Fiddling While the Home (or the Cat) Burns

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle-day,

All the mice are feeling gay,

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle-day,

Herman’s gone this way.

And which way is that? Surely not the gay way if it’s any way at all. All the characters in these awful 1950s Herman and Katnip cartoons, at least all the mice and the single predatory and macho cat, are male, and sex is the very last thing on their minds. The cat wants to eat the mouse and the mouse wants to torture the cat, but rightly or wrongly, neither eating nor torturing is being presented as a sexual activity. Territorial privilege and imperial dominance are what’s on the limited menu.

Fiddle-fiddle-dee, fiddle-diddle-dough,

He’s the bravest mouse we know,

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle-die,

Herman’s quite a guy.

Can a mouse be a guy? If not, why not? tFiffle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle-day,

It’s just like a holiday,

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle day,

Herman’s come to stay.

Come to stay where, exactly? In this episode, he and the other mice are actually  on a train bound for Florida, “the vacation paradise,” on the “southern route” (Indeed, this particular cartoon is called “Rail-rodents”.)

Katnip, now bagless, but stretched out with a pillow on a slat directly below the mice’s RR car, is still in pursuit. So if he’s left the house, so has  his prey. Four of these subsidiary mice are seen singing along with Herman, who leads them on his ukulele,

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle-day,

(Indistinct) we’re on our way,

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle day,

Way down south we’ll stay.

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle dough,

(indistinct, due to train noises) but on we go,

Fiddle-diddle-dee, fiddle-diddle die,

(indistinct) to say goodbye.

Why is Katnip spelled with a “K’? Maybe someone at Paramount was worried that “Catnip” was a copyrighted brand name, suggesting possible litigation. Or maybe someone thought it was cute that way, more like kids’ stuff and more kartoony with that krazy misspelling. [1/3/21]

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