The internet was aflutter when a short story called Cat Person was published by The New Yorker in 2017. In it, Kristen Roupenian chronicles the doomed and brief relationship of college student Margot and thirty-something Robert. It was uncomfortable and highly relatable to a younger audience. Online forums at the time broke down every awkward interaction between the two and debated about consent and a woman’s tendency to try to be polite and spare men’s feelings, sacrificing their own in the process.
When I sat down with Cat Person director Susanna Fogel to talk about the adaptation, it was clear that just as much thought and discussion went into making it. Packed with pop culture references and beloved songs detailing toxic masculinity, the film plays off of the idea that men like Robert feel like they are owed something from our most cherished pieces of media. “It’s music that if you actually pick apart the lyrics, it’s incredibly homophobic and sexist.” She told me, before using the Beach Boys as an example. “It’s about 15-year-old girls on a beach and how hot they are. That’s like not a thing that we want to be admitting adult men are thinking about. But at the same time, I still listen to those songs.”
Fogel recognizes that film and TV also gave Margot unrealistic romantic expectations. “She’s figuring out what movie she is in.” In one scene, she has an out-of-body experience during sex where she debates whether or not she wants to be in that position. For Fogel, this required meticulous planning to the point she brought in the action storyboard artist she used in The Spy Who Dumped Me.
We also chatted about her 2014 film Life Partners and how Adam Brody’s Tim is very similar to Nicholas Braun’s Robert. Watch my interview below. Cat Person is in theaters this Friday, October 6.