Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On Top of the Table and Dreaming


The key to Garfield's personality is not that he is simply lazy and grouchy, but his determination to be as lazy as possible. He doesn't just space out like a normal person, but plans and makes an effort to space out. Understanding this is critical to appreciating Garfield in general. It's not boring, but a hard look at what boredom means, and the damages and comforts we may find there.

As the joke in a newspaper comic strip, Garfield examines what audiences demand in popular entertainment; it should be new and thrilling, but please, more of what we're already familiar with. It also reminds us of the special pitfalls of writing Garfield: when the point is that nothing ever happens, how does one continually engage an audience?

"I want to do absolutely nothing, but I want it to be a new absolutely nothing." The paradox is the joke, but Garfield's dilemma makes a sharp observation about a fundamental reason people are miserable. The unresolvable, eternal tension between desire for excitement and need for comfort. Garfield mocks the heightened conflict of other fiction by inventing a hero whose irritation threshold is so low that he can't help but have his plans foiled. What happens to a life that pursues ennui believing it to be fulfillment?: eventually, Garfield sees the ricocheting effect as he stares into the void; he runs out of dreams. In Garfield, the universe itself is so fundamentally barren that even a creature who bores himself for entertainment is frustrated in his effort. The oh-so-Garfield response to this ultimate spiritual crisis?: "Nuts."

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great work. I always enjoyed Garfield, but could never put my finger on why. You explained it better than I could, and made me understand.

In other news, your website has a small problem. When you go to the main website, the most recent entry you see is from 8/26 (Saturday). If you go into the August archives, you see the posts since then, but not on the main site. This is using Firefox, on Windows 2000. (I think also on Windows XP, I don't remember if I had the same problem at home)

Ryan Ferneau said...

I think it's a caching problem. Try hitting F5.

Anonymous said...

shades of beckett!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help but be amused by finding this the same day this strip ran:

http://garfielddcfe.ytmnd.com/

Lady Cooper said...

Take away the tought bubbles and it's perfect cat. I know some that will stare, just like that, for hours.

Erich said...

I'm reminded of Ogden Nash's poem "The Strange Case of Mr. Donnybrook's Boredom," about a couple who actively seek out new ways to be bored: "There is nothing left to jade our titillated palates!"

Jon said...

O my F'ing lawd! This is the best site I've been directed to all week. Marvelous work.