Who knew that kitten videos could bring out such unironic love in jaded New Yorkers? Today might be National Cat Day, but last Friday Warsaw in Brooklyn was a packed floor to ceiling with hundreds of furry followers for the Second Annual Internet Cat Video Festival.
Curated by Minnesotan Scott Stulen, CVF is essentially a mash-up of 75-minutes of the Internet’s favorite cat videos, including stars such as “Henri, le Chat Noir,” Box Cat Maru, Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub–a dwarf and a polydactyl cat whose several major deformities and missing brain parts have rendered her a perma-kitten, beloved by the world. (And subject of a Vice documentary that opened at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.)
The festival started out with a video by the new Gif-creating start-up, Giphy.
Perhaps it was fitting that Lil Bub made a celebrity cameo herself that night. Who better to stand as a symbol for these Cat Crusaders than a Frankenstein-gone-right; the runt of the litter who literally transformed owner’s Mike Bridavsky life after he took her in during his own bout of post-relationship depression? (Mr. Bridavsky now gets to tour the country as the proud papa of a cat that has him drowning in pussy…treats.) This fur-to-riches story would strike many as maudlin if the result of her shortened lower jaw and lack of teeth hadn’t been an adorable tongue that always stuck out, or if her stubby legs, twenty-two toes and chronic osteoporosis hadn’t confined her to a slow waddle.
Even the term “perma-kitten” belies the type of marketing Lil Bub receives (she has turned down Ben Lashes, the first “meme manager,” though Bridavsky worked with him on the documentary): As if calling a creature with severe mental defects a “baby” version itself was okay…as long as it was cutesy-wootsy. No wonder the Cat Video Festival was co-sponsored by the ASPCA, or that Lil Bub herself has fronted a PETA poster.
At least her appearance seemed to calm down the hoardes, who kept their voices to a hush, as instructed, so as not to spook the night’s VIP. That in itself seemed like a triumph of willpower for the hundreds of self-professed cat people, one of whom–we can’t help holding this against him even if it was two days prior–kept talking shit about Lou Reed. Who were these people?
To give you a sense of the insanity of the audience–who had whipped themselves up to a frenzy that seemed all the more volatile because when was the last time you saw 20-somethings get that excited about anything?–during Mr. Stulen’s explanation of the festival’s origins, an impatient chant drowned him out: “Where are the cats?! Where are the cats?!”
Mr. Stulen laughed, but you could see the fear in his eyes. Would there be a feline furor at Warsaw?
You’d think that after such a commotion, the result would have been an astonishing 75-minute sensory explosion. But it wasn’t. It was just cat videos. Super cute cat videos, for sure, but the immediate placation of the ADD-addled audience, who spent over an hour staring up at 20-foot screens oohing, aww-ing and laughing uproariously as kittens scrambled around chasing pen lights was enough to make one wonder if maybe its cat vids that are the real opiate of the masses.