Ethnic and Racial Difference in Macskafogó/Cat City (1986) and Macskafogó 2/Cat City 2 (2007)

Gergely, Gabor (2022) Ethnic and Racial Difference in Macskafogó/Cat City (1986) and Macskafogó 2/Cat City 2 (2007). In: Oxford Handbook of Children's Film. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190939359

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Ethnic and Racial Difference in Macskafogó/Cat City (1986) and Macskafogó 2/Cat City 2 (2007)

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The 1986 animated feature Macskafogó/Cat City (József Nepp) is an endlessly quoted Hungarian cult favourite. This children’s film about a war between mice and cats has become a common reference point for a generation of Hungarians who experienced the transition to multiparty democracy in 1989 while at school. This essay argues that this beloved pastiche of spy films with car chases, explosions, erotic thrills, and spectacular musical numbers, is a film that imagines competing social arrangements through the prism of irreconcilable racial difference, and thereby gives evidence of racist and anti-Semitic reflexes in Hungarian popular discourse of the 1980s. The essay further contends that the same reflexes can be seen at work two decades on, when the sequel, about a satanic cat uprising against the rule of mice, was released.

This essay sketches the political, economic and cultural contexts in which the films were made to show how Cat City and its sequel can be seen to be informed by their political contexts in their depiction of mouse society as a desirable (or at least preferable) social order to cat society. In this reading the mice are a people united in battle against the cats, parasitic and nationless servants of Satan.

The essay contends that the film and its sequel make use of crude national and racial stereotypes as they paint the nightmare vision of nemzethalál, or death of the nation, a recurring theme in Hungarian nationalist thinking. Drawing on scholarship on nationalism, anti-Semitism and national cinema theory, the essay argues that when taken together, the two animated features cohere to form a narrative about the threat posed to the body of the nation by the cats, packaged for a child and young adult audience. Using Cat City and its sequel as a case study, this essay contends that Hungarian political discourse’s insistent focus on foreign influence and disruptions of an imagined racially homogenous national body permeates the full palette of Hungarian cultural products.

Keywords:Animation, Hungarian cinema, Children's film, Anti-Semitism, Race
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
ID Code:47693
Deposited On:06 Jan 2022 16:14

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