Being a teenager, I have a natural and quite frequent urge to go to the mall. The mall has become a part of my life and whenever I'm not stuffing my face at the food court, I am usually hanging out at the Hot Topic. Whether perusing through the graphic tee section or digging into the basket of buttons conveniently located by the cash register, I can always count on finding stuff I want. Sometimes this stuff includes some type of Invader Zim memorabilia.
For those who don't know, Invader Zim is a cartoon that was aired on Nickelodeon for only a few short seasons. Despite its limited air time, it accumulated a cult following and has managed to stay relevant among newer cartoons. Much of its success can be accredited to teenagers with their universal adoration of Gir.
If you don't know already, you might be wondering who Gir is. He is basically a robot minion who cannot function properly because his head is full of junk rather than a brain, but it is his inability to function that makes him super adorable. Instead of wanting to kill all of humanity like the other robots, Gir would rather make waffles or, ironically, watch cartoons! Since he is unable to perform his duties, he becomes an outlet for comic relief while simultaneously reminding the viewer of the importance of family.
What does this mean exactly?
What I am proposing is that since Gir acts like a child, Zim takes on the role of his nonbiological father
I've noticed that Zim, trying his best to act like a cruel and heartless destroyer, cares for Gir on a sentimental level. Gir is wired differently, but it is admirable how Zim never gives up on him. Being a kid with learning disabilities, I can totally relate to the panicked look on Gir's face when he tries to find which direction will take him home, forgetting to bring his guidance system. Despite Zim getting frustrated, he doesn't leave him to fend for himself because, in this show, family means something.
While irritating, Gir's ability to express a larger spectrum of emotion makes him more comparable to a human child rather than a robot. For example, Gir managed to sing the same song for a six month duration on the pilot episode. Yes, Gir is a handful, but Zim, like any other parent, is just doing his job.
But Gir surprisingly pulls his weight, being a loyal son. In the episode "Bad Bad Rubber Piggy," Gir starts to cry because Zim orders him to give up his stuffed animal pig. It was heartbreaking to watch as he handed the toy over to Zim while sobbing and averting his vision in an act of unyielding loyalty.
Upon seeing this, I was instantly reminded of my stuffed elephant, Elmer, which I slept with every night until my preteen years. We were almost inseparable, but if my dad told me to give him up, I would have reacted the same way, in heartbroken obedience to my father.
Like a child, Gir is also remarkably honest. Despite being a loyal minion, it is his honesty that ruins Zim's plan of world domination. For example, he surrenders his identity to the public at vital moments or interacts with people that he's not supposed to. Zim, in many ways, has to be Gir's mentor to teach him the appropriate behavior for a mission. Ultimately, Zim ends up parenting Gir about strangers.
In my opinion, Invader Zim is an unconventional family sitcom that teaches us about true family values. The relationship between Zim and Gir is amusing, touching, irritating, but in the end, family.