Feb 10, 2012

Cat Urine and Aristotelian Tragedy

The Fall

Slopes Can Be Slippery

Before I leave the subject of football, something just called to mind a wondrous southern ditty that captures and clarifies the essence of Aristotelian tragic theory.

In the 1988 movie Everybody’s All American, Dennis Quaid plays an LSU halfback, Jessica Lange is his girlfriend, then wife, and John Goodman plays a big ol’, good ol’ boy lineman.  At one point, Goodman delivers this gem of a lyric:

Listen, listen,
Cat’s a pissin’.

Where, where?!

Under the chair!

Run, run! Get the gun.

Too late, too late.
‘Tis already done. 

Classical tragedy?  Somebody or some group is taking, or has taken has made a mess in the putatively clean house:  “Cat’s a pissin’/. . . Under the chair!”  

Usually guns and other violence are what a society turns to in order to clean up its messes, and cats are more dispensable than dogs or humans. But by the time the civilized society of that household is aware of the scope and complexity of the problem, getting the gun is pointless:  “Too late, too late./’Tis already done.”

How is that different from the messes created in our major tragedies? To mention a few:  King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, The Great Gatsby, A Streetcar Named Desire, Fences, Equus . . . .  Those tragic heroes, heroines, and some supporting characters (under the marvelous label of Tragic Waste) didn’t have a chance. If they didn’t soil the house themselves (and most did), somebody had already done it for them, before they ever took center stage.

Sometimes the grand is also basic. Some ditties are better than others.


Pasadena Adjacent said...

Ha! As I like to remind folks when they're discussing the dispensability of felines, your in the presence of mixed company.

Banjo52 said...

Believe me, I was aware! I was hoping cat lovers could hear the irony. Of course, I think it's also true that more people dislike cats than dogs--and to go to extremes, more cats than dogs are tormented, even tortured, by kids (almost all male, I'd guess).

Just thought of this--wouldn't the ditty feel weird and wrong if it portrayed a dog making that mess?

Brenda's Arizona said...

People seem to have little patience/tolerance of cats/dogs making messes. Yet humans? Most of us give humans, especially family, another chance. And another... and another... and another.

Some ditties are just better than others. Or at least we turn a blind eye/kinder heart towards them. Why?

Anonymous said...

Everyone's all dogs and cats, and I was going to dispute your throwing Gatsby into the tragedy bus. Did you look at the ticket? It says Nick the Hero. We will have a gentle argument, on a later day.

RuneE said...

Maybe if they had used a water-pistol ...

Brenda's Arizona said...

With the Gatsby inclusion, I knew you'd get chewed on, Banjomyn. Love your comment, AH! A 'gentle argument' read as a 'gentleman's argument', and I glimpsed a duel in your future. A tragic waste, no doubt.

So,'Tragic Waste'? What is the pedigree of this phrase?

Banjo52 said...

Just returned from three days of driving. Stop. Must gather self. Stop. Will get back. Stop. Soon. Stop.

Ken Mac said...

banjo banjo banjo....

PREKDUT said...

Ha! As I like to remind folks when they're discussing the dispensability of felines, your in the presence of mixed company.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

^ ^ ^

Wow! I'm being quoted by a Bulgarian porn site with a taste for asian girls. I'm honored

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