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Goodbye, Cathy, and Good Riddance (for Some)

Cathy Guisewite announced on Wednesday that she’ll be ending her “Cathy” comic strip on October 3. The creator described her decision to kill off Cathy (the character), who is often pictured pulling her auburn hair out or counting the number of calories in food on her plate, as an “excruciating” one.

What was excruciating for some readers, however, was the perpetuation of a stereotype in the Cathy comic strip that all women could be reduced to their battles against singledom and weight gain. What some hail as the end of a 34-year era might also be considered a victory for womankind.

Guisewite's comic strip, syndicated by Universal UClick, first launched in 1976 with this three-panel strip. At its height, “Cathy” was printed in 1,400 newspapers. (It now appears in about 700.)

The long-running success of “Cathy” does show that women across the country relate to the lead character’s addiction to chocolate and fear of swimsuit season. That the comic strip is a semi-autobiographical account of Guisewite’s own life — the author and the character share the same name and hairstyle — may suggest that the foundation of the comic's humor is rooted in truth. The creator’s decision to end the strip was spurred in part by her desire to spend more time with her 18-year-old daughter.

The themes in Cathy are admittedly timeless, and Jezebel has a slideshow of five strips that “predicted the downfall of human civilization” back in 1996. “Cathy” also received the pop culture stamp of approval by Saturday Night Live, with Andy Samberg’s awkwardly hilarious Cathy impression. Even Justin Timberlake got in on the action in the sketch by playing Cathy’s husband, Irving.

So, after more than three decades, it’s time to take down the “Cathy” clips pinned to the bulletin board by a well-meaning coworker. Here's a recommendation for the resulting empty space: Tape up a politically savvy, totally work-inappropriate "Boondocks" strip instead.