Friday, April 30, 2010

I Have No Trachea, Larynx or Vocal Cords and I Must Scream

Ignore, for the moment, that real fish lack not only eyelids but the vocal apparatus necessary to emit a blood-curdling cry of terror. Ignore, if you can, that it is a good thing they do, lest that sound would haunt you until the end of days, forever ruining every trip to the fish taco stand.

One of the hooks which must have initially sold United Feature Syndicate on Garfield Back in the Day, is the exciting opportunity to peek inside the psyches of our housepets. What's Kitty Thinkin'? This anthropomorphic comic exploration of how cats is just like people and people ain't so different from awful cats is pushed into realms of near-abstraction by strips in which Garfield interacts with various other pets, vermin, the occasional sentient houseplant, and even inanimate objects.

In this case, we are offered a dramatic expansion of the common sight of a cat looking at a fish. Usually these Garfields are about the cat's predatory instinct and/or sadism, muted by domesticity into meanness and bullying. This one hinges also on posturing, both from the fish and Garfield. This is not totally alien, as the sense that cats are trying very hard to look cool and aloof is often hard to avoid. The specifics of this story, though, are nearing the breaking point with any reality.

Consider, then: how does a bowled fish, fresh to the house, know Garfield by reputation? Why isn't the fish scared, since if the cat is indeed known as "tough," then it is for eating every fish brought into the house? Is Garfield "tough," or does he act tough only he knows he can win?

On the other hand, what we have is a scenario in which an tiny, defenseless creature has been placed in a vulnerable situation. He sees the natural predator that will inevitably eat him alive, and decides that if he's going out, he's going to be brave. The hunter will have none of that, and ensures his prey is going to face oblivion screaming at the top of his non-existent lungs.

Maybe none of this is what is really going on when a cat stares into a fishbowl. Or maybe that is exactly how the universe works.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mard Mall of America

How Did This Happen and What Does It Tell Us?
Choose your own, from our list of possibilities...

1) Garfield did not see the mouse and came to rest where he pleased. Insight: Garfield makes no effort to be aware of his surroundings, as long as his own needs are being met. Also, a fat joke in which Garfield's body mass blocks his line of vision and causes him to inadvertently harm others.

2) Garfield saw the mouse, specifically chose this spot that he could crush the mouse. This also means Garfield is lying to the second mouse about the brother's whereabouts. Insight: Garfield enjoys inflicting physical and mental anguish on others for its own sake, habitually abuses smaller creatures and lies for no larger profit, and is compelled to demonstrate dominance and ownership of the house.

3) or 1+2 Garfield chose his nap spot, saw that it was occupied by the mouse, sat on the mouse anyway. Insight: Garfield does not care what suffering he inflicts upon others, as long as his own needs are being met.

All these things are true about Garfield's character, regardless of our plot speculation.

Bonus Game: Try to reproduce the muffled voice of the squashed rodent. You will find that the only way these mangled pronunciations can be created is by stuffing your mouth with a wad of soft material.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Burb, Baby, Burp

Garfield regards Jon's accusations that he is disgusting as merely a statement of fact, rather than a complaint or criticism, as indicated by the cat's retort which adds... well, insult to insult. That Jon's observation has no effect is hardly surprising, since the "prank" that is belching in someone's face is enacted because it is disgusting. Garfield counters with not just another fact, but by 1) communicating that the horrible thing Jon has just experienced has the further consequence of depleting household supplies, (2 implying that Jon should now feel obligated to replenish the soda, which in turn (3 sets up the circumstances for Garfield to blow stomach air in Jon's face again.

This strip is about abuse cycles. Except, of course, that Garfield will never demonstrate remorse, so when Jon inevitably enters the one-man-honeymoon stage and buys more soda, he is not just manifesting his own self-esteem issues, but accepting his role in Garfield's Theater of Cruelty.