Friday, May 02, 2014
A Harmless Necessary Cat
The premise of Garfield is simple: Garfield the cat suffers from severe depression, a condition which he self-medicates through eating. He cannot be at peace, he always finds fault in his environment, in those around him, in the very constraints of the three-panel universe in which he resides.
In these earliest strips, before Garfield slimmed down, he is enormous, a giant wedge of orange fat. He is more than an animal: he is pure mass, exerting a powerful gravitational pull on everything around him. His owner Jon, the dog Odie, all the food - falls to him, falls into him irresistibly.
He is appetite incarnate: from the root word carnis, Latin for "meat," incarnated means literally to be placed into meat, to be animated in flesh. The risen Christ is a manifestation of God incarnated, the spirit made to animate a hollow shell of gristle and bone. Garfield is the force of appetite. He cannot be sated. He cannot be placated. He will never be satisfied - the moment of relief from his hunger never arrives.
In his world he is both God and damned: every element of reality bends inexorably to him, but even given this he can never be fulfilled. The more he eats, the more he desires to eat. Imagine an eternity of everything you ever wanted without the moment of release granted by satiation - and then imagine Garfield, supreme monarch of a realm of endless suffering.