Title text: [Decades in the future] "Well, the good news is that we've received definitive communication from aliens. The bad news is that they're asking about Cats (2019)."
White Hat (presumably a ufologist) accuses Cueball of being unwilling to listen to his claims for extraterrestrial life. UFO stands for "unidentified flying object", but has become strongly associated with the belief that alien ships have visited or are visiting earth. People who believe this are likely to take the position that governments are systematically covering up evidence of alien contact, and the scientific community is either complicit or indifferent. Hence, White Hat accuses "you scientists" of refusing to even seriously consider evidence of his beliefs.
This strip was released after a number of news reports and US Senate hearings that reviewed unexplained aerial phenomena. While some of these remain unexplained, the general consensus remains that there is no real evidence that any of these phenomena are of extraterrestrial origin, let alone evidence of alien visitation. A devout UFO-believer is likely to be somewhat disappointed by this, and may take it as evidence that both political and scientific establishments are deliberately ignoring evidence.
Cueball counters this common pushback by admitting that he once spent an entire day trying to confirm the existence of a version of the 2019 film adaptation of Cats which allegedly gave the eponymous anthropomorphic felines anatomically-correct rear ends.
The Cats movie was widely panned, in part because of the unappealing design of its CGI cat characters. On March 18, 2020, Twitter user @jackwaz claimed a friend of a friend had been hired as a VFX artist to "remove CGI buttholes" from the digital cats, meaning that there was a version of the movie where the characters all had anatomically correct feline anuses depicted. This caused social media users to start petitioning for official confirmation of "the butthole cut," which Universal Studios has so far declined to acknowledge.
Cueball's point is apparently that he (like many scientists) is driven by curiosity, and willing to spend a great deal of time and energy to answer questions. His suggestion is that, if he was willing to put effort into investigating such an inconsequential and ridiculous question, based on incredibly flimsy evidence, it's implausible that he would simply ignore actual evidence about something as important as the existence of sentient alien life. The only reason why he (and most scientists) would reject such claims is a total lack of even faintly compelling evidence. If someone ever managed to present evidence of alien life that was even slightly plausible, many scientists would enthusiastically spend a great deal of time and effort trying to verify it, as in 2359: Evidence of Alien Life.
This strip continues a common xkcd theme of mocking dubious claims, including UFOs, pseudoscience, paranormal phenomena, and Conspiracy Theories, which are presented without plausible or verifiable evidence. Randall's general attitude toward these claims is that, if any of these things were true, we would expect evidence for them by now. Complaints that there is evidence, and scientists won't look at it are utterly implausible, because such evidence would be of enormous interest to scientists, if it was even slightly convincing.
The title text may refer to the idea that aliens could be watching our old TV (previously explored in 1212: Interstellar Memes). Because radio and television signals travel at light speed, aliens light years away could theoretically receive earth entertainment years after it was originally broadcast. The idea that they are learning about us from Cats, which is thought of as one of our worst films of all time, is not the view of humanity either most people would want to present or most people would not want aliens to show extreme interest in. Especially since they might ask for the butthole cut....
- [White Hat, with his finger raised, is talking to Cueball.]
- White Hat: You scientists aren't willing to take my UFO evidence seriously!
- Cueball: I once spent a whole day trying to confirm the existence of a director's cut of Cats (2019) where the cats had anatomically correct CGI butts.
- Cueball: It's honestly embarrassing how fast I'd do a 180 if your evidence seemed promising.
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This must be about https://www.newsnationnow.com/space/ufo/lawmakers-react-to-whistleblowers-ufo-claims/ 126.96.36.199 18:09, 7 June 2023 (UTC)
For reference: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2020/04/cats-butthole-cut-vfx-editor 188.8.131.52 18:24, 7 June 2023 (UTC)
That Wikipedia article doesn't say that Cats is the worst film ever, just that it's one of them; one of the reviewers said it could be the worst film of the decade. It's probably near the top of worst films by a major studio, but it can't possibly be as bad as Ed Wood's films. Barmar (talk) 19:34, 7 June 2023 (UTC)
I thought I'd heard that the cat-butts were printed on the costumes & that CGI was used to remove them from recordings; even assuming the prints were painted over, the remaining evidence of them on costumes should have been enough to confirm if they were ever present. I'd not heard the idea that the cat-butts were inserted AND removed via CGI, before. That seems more unlikely, to me. Accurate butts on a costume wouldn't really surprise me at all. Spending money to create them seems like a stretch.
ProphetZarquon (talk) 14:01, 8 June 2023 (UTC)
This was my reaction to COVID conspiracy theories as well. If anything about COVID was set up in advance in some massive poisoning scheme, it wouldn't be secret for long, and serious evidence would have spread very fast. That is because developing and spreading such a secret biological weapon requires so many people to cooperate for so long that the chance of an accidental or intentional leak approaches 1. 184.108.40.206 21:23, 7 June 2023 (UTC)
- similarly 9/11 theories?
- This is my view on all the anti-science theories, including those about the Covid vaccine. HOW MANY people would have to collaborate on such a secret? How many people around the world worked hard to come up with a vaccine? Thousands? Maybe even a million? And to me, science is the search for truth, for facts. These are people devoted to truth, to me they seem the LEAST likely people to be dishonest. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:10, 10 June 2023 (UTC)
- That is the reason why I believe that significant historical events occurred in reality, and conversely that conspiracy theories are false. The reasoning being that faking or covering up something is equal or harder to pull off than actually doing it. It's like trying to offer "proof" that World War II was faked. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:50, 12 June 2023 (UTC)
The explanation says "an entire afternoon" but the comic says "a whole day". 220.127.116.11 23:43, 7 June 2023 (UTC)
We might like to think that scientists would drop everything to investigate 'compelling evidence' of extra-terrestrial life, but they might not actually be allowed to, particularly in the US, where 'Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs', often referred to as "the Brookings Report", is I believe still part of official policy. This was a 1960 report commissioned by NASA, created by the Brookings Institution in collaboration with NASA's Committee on Long-Range Studies, and submitted to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics of the United States House of Representatives in the 87th United States Congress on April 18, 1961. The report looks into historical instances of human cultures being destroyed by contact with a 'more advanced' culture, and recommended that it is in the public interest that any and all evidence of alien life be actively suppressed, in order to prevent the possible destabilisation and destruction of human society.18.104.22.168 04:52, 8 June 2023 (UTC)
- Given how willing provable kooks and nuts are to raise their heads above the parapet, I'm not sure (especially these days, with so many online opportunities, outwith the control of at least the US government and possibly any other) that any credible evidence is going to very quickly escape the ægis of the above recommendation. Given the number of things that aren't true that they seem unable or unwilling to debunk, despite them being extremely relevent to the stability of the country, we should by now be drowning in copious WOW signals, undismissable photos of obvious alien craft or even yer actual selfies with yer actual LGMs...
- The authorities just aren't that good at this sort of thing, and can't install any form of covering-up Groupthink. (Some regimes might, but it's hard to tell how much they really have made people think as they should, or just talk as if they think as they should on pain of pain... But there remain voices in those wildernesses, too.) And the biggest draw for a scientist (which is why some people might go off the rails, with fringe theories that have no hint of being justified, ignoring clear evidence that they aren't) is the opportunity to overturn current thinking and making their name. 22.214.171.124 08:44, 8 June 2023 (UTC)
I thought UAP stood for Unidentified Areal Phenomenon, not Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon. Help, I'm trapped in a factory factory 16:15, 8 June (UTC)
- It did, but sometime recently most agencies seem to be defining UAP with "Anomalous" now. The change surprised me, and I don't know the reasoning behind it. See Unidentified_flying_object#Terminology --Orion205 (talk) 17:52, 8 June 2023 (UTC)
- Not all things seen in the sky are actually in the sky, so not technically aerial. And things seen from aircraft could easily be misinterpretations of ground 'objects'(/reflections from water/whatever), so it might be best to swerve the assumption.
- Also, I wouldn't call the Moon (a surprisingly common 'sighting') or Venus/etc as aerial (elevated, perhaps, but far above the atmosphere so takes some special pleading). But maybe I'm alone in that. 126.96.36.199 01:16, 9 June 2023 (UTC)