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Morris vs. 1980: The 9-Lives Calendar
Publisher: 9-Lives Cat Food
Discovered at: Green House Antique Shop, Ruckersville, VA
The Cover Promises: Morris the Cat is a big fan of 1980 Best Picture nominee Raging Bull
Back in the Reagan years, Americans were happy to feed their pets whatever our grocery stores had on hand, plumping them up with filler grains, meat byproducts, and whatever else. The idea behind a brand like 9Lives seemed to be that cats are gonna die eight times anyway, so you may as well feed them this crap.
All that attention 9Lives failed to pay to its food was lavished instead on its advertising. For decades the company has employed the services of orange tabby spokescats it calls “Morris,” a character meant to be charmingly finicky — and whose blasé prickishness seems to have been copy-pasted onto Garfield:
The joke is that the cat’s an asshole.
So, by 1980, Morris had become celebrity enough for 9Lives to print up freebie calendars with prick-cat jokes in them, presumably with the understanding that any copies left over in ’81 could be used as protein in 9Lives catfood.
The calendar was just the thing for people who felt that they should be advertised to just one more time every single day of their year:
Month after month, Morris reminds you that there are only two things worth his attention: himself and 9Lives.
Silly humans, do not waste your cat’s time with slideshows — unless your slides happen to be as significant as cave paintings, the earliest images that humans ever felt moved to preserve.
Incidentally, here’s the kind of picture Morris does approve of: early cat selfies!
Fun challenge: Imagine how many different concepts you would have to explain to a cat to get it to understand that it was looking at a photograph of itself. Start with “time.”
But unlike Garfield’s and Marmaduke’s, Morris the Cat’s writers weren’t fully committed to the noble work of making joke after joke after the selfish horribleness of pets. Instead, they dared to get darker.
Here, Morris reveals that he’s probably not been fixed.
Here, Morris auditions for a role in Bull Durham in front of a ballplayer who has hanged himself.
And here Morris pretends he’s upbeat and unscared as he reads through the terrifying letters mailed to him by Son of Sam.
Sometimes, the photos and captions are simply confounding:
I mean, Morris would only feel the need to tell us he’s unrelated to a moose if Morris was worried we had begun to suspect!
But at heart Morris is proto-Garfield, insulting the lonely, troubled humans who dress up to impress him:
You know what? If our cats hate us that much, maybe we should feed them 9Lives calendar meat.
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