“Garfield Minus Garfield” A Troubling Lesson on Late Capitalist Anxiety?

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


There have been a few “comic remixes” that have probably landed in your e-mail boxes over the years: The Dysfunctional Family Circus predates the internet, in fact, replacing the originals’ cloying observations with sick jokes about incest and drugs, while “Marmaduke Explained” attempts to find humor in this bafflingly non-funny comic via deadpan explanations that are even less funny. But recently I’ve come across a reinterpretation of a much-derided comic that’s pretty stunning, not only because it makes the originals funny, but because it does so not through addition, but through subtraction.

mojo-garfield-nothing.jpg

Garfield Minus Garfield has a simple formula: erase (presumably through the magic of Photoshop) every instance of the irrepressible, overweight feline, leaving only Jon Arbuckle to talk to himself. The results are devastating (and hilarious) treatises on loneliness, without punch lines or jokes, reminiscent of the appallingly bleak early Peanuts strips.

mojo-garfield-nobody.jpg

Sometimes, the lack of Garfield and his thought bubbles leaves panels completely empty, yet somehow, you can still “get it”:

mojo-garfield-corn.jpg

It’s unsettling, to say the least; was this brilliant streak of voyeuristic schadenfreude always there, hiding beneath the surface of an annoying comic strip? Moreover, why exactly does removing Garfield change the meaning so significantly?

If one stops looking at Garfield as a cat, per se, and instead looks at him as a symbol, it starts to make more sense. Really, if you think about it, Garfield barely resembles a cat. He is more of a logo, a product, a nonsense shape whose meaning derives only from its position in popular culture, as something you can buy. Garfield exists merely as a trinket, another blip in the continual accelerating churn of late capitalism’s ravenous hunger for the “new.” But these trinkets are merely salves for the underlying horrors of late capitalism: social fragmentation, isolation, anxiety. Remove the product from our lives, and we’re left with nothing.

mojo-garfield-pain.jpg

Like the angst-ridden figure in Munch’s The Scream, Jon Arbuckle is crying out, with no-one to hear. He is shorn of family, friends, or any social network whatsoever. He wanders his empty apartment, and without a product to focus on (even in irony), he vacillates between manic periods of self-delusion and moments of overwhelming sadness. Sometimes he seems to try and create his own “product”: a sock puppet, a grocery sack, even focusing on the ice tray as if its solidifying ice could pass for entertainment.

mojo-garfield-ice.jpg

But none provide satisfaction, none bring the distilled notion of “other” inside, that glint of connectedness in the painted-on eyes of a market-tested logo. Our lives, minus product: laid bare as the pathetic, lonely sagas they’ve become. Did I mention it’s hilarious?

mojo-garfield-sigh.jpg

There are new strips up almost every day over at Garfield Minus Garfield. If you’re single, you might want to brace yourself before diving in.

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate