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Leave Garfield alone

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-03-2017 Sundeep Khanna

In hashtag terms it’s a straightforward #LeaveGarfieldAlone.

Hell, it could even be #NotBoyNotGirlGarfieldIsACat.

Debating the sex of the cat that’s been defying all norms of society for over 38 years is like questioning whether God Is or Was?

The answer quite simply is God can’t be siloed. God Is. God Was. God will always be.

So too is Garfield. Not man, not woman, not nothing.

The character’s creator Jim Davis told Mental Floss some years ago, “Dealing with eating and sleeping, being a cat, Garfield is very universal. By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old.”

Of course, lesser mortals (and that’s everyone with the exception of Ollie) insists on trying to pigeon hole Garfield into its favoured role. Thus, in a strip on Monday 15 April 2002, here’s Garfield’s owner:

“Jon: You’re more than a pet to me, Garfield.

You’re like a son.

A big, fat, worthless son.

Garfield (as ever on his back staring at the sky): Lighten up dad.”

Over the weekend, as Twitter went aflutter over the sex of comic lands laziest being, fans and the media joined the battle in right earnest. Wired reported that a Wikipedia edit war had erupted over the gender of the tabby cat. Washington Post, taking a break from its skirmish with a certain D. Trump, kicked off the intense debate with a 1 March piece titled Garfield’s a boy … right? How a cartoon cat’s gender identity launched a Wikipedia war. Heat Street, the newest online platform to celebrate free speech, needed a more precise term for the irascible rascal, suggesting “gender fluid” was the most appropriate descriptor.

Our take*: Garfield transcends into Everyman. Garfield is subversive, subtly changing the myth of every man and his endearing dog (Tintin) to Everyman and his completely unendearing cat. Its palpable delight in being baaad brings out the latent schadenfreude in each of us. Garfield is a symbol for our age which has lost its unisexuality and entered into a more polysexual mode.

Phew!

How did we ever get here? There are mighty fires to be doused, shootings in Washington, rising debt yields in Japan, a bitter presidential battle in France and of course crucial electoral battles at home.

And we are squabbling about a napping cat!

Well, it is Monday, after all, and much like Garfield said “I hate Mondays”.

So have a nice day. Or not.

*The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Mint.

Sundeep Khanna is a consulting editor at Mint and oversees the newsroom’s corporate coverage.

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