By Charlotte Finn
I look at this strip and I think “well, that’s bullshit.”
To think Garfield is bullshit is to designate the smallest of molehills as the most towering of mountains, but my instincts are my instincts, and one must acknowledge one’s emotional life to lead a fulfilling existence. So I look at this and I think that I can buy into a talking cat, but a talking tree is bullshit.
A talking cat is a rare enough occurrence that required one and a half interrobangs, so outlandish was the premise. But it’s not unheard of; some of my best friends are talking cats. (They’re very nice. They get artwork drawn of themselves. I will absolutely not share any.)
But a talking tree? C’mon. That’s bullshit, Garfield. And also, something I don’t want to think about.
There’s a lot of horror to be mined from Garfield, and by mined, I mean “make up almost out of whole cloth, since Garfield is designed to be the most inoffensive thing on the planet.” A lot of it is standard issue horror, turning Garfield into some seven-dimensional monster whose sole and fondest wish is to devour the world.
But a lot of horror can simply be found in the text as is, if we deploy the ancient internet discourse technique of “taking something way too seriously for its own good.” And one such outlet of horrors is this; a thinking tree, rooted to the same place for centuries, its only joy found in pranks pulled on a cat, who also talks and thinks like us and will die in less than two decades from adulthood. Condemned to the barest of social interactions until its release from the endless pain of existence by a clearcutter with a chainsaw.
If cats can talk and think, and trees can talk and think, then what else in the Garfield Expanded Universe can also talk and think? Are the birds in this tree sentient, with a rich oral tradition passed from generation to generation only to be tragically cut short when one flies into a glass window at top speed? Does every mouse that Garfield is meant to kill have a rich interior life, prolonged only by the fact that Garfield is a lazy kitty who hates Mondays? When Garfield takes a flea bath, is Jon Arbuckle violating the Geneva Conventions? When he kills a spider, is that murder one?
The true cosmic horror is not in the stars above or in the outer dimensions, as dreamt up by a writer whose cat’s name you should never, ever Google. It’s all around us and rooted in the notion that maybe we are surrounded by rich and thoughtful beings who nonetheless need to die so that we may live. That the state of the universe is an endless abattoir.
That’s why a talking tree is bullshit.
For us to merely live, as decent beings should? It has to be.
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!