From the archives: Chromatic Sexism and Animated Felines


Contributed by Fawzi.

catsdontdance_1997.jpgDid you ever notice that patterns emerge in the fur colors of major protagonist characters of the domestic feline species portrayed in popular, secular, post modern children’s media? Female feline protagonist tend to have white fur, a reoccurring characteristic for the heroines in a significant number of films involving cats, examples include female characters from The Aristocats, Cats Don’t Dance, The Rescuers (she’s a mouse, but the concept still stands). On the other hand, the male feline protagonists have orange fur, examples include male characters from Garfield, Heathcliff, The Aristocats, An American Tail, Cats Don’t Dance, etc. Furthermore, leading males that have dark or cold colors as oppose to the traditional orange fur are sadistically tormented on a regular basis as in the case of the black furred Sylvester (he speaks with a lisp, indicating homosexuality, further “justifying” violence and bodily harm on him) or the blue furred Tom.

The question is: why? As in the case of females the trend of white fur can be explained in terms of color symbolism. White represents purity and virginity, which in itself raises questions as to why would somebody care if the leading female cat is a virgin? A healthy human mind shouldn’t be concerned with the sexual characteristics of an animal. This can be linked to the themes of zoophilia that are apparent in children’s media. The orange color typical in heroic male domestic feline characters has significance, personally I don’t know what it is, (I can’t provide anything more than weak allusions to the Orange Party of the 19th century, which may have something to do with the early American working class on which the nation was built.)

An anomaly in the white female trend would have to be Garfield‘s Arlene, she’s pink(which again could be explained in terms of identifying gender with color) the obvious implication of her not having white fur: she’s not a virgin.

Other implications of the white furred female felines in The Aristrocats, the leading female has white fur, indicating virginity, yet she has children with her, what is she? She’s a Virgin Mother! She’s being escorted to some safe paradise by a humble (orange) male, fleeing from an oppressive empire, the references to Roman society (aristocrats, hence the title.) Three children can represent almost anything, the number three is of significance to Christianity: the Trinity, the three Mages, the three Archangels, etc. All this has significance.

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13 Responses to From the archives: Chromatic Sexism and Animated Felines

  1. Jill D. says:

    “The orange color typical in heroic male domestic feline characters has significance, personally I don’t know what it is,”

    Genetics make all-orange female cats very rare, so a cartoon orange cat would be a simple way of making it obvious that it is a male character– like bows on girl characters.

    White-furred females in cartoons are also, aesthetically, akin to blonde heroines.

  2. wring says:

    Arlene is also portrayed as the aggressive female.

  3. Delia says:

    I think the negative portrayal of dark or cold-colored male cats has a lot to do with black cats being associated with bad luck and superstition.

    For instance, old-fashioned fairy tale-style witches’ cats are black. And everyone’s heard the old saying, “don’t let a black cat cross your path.”

  4. The Editor says:

    Could Kimba the White Lion be a counterexample?

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  7. Emma says:

    White = Virgin bride is still a new use of the color white.
    Blue used to be the color of girls and virgins because it was the color Mary wore.

    Before the white = virgin thing took over, it was white = wealth and high class. This was because white was a hard color to keep back in the day, only the rich had the money to do that.

    In the The Aristocats, the female lead is the pet of a millionaire singer, she’s high class and rich.

    In The Rescuers, the female lead has white fur and wears purple fur. Purple is another color associated with high class. So once again I think the point the film makers were trying to make with the colors were that the female lead was of a higher class then the male.

  8. Sheep says:

    Actually, orange cats are more likely to be male than female.
    It’s just genetics.

    I would agree with the white fur = blonde hair comparison.

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  10. soup says:

    “as in the case of the black furred Sylvester (he speaks with a lisp, indicating homosexuality,”

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