If you have ever seen a James Bond film, you know that there is always an evil villain, hell-bent on World Domination. In fact, possibly because of the popular super-spy series, there seems to be a stereotype of what constitutes an evil villain in most popular culture.
Surely even if you have never seen a James Bond film, you have seen a villain sitting in an over-large swivel chair, almost always with a facial scar, and petting a white cat.
These villain tropes all reference the arch nemesis of 007, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and his infamous, ever-present white cat.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld is not the only villain that Bond takes on throughout his adventures, but he is widely considered to be Bond’s greatest enemy. Blofeld appears in three James Bond novels, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice. He also appears in 7 James Bond movies, including From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, For Your Eyes Only, and Spectre. Spectre is also the name of the evil organization that Blofeld leads.
His position at the head of this organization earns him the title of Number One in several books and movies. Blofeld is also the man who killed Bond’s wife, Tracy. He has been played by many different actors and voiced by many different actors as well. Some of the more notable performances include Anthony Dawson, who played him in the film From Russia With Love, and Christoph Waltz, who played him most recently in Spectre. Other actors who have played the famous villain include Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, and Max Von Sydow.
About Blofeld’s Cat
Blofeld is frequently portrayed holding or stroking a white cat. The cat is an entirely white Persian, and though it is never named, it is perhaps as famous as the villain himself. The cat made its first debut appearance in the year 1963, during the movie From Russia With Love.
In this movie, Blofeld’s identity is kept secret. He is partially hidden while conducting business on his luxury yacht. You cannot see his face, only his lower body, and his hand as it strokes his white Persian cat. In the 007 novels, Blofeld’s character does not have a cat. Presumably, the director of that first James Bond film, Terence Young, decided that while he wanted the identity of his villain to be kept secret, he also wanted his audience to have something to look at, to make the scene more captivating, and so he added the cat.
Cats, traditionally, are great animals for roles like this, acting more as props than as characters. In the film, dogs are more easily directed towards a specific action. A cat is more difficult to train to act on command, and so they are usually given roles that don’t require much more than sitting and being pet. Since then, the cat has also appeared in For Your Eyes Only, Never Say Never Again, and Spectre.
Homages To Blofeld’s Cat
Since that very first appearance of Blofeld’s white Persian cat, the use of a white cat to characterize villains has become iconic. The Austin Powers movies, which admittedly are parodies of the James Bond movie franchise, has Dr. Evil holding a white Persian cat at the beginning of the first movie. Later after Dr. Evil undergoes cryogenic freezing with his cat, who he calls Mr. Bigglesworth, the cat loses all of its hair and is hairless throughout the rest of the movie, and in later sequels.
In Enter the Dragon, a Bruce Lee film, the villain Han has a white fluffy cat that he carries with him. During Inspector Gadget, the Inspector’s nemesis Dr. Claw had his pet, M.A.D. cat. Giovanni was the leader of Team Rocket in the original Pokemon animated series. He also had a Persian cat that he kept as a pet. In the children’s movie Cats and Dogs, the cats are evil, and they are lead by an evil white Persian, named Mr. Tinkles.
Even in the movie The Godfather, in the opening scenes, there is a cat on Don Corleone’s lap. It isn’t a white cat, but still, there is a consistency with the stereotype that villains have cats. In the recent movie by Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs, the cats are evil, and the evil leader of Japan is being manipulated by cat loving people.
The James Bond Cat in Pop Culture
There are plenty of memes on the internet that use the image of the “James Bond cat,” as it has come to be known. It is strange that the cat is not known as the Blofeld cat. But if you search James Bond cat, you will perhaps not be surprised at the images you will find, with slogans taken from Bond villains and altered to fit a furry feline bent on global domination.
The James Bond cat is a pop culture icon. Everyone knows that a good villain will definitely need an evil white cat to stroke and love. There have been countless references made in both movies and literature to the original white Persian that wasn’t even given a name. Anytime there needs to be a visual implication of evil, a white cat can be used.
One might even wonder if the original director of From Russia With Love realized what they were doing by putting a Persian cat on the lap of his villain. Did he know that the white cat would eventually become more famous than the villain whose lap he was sitting on? Did he know that the cat that wasn’t even in the book version of the movie and wasn’t even given a name would be carried on into the rest of the James Bond films, and on into infamy? Surely he could not have known, or he might have given the cat a name at least.