If you were to look at Garfield’s Wikipedia page—which, why would you not, Garfield is hilarious and fun—you would notice that next to his gender is not one but four separate annotations.
Why such strenuous sourcing for the gender of a cartoon cat? Because for the past week a debate has raged about whether or not the cat is male, as is typically thought and referenced within the comic strip, or a genderless cipher, as creator Jim Davis told Mental Floss two years ago. While this passed without great fanfare upon first publication, the writer Virgil Texas noted it and updated Wikipedia’s page accordingly last week:
This set off a deep debate on self-identification, gender fluidity, and authorial intent. As The Washington Post reports, over the course of days, his gender was switched repeatedly by Wikipedia editors between male and genderless. Many individual strips were cited, taking three-panel gags about talking scales and Mondays as almost legal texts. Others perused the body-horror wasteland of licensed merchandise for proof. The four cited strips, from 1979, were intended to lock the argument in place, at which point the page itself was locked.
The debate would probably continue raging, but The Washington Post has received official comment from creator Jim Davis, who said, “Garfield is male. He has a girlfriend, Arlene.” While those two statements are not mutually exclusive, the first is seemingly pretty ironclad. But then, isn’t reader interpretation part of the beauty of art? Davis’ original quote seemed to imply as much, which begs the question of to who—or what—he is buckling. For now, at least, Texas is pleading for tolerance and unity: