I’m furious. Absolutely livid. I can’t think of an exclamation strong enough to demonstrate the kind of mad I am today after something I just saw. The rage I want to express is so intense because it comes from a feeling of helplessness, of hopelessness, of being mocked so mercilessly by people with small minds and big amounts of social power. It carried me back to high school, facing invectives such as “faggot!” and “sissy!” and “homo!” from kids who ran the social order in this most unfortunate of institutions. These people hurled such words at me because of how I carried myself, the clothes I wore, the things I liked, and the people I called friends. They did it because I was different.
What I saw today was an insidious video from TMZ. In it, an office full of young adults — beautiful, peppy, as conformist and prime-time as they come — find someone different from themselves and commence an orgy of ugly insults.
Their target? Grumpy Cat.
You read that right. Grumpy Cat. TMZ, obsessed with every female celebrity who has ever accidentally shown a nipple while getting out of a cab in a low-cut dress; TMZ, which lurks behind every corner hoping to spot a male celebrity stepping out of line to show he’s not the Incredible Heterosexual Hulk; TMZ rips to shreds … a cat.
“HEY! IS THAT CAT RETARDED?”‘
Those words appear on the screen before you even know what the video is about.
“She’s not right — mentally,” one of the female adult children says, following that up by twirling her finger near her temple and making a “cuckoo!” whistle.
I’m almost without words. I’ve been a writer and editor for almost 23 years, but after seeing this video I can’t think of what would describe how wrong it is. Part of what makes it so shocking is that it’s not even really disguised as a parody. It’s nothing more than a bunch of young, beautiful, overgrown children sitting around whatever passes for a newsroom at TMZ hurling insults at Grumpy Cat.
“She’s a dumb cat!” says another adult child, probably a homecoming queen who publicly ridiculed her little brother in the school cafeteria because he got an A in English.
“Grumpy Cat is retarded!” says another, her eyes wide, before putting her hand over her mouth in an astonished “OH!”
A manchild with a beefy torso then accuses Grumpy Cat of having a physical disability.
“Once that cat came in here, and that cat can’t walk!” he says with slight outrage. “They put it on the ground, and everyone was like, WHOA!”
The same female adult child who was astonished by Grumpy Cat’s retardation looks on in horror, her mouth open and her eyes angry, as if to say, “HOW DARE SHE?”
The guy doing the voice-over on the video sings an awful song throughout. When speaking, he shouts with an exaggerated, cartoonish voice, intentionally overdoing sounds and raising his pitch for effect. Think Pee-wee Herman, as interpreted by some guy with no style or wit who never liked Pee-wee Herman because Pee-wee got more attention than he did. It’s a parody of itself. It outdoes the worst TV commercial voice you’ve ever heard.
When I think that this man got paid to do this, I want to vomit.
I want to vomit on him.
The video doesn’t get better. It makes reference to “the short bus.”
It blasts political correctness yet searches for a word more socially acceptable than “retarded,” finally settling on “handi-cat.”
What do I see in this video? I see some of the kids I knew growing up, so afraid of anyone different that they singled that person out for public shame and laughed at him or her. I see others joining in this type of abuse because they’re afraid of being associated with the object of scorn. I see people who do this after high school and well into their adult lives without ever asking why. I see people living in fear but never knowing how to change it or even why they’re afraid.
In TMZ, I see so much of what is wrong with the United States of America — people obsessed with celebrity, with a culture of excess, with being proudly small-minded and superficial, gleefully putting down those who have less. I see a pervasive distrust of anything different, a rejection of intellect and compassion. I see love ridiculed. I see the weakest in our society kicked out and left to die. I see this very same group of TMZ correspondents doing the same thing to me when they see what I’ve written. It wouldn’t surprise me. It’s what they do.
To Grumpy Cat and her people: I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that people have to be like this.
Cat Dandy is so disappointed in his fellow humans:
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster and Dogster.