Update 11/07/2018, 2:19 PM: Comment from Paws, Inc. included.
On the day of the midterm elections, a fierce debate erupted in the comment section of the official, verified Garfield Instagram account, managed by the official licensing firm Paws, Inc. The lazy cat seemed to express indifference about the election turnout, and perhaps by some liberal interpretations, the cat encouraged people not to vote. The post currently has 9,612 comments and counting.
“Wtf Garfield vote or die,” one user commented, receiving 42 likes.
“Garfield no be a functioning and contributing citizen of America,” another user comment, receiving 12 likes.
“Garfield do you want to abolish the 1st amendment?” a user commented, receiving 4 likes.
Why the outcry? The problem is that Garfield has been interpreted by some to be an ally of critics of capitalism. Hates Mondays? Is lazy? Proponent of the Marxist idea that people deserve free time to eat lasagna and cultivate intellectual thought and social connections outside of our system of labor? Sounds pretty antifa to me.
Hundreds of seemingly young people habitually respond to Garfield Instagram posts that refer to the weekend, or to hating Mondays, with great enthusiasm. On a recent post of Garfield peering through binoculars and declaring “Ah, there you are Weekend,” a user who identifies as a college freshman commented, “You are the only reason I have to live.”
In an email to Motherboard, Paws, Inc. representative Kim Campbell Beasley said that Garfield is canonically apolitical.
"He’s a cat. He can’t vote," she said. "That’s why most of his hashtags on that post are directed to pet owners, e.g. #cat #cats #catoftheday #catsagram #catstagram #catsofinstagram #pet #pets #petoftheday. Do pets care about politics? Garfield doesn’t think so."
Beasley also said that the comments did not represent a typical response from Garfield fans. "They know – or should know— Garfield is a very apathetic cat," she said. "He’s mostly interested in his own creature comforts. If anything, he was expressing his fatigue at all the political ads."
For a period between July 17 (World Emoji Day) and October 25 (World Pasta Day, a significant day for Garfield), the comment section in Garfield Instagram posts were temporarily disabled. In an email to Motherboard, Beasley said that certain devoted fans were making the comment section "out of hand, despite the profanity filters."
"We have recently enabled the comment section again, and hope that those who comment will remember there may be youngsters reading the comments," she said.
An image posted today seems to encourage users to “Chill Out”—perhaps a response to yesterday’s antics.
Though I am a fan and friend of Garfield, and while our democratic process is deeply flawed, I reluctantly have to disagree with the cartoon cat in this case. While there are many important ways to take political action—including unionizing and forms of direct action and demonstration—voting is undoubtedly an important part of the equation.