Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Entry 56: Breaking Cat News

Longtime readers of this blog know that I’m a sucker for science fiction. Well, today I’m going to let you in on another weakness of mine: Anything told from the perspective of a cat.

We’ve encountered this phenomenon before in my delight with Hey Pais, the one and only journal comic by a cat, but there aren’t too many other comics out there that let cats tell their own stories in their own words. There are some, though, and today I’m going to ask you to look through a window and see how one group of cats reacts to events in Breaking Cat News.

Lupin, Elvis, and Puck report on all the significant goings-on in their home, from tragedies like the vacuum cleaner running loose to miracles like the humans filling the house with boxes. It’s not clear who they think is watching or why they’re so dedicated to their broadcast, but they definitely take their task seriously. They won’t even hesitate to interrup the humans in any task whatsoever to get the latest scoop.

I wouldn’t bother with spoiler warnings for Breaking Cat News, both because most installments are one-off and there’s typically no overarcing plot, and because the events depicted in the comic are typically based on events that occurred in real life, and as we all know, real-life spoiler warnings are absurd.

I want to avoid doing a full-on compare-and-contrast with Hey Pais, because there’s so much more interesting material to discuss, but there are a few striking similarities between the two comics that I want to mention. Both comics are created by cat owners who draw inspiration from the actual cats in their home, hitting upon universally observed truths regarding cat behavior while simultaneously illuminating the peculiarities of the specific cats in the comics. There’s even a parallel in the means by which the cats refer to their humans; where Hey Pais features “The Girl” and “The Guy,” Breaking Cat News has “The Woman” and “The Man.”

The primary source of humor in Breaking Cat News comes from the disconnect between what’s being reported and what’s “really” going on. Silly cats, pizzas are for eating, not for lying on top of the box!

We readers, as humans, can identify the true story while the cats are distracted with feline-relevant details. However, the comic itself doesn’t usually present the human side of the story. We’re in the cats’ world, seeing things from their perspective. Being so used to being outside that perspective, trying to live in it seems inherently absurd.

But stories like this, told from a perspective alien to our own, invite deeper questions. There’s no reason that the cats’ perspective should be any less valid than that of humans. Certainly, the cats are fallible and biased, but so is everyone. Cat owners make assumptions about cats’ wants and motivations, and the cats here do the same in regards to their human companions. Our assumptions regarding them may be no more accurate than their assumptions regarding us.

That sort of mental exercise, recognizing a cat’s viewpoint as valid and worthy of consideration, is useful when it comes to understanding people who come from different backgrounds and potentially incompatible worldviews. Though a given perspective might seem wholly unrelatable, being able to accept that everyone’s limited experiences shapes their ideology, and that no one’s perspective in particular is objective, can aid in understanding and compassion.

I’m the kind of person who likes to read deeper messages into silly cat shenanigans, so compassion and respect for all is my takeaway from Breaking Cat News. You don’t have to consciously expand your mind while reading, of course: Feel free to just giggle at the hijinks these boys get up to, and slowly it will make you a better person. Probably. Maybe.

I might not have any idea what I’m talking about.

There’s a lot in Breaking Cat News to delight cat lovers, from recognizable antics to insight into one family’s relationships with and between their cats. It’s fun and silly enough that I hope people who are indifferent to cats would enjoy it too, though frankly I can’t imagine what it must be like to be indifferent to cats so I’m not sure I can say anything about such people with authority.

Breaking Cat News is written and drawn by Georgia Dunn, and updates on Mondays and Thursdays. I recommend it to people who like cats (which is, like, everyone on the internet, right? Or are cats on the internet passé, yet?) and to people who like laughing at things. I assume most people reading this comic will break out laughing every other page like I do, so why don’t you head on over and put that assumption to the test?

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  1. Very good commentary re: Breaking Cat News. I am a relative newcomer to reading it and you explain the fun, charm and insights perfectly.

    1. I'm glad you're enjoying the comic, and I'm glad you enjoyed this post!