Thursday, 8 December 2011

What would Father Ted do?

The BBC website today has an article about the prevalence of slogan 'What would Jesus do?', most noticeably at St Paul's Occupy protest. The Archbishop of Canterbury tackled that question this week, but its growing prominence reminded me of Chris Marker's film The Case of the Grinning Cat (Chats perchés, 2004), which charts the presence of a piece of graffiti art at demonstrations around the world almost a decade ago.

The iconography of the image of a Cheshire-like cat seems way more interesting than the rhetorical, rather glib use of WWJD by many who may not believe in Christ. Jesus is global but the grinning cat lends itself to greater interpretation, and can be co-opted more easily by the broad spectrum of issues demonstrators now regularly join under together, though in the period Marker charts it largely appeared at marches against war in Iraq.

In his film, Marker first tracks the cats in Paris in a period following 9/11 and they can still be spotted there above the rooftops - and elsewhere, pictured. I would love it if the cat's rise continued unabated perhaps alongside the best slogan of all, which author Graham Linehan still spots at various very British protests: 'Down with this sort of thing', coupled with its partner from TV series Father Ted, 'Careful now'.

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