One of the stars of “Cats” has declared the character she plays in the film is transgender — but amid a critical drubbing of the film, the LGBT community wants no part of it.
Veteran British actress Judi Dench, 85, plays Old Deuteronomy in the 2019 adaption of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic Broadway musical, which premiered in theaters last week.
In most versions of “Cats,” Old Deuteronomy —a wise, old feline respected by the other cats in the play — is depicted as male.
Dench told Out Magazine in an interview published on Friday that being cast in the traditionally male role was “totally unexpected.”
“I kind of call it ‘trans Deuteronomy,’ is the part for me, you know,” Dench told Out Magazine senior staff writer Rose Dommu.
Dommu responded to Dench’s comments by averring that Dench-as-Deuteronomy captured the zeitgeist.
“Right, because Old Deuteronomy is traditionally a male role and it seems very right for 2019 that rather than having a man be in charge, it’s now a woman making the decisions,” Dommu said.
Some prominent figures in the LGBT community took issue with Dench’s offhand linking of “Cats” and transness, especially in light of the movie’s poor reviews.
Also I don't think anyone in the LGBT community (or for that matter, anyone at all) wants to be associated with Cats.
— Ed 🌹 (@AlephInfinity) December 23, 2019
“Nope. You stop that nonsense right now. Your movie bombed and you’re not going to get us involved in this business,” transgender journalist and activist Katelyn Burns tweeted on Monday.
Turning up a big dial marked "transgender" while looking back on your audience for approval
— Katelyn Burns (@transscribe) December 23, 2019
“Turning up a big dial marked “transgender” while looking back on your audience for approval,” added in another tweet.
This is the hand-me-down of representation. “Here’s, this ones broken, you can have it”
— Niko Stratis (@nikostratis) December 23, 2019
“i have yet to see cats but can still say with confidence that it is the one movie which should have absolutely zero trans representation. keep us out of this cis nonsense. we need no part in it,” tweeted Innes McKendrick, a transgender video game programmer.
Some Twitter users accused Dench of “trans-baiting.”
Nope Nope Nope.
Your movie was an unfinished mess and youre not saving it with trans-baiting. Cut that out. https://t.co/pT2MyOP3JC
— ChaoticAyana (@AyanaChaotic) December 23, 2019
Transgender film critic Esther Rosenfield had a blunt reply to Out’s article on the transness of Old Deuteronomy:
i can’t do this anymore https://t.co/rJ6dKzCBsh
— esther rosenfield (@EstherOnFilm) December 23, 2019
But other social media commenters suggested the notion of a transgender character in “Cats” wasn’t so far-fetched.
“It has been pointed out that as Mungojerrie is a male-presenting calico, he’s almost certainly trans, given that calicos are pretty much exclusively female for colour locus reasons,” tweeted one user.
“A nightmare that won’t end”
“Cats” has been absolutely savaged by film reviewers and currently holds an 18 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Film critic Tim Robey, writing in The Telegraph, called the film “a sinister, all-time disaster from which no one emerges unscathed.”
The Collider’s Matt Goldberg said watching “Cats” was “like a descent into madness.”
Jill Gutowitz of Elle.com compared the movie, which has a 110-minute run time, to a “nightmare that won’t end.”