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No. 141: Garfield Recoloured

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Garfield Recoloured

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Permanent URL: https://mezzacotta.net/garfield/?comic=141

Strip by: Henning Makholm

Jon: Garfield was real grumpy this morning.
Jon: So I sent him out for a nice walk...
Jon: Which seems to have done some good!
Garfield: I maimed three squirrels.

The author writes:

I drained the colours from the 1995-02-27 Garfield strip and put new ones in. Does it bother you that Garfield is now a grey/white cat instead of an orange one? Should it bother you? Complex issues arise.

First, the strip already has the "token grey" character Nermal, but his appearances are few and far between, especially considering how many grey cats there are in real life. Surely having Garfield be grey in a single strip is just a (small) step towards breed parity in Square Root of Minus Garfield?

Unfortunately, not unambiguously so. Because Garfield already has an established colour scheme, any change it is apt to be taken as implying that the change is for the better. Is grey better than orange for cat fur? In my (unscientific) experience it is certainly more common. Is the recoloured strip perhaps an attempt to reinforce/perpetuate the notion that a "default" cat is (or ought to be) be grey and that it is meaningful to think of "orange" as a primary attribute of one cat though we would not consider the greyness of another one similarly distinctive?

On the other hand, we must not forget that Garfield is a stereotypically mean, egotistical (and, yes, squirrel-maiming) jerkass. That does not ordinarily reflect badly on all orange cats, because, well, duh, it's Garfield! But once we change his colour, it is no more "just Garfield", and the characterisation begins to interact with the colouring. In this context the strip seems to say that grey cats are egotistical squirrel-maimers. Strictly speaking it only asserts that some grey cats sometimes maim squirrels. But that was never in doubt to begin with, so it is inevitable that it will be perceived as a statement about grey cats in general.

Of course, one may also take the position that any attempt to use the colouring to make a point, no matter whether in favour of grey or orange, is an unwelcome abuse of the original strip's artistic vision. The counterpoint to that is if you don't even know what the point is, how can you be sure it's being made in the first place? Perhaps it's all just in your head.

On the other-other-other hand, now that the possibility of a grey Garfield has been aired, the cat is out of the bag, so to say. Even if henceforth Garfield is always orange, that too will be taken as a statement of sorts.

So, should you be offended? You decide. But eventually we'll all just have to come to terms with the fact that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Original strip: 1995-02-27.