#cats_the_mewvie is a Netflix documentary examining why cat posts, memes, and videos are so popular and prevalent online. After 2018’s thoroughly enjoyable Catwalk (another cat-themed Netflix documentary, about cat shows in Canada), cat-fans were pleased by the release of a new documentary in the same vein. One of the things that concerned viewers prior to watching was that the documentary might rely on the “crazy cat lady” stereotype (which Catwalk uses as its entire premise), but what we got was actually worse. 

After the opening, which seemed as though it was examining the question of why cats dominate the internet sphere, it very quickly turned into a series of vignettes advertising various “famous” cats and their Instagram pages. Curious, though, it is to know how much “catfluencers” earn and how they’ve “made it”, interviews with the cat-owners (complete with their Instagram usernames and follower counts) took up the vast majority of the screen time.

There were moments throughout where it would ease back to the ostensible subject matter – such as a segment in the middle asking “why is it cats and not dogs winning the internet popularity contest?” – but it again gave too much airtime even then to the opinion of the owners of the catfluencers. That isn’t to say they couldn’t have an interesting idea; but in practice, they mostly talked about their own cats and didn’t really answer the question. It was also telling that several of their experts – including Jessica Myrick from Penn State University, who conducted a study into the watching of cat videos – had exceptionally poor video quality and had clearly filmed themselves on a webcam from their own home. This was contrasted with the slick interview segments with the “famous cats” and their owners, in a way which made it clear what the real focus of the film was. 

It seemed that the film was redeeming itself with a segment in the middle discussing the welfare of both cats whose owners are trying to make them famous, and those who need rescuing and adopting. It then it moved immediately into an interview with a couple who dress up their cat in outfits from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Though they mention being concerned about their cat’s wellbeing, they also mention that they’re not currently earning enough to live on.

The film ultimately committed the greatest sin possible of a documentary – it utterly failed to answer or adequately explore its purported central question. It had moments where it almost seemed like it could (especially interviews with the aforementioned Jessica Myrick, and Jason Eppink, who curated an exhibition on the subject), but it would immediately swerve straight back to catfluencers. It ended up with enough of a cold, corporate feeling that made it feel as if it had been sponsored by a company – it’s almost more disturbing that it wasn’t.

1 star

Image: Movie DB

Tierney Green is a screen contributor at Forge Press.

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