Last week, we looked at some great talking cats from different storytelling mediums: Mogget from Sabriel, Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and McTavish from Down the Mysterly River.
This week, we’re going to get sardonic and fuzzy again.
4. Taggle from Plain Kate
Oh, Plain Kate. This book. Trust me – you want this book.
Plain Kate is a deceptively simple tale about an ordinary (read: plain) girl whose excellence with woodcrafting often gets mistaken for witchcraft. She’s not a witch, but she definitely lives in a world with witches, and one of the benefits of living in a world with witches is that sometimes they (at a very steep price) enchant your cat to talk.
This is where Taggle comes in, and I think easily the best thing about is that he is actually a cat. Yes, he’s a cat enchanted with the power of human language, but instead of turning him into a miniature human, the narrative explores what it might realistically be like for an ordinary cat to start talking. Kind of like that dog in Up.
The cuteness! It kills
So what does a talking cat look like? Well, Taggle is constantly asking Kate to pet him, asserting his superiority in hunting and catching things, and just generally being indignant whenever something offends his pride, which appears boundless. For anyone who’s ever been in a close proximity with a cat – this portrayal rings pretty true.
3. The Cat in the Hat from The Cat in the Hat
How could you not include The Cat in the Hat? Seriously. I don’t have much to say about this one, except that it’s an (awesome) cat in a hat!
And that he seems to spend his days causing chaos for kids while their parents are away. That’s a profession I can get behind.
2. Puss In Boots from Puss In Boots
Okay, it does not escape me that there seems to be a cottage industry based on creating memorable children’s characters by saddling talking cats with articles of clothing. The humor here is obvious: It’s a cat! Wearing a thing! Even though cats don’t wear things!
But, as much as we love The Cat in the Hat, Puss In Boots came first.
I suspect that most kids nowadays are more familiar with the character from the Shrek films, and I’m gonna get to the character in a second. But the original fairy tale character is pretty kickass himself. In the original fairy tale, a poor third son inherits a cat which – shockingly! – can talk. The cat promises to make his master rich and powerful if his master just buys him some boots. And the rest is history. I’m a fan of the TV Trope Puss in Boots, which is basically about characters who are hyper-competent sidekicks/strategists that you really don’t want to go to the dark side.
Of course, there’s that Puss from Shrek. And he does not disappoint. You might have noticed that there’s a movie coming out.
Now, normally I’m not a fan of over-extended sequels and/or spinoffs. But I’m definitely interested in this.
Not sure if it’s because of the sheer cuteness -
- or if it’s because being voiced by Antonia Banderas has turned him into a hilarious Zorro parody.
To be fair, it’s probably a bit of both.
1. The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland
Was anyone surprised by this? I mean, really?
Now, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the Disney movie. For all I know, it could be a great movie. But it freaked me out too much as a kid. I could take or leave the recent movie with Johnny Depp.
No, my love for the Cheshire Cat comes from the original stories by Lewis Carroll. This is a story that needs no introduction, but let’s just say that the story entitled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is about ordinary girl Alice’s adventures in a strange world called Wonderland.
No portal story is complete without the trickster guide – and the Cheshire Cat is the wonderful epitome of the trickster guide, complete with dialogue that is both rambling and clever. He gives you the sense that everything’s a big old joke to him, which can be rather fun. And at times, this clearly deranged cat also seems to be the closest thing to lucid in Wonderland (he does, unlike some of the other characters, attempt to answer and guide Alice) – which makes you question just what kind of an upside down world this Wonderland really is.
What are some of your favorite talking cats from fantasy literature?
But you know what else is pretty cool?
The epitome of cool
Aliens are also pretty diverse. I mean, if I spent a lot of time last week talking about how the diversity of mermaids – imagine how much trouble I could get into with aliens! At least mermaids tend to have scales and smell fishy. But what does E.T. have to do with to the monsters from Cloverfield? How is that (wickedly stylish) pug from Men in Black related to the alien from Predator?
Most importantly, where does Roswell figure in?
By which we mean that one show with Katherine Heigl before she was Katherine Heigl – why, what did YOU mean?
I’m going to do something a bit different today. Rather than even try to fully represent the broad diversity of aliens, I’m just going to focus on two of my favorite science fiction films: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The Monsters are Due on Maple Street
Okay, before I say anything else, let’s get this out of the way: that title. Seriously, that title. How can you look at that title and not immediately be intrigued? If that title doesn’t do anything for you, then I would consider getting your curiosity receptors checked out. Like, stat.
Strictly speaking, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street isn’t a movie. But it’s one of the classic episodes of The Twilight Zone, so it might as well be.
At first glance, Maple Street has a pretty simple premise. For no discernible reason, the power goes out on Maple Street – even the cars. Neighbors congregate to investigate, as people are wont to do when their power inexplicably goes out. A boy with comic books insists that it’s because aliens are attacking. But he’s just a silly boy citing silly books with silly drawings – right? At least, that’s what the grown-ups tell themselves.
But then, for some reason, one car starts to work – why that car, and why that family? And how do you explain some of the neighbors’ weird behavior? There’s that guy who’s building a radio that no one’s ever seen, and then there’s that other guy who stares up into the sky at night…
If I went any further, I would have to slap spoiler warnings on this post. Let’s just say that there are monsters on Maple Street – and that there are aliens, too. But they’re not who you expect.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
I discovered this movie while lost on-campus during my semester abroad in Ireland. I don’t remember what I was trying to find, but I do remember that it was not the dark student lounge where some film club was showing this movie. It’s not exactly the kind of movie you want to walk in on while discombobulated, especially not in a foreign country, but I liked it so much that I sat down and watched the rest of the thing in its entirety, having entered probably somewhere around the 30% mark.
Unlike Maple Street, The Day the Earth Stood Still has a complicated plot that’s difficult to relate here. An alien named Klaatu comes to Earth with his robot Gort. They don’t exactly make a secret out of it, as you can tell from that picture above. But secrecy is not really the mandate – they’re on Earth to warn Earthings about atomic power, which other planets have deemed too dangerous. If Earth doesn’t do something about its deadly ways, then those other planets will have to exterminate Earth completely. Not that they want to – they’ll just have to. Sort of like pest control.
Of course, Klaatu isn’t able to get his message out easily. And of course, even when he does get his message out, people aren’t inclined to listen. And! Of course, while on the run from the United States government, the human-looking Klaatu shacks with a pretty lady for a few days. Did I mention there’s a robot named Gort? There’s no robot doctor, but that still earned the movie extra points in my book. (It’s a very easy book.)
And yes, it ends tragically. I won’t tell you any more than that, although I will say that I found the ending surprisingly moving and meaningful.
Apparently there was a remake with Keanu Reeves in 2008? That’s what Google’s telling me anyhow. I have not seen this movie, so I have no right to pass judgment, although the reviews don’t seem favorable. If you’ve only seen the remake, I recommend watching the original. Really, if you haven’t seen the original, then I recommend doing so. Admittedly, it moves somewhat slowly (as black-and-whites from the 50s are wont to do) but it’s a smart little film with a main character that you really root for.
So those are my two alien recommendations for the day.
Wrong, Google Image search! That is clearly a pirate.
It’s interesting, because there are so many fantastic movies where aliens are the bad guys, yet none of those movies strike me as particularly memorable (at least for myself). I must admit that I haven’t seen Alien yet, which is a huge cultural failing on my part. Still, I think I’m attracted more to stories where aliens highlight humanity’s faults, rather than their strengths.
What are your favorite aliens?
Any great alien movies/shows/books/comic books that you would like to recommend?
This post was for Monsterfest 2011! Check it out.
***Now with dates!
- In regards to the Yes Gay YA debacle: Seanan McGuire has a great post about why it’s important to use fiction (to which I would add, especially YA fiction) to normalize LGTB characters. McGuire writes, “What I want is heist books and con men where it’s Mike and Dan, not Mike and Dawn.” Go. Read this article. Do it now.
- Kait Nolan posted an amazing video with hot men. This trend of putting hot, well-dressed young men in music videos? I like it.
- Couple io9 links this week. First link – Ender’s Game movie? TOO AWESOME TO HANDLE.
- Second link – interesting response to DC’s treatment of Starfire.
- To be honest, I’m torn. Should seven year old girls be reading those particular comics anyway? Absolutely not. And although I know Starfire as the awesomesauce alien on Teen Titans, I must admit that the new Starfire is actually more like the old Starfire, leaving the Teen Titans Starfire as some kind of awkward middle child.
- But. Do I like what DC is doing with Starfire?
- Speaking of DC comics. Scott Snyder, the current writer of Batman (and American Vampire woot!), was on Twitter answering questions and giving writing advice. You can find all the information compiled here. I’m grateful to the person who did the compiling, but it is very text block-y, which is unfortunate, because there are some real gems in there, especially when he talks about treating writing as a learnable skill. So please give it a look even if it makes your eyes hurt at first.
- I was fortunate enough to have Scott Snyder as a writing professor, and more than any other writing professor he de-mystified the process. There’s this trend in the writing world to worship concepts such as inspiration and talent and unique voices and all that stuff. But Scott Snyder talks about writing in concrete terms, presenting it as a skill that you can learn, just like how you can learn to lay bricks or practice medicine. That’s an important message in a writing culture that tries to sell us this, “Either you have talent, or you don’t,” philosophy, which honestly? Is probably responsible for making a lot of people quit.
- To be honest, I spent waaaay too much time this week obsessively reading and researching Occupy Wall Street. I think it’s a lot more meaningful and interesting than people are giving it credit for, although there are certainly things that I don’t agree with. More than anything though, I think it’s EXTREMELY INTERESTING to compare coverage of Occupy Wall Street to coverage of the Tea Party.
- But I digress. I’m not here to talk politics.
- No, I’m here to show you funny videos about politics.
- Check out John Stewart’s awesome use of Detective Stabler to comment on the infamous pepper spray incident.
- And, Colbert’s coverage of Occupy Wall Street.
- Finally, on a political note: please visit this tumblr for a taste of why dismissing this movement as “bored trust fund babies studying humanities” is incredibly minimizing and short-sighted.
Posting was a bit weird for me this week, but things should return to normal next week. On Monday, I’m posting my ROW 80 goals. Do you know about ROW 80? You should. And on Tuesday, I’ll be joining Monsterfest and posting about mermaids. Because mermaids are cool. Do you know about Sommer Leigh’s Monsterfest? You should.