Let’s get this out of the way. I hate cats. I don’t especially like Garfield comics, but they were around when I was a kid. Garfield was a pop culture phenomenon, apparently, even though its description melts as you speak it. There was a fat orange cat? He was mean and hated ? It went on for book collections, TV shows, movies, and of course, a long-running comic strip. I can’t be bothered to Google exactly how long the strip ran for, but suffice to say it outlasted presidencies, marriages, and lives.
Macabre? Perhaps. But Garfield conquers all.
Except for love.
That’s right, internet. Because Garfield – snarky cat icon – had a deeply hidden love for Jon Arbuckle, his sad-sack owner. Consider, for a moment, the evidence for love that’s hidden in his hate.
1. Garfield Hates Odie
This seems normal, at first glance. Cats hate dogs, dogs hate cats, etc. Except that Odie doesn’t hate Garfield. Odie loves Garfield, and even with their special rivalry, you’d think Garfield would have the sense to return love with, at least, neutrality.
But he doesn’t. He hates Odie, perhaps for his lack of intelligence. That makes sense – Garfield is an intellegent cynic, and a happy-go-lucky idiot might rub him the wrong way. But what if it’s deeper than that. What if Garfield fears being usurped by an adopted dog (formerly of Jon’s cousin Liam, yes, that’s canon) could take his place. After all, dog is man’s best friend, not snarky cat.
A reach? Maybe. But lets keep going.
2. Garfield Hates Nermal
Remember Nermal, the cute kitten Garfield hates but sometimes is involved in story-lines? Garfield hates Nermal, even more than he hates Odie. This is interesting. Is it because as a cuter, younger cat, Nermal poses a threat to Garfield’s position in Jon’s heart?
Possibly. Probably. After all, who could hate a kitten? Only a cat. A cat torn between love and the fear of loving, his anxieties projected to hate all who threaten his fragile dream.
3. Garfield’s Hates Dating
Garfield, as a character and a comic, has stayed close to routines. His loves and hates remain static, his attitude unchanging, and the comics repeat along those lines – cliches are trotted out, acknowledged. and returned back to the stable.
Except for dating.
Don’t get it wrong – we see a lot of dating. But it’s Jon – who Garfield, interestingly, refuses to help – who has the dating plots. Garfield rarely dates, but does so just enough for the evidence to be damning. Garfield, the morbidly obese bachelor, has an unconvincing relationship with Arlene, a pink cat we occasionally see out and about. Despite Arlene’s general interest, Garfield is the one who cooly rejects her. Why? What kind of fat lonely misanthrope would willingly turn down affection and romance from one of the only other cats in the comic?
The next question: how has a comic that has run this long barely even bothered to explore this story-line?
Simple. Garfield’s heart has remained attuned to Jon Arbuckle. Will his continued failures with human women inspire him to recognize the forbidden love lurking in his heart? Only time will tell, but Garfield lingers, waiting.
Lastly, and famously, Garfield hates Mondays. He loathes them. It’s relatable, plastered on mugs and sweaters worldwide.
But the question remains.
Think about it. Garfield doesn’t have a job. He doesn’t go to work at the Cat Factory or whatever. He’s a fucking house-cat, and a lazy one at that. What deadlines does he possibly have? What understanding of Monday, or even of time, could he even grasp?
Simple. The time is there and the time he isn’t.
Garfield hates Monday because that’s the time when Jon leaves for work. It’s the first departure, the one that wrenches him from the island of his weekend presence (Jon isn’t popular, so it seems likely he stays at home with his pets.) Monday is painful two-fold: it is Jon’s first departure of the week, the freshest cut, and it singles nothing more than that continued absence.
Garfield loves Jon, and hates the symbol of Monday that wrenches Jon away from his love, back into the sea of humans he is inexorably bound to.
It’s beautiful. It’s tragic. And it’s the dark, poignant secret of Garfield that’s propelled the comic for decades. Garfield is afraid of love, able only to project it to food that resembles his owner (lasagna, a notably human food.) Food cannot reject him, and so he binges. But it is Jon Garfield needs, Jon he loves, Jon that drives him mad.
Garfield loves Jon Arbuckle.
This is canon.