Viewing posts tagged Permanent Saturday

Permanent Saturday: Cat's Cradle

There is possibly no relationship in Garfield that better exemplifies the classic “Love/Hate” dynamic than that between the titular cat and The Dog Next Door. Much as he does in his other work relationships in the strip, Garfield dutifully clocks in to go over to Jon's neighbour's yard and get violently and angrily barked at by their dog. Absurd, yes, but how many of us work eight (or twelve, or eighteen) hour days in a job where we're only disrespected and demeaned? Some people are particularly unlucky enough to have a boss who seems to do nothing but scream and verbally abuse them. Those sorts of people might as well be a dumb, vicious guard dog with an explosively hair trigger temper.

But Garfield does still have an amiable relationship with The Dog Next Door. His design shows him to be a friendly chap when he's not on the clock, and he and Garfield have shown on multiple occasions they can get along just fine if they want to. Indeed, I think they not-so-secretly enjoy the unique relationship they share: They will speak of love and hate as if they're interchangeable emotions (and in ...

Permanent Saturday: The Call of the Wild

Garfield is made great by the thin line it walks between comfort and banality. The strip is defined in equal parts by both concepts, and it's impossible to have one without the other. Indeed, when it is one, it is so precisely because it is also the other at the same time. Like everything about Garfield, its running gags play into this: We expect to see them and thus enjoy the thrill of recognition when we do. And while the strip can dispense a seemingly endless series of variations on the same handful of setups, the structure itself must always remain fundamentally comforting, familiar, recognisable and, necessarily, banal.

Like the Wise Man of the Mountain we looked at last time, Garfield's Echo Point is a running gag whose setup is based around one of our characters (usually the cat in question) interacting with an unseen aspect of Nature outside of the panel. And this time, it's a comedic double-act built out of a literal call-and-response. Garfield reads the sign, understands that this is a place where echoes can be heard and meows into the canyon awaiting some kind of answer. Usually he gets one. In these strips ...

Permanent Saturday: Paradise Is/Exactly like/Where you are right now/Only much, much Better

While out walking, Garfield comes across a hill. There's a sign planted next to the hill, indicating that Paradise can be found at the top.

This hill is different from the ones we normally see in Garfield; rounded moguls upon which the cat will lay back and look up at the clouds on a warm summer day. The prominence appears quite challenging even for a seasoned climber, which is probably part of the reason Garfield has the reaction he does upon seeing it. The general design indicates less a typical Garfield hill and more a location that showed up in the strip a few times in the earlier part of the decade: A jagged, rocky mountain whose summit we cannot see from the vantage point of the strip, but upon which dwells a Wise Man whom Jon tells us “has a long beard” and “says grand things about life”. To further the continuity link, one Wise Man strip features a sign that literally says “Wise Man” partway up the mountain, a kind of spiritual road sign or mile marker, with an arrow helpfully pointing to the summit, much as the sign for “Paradise” does here.

We can read the ...

Permanent Saturday: Oracle Bone

“There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit-love.”
-Morihei Ueshiba
Simple pleasures for simple minds, so the saying goes. Many a joke over the years has been made at the expense of Odie's celebrated idiocy, surely to the delight of Garfield's Cat Person target demographic everywhere. And truth be known Odie is not a particularly complex being: Not so much irrational or prerational as nonrational, Odie is guided by mere existence. He doesn't stop to let his superego overanlyse his actions largely because it's not entirely clear he has a superego. Certainly Odie will never be in any danger of being paralyzed by an overactive mind. Within Garfield's Funny Animal satire of modernity, Odie offers the biggest challenge by being the biggest diegetic commentary on the strip's fundamental artifice: Odie is the one animal character who acts in accordance with stereotypical Western ideas about animal minds-Pure, unthinking, instinctual being.
Certain schools of Taoism and Advaita Vedanta Hinduism would probably find a lot of commonality with Odie. As the embodiment of pure “I Exist”, his character lends itself well to being read as ...

Permanent Saturday: Axis Mundi

In Garfield, everything has a voice, or has the potential to have one. Birds, mice, spiders and household appliances (not to mention cats and dogs) all have readable internal dialogue. Everything has a soul. Everything is a potential spiritual agent. Naturally it's only the animals, plants and objects who display regular awareness of this fact, because Garfield is about Western modernity and we as humans have forgotten such things in our society. Recall, however, that it is us as the audience who have privileged access to the thoughts and concerns of these creatures even as the humans in the strip do not. There's hope for us yet.

(Of course, the strip goes back on forth about this depending on what makes the better joke on that day. If you are still looking for the laws of physics underlining the “Garfield universe” you are manifestly missing the point of this series and are approaching it utterly the wrong way.)

This level of awareness comes, however, at the price of extremely heightened empathy. Those who feel deeply their connection to the myriad other souls in nature may also find their feelings of suffering and loss to be magnified as ...

Permanent Saturday: Really big at the box office

With deepest apologies to Chris Stangl, Permanent Saturday is a semiregular critical exploration of Jim Davis' comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres/Orson's Farm.

Garfield and Friends was well known for its referential and self-aware style of comedy. Much of the humour from the second season onward was gleaned from poking fun at both pop culture and the capitalist industry that creates it thanks to its head writer Mark Evanier. Evanier is a veteran Hollywood jobbing scribe who was born, raised and still lives in Los Angeles, so he brings a very unique perspective to Garfield. For Evanier, celebrities and entertainers were his neighbours and fellow community members, and the business of making movies was the local industry. So when Garfield and Friends makes a joke about Hollywood agents or breaks the fourth wall and treats the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show as just another piece of primetime network television, this is not the series being especially perceptive and postmodern as much as it is Mark Evanier looking for inspiration in the people and things around him, and writing what he knows.

(Indeed, Mark Evanier's secondary role as voice director is responsible for another thing Garfield and Friends ...

Permanent Saturday: What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass

With deepest apologies to Chris Stangl, Permanent Saturday is a semiregular critical exploration of Jim Davis' comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres/Orson's Farm.

When we think of Garfield, we think of the mundane everyday. And when we think of the mundane everyday, we think of banal modern life. Indeed, this blog project's forebear made a regular point of reading the strip as a brilliantly subversive example of effectively marketing ennui and despair: A savvy salesman hocking commiseration at the hopelessness of day-to-day punchclock life in late-stage capitalism with no visible way out. Nihilism sold with a smile. That and a buck-fifty will get you a cup of coffee.

There is probably some truth in that. Garfield is, as we have established, a strip about boredom and banality, and it likely would not be the marketing juggernaut it is (or perhaps was? While still obviously a beloved and ubiquitous franchise, it does not to me seem that it's quite in the forefront to the degree it's been at times in the past. Not, of course, that past, present and future distinctions mean all that much to us in our world here) if people didn't ...

Permanent Saturday: Something about the presence of a cat

With deepest apologies to Chris Stangl, Permanent Saturday is a semiregular critical exploration of Jim Davis' comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres/Orson's Farm.

The first level this strip works on is a standard joke about Garfield's ego. We see variations on this joke, just as we see variations on all Garfield's jokes, show up infrequently every so often: Jon will make a quip about how the world does not revolve around Garfield (though he is big enough for it to), or that Garfield is not the centre of the universe, which Garfield will either deny or quip back that if he isn't he should be. Sometimes the roles are reversed, with Garfield opening the strip declaring he's the centre of the universe, which Jon will then proceed to reject.

The impetus for the joke's setup comes from actual cat behaviour: Much of Garfield's personality is derived from taking humans' observations and interpretations of the things their housecats did and anthropomorphizing them: Cats are vain, cats are aloof, cats only care about me for what they can get from me, they claw things I don't want them to claw, don't ...

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