Garfield: A Primer

By Rudolf von Flügel

 You find yourself in a glorious garden, a primordial garth containing all manner of luscious flora. You caper carelessly through fields of beautiful flowers, their petals caressing you gently, holding you in their redolent spell. Invigorated by the pheromonal ur-zest of their volatile organic compounds you sprint blindly through the fronds of unknown tropical plants. Half-lidded and life-crazed, your eyes peer upward at the blazing orange sun, its generative rays shining down on this world of purrfection. All is well and life waxes strong. 

Until something happens. A lone, discordant strain obliquely splinters into the harmony of life that so enthralled you. More of a pointed lack of goodness than a discernible negative thing, this intangible corruption creeps in from you know not where and suddenly spreads its dark, smothering influence over your garden of joy. Flowers arch their necks, shriveling to ash. Bark weeps from trees, their leaves falling in gory cascades to the dry ground below. Water dries up and the sun itself smears into an oily parody of itself; a stain in heaven. What was Eden moments before has turned into a grey, lifeless morass. Words fail you as you gaze upon the ruined vista. All words but one. “Monday.”

Yes, Monday. The Day of the Moon. The Lunatic Age. The Primordial Annihilator. We have all experienced its great malefic influence on our lives, yea even on our very sanity. But where does this menace come from? Why is it plaguing us? What does it want? Before we can answer these questions, however, we must first make a brief survey of the world as explicated in the holy texts of Garfield. Namely the 14,000+ comics, the television program, the holiday specials, the comic books, even the flavor text of Garfield-licensed merchandise. Basically every Garfield product except the feature length films, and maybe the Garfield brand feline arthritis medication™. Each of these sources offers a vital clue to the magnum mysterium that confronts us. 

Purrhaps the best place to start would be at the beginning (or the end, depending on your denomination.) Why Garfield? “HUR HUR CAT EATS PASTA LMAO”, you might say, and you’d be right, at least on a very exoteric level. I’ll not bore my readers with the tail of my awakening, or how through trials and tribulations both physical and spiritual I learned of the profound importance of Garfield as both a fable for our dark times and as a composite symbol of Aryan regeneration but suffice it to say, I have been busy as a cat in a litter box trying to re-wind this cosmic ball of yarn. This brief text will not be a complete exegesis of Garfield, but rather a kind of primer. If some matters remain unclear or contradictory, please do not contact me with questions. 

Since his birth on June 19th, 1978 Garfield has been beloved of the world. The strip was quickly syndicated in thousands of American newspapers and spread internationally not long after that. Garnering a place of honor in the pantheon of funnies, Garfield has become a household name for millions of people. Conversely, it is often thought of as one of the most bulbous and sickly cankers of the spreading disease of American Capitalism. Garfield toothpaste, Garfield sneakers, Garfield diapers, the list of officially licensed products is seemingly endless. Although there is some truth to this view, the deeper and more sincere take on this consumerist phenomenon offers us a chance to transmute the base material of a fat cartoon cat into spiritual gold. 

The prophet Jim Davis, blessed be, wrought greater than he knew when he first put pen to paper in an attempt to create a character that would be capable of “telling a joke that would make the whole world laugh.” Such a Herculean (Momusian?) effort, if it could be achieved at all, could only be carried out by a universally relevant and fundamentally accessible creature. Something that could mask its infinite well of power while still drawing upon it in order to carry out its great Act of Jest. Much like every public space in our Kali Yuga, Davis noticed that the comic world was rife with canines, and so, Garfield was born as a cat. But was this the only reason? 

It’s said that the Ancient Egyptians (White) worshipped cats and saw in them a great source of spiritual fire. Capable of calming the human mind with their tender ministrations and yet ruthlessly cleansing the granaries of vermin, cats have always existed as a kind of coniunctio oppositorum somewhere between tenderness and violence. Growing up on an Indiana farm with dozens of cats, the young Jim Davis must have been acutely aware of their dual nature when he chose them as the vehicle for his inspiration. In this we begin to see the contrarian nature of Garfield that will eventually enhance our experience of his transcendence into a symbol both of our world and ourselves; opposites not nullified, but unified into a vital whole. 

Let us analyze the most obvious aspects of Garfield. He is fat, voracious, moody, cynical, self-confident to the point of vanity, private, lazy, imaginative, curious and seemingly immortal. At times he appears to be emotionally numb to the feelings of those around him and at other times he expresses a kind of malicious glee at their unhappiness and discomfort. This somewhat cruel behavior has led many of the uninitiated to view him as a symbol for the more unsavory and subversive elements that operate in our midst. Once again, a purely exoteric analysis of the fable. 

Each of the main characters in the Garfield comic represent a different aspect of our world, as well as forming a Total Man when all of their qualities are considered in concert. Jon Arbuckle, the long-suffering caretaker of Garfield represents the everyman as he is in this fallen age. Hard-working, ignorant, unrefined, obnoxious, nerdy. In short, a bugman. He is also a cartoonist and there’s a pretty good argument to be made that the comic strip he works on is ‘Garfield’ itself, which raises all kinds of questions about causality that will not be discussed here. Odie, Jon’s dog and Garfield’s foil, is plucky, loyal, loving and brainless. He represents the childlike qualities of Man. Refreshing and wholesome in small doses, disastrous when upheld as universal standards of behavior. 

Before we examine the worldview espoused by the interaction of these three main characters, let’s imagine a world without Garfield. Garfield Minus Garfield, if you will. Jon the manchild wakes up every day, pours Odie a bowl of food and reads the morning news while sipping his coffee. No snide remarks, no existential crisis embodied by Garfield’s urgings, no comical situations. Just pure boring bliss. 4HL exemplified. Furthermore, Jon never would have met his paramour Liz because he wouldn’t have Garfield to use as an excuse to go to the vet every week. He also wouldn’t have anyone to berate him for his horrible fashion sense. At this point we should take a detour and explain the symbolic nature of Jon and Garfield’s communication. 

Garfield does not actually speak. This is clear by the fact that Jon always questions him, even when Garfield has clearly stated his stance on a given topic. Also the fact that his words are in a voice cloud and not a voice bubble. This can be taken to mean that Garfield is a kind of subconscious force that acts upon Jon, urging him to question himself, oftentimes cruelly. The gimmick lends itself to memorable follies in the strip, but esoterically this tells us that Garfield is a force that wishes to elevate Jon. Through his constant mockery and trickiness, Garfield is trying to turn Jon into his best self. Or at least something more than he is. Without Garfield, Jon would be just another boring man with a dog. Although Odie would love him unconditionally, he would not be able to provide any advice that might allow Jon to overcome his weaknesses and character deficiencies. Universal Love is all well and good until you’re faced with a force that doesn’t reciprocate. 

Now when we return Garfield to the tripartite interaction, we have something sensible and beneficial. Jon, the bumbling goof, who makes his way from failure to failure, egged on all the while by the comforting yet useless affection of his canine companion, is cruelly slapped back into reality by the cold, commanding presence of Garfield. No longer able to wile away the hours unsuccessfully hitting on women while dressed like a scarecrow, Jon is now forced to bear the slings and arrows of Garfield’s pointed and well-warranted criticisms. If Jon were to ever get what he really wanted it would not be because he listened to “himself”, which basically boils down to a discordant rabble of contradictory, disjointed platitudes and feel-good truisms, it would be because he listened to Garfield. 

This is a further reason that Garfield, that solar force within us that strives for greatness, is always hungry. We live in a dark age where all things are worse than they would otherwise be. The lesser rule over the greater by right of their numbers and nothing else. Qualitative greatness has been sacrificed to number unlimited, capitalism’s modus operandi. Everywhere you go you can get Chicken McNuggets, and they always taste the same; even at Auschwitz. 

This is partly why Monday (Moon Day) is such a hateful thing. Monday is the return of the Demiurgic eternity loop to square one, setting us back to where we were last week on this cosmic game board. Garfield, that solar brute, hates this and is always starving for “food”, i.e. greatness. The age is dark because our greatness, our Sun, sleeps. And he will continue to slumber until the day of retribution when the pillars of heaven tremble and he awakens to proclaim his eminence, and to demand tribute. On that day, this age will end and a new one will begin. A time of bloodshed and judgment, of tail whipping and flying fur. Malice, long bottled, will be unleashed and this empire of ugliness will topple in on itself, hopefully to be replaced by a time of aristocratic pomp and sleek, clean vivacity. This hope, this dream, is the essence of Garfield. 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Lee Pefley says:

    Sorry, but any interpretation of Garfield that fails to acknowledge and address the significance of the NQ (Nermal Question) can hardly be considered worthwhile.

    Like

    1. rudolfvonflugel says:

      That will have to wait for a further piece.

      Like

  2. rudolfvonflugel says:

    That will have to wait for a further piece.

    Like

  3. Guy Incognito says:

    The Youtuber QuintonReviews just this week unearthed proof Garfield was first published in 1976 not 1978 as believed for decades. Look up his latest video it’s wild how Garfield originally looked.

    Like

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