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Sacrifice at the Altar of a Cat-God: A Bataillean Critique of “But Still, He Is Doing It: An Exegetical Look at the Garfield Comix” by Nicole Collins


My main point of contestation with Nicole is whether or not Garfield is actually doing something to make the world a more equal place, and resist Capitalism. While certainly not conventional, Garfield does represent a form of resistance. While the human characters engage in the act of production in either well defined or highly abstract occupations, Garfield sleeps and eats. He consumes without producing. 

Bataille’s theory of the ptlatch as a form of resistance is a method for inducing orgiastic states. When the ruling class, in this case John, sees the gift it throws at Garfield consumed and unreciprocated, their logic of conservation and production will be defied. This is where Bataille retreats to his ivory tower and rarely engages with ideas of how this could play out. The most realistic to me is that the ruling class would be forced to reckon with their reliance on the working class, and vampiristic position they occupy in society.

Garfield takes it a step beyond physical consumption. The response from the ruling class/state (Jon in the comics) to the proletariat rejecting their gift is one of confusion. The ruling class maintains order by participating in the Gift Economy, this is a way of looking at class relations in terms of presents given to each other. The working class gives the gift of service and labor to the ruling who in turn pays out wages and benefits. The problem here is the massive imbalance when comparing the value of labor and compliance to the value of wages. Historically what is thought to compensate that imbalance is scholarship, innovation, and ideas. Garfield rejects all of these things as well. This is well in line with Bataille’s concept of Base-Materialism which is a de facto rejection of the equivalencies drawn between material and immaterial gifts. 

Nicole seemed to ignore the fact that Marx was also an Economist, as was Bataille, two things I have not forgotten about. The accursed share is the share of economic output dedicated to luxury, non-essential consumption of requirements, and non-procreative sex. Following along with Nicole’s symbolic analysis, the accursed share is represented by Lasagna (lack is to  Lack as lasagna is to Lasagna). Garfield need not eat any Lasagna, he is a cat and he eats the whole thing. We can also discern this from the fact that even if we accept eating to be a sexual experience (something Bataille would agree with considering the orbit of the earth was a sexual experience in his eyes) Garfield is a house cat and most likely neutered. 

A key part of Bataille’s resistance strategy is to engage in the accursed share in favor of essential consumption. 

This is a strategy which aims to obscure the hierarchy of needs and their relational values. Garfield doesn’t eat cat food or have kittens, he eats Lasagna. 

By forcing the ruling class to engage in the potlatch outlined by Bataille, Garfield forces sacrifices to be made at his altar. The term sacrifice is used here because Jon gains nothing from this transaction. All foods and services are given up to Garfield the all-consuming.

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