Sunday, September 24, 2006

Kitteo Rewind

Garfield takes frequent aim at those elements of its own fabric most complained-about and misunderstood by critics, and in the process lays to waste the complaints and successfully turns the mirror on the strip. This Sunday strip is a prime example.

Title Panel: Between the apparent whimsy of the lovable cartoon cat and the reader's heart is the cold reality of the PAWS merchandising interest. Playful, colorful fish leap about, google-eyed, their doom in Garfield's stomach already written upon their very bodies. The last in line bears the Registered Trademark symbol upon his scales.

The Strip: The same two drawings repeated 2.5 times (and with the implication of endless repetition) become the raw material for the joke. The content, you've seen before - Garfield kicking Odie off the table - and seen for years, the same joke repeated in variation ad nauseum. You've heard the complaint that Garfield is the same jokes every day - Garfield is fat, Garfield is lazy, Jon is a nerd, Garfield is mean - but if you think Jim Davis doesn't know this, or it is an insult to your intelligence, or even a flaw in the comic strip, you are missing the point.

I Guess: Garfield set up a camera to capture his own exploits? This doesn't surprise me, and I certainly don't put it past Garfield, but it says a lot about the nature of kicking-Odie-off-the-table gags. Like most of Garfield, success in life isn't about grabbing surprising opportunities, but exploiting the patterns of predestination all around you.

The Punchline: Garfield rightly identifies perusing his adventures as "treasured memories." I get a lot of email that boils down to "I used to like Garfield as a kid, but the apparent lack of sophistication drove me away as an adult." The pleasure of the strip is Davis' ability to conjure infinite variations on the same jokes, daily stories from drawings that look more or less the same, and characters who remain in relative physical and emotional stasis. When Garfield is at its best, these regulatory boundaries themselves become the subject of the jokes. So "whatcha' watching?" = "why are you looking at the same two drawings over and over?" The answer is: it may be an exercise in cruelty, but I like it.


murgatroid said...

I'm not sure which tells us more about Garfield's cruelty; that he would go through all the trouble of setting up video recording equipment in advance just so he could later bask in past violent crimes, or the fact that he's been sitting there for who knows how long, just watching the same kick over, and over, and over again.

Elliot said...

I think he's watching a rerun of Garfield and Friends.

Anonymous said...

i think the connection overlooked in this one is in the expression and enthusiasm of jon's face. is it not much like odie's?
what i begin to take away from this one is garfield's satisfaction in torturing both jon and odie and that while garfield is enjoying the constant replay of his kicking odie in the butt, he could easily substitute jon for being annoying and bothering his relaxed revelry.