Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday's "Garfield" Offends the Thin-Skinned

I don't pay much attention to most newspaper comic strips, especially the really lame ones like Garfield, so this story didn't come to my attention until today.  It seems that Thursday's strip sparked a little bit of a controversy, actually forcing Jim Davis to apologize. 
Thursday, you'll remember, was Veteran's Day, and on that day the following Garfield strip ran in the nation's newspapers:
On any other day, this strip would have just been seen as another typically unfunny installment of a strip that was long past its prime, but as it ran on Veteran's Day, some chose instead to see it as an affront to those the day honors.   The controversy prompted Davis to issue the following statement:
Dear Friends, Fans and Veterans:
In what has to be the worst timing ever, the strip that runs in today's paper seems to be making a statement about Veterans. It absolutely, positively has nothing to do with this important day of remembrance.
Regarding today's Garfield comic strip , it was written almost a year ago and I had no idea when writing it that it would appear today -- of all days. I do not use a calendar that lists holidays and other notable days so when this strip was put in the queue, I had no idea it would run on Veterans Day. What are the odds? You can bet I'll have a calendar that lists everything by my side in the future.
My brother Dave served in Vietnam. My son James is a Marine who has had two tours of duty, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. You'd have to go a long way to find someone who was more proud and grateful for what our Veterans have done for all of us.
Please accept my apologies for any offense today's Garfield may have created. It was unintentional and regrettable.

While it appears that Davis is guilty of nothing more than simple negligence,  and most veterans who've commented on the strip claim to take no offense, there seem to be a few who aren't buying his pleading of ignorance.  A commenter on the Washington Post's "Comic Riffs" blog who calls himself "editor20" claims "...there are no coincidences in the media business" and replies to another commenter that " don't understand what you're really looking at when you read the funnies." I don't know what kind of publication "editor20" edits, but from his statements I'd guess its some sort of right wing conspiracy theory journal filled with rants against the "liberal media."
Given the tendency of modern newspaper comics toward increasing blandness in a doomed quest to not offend anyone ever, I'm sure that the timing of this strip was, as Davis claims, an unfortunate coincidence, and that he would never use the strip to express any sort of potentially controversial opinion or original thought. Hell, I'm surprised the syndicate didn't pull this strip because they were afraid it might offend stupid people. Some might say that it has.


  1. Garfield was at its best when someone got the briliant idea to edit the orange bozo out of his own strip. If any of your regular readers have not heard of Garfield Minus Garfield, I'd like to plug it hear and now. Google it, friends.

    Davis' retraction certainly sounds genuine, but I've got to wonder about a cartoonist who has been nationally syndicated for decades not using a calendar. Back when I used to read the Sunday funnies every week, the comics were filled with sentimental clap-trap every time a holiday came creeping around the corner, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Veteran's Day. Hell, the comic's page had more than a few entries noting the passage of daylight-savings-time a few weeks back!

    The fact that this one slipped through-- that Davis' editors didn't notice but self-important loudmouths did, and that Davis was forced to cowtow to said loudmouths, it way funnier than Garfield has been for a long, long time.

  2. Davis' apology sounds sincere, and I'm willing to believe that no offense was intended. Having said that, though, there is the matter of Political Correctness having a double standard. Veterans, "hillbillies," and working class people are fair game, while African-Americans, Muslims, and gays are off-limits. If the strip had (intentionally or unintentionally) offended any of those sacred cows, then some of Davis' defenders would probably want him prosecuted for a hate crime.