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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Garfield and Odie BFF's - Best Frenemies Forever

As nerdy and bookish as this sounds now, one of my favourite activities to partake in as a child was looking through a dictionary and learning new words. What the definition of words were and what their meanings were fascinated me.

I guess in retrospect, it shouldn't really surprise me or anybody else for that matter. As someone who wants to break into the world of publication, and has wanted to break into that world for years now, it helps to know exactly what words you want to use that will make stories flow better and keep the reader interested.

From the early days of my childhood when I leafed through the Charlie Brown Dictionary (a book I still wish I owned, but luckily can buy online), to my adulthood when I studied Webster's Dictionary with keen eyes, I have always been fascinated with words and sentences and meanings. I guess it sort of helped me along with making the decision to have the dream of making it big in the writing world. Someday my chance will come, and if all holds true, I'll be at the top of that bestsellers list one day.

Until then, you get the opportunity to read the pop culture ramblings of a thirtysomething who works in the world of retail. Won't that be fun?

I actually have a copy of Webster's Dictionary right beside me as I type this out right now. Maybe I should look up a couple of meanings while we're here.

FRIEND: n. one attached to another by affection or esteem

ENEMY: n. one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.

So, by that logic, if we combine the two words above into a nice little portmanteau known as a frenemy, the definition would probably go as such.

FRENEMY: n. one that is attached to another by affection who frequently antagonizes the other person to one-up them or belittle them.

What a mess of a word. What an unusual word frenemy is.

And yet, the term frenemy seems to be popping up more and more, even though the word itself has reportedly appeared as early as the 1950s. People who say that they are your friends, but behind your back, they plot to destroy you.

There are many examples of frenemies in the world of pop culture. Betty and Veronica. To a lesser extent, Blair and Jo from the Facts of Life. Heck, the whole cast of Desperate Housewives could be considered the ultimate frenemy relationship.

And then there's Garfield and Odie.

Anyone who has read a Garfield comic strip or watched an episode of Garfield and Friends on television knows the relationship between Garfield and Odie can be incredibly complex one.

When the Garfield comic strip debuted in newspapers on June 19, 1978, the comic initially centered around the adventures of Jon Arbuckle and his overweight cat, Garfield. Two months later, in August 1978, Jon took on a roommate named Lyman, who came with his dog, Odie.

Upon Odie's introduction, Garfield was not too keen on having the little yellow beagle invading his personal space, and actually treated the dog rather badly. Although Odie was constantly trying to befriend Garfield and wanted him to like him, all Odie would usually get in repayment was a nice kick off of a table or countertop.

Eventually, as the comic serial progressed, Lyman became more and more invisible. By 1982, Lyman had vanished from the canvas without any sort of explanation whatsoever. To this day, Garfield creator Jim Davis has not given any indication as to what the ultimate fate of Lyman was, joking that people shouldn't go looking for him in Jon Arbuckle's basement.

Whatever the case, although Lyman was gone, Odie still remained, with Jon having decided to adopt him into the family.

Which kicked off the beginning of a frenemy style relationship between Garfield and Odie that has lasted for thirty-three years and counting.

Garfield and Odie could not be more different. Odie was kind hearted and generous, while Garfield was self-centered and snarly. Odie was energetic and couldn't get enough exercise. Garfield was a sloth-like beast who hid in bed to avoid Mondays. Odie was very affectionate and would show you that he liked you by slobbering all over you with his huge tongue. Garfield shunned almost all physical contact, and actually grew disgusted by Odie's constant slobber.

Basically these two were your odd couple in animal form.

Garfield and Odie basically had a love-hate relationship with each other in the fact that Odie loved being around Garfield and Garfield would often hate having Odie invading his personal space. Though, to Odie's credit, he wasn't the only one that Garfield felt that way about. Garfield also had these feelings for Jon, Lyman, Liz the veterinarian, spiders, Nermal the world's cutest kitty cat who he frequently tried to mail away to Abu Dhabi.

Yep, you get the picture.

Garfield often treated Odie horribly. As I said before, Odie would be constantly kicked off of the table by Garfield for no reason other than because Garfield found it to be funny. There were some occasions in which Odie had tried to do the same to Garfield, but in this comic from 2005, sadly it didn't work out to his advantage.

Garfield wasn't very appreciative towards Odie as the comic strip continued. In fact, Garfield had the belief that Odie was the dumbest creature alive. Garfield seems to believe that Odie's simple thought processes and his lack of being able to say anything beyond unintelligible barks. Garfield would often play pranks on Odie because he thought Odie was too stupid to put the pieces together to pinpoint the mischief on him.

Personally, I think Odie was a lot smarter than Garfield gave him credit for. Take a look at this comic strip from 1989 if you don't believe me.

I always like to say that Odie downplayed his intelligence just enough to make Garfield think that he really was a bumbling idiot of a dog when in reality he was anything but. Odie had his moments of clarity and intelligence over the years, and more often than not, he exhibited it by getting back at Garfield for all those times where he booted him off of every table in Jon's house.

So there are numerous examples of Garfield and Odie treating each other as adversaries, rivals, and annoyances.

However there are also beautiful moments of friendship, loyalty, and love between Garfield and Odie as well.

Surprisingly enough, although Garfield has the tendency to belittle and make fun of Odie every chance he gets, he would never let anyone else abuse Odie. He actually gets fiercely protective of Odie when Odie is picked on by anyone else but him, as the 1981 comic I posted above shows. Because deep down inside, as much as Garfield loved to play pranks on him, the last thing he really wanted to do was see Odie get seriously hurt.

Garfield really does love Odie and sees Odie as a really good friend, even though he doesn't always show it. It wasn't until the 1982 Garfield special 'Here Comes Garfield' was released that we got to see just how much Garfield really did care for Odie. When Odie was caught by the dog catcher, Garfield couldn't help but remember how sad he would be if he didn't have Odie in his life. Here's a clip of that moment from 'Here Comes Garfield', and I never really knew just how sad it was when I was a kid. Watching it through adult eyes, I almost need a Kleenex to get through it now.

You should be aware that all went well in that special, otherwise Odie would cease to exist in the comic strip after 1982. But it just goes to show that despite his appearance of disliking Odie, the cat does care about the dog.

And Odie certainly does care about Garfield, even if Garfield is reluctant to reciprocate it. Case in point, the Garfield Christmas special from 1987. During that special, Garfield, Odie, and Jon headed off to the farm where Jon grew up to spend the holiday with Jon's family. During the course of the show, Garfield seems to notice that Odie is scurrying around in secret, grabbing random items and running off with them. He wonders why Odie is being so secretive, and on the night of Christmas Eve goes out to investigate what Odie is up to.

As the sun rises above the sky the next day, and Christmas morning begins, everyone exchanges presents (including some fifty year old love letters that Garfield gave to Jon's grandmother as a gift that he found while spying on Odie). Odie drags Garfield to a brown paper bag wrapped contraption that Odie had made as a present for Garfield for Christmas morning. Garfield isn't sure of what exactly the gift is at first, but when Odie demonstrates how it works (another case of Odie not being as dumb as originally thought), Garfield immediately wants to try it out. It touches Garfield that Odie would selflessly donate so much of his own time and hard work to ensure that he got a beautiful homemade Christmas gift. The two friends embrace each other warmly. It is Christmas, after all.

But that's the way that a frenemy type relationship works. One day, the two people in the relationship hate each other, and the next, they're inseparable.

The big surprise between Garfield and Odie is that despite their frenemy status, it appears at least to me that the friendship is a lot stronger than their dislike of each other.

And that's a very unique bond.

Since there's still a little bit of space left for today, why not post a classic cartoon starring Garfield and Odie?

1 comment:

  1. I hear ya about not noticing how sad "Here Comes Garfield" is as a kid. Now I have to have Kleenex to make it through "So Long Old Friend" and the episode in Garfield's 9 lives where he was a fluffy white cat that would listen to his owner play the piano.