Whenever anyone mentions the name “Garfield” these days, most assume they’re talking about actor Andrew Garfield. Emphasis on “most,” however, as older generations less familiar with the Amazing Spider-Man films and Martin Scorsese’s later work will instead recall Jim Davis’ syndicated newspaper comic strip. That Garfield, whose creation in 1978 has spawned television specials, shows, and a film series whose initial outing featured Bill Murray, is very different (aside from the fact that he also loves lasagna and hates Mondays). Unless you’re curious about the beloved cartoon’s gender, because both cat Garfield and Andrew Garfield are just plain dudes. Right?
Wrong, says Internet satirist and Chapo Trap House podcast member Virgil Texas, who initiated an editing war behind the scenes of Wikipedia’s Garfield entry. According to the Washington Post, the fuss all began when Texas referenced a two-year-old interview with Davis conducted by Mental Floss, in which the comic’s creator proclaimed “by virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old.”
Texas’ late-February revelation led to a subsequent Wikipedia edit identifying Garfield’s gender as “none.” In an interview with the Post, he explained his concern was chiefly with “Garfield canon.” Sincere or otherwise (likely otherwise), the change sparked a fury of re-edits and re-re-edits that dragged on among Wikipedia editors for over 60 hours:
“Every character (including Garfield himself!) constantly refers to Garfield unambiguously as male, and always using male pronouns,” one editor wrote — listing nearly three dozen comic strips across nearly four decades to prove the point:
The one where Jon tells Garfield “good boy!” before Garfield shoves a newspaper into his owner’s mouth.
The one where the cat’s “magical talking bathroom scale (probably a proxy for Garfield himself) refers to Garfield as a ‘young man’ and a ‘boy.'”
But another editor argued that only one of those examples “looks at self-identification” — a 1981 strip in which Garfield thinks, “I’m a bad boy” after eating a fern.
After the debate ultimately exploded onto social media and the conservative blog Heat Street, Wikipedia temporarily locked its Garfield entry in the hopes that the buzz would eventually die down. And to dump further dirt on the thirsty fire, the Post reached out to Davis himself for comment. “Garfield is male,” he confirmed, adding that the famous cat “has a girlfriend, Arlene.”
The creator’s explanation doesn’t necessarily solve the gender debate, especially since his implication that Garfield’s gender is based on having a girlfriend is problematic. As for Texas, who started the whole thing, he admitted the cartoonist is “in charge of the canon,” but stressed he’d like to “interrogate” Davis if given the opportunity.
(Via the Washington Post)