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Comic Strip / Cathy

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Cathy is a Newspaper Comic strip by Cathy Guisewite, which ran from 1976 to 2010. It revolves around the eponymous character's life as a single woman, her dealing with a stressful workplace, diets, junk food, being able to fit in swimwear, the dating scene, and an overbearing mother.

In the 1970s (the age of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the Equal Rights Amendment), a comic about a single young woman trying to make a career was new and innovative. The strip was extremely popular in its heyday, with many women readers readily identifying with the title character as she dealt with common problems of modern single life. A rumor in the 1980s that she was finally going to marry her on-again, off-again boyfriend Irving sparked a lot of fan backlash from single women who didn't want to lose this character they could relate to. (Cathy finally did marry Irving in 2005, and the final strip in 2010 featured the announcement that Cathy was pregnant with a girl.)

During the COVID-19 Pandemic Guisewite would bring the character back for an on-off series of one-panel comics called Scenes from Isolation which she would share on her Instagram profile, as a way of dealing with being stuck in quarantine.


  • All Women Love Shoes
  • Animated Adaptation: The 1987 Cathy TV special, for which Guisewite received an Emmy. It even got two more in 1988 and 1989.
  • Art Evolution: And how! The strip's artwork was insanely crude in its first couple of years; it wasn't until the early '80s that Guisewite's drawing skills became passable.
  • Author Avatar: Downplayed. While Cathy shares the first name of writer and artist Cathy Guisewite, she is not meant to be a one-to-one reflection of her creator. The shared name was also something essentially done out of necessity; according to Guisewite, the Universal Press Syndicate would only pick up the strip on the condiction that she named the titular character after herself (Guisewite even admitted upfront in an 2021 interview that she originally outright disliked the idea because she was self-concious about it appearing "egoistical" and feared getting conflated with the character). That being said, Cathy the character did start out with some traits in common with Guisewite, being a single, working woman, struggling with everyday problems like stress, insecurities about her body and self-image, and relationships.
  • Babies Ever After: The final strip had Cathy announcing her pregnancy.
  • Big Eater: Two pies, one fork. Also applicable to carbohydrates.
  • Black Comedy: One comic features Cathy having literally flipped a desk onto a coworker who scared her at night. After he says he thought she was the cleaning lady, she lets it drop back on him.
  • Catchphrase / Written Roar: "Aaack!"
    • Which is apparently genetic: Cathy's baby is thinking aaack from the womb.
  • Comic-Book Time: Cathy's a Baby Boomer-Generation X person, with Depression-era parents.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Invoked with Cathy and her clashes with her mother. See The Generation Gap.
  • Demoted to Extra: Andrea had always been Cathy's best friend. After Andrea got married, she had less free time, and she and Cathy seemed to have less in common, so Charlene shifted into best friend status. Later, Charlene ended up marrying one of Cathy's exes, much to Cathy's annoyance.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Used a lot, frequently.
  • Express Lane Limit: Cathy gets into an "Eight Items Or Less" lane with more than eight items and tries to justify it by saying that four cans of the same thing should count as one item, that she got in line with eight items but grabbed a few packs of gum near the register, and that her fifteen small items should be considered equal to another customer's eight large items. The other customers are clearly unhappy with this, and Cathy eventually decides she'd "rather wait in a new line than be glared at in express."
  • The Generation Gap: Cathy wants to experience single life and make a career for herself. Her mother thinks that she should get married and have babies ASAP and become a Housewife, like the women of her generation.
  • Generic Cuteness: Averted—most cast members range from normal-looking to mildly ugly.
  • Gonk: Cathy herself, drawn with oversized eyes, stringy hair, and no nose. She remarks that the only people who've ever called her attractive have been trying to sell her things.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: In-universe, Cathy.
  • Hypocritical Humor
  • Hysterical Woman: Somewhat, in that Cathy does tend to freak out over mundane things.
  • Incompetence, Inc.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Mabel, who keeps changing jobs.
  • Invoked Trope: At one point, Cathy tries invoking You Were Trying Too Hard in order to attract a boyfriend. It doesn't work.
  • I Want Grandkids: In the last strip, Cathy announces her pregnancy; Mom's reaction is pretty much one of pure delight.
  • Lots of Luggage: Irving is stunned by the amount of baggage Cathy intends to take on their shared vacation. Cathy observes, "Men pack. Women move."
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Probably the main theme of the strip.
  • My Hair Came Out Green: Cathy once went to a salon, hoping that a new hair color would take her mind off problems with Irving. She ended up with bright orange hair, then tried using a home coloring product to fix it, which didn't help.
  • The Noseless: Cathy. In the very rare side views, she does have an extremely flat bump where the nose should be. Every other character has at least a line or knob.
    • Oddly, Cathy is also the only one with full eyes, i.e. pupils, whites, lids, etc. All others just have Black Bead Eyes, occasionally topped with a line.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws
  • Prematurely Bald: Irving. He has a reason to worry, since his father is completely bald.
  • Print Long-Runners: Just under 34 years in its original run.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Relationship Upgrade: Cathy and Irving tied the knot in 2005.
  • Shout-Out: The strip spent a week having Cathy and her friends watching and gushing about The Big Chill when it was released. The film was written by Guisewite's former classmate, Lawrence Kasdan.
  • Stupid Boss: Mr. Pinkley.
  • This Loser Is You: Cathy is meant to be relatable to the reader because of how she struggles with workplace frustration, low self image, emotional insecurity, overeating, poor impulse control, an overbearing mom, and a hapless romantic life.
  • Unflattering ID Photo: Cathy spends all morning fixing her face in preparation for her driver's license photo. Once Cathy faces the camera, however, she starts a cycle of doubts and worries that inevitably sabotage her appearance.
  • Weight Woe: Cathy defines this trope.
  • Wondrous Ladies Room: Irving realizes he is puzzled about how: Cathy is always complaining about finances, but he never sees her shopping; Cathy is always talking about the need to diet, but he never sees her eating, etc. Irving then concludes that everything happens inside the ladies' room. The last panel depicts the apparent interior of a ladies' room complete with snack vending machines, a shopping boutique, and so forth.