Saturday, June 07, 2008

Comics analysis

Jim Davis is making a less-than-subtle statement here about the deepest wishes and dreams of the comic's eponymous furball. While cats may be intelligent, musical creativity is not part of their typical abilities.

Garfield, Davis is telling us, longs to be human--and a jazz musician in particular. Perhaps he once heard of Cat Stevens (though in a polka-obsessed house like Jon Arbuckle's, one wonders how) and assumed that it must be possible. Actually, in his shades, he more closely resembles Miles Davis from the cover of "'Round About Midnight."

One might assume, based on this visual cue, that Garfield's "idol" is Miles.

Then comes his comment in the final frame, which utterly renders all that comes before it nearly meaningless, and yet makes a poignant statement on its own about Garfield's dreams of humanity. "My idol," says Garfield, "does not play the trumpet." He refers, naturally, to his enraged owner, Jon! Is Garfield's idol, then, Jon? Peculiar, since the cat spends so much time in the strip mocking his hapless owner!

Why does Garfield idolize someone who is such an inferior specimen and who neither plays nor appreciates trumpet-based jazz? Should he not rather choose as an idol someone who is superior to him and who understands his passions?

It reminds me of the words of Isaiah:

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing? He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and infamy. The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is man's fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm; I see the fire." From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, "Save me; you are my god." They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, "Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" - Isaiah 44:9-20

Additionally, it strikes me that this would be an ideal strip for Garfield Minus Garfield.

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