You’re familiar with the deadpan, Monday-hating, carb-scarfing cartoon cat known as Garfield. Whether you were introduced to this unflappable cat via the original Jim Davis comic strips or the regrettable film spinoffs, you have a basic, cognizant awareness of Garfield’s existence.
You may also be under the impression that Garfield is a male cat. Well, as of Feb 23, this previously assumed “fact” has become somewhat murky, thanks to the surprising number of people who are willing to argue about a fake cat’s gender on the internet.
I am speaking of the Garfield Gender Wikipedia Wars of 2017, and no, I am not kidding.
It all started two years ago, when Garfield creator Jim David made an interesting comment about the cat’s gender during an interview with MentalFloss. “Garfield is very universal,” Davis said. “By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old.”
The surprisingly progressive comment was forgotten (because I don’t think anybody truly cares that much). That is, until the “satirist” and renowned troll “Virgil Texas” tweeted about the quote last week.
(For what it’s worth, I had no idea that Garfield has a brother named Raoul.)
Virgil’s Wikipedia update spurred a contentious controversy (just as it was supposed to do), and it wasn’t long before Garfield fans were furiously updating the cat’s gender back to “male,” before dissenters changed it to “none” again, and so on and so forth.
People presented evidence from the comic strips in which Garfield is referred to as a male from both his owner and others: In one instance, Jon refers to Odie and Garfield together as “boys.” In another, Garfield calls himself a “bad boy.”
Behind the scenes, Wikipedia editors debated Garfield’s listed gender, saying that the Davis quote was likely taken out of context. “Clearly this is a comment explaining the philosophy of Garfield’s universal appeal, and not an attestation that Garfield is (or that Jim Davis believes the character of Garfield to be) literally genderless (or ageless, or without nationality, etc.),” one editor wrote.
Some tried to point out that Garfield was clearly into girls, and was therefore male — but Virgil was quick to point out the flaws in that logic.
Virgil also shut down anyone who dared to bring up Garfield’s Pet Force as evidence of the cat’s gender identity.
Although some pointed out that even Davis gendered Garfield in his now-infamous quote.
Garfield’s gender was flip-flopping so much on Wikipedia that an administrator finally had to step in and lock the site from edits until March. As of right now, Garfield’s gender is officially listed as “male,” with four comic strips cited as evidence, including one where a veterinarian says about Garfield, “he’s too fat.”
The Washington Post decided to resolve the issue once and for all by taking the question back to Jim Davis himself. “Garfield is male,” Davis told the publication on Tuesday. “He has a girlfriend, Arlene.”
Perhaps that will settle the debate, for now. It’s just staggering to think that we live in a world where the notion that a cartoon kind might not be a particular gender sparked so much controversy. And it’s even more staggering that people were willing to fight about a comic strip that was, if I’m being totally honest, not that good.
In the end, everyone should probably just channel the fat orange cat (and cats in general) and remember to not give a fuck.