What kind of a man is Jon Arbuckle? He’s a single guy with a cat and a dog, and when he wants to go out, it’s the cat he takes for a walk. Today’s strip is set outside the home for once, as we find Jon, Garfield, and a stranger all in the park together. And what’s brought them all together is Jon being a pest and nuisance to women, a recurring trait in the character. As we see immediately in the strip, Jon has been caught staring at a woman in the park, and she’s stepped over to have a word with him about it.
It’s a scene which could go any number of ways, but Jim Davis firmly decides the best option is “let’s make Jon seem like an insane and worrying person”, as his initial fumbles at a response in conversation (accompanied by motion lines trembling down the back of his neck) turn into a full-fledged episode in front of her, which end with Jon accusing the woman of being the problem just for existing. Understandably – if not alarmingly for readers – she runs off immediately, worried about where this will lead to if she sticks around.
You really can’t blame her (which is surprising, because usually that’s the go-to for male cartoonists), because Jon’s overreaction to her question “are you looking at me” is monstrous. His eyes go wild, sweat flies off his face, his hands contort into claws, and his nose somehow trumpet out like a pointy elephant trunk. It’d be another month in the real world until Fellowship of the Rings was released, but here Jim Davis allows Jon to go full-on Bilbo in his jumpscare response to a woman who is justified to be annoyed with him.
It’s no coincidence that most of Jon’s interactions with women in this series tend to be over the phone, where he can’t be seen, and the woman has no personal presence. As soon as Jon finds himself in the presence of an actual living person, this is what happens. He can’t work out if he thinks he should be defending himself from the woman or making a double-negative of the situation and trying to flirt with her.
Yet whilst he’s Bilbo-ing it up like he’s just seen the Ring of Sauron in the hands of his nephew, Garfield stays perfectly still, perfectly calm. Garfield doesn’t move one bloody inch because he’s seen this entire interaction before – from dirty look to face to face confrontation, right through to Jon’s overreaction and final self-justification. He knows exactly what Jon is.
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
If you’d like to see more ‘Field Theory on Shelfdust, please consider sending a donation to our Ko-Fi page! Each pledge we get, regardless of the amount, means one new feature will be commissioned for the site!