Over the past couple of days, while most of the internet debated things like President Trump’s address to Congress and #envelopegate, a small — but dedicated — subsection of the interwebs went to war.
Not over politics, or boy bands, or even the colors of a dress, but over Garfield the cat’s gender. Because, while we all know that the lazy ginger kitty loves lasagna and hates Mondays, many would argue that we don’t know whether the cat is a boy or a girl. And according to the Washington Post, Garfield’s gender debate got so heated that it caused an all-out 60-hour editing war on Wikipedia.
Wiki eventually had to put Garfield’s page on lockdown, which is pretty much exactly the sort of news we needed to hear in Trump’s America.
Garfield’s creator, Jim Davis, actually kicked off the debate two years ago via an interview with Mental Floss, titled “20 Things You Might Not Know About Garfield.”
“Garfield is very universal,” Davis explained. “By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old.”
This didn’t cause any controversy at the time, but when satirist Virgil Texas found the article last week and edited Garfield’s wiki page accordingly — from “male” to “none” — the internet fought back.
A Wiki editor changed Garfield’s gender back to “male” within an hour, and the war was on. It went back and forth from “male” to “none” repeatedly over 60 long hours — at one point, WaPo noticed Garfield’s religion was also changed to Shiite Muslim — with editors weighing in with “evidence” from old comic strips to argue their case.
“Every character (including Garfield himself!) constantly refers to Garfield unambiguously as male, and always using male pronouns,” one editor wrote.
Eventually, after the Wiki was closed and hot take think pieces turned the whole thing ugly — Heat Street wrote that “cultural marxists” were trying to turn “one of pop culture’s most iconic men into a gender fluid abomination” — Davis weighed in personally.
“Garfield is male,” Davis told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “He has a girlfriend, Arlene.”
Texas quickly admitted defeat, telling WaPo that Davis was definitively “in charge of the canon,” though he still questions Davis’ words in the Mental Floss article.
From where I’m sitting, it seems like Davis was really arguing that cats don’t have a concept of gender. So while Garfield is male by birth – most ginger cats are, including the one sitting in my lap as I type this — “he” isn’t bound by the same societal constraints that limit other cis-gender characters in comic strips.
…And I truly cannot believe that I just typed that sentence, so please excuse me as I drown my sorrows in a plate of lasagna.