What the Internet did to Garfield
When I was a child, Garfield was a ubiquitous presence in my parents’ home. We decorated the walls and furniture with various Garfield stickers, proudly showed off our Garfield Kinder Surprise figurines to friends, and collected Garfield stuffed animals and other memorabilia. And, of course, we treasured the classic Garfield comic books, which have remained on the bookshelf in the small closet of our parents’ house for more than 25 years. Nowadays, people tend to scroll through social media and other apps while using the restroom, but back then, we loved reading Garfield comics, Micky Maus magazines, and Donald Duck pocketbooks. These were commonly referred to as “toilet comics” and were tolerated by our parents since they also enjoyed the humor depicted in them. Garfield’s humor, in particular, brought our family together and continues to do so to this day. Our love for Garfield was so intense that we memorized a great number of its comic strips. We still gather once a year, often quoting them to each other and laughing heartily about them. To outsiders, our use of quotes like “Splat. Kick. Odie?” might appear peculiar, but we have the corresponding panels playing in our minds and recall exactly what happened in that particular strip.
Though memorizing the panels may have been easy since we only had five or six Garfield comic books at a time, the choices were limited, but that didn’t bother us kids. We loved reading it at home, at school, at libraries, with friends, and even seeing it on TV. And that love has endured, even though I don’t pay as much attention to it these days. Despite never being a significant trend in Việt Nam, the presence of Garfield is ubiquitous; from stickers, memes, graffiti, paintings, and clothing, to figurines – Garfield is everywhere. Although many of my Vietnamese friends recognize the character, they are unaware of his name and the stories behind him. Nonetheless, Garfield’s presence is undeniable and impossible to ignore.
And then Garfield encountered the online world. The internet has transformed the world of Garfield, and in turn, Garfield is shaping the internet. Garfield dominates the digital realm, subverting his typical portrayal as a lazy, overweight cat with a philosophical bent, a dislike of Mondays and raisins, and a fondness for coffee and lasagna. In this space, Garfield exceeds limitations imposed by his origins in comic strips, becoming something more significant. Garfield has transformed from a lazy cat to a malevolent entity like Cthulhu, altering his existence and portraying established events in his comic book universe – including himself, Jon, Odie, and his creator, Jim Davis – in a macabre and vastly divergent way. This blurs the line between original fiction and reality, leading to a confusing, even depressing blend as one descends deeper into the Garfield rabbit hole. You start to manipulate and overwrite your experiences with the character throughout your life, leading to doubts about the existence of God and the world, and eventually to an understanding of Garfield as the one true all-powerful being.
Ultimately, we will all be blessed with the breath of Garfield, the necrotic entity we have created over the past few decades. All individuals, including children who enjoyed his comics, parents who bought Garfield merchandise, individuals who expressed hatred toward him, mindless consumers, and loyal followers of Garfield, will receive both a blessing and a cleansing. However, it is uncertain whether they will raise their arms in praise of Garfield during the purifying fumes. Instead, they may wail and scream in a display of ingratitude.
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What The Internet Did To Garfield
Hero image: Generated with DALL·E 3 on October 28, 2023 at 1:39 PM and edited with the Generative Fill tool in Adobe Photoshop.