The Argument for Heathcliff over Garfield


When I was growing up, my childhood was a lot different than that of my kids today. I was born in the early 1980s, and that made me one of the kids from that last generation of really good childhoods. We got to play outside. We got to walk to school and to the homes of our friends. Our parents couldn’t stalk us online. We had to read books made of actual paper. We didn’t have internet for a long time and social media wasn’t even a word. We watched TGIF – and we waited all week for that stuff to come on – and we read newspaper comics instead of Pinterest memes. Grumpy Cat did not exist, and the world was all Garfield all the time. Or Heathcliff. Or both. Or perhaps you hated one and loved the other. There were certainly a lot of feelings about both, and no one could ever really agree on which one was better. Sure, both cats are virtually unheard of today. My kids have no idea who either is, and that’s almost a shame.

It was the early 1970s when Heathcliff was introduced to the world in a small cartoon page in the paper. He was a bigger Sunday cartoon edition, and he even had his own Sunday morning cartoon in the 80s. He was kind of sarcastic, a little bit rude, and always apologetic for his antics. Was he as popular as Tom and Jerry? No; but he had his own fans. Garfield was more famous than Heathcliff when I was growing up, but that didn’t mean you had to like him better. Garfield just had more fame, bigger budget-type fame.


This orange cat was a menace to the small town in which he lived. His goal in life was to torture the man that owned the fish store, to tell on the local dogs to the local dog catcher and to torture the milkmen. He was a cat that no one seemed to like, yet no one could get enough of. His antics were always funny, he was always causing us to laugh, and we all knew who he was. Our childhoods would not have been the same without this silly cat. Of course, any of us born in the 80s would have had to read the comics later in life and we would have seen Heathcliff’s show in syndication since it was cancelled in 1982. However, as avid television watchers on rainy days and weekends, we would see the show and we would wonder whether or not we liked Heathcliff better than we liked Garfield. It was a question that most of us couldn’t really answer. I mean, Heathcliff was a little bit mean. He was a bully to so many people in his town. Though back in those days, we didn’t really understand what that meant, and the concept of bullying was so different than it is now that it’s so much easier for people to anonymously get away with.


It’s the world’s most widely syndicated comic, but it’s not quite as old as Heathcliff. Whereas Heathcliff began appearing in newspapers in 1973, Garfield would not appear until 1978. Ironically, most people do assume that Garfield is the original orange cat. The concept here is that Garfield lives with his family, and he and the dog do not get along all that well. Garfield is a cat that is perpetually lazy, hates diets and wants to eat nonstop. He’s a bit rude and unkind, and people think that he and his life stories are quite funny. However, not everyone thinks that Garfield is funny. Not that anyone believes that with the sheer popularity of the character and the annual income that the character brings in after almost 40 years of popularity.

Which is Better?

There is frequent debate over which cat is better than the other, but we have a compelling argument. I will start by saying that I honestly prefer Garfield. I find him less tacky than Heathcliff, for a reason I simply cannot explain. I’ve always preferred him to his orange nemisis. The reason that I believe that people might choose Heathcliff over Garfield today – or at least the reason they probably should – is that there is a premise behind each.

Garfield represents all that is wrong with the world today. Laziness, gluttony and an attitude. Too many people in the world today are overweight, not willing to do anything about it, against dieting and very lazy. They nitpick and cannot get along with their families and they are just lazy. This is what Garfield represents, but in a manner that makes it come across as acceptable. It’s my feeling that people today would take a look at that and not want it in their households as an example to their already electronics-addicted children.

Heathcliff, while certainly no saint, is certainly not lazy. He works hard to make sure he gets what he wants, even if it’s by tricking people, stealing and making a mess. While he’s certainly no role model, he does represent something slightly better than Garfield in terms of the fact that he’s happy to get up off his lazy behind and do something about his life; to do something to get what he wants. He’s not over eating or looking for a way to stay where his is, immobile and sedentary. That’s the reason I think that people would prefer Heathcliff over Garfield today. It’s just one less example of how lazy the world has become and how acceptable it is to sit around and do nothing but be judgmental and rude to those in your household.

Of course, I don’t speak for all of humanity, and I won’t let my kids watch either one of these shows if they ever had the opportunity. We prefer shows with catchy tunes and fun lyrics, such as “Bubble Guppies” and “Sofia the First,” because we are simple and easy, and they are always on.

Photo by China Photos/Getty Images

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