The Kat and Mouse Game (1974-75)

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Published: 16 November 1974 – 5 April 1975 (18 episodes)

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Translation/reprints: Dutch translation “Als kat en muis” [Like cat and mouse] in Tina 1985; translated into Greek in Manina.

Plot

Everyone avoids Kat Morgan at Barton Grange Ballet School because they all know she is a selfish, bullying girl who grabs all the best chances there are in the school, along with everything else she wants. What makes it even more distasteful is that Kat’s dancing is not as good as she thinks.

Meanwhile, new girl Letitia (her last name is not established) arrives. She was not keen on coming because she is a shy girl and happy to be the only ballet pupil in her village because of it. She only agreed to enrol at Barton Grange at the urging of her ballet teacher, who says the school can provide far better tuition for her talent than she can.

Shyness also makes Letitia gullible and naïve, so she proves easy prey for Kat’s false show of friendship. Kat has quickly realised what a sap Letitia is, and so she is taking advantage of Letitia to turn her into her personal handmaid. She also nicknames Letitia “Mouse”, and it sticks. But not even the humiliation of dubbing Letitia “Mouse” in front of everyone makes Letitia wake up; she meekly says she does not mind. Mouse does not listen to the girls’ later warnings that Kat is a creep who is making a mug out of her. Kat also poisons Mouse against Miss Randall the headmistress to make sure Miss Randall is not able to warn Mouse either. Eventually Mouse is left to stew in her own juice.

However, Kat soon discovers there is one snag to having Mouse as her skivvy once she sees her dance – Mouse is a far better dancer than she is. Jealousy unleashes the Kat’s claws, for she is not going to be upstaged by that Mouse. So Kat now plays a double game of stringing Mouse along as her skivvy while sabotaging Mouse to keep her in the background. To make sure of both, she wangles things for Mouse to come and live in her house, where she really enjoys having Mouse wait on her hand and foot and fetching and carrying everything for her. It is the same at school. The girls notice how Kat is turning Mouse into her slave. But when they try to speak to Mouse about it she just thinks they are being mean.

The double game has its drawbacks, though, due to Kat not thinking through the consequences of playing such a tricky double game. For example, Kat tricks Mouse into dancing badly at a test to make sure Mouse does not outshine her. But when Kat realises that this could get Mouse thrown out and she will lose her little skivvy, she quickly talks the teachers into letting Mouse stay, saying it was nerves.

Then Kat’s mother finds out how Kat is turning Mouse into her slave. In punishment, she stops Kat’s pocket money for two months. This comes at a time when Kat wants money to see a new ballet, as they will perform it later at their school and there are two places at stake in a ballet company. Of course Kat wants one of them. As there is no pocket money, Kat steals the money Mouse asked home for.

When Kat sees the ballet, she immediately sets her eyes on dancing the Tiger role in it. But Kat’s in for a surprise (and so are we) when she describes the Tiger performance to Mouse. Mouse visualises the Tiger so vividly that she puts up a stunning impromptu that has even Kat impressed. Realising Mouse could beat her to the Tiger role, Kat pulls more tricks to stop Mouse – and others – auditioning for it. But one trick backfires and gets Kat stuck in the lift. So she could be the one who misses out on the part. Sappy but kind Mouse isn’t having Kat miss out on her audition, so she dons the Tiger costume and pretends to be Kat. So thanks to Mouse, Kat gets the role. Now Kat has a new use for Mouse – have her stand in for her in the Tiger role, because she knows she could never top Mouse’s interpretation of the Tiger.

Then Kat starts getting worried that it’s getting too dangerous and the school might find her out. So, although she has enjoyed having Mouse as her mug, she now plots to get Mouse expelled. However, one of the tricks rebounds when it causes Kat to get her leg badly bruised in an accident. Moreover, Kat won’t seek treatment because that would mean the end of her Tiger role. However, she can’t dance properly because of her leg and she has to perform in front of the Mayor, so she cons Mouse into dancing it for her. Moreover, she is making sure Mouse, who blames herself for the accident, is waiting on her even more. Kat is really enjoying it, but is now treating Mouse in a bad tempered way. Mouse puts it down to the pain in Kat’s leg. Yes, there is that, but of course the real reason is that Kat is taking advantage to bully Mouse into the bargain.

Kat’s temper gets worse when she sees Mouse dancing the Tiger in the show. She realises that Mouse is getting even better in the role and her jealousy grows. Suspicion also grows when the girls comment on how well Kat danced with that badly bruised leg while Mouse looked like she had been dancing hard but she was not even in the performance.

Kat gets so jealous of Mouse that she sabotages a special platform that Mouse will leap onto so it will collapse under her. However, it backfires when Miss Randall tells Kat to leap onto the platform instead. Kat tries to avoid the weakened parts, but fails because of her bad leg, and the platform collapses under her.

Mouse saves Kat from serious injury – but oh, what a surprise! Mouse has picked up on clues that have made her suspicious of Kat. She now realises what Kat did and shouts at her over it: Kat spiked the platform, Kat betrayed their friendship, Kat hated her all along, they’re finished and she never wants to see Kat again. So now Mouse has finally seen through Kat and it’s the end of the story!

Oh rats, it’s not. Kat isn’t finished yet. She is now even more anxious to get Mouse expelled before everything comes out, and now plots to frame her for stealing. And Mouse is still living with Kat, which makes it easier. One night Kat goes to steal money from the head’s safe and blame it on Mouse. Realising Mouse has followed her, Kat pretends to be sleepwalking while taking the money. Mouse takes the money back to the safe, but is caught doing so. Mouse can’t fully explain because as she feels it would be sneaking and foolishly thinks Kat didn’t mean it. She even thinks Kat did it subconsciously for her because she is poor! So she takes the blame and is expelled.

The school has to wait for Mouse’s parents to come to remove her. So Mouse is put in isolation, but still around for Kat to take advantage of. Kat can’t dance properly because of her leg, and now the time has come to impress the ballet company director and get one of the two places. So again Kat wheedles Mouse into dancing the Tiger for her. However, the director is so overexcited by the performance that he rips off the Tiger mask on the stage, and everyone sees who was really doing the dancing.

Kat has to do some fast thinking on why an expelled girl is dancing in her place. So she dashes off, ties herself up, and spins a story that Mouse tied her up and stole the costume. Even the unbelievably gullible Mouse has to well and truly realise what a toad Kat is after this, but she can’t prove it.

Meanwhile, Kat is forced to go on stage in the tiger costume. But she can’t dance properly with her bad leg, and that mad dash to tie herself up has aggravated the damage. Her leg injury and its lack of treatment are soon discovered. Although by his own admission he is not a doctor, the director tells Kat that the injury will leave a permanent weakness in her leg, which means she can never become a professional dancer. Shocked to realise she has destroyed herself by her own dirty tricks against Mouse, Kat decides she might as well make a clean breast of everything and does so. At Mouse’s request, Miss Randall spares Kat the disgrace of expulsion and just lets her quietly leave because of her leg. Mouse gets into the ballet company and goes on to have a brilliant ballet career.

Thoughts

There has been a common feeling about this story that it’s difficult to be fully sympathetic for the protagonist because she’s so wet and unbelievably naïve and gullible that she believes anything Kat tells her. Even when Mouse does see through Kat after the platform incident, it does not last long. Before long, Mouse goes back to falling for Kat’s tricks and thinking Kat’s her friend. Any respect we gained for Mouse in that outburst is instantly lost. And any hope we have of Mouse finding a whole new backbone that sets her on the road to more confidence is dashed as well.

Mouse cuts off her own avenues of help by not listening to warnings, although this is partly because she has foolishly believed the lies that Kat has told her. Even when Kat’s mother finds out how Kat is treating Mouse and stops her pocket money in punishment, Mouse doesn’t open her eyes to it as well. She goes on thinking Kat is her friend whom she is only too happy to do everything for. All anyone can really do is watch and notice suspicious things that filter through, but they don’t have enough evidence to act on them.

The scheming follows a fairly common pattern in girls’ comics, where the schemer starts off just playing tricks on the protagonist because she is taking advantage her or thinks it’s just a huge joke. But later the scheming takes a more spiteful turn, with the schemer deciding to get rid of her victim altogether. This is because she’s gotten bored with it, or it’s gotten too complicated, or the victim has done something that’s really put the schemer’s nose out of joint and she’s out for revenge. And it’s here that things begin to unravel for the schemer. Other stories that follow this pattern include Tammy’s “Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat” and M&J’s “What Lila Wants…”.

It is bad enough that Kat is playing a double game with Mouse, what with sabotaging her while taking advantage of her at the same time. But when it turns to scheming to get Mouse expelled, her conduct becomes really galling. Although she succeeds in getting Mouse expelled, she has the nerve to still take advantage of her because she wants Mouse to stand in for her in the Tiger role and be her unpaid servant. She isn’t even grateful to Mouse for saving her from the collapsing platform. Yes, she does say “thanks”, but nothing in her conduct or thoughts afterwards indicates true gratitude. Kat’s only redeeming quality is how she breaks down in the end and confesses everything, which saves Mouse. Could those tears be the start of a new improved Kat? We cannot say for sure, but we can be confident that Kat will never be the same again.

It is a real twist that the Kat ends up destroying herself through her own subterfuge on Mouse. Kat won’t seek treatment for an injury that was caused by one of her own tricks, just because she does not want to lose the Tiger role. Yet she can’t even dance the Tiger because of her own injury, so she still has to use the very girl she is trying to expel. Moreover, Kat let her leg go untreated and worsened it with her final trick on Mouse, so it deteriorated to the point where she would never be able to dance again. In any case, she never had enough talent to really get to the top to begin with, so no amount of trickery would get her there.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “The Kat and Mouse Game (1974-75)

  1. The episode you print here is a strong one – it’s good to see Mouse not so mousey, even if it doesn’t last. Kat is a nasty piece of work, though not quite as outright evil as Stacey from The Slave of Form 3B!

    You can see differences between a troublemaker story like this, and a redemption story like “She Shall Have Music”. Lisa is unpleasant but not purposefully so – and this story isn’t about moral improvement, though there is some hope that Kat might actually turn over a new leaf at the end (and Mouse might end up a little less mousey).

    1. Sometimes troublemaker stories turn into redemption stories, with the troublemaker repenting in the end or at least learning a hard lesson, like the protagonist in Bunty’s “Down with St Desmond’s!”.

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