Okay, so ever since Gracie and I read Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off, it’s been on my brain. What can I say? It is a refreshingly good book. What’s more, it would make a refreshingly good movie – for several reasons.
(Dear Hollywood: You totally read my blog, right?)
1. It’s practically a screenplay already.
As you may remember from Gracie’s enthusiastic review, Cat Girl’s Day Off is the story of Natalie Ng, a girl who can talk to cats – and who winds up untangling a celebrity kidnapping-and-murder plot with the help of her two human and several feline best friends. This book moves. There are very few “down” moments, and the quieter ones that are present pace the action without ever losing the thread of the plot. This is, in short, a book that could easily be adapted to the screen without cutting out significant chunks or leaving half the audience sadfaced because it’s so unlike the book.
2. It passes the Bechdel Test in the first page.
The Bechdel Test is a minimum benchmark for participation of female characters in films. To “pass,” a film has to contain (1) at least two female characters with names, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a man.
Despite the abysmally simple criteria, though, it’s shocking how many films fail it – even here in 2012, where women spend as much or more money on moviegoing than men do, and where women participate in every sphere of life up to and including actually running the world.
Cat Girl’s Day Off passes the crap out of it. In fact, if a movie version started in the same place the book does, it would pass the Bechdel Test within the first thirty seconds, and no consecutive thirty seconds of the film would likely fail the test – except maybe the action shots where there is more running, fighting, solving of trigonometry problems, and/or flinging of liquids than there is dialogue.
3. It features minorities in multiple lead roles.
This is related to the Bechdel Test point but also separate from it. The book’s heroine, Natalie Ng, is not only female but also half-Chinese. So is her best friend, Oscar, who is also gay. Her other best friend, Melly, is white and also conventionally movie-star beautiful – which comes off in the book as a situation that is as much a comment on our youth celebrity culture as it is a simple fact about the combination Melly’s skin color and actual acting talents.
Just like we don’t see nearly enough smart, brave, resourceful, funny, and Talented main characters in films (and Natalie is all of the above), we don’t see nearly enough people of color as main characters in films. Especially not as the stars of stories that are about them as people, rather than as, say, stereotypes. A movie about an awesome Chinese-American girl who can talk to cats and never once busts out any “ninja” skills (which, yes, are Japanese, but Hollywood has never been too clear on the fact that Asia is actually home to many different cultures), because like most 15-year-old American girls, she doesn’t have any? Yes, please!
4. Sporks the very teen-celebrity-movie-culture-squee that a movie version would perpetuate.
Behind the on-screen action of Cat Girl’s Day Off is a well-played critique of celebrity movie teen squee culture. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that this book manages to look twice at things like celebrity bloggers, paparazzi mobs, celebrity privacy and lack thereof, our habits of overlooking bad behavior in celebrities we’d never overlook in ordinary folks, and more, without ever once becoming preachy, heavy-handed, or tiresome. It does a particularly good job of exploring teen celebrity movie squee culture. Which would be the lifeblood of a movie version, of course, but which would also ask some good questions about it. And unlike The Hunger Games, it doesn’t require 22 teenagers to die horribly in order to bring the subject up.
5. Better than an actual sequel to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The action in the book centers around the filming of a 21st-century version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in which the main character tries to re-live Ferris’s now-cult-film-legendary day of skipping school. Cat Girl’s Day Off: The Movie would beat that by a mile – and everyone in the audience would know it.
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