Monday, December 8, 2014

A Garfield Christmas

"Garfield" is pretty well known now. The orange, Monday-hating, lasagna-loving, fat cat is nearly as famous as Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Living with his owner, Jon Arbuckle, Garfield is well-known for his appetite and his mixed love and contempt for his fellow pet Odie the dog.

In the 1980s, Garfield began his own series of animated television specials before finally leading the way to his own animated TV show Garfield and Friends in 1988. 1987 finally brought the animated Garfield Christmas special.

Unlike Peanuts, Garfield has never been presented with a religious affiliation. The strip is about a cat and his owner and their misadventures, nothing more. Thus, this special is a secular take on Christmas.

The special opens with a dream sequence where Jon gives Garfield a mechanical Santa that gives you whatever gift you can think of. However, Garfield's greedy dream is cut short when Jon wakes him up, informing him that they'll be heading to his parents' farm for Christmas.

Arriving at the farm, we are introduced to Jon's grumpy father, his sweet mother, his irritable brother Doc Boy, and his super-cool and tough Grandma. The family goes through their traditions: dinner, decorating the tree, singing carols, and reading stories. However, Grandma sits separate from them. Garfield curls up with her, and she reveals that Christmas makes her remember and miss her late husband.

That night, Odie sneaks out to the barn to make a funny device and Garfield follows him, finding a bundle of letters to Grandma from her husband. After presents are opened Christmas morning, Garfield turns the letters over to her, and she enjoys reading one. Odie then unveils his gift to Garfield: the device he'd made. It scratches Garfield's back when he rubs against it. The family celebrates in a song.

While Garfield is not known for depth, there is one point here. Often, people are shown needing to move on from their grief, but in this case, allowing Grandma to remember her husband even more warmly is encouraged and depicted positively. And even though Jon and Doc Boy are depicted as adults, at Christmas, they act like children, getting excited over the things kids do, demanding their father read their Christmas story the right way, and even wanting to open presents at 1:30AM. And again, this is not depicted negatively. This is not a perfect family, but there's no problem with that.

So, go ahead and enjoy A Garfield Christmas with its simple message that Christmas is to be enjoyed and that eccentric people are not damaged, and grief can be good.

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