, in a purr-fect world, cat ladies will now share the market with cat daddies.
The film had its World premiere at the 2021 Dallas International Film Festival, and will be featured at several other film festivals prior to year-end.