FÜHRER BALLS 


;Equating feline and Nazi traits is nothing new; after all, it helped earn Maus artist Art Spiegelman a Pulitzer. And every cat owner has at one time or another noticed a maniacal glint in his or her pet's eyes — a quality that, as website founder Koos Plegt puts it, "implies a secret longing for world domination. All cats want to rule the world," he writes; it's "part of the nature of the species."

;; But every once in a while, an accident of birth produces a cat that bears an even more disturbing (and, concurrently, hilarious) physical resemblance to history's greatest monster. Evidence of this curiously widespread phenomenon is posted on Plegt's site, www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com, where animal lovers submit photos of their favorite "kitlers" — critters that could easily pass for Uncle Adolf in a World Court lineup, if not for that whole four-feet-and-whiskers thing.

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; Predictably enough, most of the resemblances showcased on the site take the form of dark, strategically located facial discolorations — what Plegt calls "an embarrassingly unfashionable mustache-like marking under [the] nose." The average kitler, then, is sort of a sinister photographic negative of a "Got milk?" ad. But the top specimens — including the anonymous victor ranked No. 1 on the site's "Bestest kitlers" page — also have ebony splashes that sweep diagonally across their foreheads in emulation of der Führer's notoriously oily-looking locks. This is the sort of cat that, in Plegt's words, makes its owner "wake up in a cold sweat every night wondering if he's going to up and invade Poland." (Not to be a stickler, but the site champ, while a facial dead ringer for Hitler, has a well-fed physiognomy that's closer to Sgt. Schultz's. Kitlers No. 2 and 3 are runtier, and therefore seem more prone to annexing the family room as a compensatory tactic.)

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; The Dutch-born Plegt took the site live with the help of English designer Paul Neve; together, they've posted a disclaimer that's meant to indemnify them against charges of actual fascism. Calling the real Hitler "a disgusting, pus-ridden lump of excrement from the devil's own anus" (alrighty, then!) they explain that their aim is to "ridicule" the Reichster by putting him on the level of an animal. Now, in most sane quarters, speaking out against Hitler is about as gutsy as taking a stand against gingivitis, but some web surfers don't like what the fellas are up to anyway. The site's talkback section is divided into two mirror-image pages, with "We ♥ kitlers" recapping the accolades and "We HATE kitlers" presenting some altogether more disapproving commentary.

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; "It's people like you who oppressed and killed my people," accuses one respondent. "I told my grandfather who spent time at the Warstein concentration camp and he almost cried. i expect an apology!" Another states that "Hitler killed everything living thing there was and he would kill these cute cats if he was still here." Then again, not all the brickbats are as PC: "Yo dude your site is kinda gay," runs one. "No offence but the cats dont look enough like hitler, i saw one where the cat is in a nazi uniform, more of those cuz thats funny, the rest is kinda gay." Time to get right on that.

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; As a way of partially declawing (so to speak) the controversy, the site also facilitates cat adoptions, with photos and contact information posted in the hopes that shelter animals will find happy homes. The effort is highly commendable, and not just because it's fun to picture a given kitler cooling its paws in the pound, writing Mein Hairball and counting the days until it's let back out into society to do some real damage. Today, the litter box … tomorrow, the world!

arts@orlandoweekly.com

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