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YMMV / Invader Zim

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For YMMV tropes applying to the Oni comic series, see here. For tropes applying to the movie, see here.

  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • "The Dib! The Dib! I don't care how delicious he is, he's evil!"
    • "Gaz, taste me! I'm delicious!" Even Gaz is aware of the connotations, as she slowly walks away after hearing it.
  • Adorkable: Dib's little dance with GIR near the end of "The Frycook What Came From All That Space" comes to mind. Also, this exchange.
    Zim: Your loony "PARA-CHUTING" powers don't scare me, Dib. All it does is make you look stupid!
    Dib: It's para-NORMAL, and you're wrong, it makes me look cool!
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Zim, Dib, Gaz, Prof. Membrane and almost every Jhonen Vasquez character.
    • As much of a liability he is to the Irken army, Zim is clearly not entirely incompetent. He's perfectly capable of building and operating Irken technology for their intended purposes, and has proven himself multiple times to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain even prior to the events of Enter The Florpus (i.e., "The Wettening," "Hamstergeddon," and "Battle of the Planets"). However, even in the early episodes where he's more visibly capable of being a genuine threat, his few successful missions are for petty goals (defeating Dib at water balloons, getting Keef to leave him alone). "Tak: The Hideous New Girl" also seems to indicate that he has no greater plan for Earth conquest beyond what's troubling him for any given episode, unlike Tak (and, presumably, the other Invaders), whose plan of attack is very specific. His eventual flanderization into a loser whose shortcomings are almost always his own fault seems to indicate that Zim could be a good Invader if only his ego and bad luck wouldn't keep getting in the way.
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    • Are the people of Earth really Too Dumb to Live or has Dib cried wolf so many times that they refuse to believe anything he says no matter how obvious it is? Alternatively, it's possible that many normal people are like Gaz and recognize that Zim and Dib cancel each other out the vast majority of the time, to the point where it's not really worth getting involved between the two.
    • When Dib writes his personality into an Irken ship, once it stops rampaging in confusion it kills itself, suggesting Dib might hate himself as much as everyone else does or even more. Comments that were actually made by some of the original crew members (e.g. his own voice actor alluding to self-hatred for the role) also don't help.
    • Is Dib protecting the world from the threat of aliens, ghosts and monsters, or does he see them as abominations to be hunted and dissected without any concern for their livelihoods like a trophy hunter? He spends just as much time bullying Zim, either through teasing or physical abuse, as he does treating Zim like a threat. He's also not much nicer to the other real paranormal creatures he meets, such as the Bigfoot baby in "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggie," whom he corners to get a video of and teases when it cries. Does he take some sadistic glee out of getting to be the bully for once after enduring so much bullying himself, or is he just a young boy without a fully formed moral compass to better empathize with these paranormal creatures?
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    • GIR (yes, even GIR gets one of these): genuinely happy and unaware/unconcerned with his insanity? Or is there actually a tortured SIR unit's mind in there that recognizes it's malfunctioning at all times, but simply can't control itself? It's likely canon going by the events of "GIR Goes Crazy And Stuff". Jhonen himself simply described GIR as "broken".
    • Although Tak is supposed to be interpreted as a more competent version of Zim, plenty of fans have suggested the possibility of her being defective like Zim himself. Evidence for this includes her odd individuality among Irkens (to the point of customizing both her ship and Irken symbol to suit her), her erratic and unstable nature leading her to abandon her post in the hopes of becoming an invader (just like Zim) and not having a Paper-Thin Disguise like ever other Irken seen on the show.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • Jhonen Vasquez admitted that, as misanthropic as the show already was, Dib's abusive sister and neglectful father were too cruel to find funny, and when creating the comics, rewrote Gaz from a Flat Character to a more dynamic Annoying Younger Sibling (notably in Issue 14) and had Prof. Membrane interacting with his children a little more. This extended into Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, which firmly shows that the Membranes love each other in spite of their dysfunction. All to make the cruelty funnier, of course.
    • Speaking of Enter The Florpus, the television film also rolls back both Zim and Dib's Flanderization into Cosmic Playthings who never have anything go their way (to the point of encouraging Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy), with Zim actually winning for once (albeit temporarily) and Dib actually ending the film on a genuinely cheery note concerning his relationship with his family.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Gaz. To her fans, she's a funny, tough, scary, and badass force of nature everyone on the show thinks twice about crossing. Not to mention it's implied she's only like that because everyone around her (sans Membrane) is so stupid. Conversely, her detractors view her as a selfish, cruel, vindictive hypocrite who lashes out violently over the most trivial things without any sense of responsibility or remorse, and always gets away with it. The latter group feels vindicated by the comics and Enter the Florpus, where Gaz is much more amicable to her brother, outright helping and supporting him in some cases... which, in turn, annoys the former group that misses her more belligerent persona.
    • GIR. To his fans, he is cute and hilarious. To his detractors, he is incredibly annoying and gets too much praise. Vasquez seemed to think the latter for some of the earlier episodes (well, more the fanbase GIR attracted than GIR himself) and actively toned him down in later episodes.
    • Dwicky. He at least tried to help Dib, which endears him to some (many even pair them), but the combination of tricking him and then leaving Earth with the camera makes him hated by others.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • In "The Girl Who Cried Gnome" there was an incident where Zim let loose a "Robot Gopher" to get rid of a girl scout that had wandered up to his front door selling cookies. After burrowing underground and trapping the girl's foot in a hole the Gopher proceeds to dance with her and then launch itself into a swirling vortex leading to another dimension.
      Zim: I don't remember programming that...
      • The same episode has Dib confronted by some other girl scouts who want him to buy some cookies to support their friend, and hurriedly tries giving them some money in his pocket, only to learn he somehow gave them a whole ham.
      Dib: Why was there ham in my pocket?
    • In "Gaz, Taster of Pork," Dib goes to MacMeaties and talks with a hobo. But wait for it... the hobo spontaneously kidnaps a poor random guy eating there. We never see neither the hobo nor the random guy again.
    • The infamous dancing skeletons in top hats from the Halloween special.
    • The Barry White-style music playing as Ultra Peepi stomps down the street in "Hamstergedon." Apparently, this was only done because he was accidentally animated with a bizarre swagger and Vasquez told Kevin Manthei to roll with it.
    • In "Tak: The Hideous New Girl", the second half of the episode starts with Zim randomly fighting a ham demon, which explodes after Zim whacks it with a flagpole. He later explains that he was fighting it to get incriminating photos of Tak, but where it came from and how their fight started is never mentioned.
      • For the record, this episode was originally intended to be an hour-long special, and that scene was a remnant of a scrapped B-plot.
  • Broken Base: In regards to the Oni Press comics, for being Lighter and Softer than the original animated series. While the comic still revels in the show's usual themes and insane plots, it has a tendency to trade in some of the dark comedy for more absurdist humor in an effort to "ease up on the cruelty", in addition to swapping out the old grungy and angular art style for a more colorful and rounded one. Many fans have completely embraced this change, seeing it as a positive evolution of Vasquez's style and approach. Meanwhile, others feel as though all the removed darkness was an important part of Invader Zim's identity, and that the comics are an inferior product (or at least mildly disappointing) due to that removed "edge". This also extends towards Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, due to the movie taking most of its tonal cues from the comic book series.
  • Crazy Is Cool :
    • Professor Membrane, so very much. He has a switch that restores power to the entire earth, flies and shoots energy blasts when excited, builds and refuses to use a perpetual energy device on a whim, etc.
    • Dib and Zim piloting Mercury and Mars, respectively, as ships in a space battle for the continued existence of mankind.
    • GIR is made of Crazy Is Cool.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The whole damn show crosses the line like it wasn't even there.
    GIR: Puppies!
  • Cult Classic: Very much so. Merchandise continued to sell incredibly well even ten years after the show's cancellation, in addition to reruns garnering high ratings on Nicktoons. Just to drive the point home, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the show's debut, fans held the first "Invader Con", which is exactly what it sounds like - an entire convention dedicated to the show featuring several of the voice actors as guests. Some Nickelodeon representatives actually attended the convention and were "overwhelmed" by the turnout. Two more such fan conventions have occurred since.
    • All the above had Nickelodeon playing with the idea of somehow reviving the series for a number of years, which eventually happened with both the 2015 Oni Press published comic book series and the 2019 television movie.
  • Designated Villain: Sizz-Lorr, who only does his job and retrieves Zim to give him the punishment he deserves for fleeing the Irken authorities. What the show tries to do to make him look like the Big Bad of the episode is his Evil Laugh and his super accuracy of keeping Zim from finding any escape routes.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Zim does get a lot of this. See Misaimed Fandom below.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Tak's only in one produced episode (and an unrecovered script), but the huge amount of fanworks featuring her would make one think she's a main character. Not only is she the only significant female Irken in the entire series, but she's well-beloved for showing just how dangerous an actually competent Irken Invader can really be. With her ship appearing in Enter the Florpus but not Tak herself, the demand to see her again in a new season/movie has increased tenfold.
    • Counselor Dwicky from "Vindicated" is similarly popular.
    • Keef and Gretchen also have become rather popular in their own right.
    • The show itself could be thought of as one on a larger scale. It only lasted for a season and a half, but it's one of the most popular Nickelodeon shows of all time.
    • Despite her fairly minor role, Invader Tenn has a bit of fanart and is often given the Ascended Extra treatment in fanworks via being promoted to one of Zim's minions.
    • Tallest Miyuki is another fanart favorite, and her debut episode never even got made.
    • Although originally conceived as a recurring character, there was only time for Minimoose to appear in "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever" before the show got canned. You wouldn't think it from the regularity with which the tiny moose appears with GIR as a minion of Zim's in fanart and fanfiction, though.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Zim, Tak, and most of the Irken species. In Fan Art at least...
  • Fanon:
    • Fan depictions of Professor Membrane's wife (if he has one) usually depict her as looking like Gaz to explain why Dib resembles their father but Gaz does not.
    • Many fanfic writers refer to Irken antennae as "lekku", which was originally the term for a Twi'lek's head-tails.
    • While the show's location is a deliberately ambiguous Everytown USA, a handful of headcanons set it in Detroit.
    • To go along with Zim, Dib and Gaz's school being called "Skool", in fanfics where they go to high school, it's always spelled "Hi Skool".
  • Fanon Discontinuity: "Gaz: Taster of Pork" gets this treatment quite a bit, due to the Idiot Plot and both Dib and Gaz acting out of character.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: ZADR (Zim/Dib) is an interesting case as it is both the most popular/common pairing in the fandom (stories and fan art tending to outnumber most of the other pairings combined) yet it's also the most despised pairing. A more classic example might be ZAGR (Zim/Gaz), which, even though close, but not as common, tends to cause a bit less ire.
    • Dib and Tak are another popular pairing, despite them being enemies. This is helped by them having a brief (if one-sided on Dib's end) friendship in Tak: The Hideous New Girl, Dib repairing her ship, and both having a mutual hatred for Zim. The most common scenario in fanfics where they get together is that they form an Enemy Mine to defeat Zim.
  • Foe Yay:
    • Mostly fanon ZADR, with Zim and Dib's unhealthy (and borderline-sadomasochistic) obsession with each other being one of the main fuel sources.
      • "Mopiness of Doom", though never animated, was full of this. Complete with them showing signs of severe co-dependence on one another (especially Zim... though Dib reacts nearly the same in Comic Issue 1).
      • Taken Up to Eleven For the Lulz when the voice actors performed "Mopiness of Doom" with puppets during Invader Con I, in which Richard and Andy had Puppet!Zim and Puppet!Dib make out after they reunited. The two even complied to love confession requests ("Dib" fully confessing while "Zim" chickened out/wasn't going to lie, though "Zim" initiated the aforementioned make out).
      • Some fans also like to point out how Zim and Dib never miss an opportunity to try and prove themselves the better of the two, along with the idea that they're pretty much the only people in each others' lives who care about the other at all (at least compared to everyone else). Them being kind of similar also doesn't help. Into the Florpus even has Dib recognize this at one point, feeling empathy for Zim feeling like the Tallest won't acknowledge him since it reminds him of his situation with his own dad.
      • Then there's also Dib's decision to try using handcuffs on Zim in the very first episode... handcuffs that supposedly render aliens unconscious. There was also a little piece of dialogue from the pilot that came off as a tad flirty.
    • Sort of gets a look in the series with Dib and Tak, as he was stated to like her (though he may have meant platonically) and offered her some of the valentines given to him by Gretchen. She, of course, is a ruthless and competent female Irken who shares his hatred for Zim (if not exceeds it) but is planning to conquer/destroy Earth herself as part of her plan to discredit Zim. However, she only showed up in one episode and Dib seemed to lose any attraction to her after discovering she is also an alien invader.
    • Also, according to some, the Tallests. Although nobody knows what exactly their relationship entails...
  • Fountain of Memes: The whole show, but just about every word that comes out of GIR's mouth is memetic.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • Strangely enough, Steven Universe, thanks to creator Rebecca Sugar actually being a huge fan of the series. Sugar wrote fanfic for it as a teenager and once stated that meeting Jhonen Vasquez would be a dream come truenote . The character Peridot also shares many similarities with Zim, though the IZ fandom has gotten annoyed at times with the sheer amount of Peridot pictures have been uploaded in the tags of sites like Tumblr.
    • Another Cartoon Network show that shares fans with Invader Zim is Courage the Cowardly Dog, most likely because of the fact that both shows have been well-known for being funny and disturbing at the same time.
    • Yet another Cartoon Network show with significant fan overlap is The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, possibly due to both shows being surrealist Black Comedies with leads voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Zim's freakouts to the presence of germs nearly everywhere and Gir trying to hug him while covered in said germs (based on a scifi B-movie where aliens were killed by germs) were treated as irrational in "Germs". They becomes darkly prophetic after the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, where people all over the world were discouraged from many forms of physical contact as greetings, including hugging, as a way to avoid potentially spreading the virus.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • In "Dark Harvest," Miss Bitters gives a lecture about how "Ring Around The Rosie" is actually about a horrible disease, referring to the popular belief that it's about the Black Plague. (It isn't. That Other Wiki has more information on the matter).
    • In "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom," Nightmare Bitters enters the human dimension and is scared off by the sight of dozens of costumed trick-or-treaters, mistaking them for horrible monsters. The tradition of Halloween costumes was started by the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would wear costumes to scare off ghosts and spirits.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In one episode, Zim catches Dib sneaking around his house in a squirrel disguise. After Dib runs off, Zim yells a parting insult to him, calling him "Squirrel boy!" Several years later, Zim's voice actor would go on to voice the titular character in the series Squirrel Boy.
    • This, when you consider the internet meme involving trollface an "u jelly?"
      Dib: You're just jealous...
      Zim: This has nothing to do with jelly!
    • Pretty much everything, if you've played Psychonauts. A short, goggle-wearing character voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz, dealing with a paranoid security guard, wearing goggles, enjoys setting things on fire, and screaming about meat? There's also Zim trying to justify his green skin with "a skin condition" and Psychonauts' cast featuring several green, blue, and purple-skinned characters.
    • Almighty Tallest Purple was voiced by Kevin McDonald. A year later, he would be voicing another wacky alien in a science fiction story.
    • Zim's species' skin seems to burn by water. One year later, Signs came out.
    • One of the most common Fandom Specific Plots among Invader Zim fanfics is Zim finding out the truth about his mission being fake and becoming depressed over it. That exact plot ended up being used in the movie.
    • One of the original plans for the series was being a parody of 50s B-Movies, which was ditched due to Jhonen Vasquez hating it and finding it too predictable. The game series Destroy All Humans! is essentially this very concept, even featuring Richard Steven Horvitz as deuteragonist Orthopox (using almost exactly the same voice as Zim), and has a similarly pitch-black sense of humor.
    • Remember that episode where Mars and Mercury were essentially spaceships? Well, not quite the same, but The Wandering Earth has the titular planet being propelled by rockets.
    • In this show, Melissa Fahn voices Gaz, a purple-haired, misanthropic Little Miss Badass with a tendency towards the occult. Nearly a decade and a half later, she would go on to voice Rider in the English dub of Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works], who is a purple-haired, misanthropic fully-grown badass with magical powers. And just to make things even funnier, Fate/Grand Order - Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia features a child version of the character, also voiced by Fahn... and she just sounds like Gaz doing a slight European accent.
  • Hype Backlash: As it is with everything popular, there's always a couple of people who think the show is overrated.
    • The most common accusation is that fans of Zim are all hyperactive "I'm so random" 12-year olds who only like the show for GIR. This certainly isn't true - there are many other older, more mature fans out there who appreciate the show for its Black Comedy, social satire and manic absurdist style... And GIR.
  • Iron Woobie: With all of the crap thrown at him yet willing to persevere, Dib certainly qualifies.
  • It Was His Sled: Tak's reveal that she is an Irken seemed shocking at first, but now it is not worth mentioning.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Zim is an egomaniac with a Blood Lust for conquest, but he's also desperate to prove his worth to his superiors and his entire planet, who see him as nothing but a nuisance. He also seems genuinely afraid of being captured and experimented on.
    • Dib for some since he does have his moments of being selfish or cold, though he'd be easier to argue as a regular Woobie.
    • Gaz can count as this depending on your interpretation. See Alternative Character Interpretation.
    • Tak. Because that moron Zim ruined her chances of any respect from the Tallest, she gets treated horribly as a result.
    • Sizz-Lorr. He merely does his job as the Frylord and was left with all the dirty job because Zim decided to flee to get to the Mission Impending Doom II ceremony. He delights in tormenting Zim, but is nowhere near as abusive to the workers he's employed by choice.
  • Memetic Mutation: Oh, where to even START?
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Some of Zim's fans have the tendency to play him up as The Woobie while entirely glossing over the whole "Kill All Humans" thing. Rather than an unstable loose cannon who often fails due to a tendency to shoot himself in the foot, he's depicted as intentionally harmless.
    • The larger Irken Empire often gets this treatment too, perhaps on the basis that Evil Is Cool.
    • Jhonen, with his usual sardonic tone, said at InvaderCon II that anyone who sees the show as more than "sarcasm, cruelty, and violence" is pretty much "watching the show wrong."
    • Rarely, Gaz’s fans will think that she is cute or adorable, even though she is not intended to be portrayed that way.
  • Moe: Of all the characters, GIR is probably the one who manages this the most.
    • Also, the imprisoned alien in "Abducted!"
    • Heck, even Zim and Dib can manage to be this on occasion, especially of the Adorkable kind. The comics and even Enter the Florpus also have played this up.
    • Let’s not forget about Gaz when she opens her eyes.
  • Narm Charm: Since approximately 99% of the series is played for ridiculous, surreal laughs, when things do get serious it can get away with saying things that would seem totally ridiculous in any other show, as seen below in "Hamstergeddon":
    Dib: Wait, Zim! Promise me you're on our side this time!
    Zim: I know not of sides, Earth Stink, but just this once I agree with you. The hamster must be stopped.
  • Nausea Fuel:
    • "Career Day", "Rise of the Zit-Boy", "Dark Harvest", the turkey dude's lucky neck meats in "The Sad, Sad Tale of Chickenfoot"... speaking of which, the scene where a guy's eating soggy french fries out of a tub full of dirty dishwater grosses out Jhonen himself.
    • "Dark Harvest" really deserves a proper explanation. The entire episode centers around Zim stealing the organs of his classmates and replacing them with random objects. For instance, he swaps the brain of a woman with canned food, causing her to drool processed meat when she opens her mouth. Even worse, Zim stores the stolen organs inside his own body. At one point, he accidentally vomits some intestines and slurps it back into his mouth like spaghetti.
    • "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom." Just... that. *shudder* In fact, Squick is what resolves the entire episode.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • Though the series-wide references to Dib as insane probably don't help it, nor the Parental Neglect, the bulk of Professor Membrane's reputation as an abusive parent probably comes from the Halloween episode, where he blithely lets Dib be sent to an insane asylum despite the fact that he is not crazy, just suffering side-effects from using Professor Membrane's prototype trans-dimensional viewing device, something that Membrane himself admits exists.
    • On a more humorous note, GIR is more often-than-not depicted with his famous dog suit in most fan art and merchandise rather than what he really looks like.
  • No Yay: Zim and Dib. Even if we decide to ignore that they are enemies, which has been hammered in over and over again throughout the series, Zim only looks like a child on the surface but is really older than any human alive. This reasoning would also extend to Zim and Gaz, Dib and Tak, Tak and Gaz, and any other ship that involves an Irken with a child.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: The episode "Dark Harvest" is hands down the most notorious episode of the entire series. In an attempt to better appear as human, Zim begins to harvest and steal organs from the students and staff of the school. The episode caused quite a stir among parents who felt that this episode was crossing a line due to its disturbing content and story. Not helping at all was that this episode was mentioned in the trial of Scott Dyleski, who was arrested for murdering his neighbor Pamela Vitale.
  • Paranoia Fuel: "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy". You could get hit with the effects of debilitating accidents and have no idea why.
  • Periphery Demographic: Teenagers and young adults love Zim, which was targeted at 8-to-11-year-olds (not that you could really tell from the content).
  • Presumed Flop: Many people believe that the series was cancelled midway through its' second season due to low ratings. On the contrary, ratings were actually fairly decent. The show was just too expensive to produce relative to its ratings.
  • Ron the Death Eater:
    • Dib gets this treatment in fanfic a lot — having his nastier impulses cranked up to the point of being an outright Torture Technician, and being portrayed as a bully that "picks" on Zim (when the balance of power goes the other way entirely). It's a common assertion that he is xenophobic to the extreme and only hates Zim because he's an alien, and must be assumed to have no actual sympathy or compassion for his fellow human because he does hope for personal self-gain in opposing Zim, when most episodes make it clear he'd like to better humankind and himself.
    • Professor Membrane is also a frequent target. In canon he is a very neglectful and sometimes insensitive parent (what with the tendency to call his son "insane" to his face), and has at least a few jerky acts under his belt, but he does genuinely love his kids, which is most notably shown in Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy, where Dib's near-death experience causes Membrane to bring him back to life and encase him in a Giant Mecha "exoskeleton" to keep him safe. In fanon, he can be depicted as outright malicious and abusive to his children, particularly Dib.
    • To round out the family, Gaz is also a frequent target. In the improbable but common "Bad Future"-style fics where Zim (somehow) has the backing of the Irken army and has taken over Earth, she's very likely to have sided with the invaders out of selfishness or misanthropy. She also on occasion has her abusive tendencies towards her older brother exaggerated beyond recognition.
    • Torque Smacky is a weird case. In the few scenes he appeared in, he was a neutral party and never did anything mean to Dib, but in fanfiction he is almost always derailed into a Jerk Jock who delights in kicking around Dib and/or Zim like a football.
    • Mr. Dwicky from "Vindicated" gets quite a bit of flak for supposedly lying to Dib and abandoning him. While this is partially true, for the most part Dwicky was shown to be a nice guy who only "lied" to the boy so he could get to know what his real problem was. He also only went with the aliens at the end of the episode, because he, like Dib, was obsessed with Aliens as a child and couldn't resist the opportunity to travel the stars with them.
  • Rooting for the Empire: It's easy to want to see Tak win in "Tak: The Hideous New Girl," if only because she's clearly more competent and deserving of a mission than Zim ever was and her plan would no doubt have won over the Tallest, not to mention how tiring it might become for some viewers to see Zim fail over and over by the time Tak's episode happens.
  • Seasonal Rot: Some consider the later episodes (notably "Mortos Der Soul Stealer", "The Voting of the Doomed" and "Gaz, Taster of Pork" - which is widely considered to be the weakest episode of the show) to have suffered a significant drop in quality.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The show's particular brand of manic, over-the-top Black Comedy has been widely imitated by fans of the show in other works, including other animated TV shows, to the point that it's simply become a mainstay of millennial humor.
  • Self-Fanservice: Fan art portraying Zim, Dib, Gaz and Tak as being significantly older and more attractive-looking than they are on the show itself is extremely common.
  • Sending Stuff to Save the Show: The fan group Operation Head Pigeons spammed the Nickelodeon executives using phone calls and message boards. The group has prompted a Zim marathon, putting it back on Nicktoons, and a best-of DVD entitled "Operation Doom". If the DVD sells well, they hope more seasons will be greenlighted. Jhonen Vasquez has said that while he doesn't think the show will be brought back, he appreciates the group for giving hell to Nickelodeon.
  • Shipping:
    • Cargo Ship: Sort of an inversion. GIR seems to have sort of a little-kid crush on Gaz. It's rather subtle though. Evidence for this can be found in the episodes "Bloaty's Pizza Hog" and "Tak, the Hideous New Girl".
      • GIR x Piggy, now it gets weird.
      • Same thing could be said for Zim/Gir as well. Yes, it exists.
    • Foe Yay Shipping: The most common (and infamous) pairing you will find in the IZ fandom is Zim/Dib (ZADR). For many and Jhonen himself it's pure squick, but it's still managed to be undeniably popular. Much less common are Dib/Tak (DATR) and Zim/Tak (ZATR), though they aren't too unpopular either.
    • Idiosyncratic Ship Naming: Takes the form "_A_R" (for "X and Y romance"), with the blanks filled in by the first letters of the characters' names (e.g. ZADR for "Zim and Dib romance", or ZAGR for "Zim and Gaz Romance"). Made somewhat problematic by the fact that several characters' names start with the same letter (Zim and Zita, Gaz and Gir and Gretchen, Dib and Dwicky, etc.).
      • Other forms also have the "R" replaced with an "F" for friendship or an "E" for enmity. However, these are more or less used exclusively with Zim and Dib as alternatives to ZADR.
    • No Yay: The general reaction of those who don't care for the copious amounts of shipping or even appreciate the show's No Hugging, No Kissing rule.
    • Robo Ship: GIR/Mimi, Tak's SIR unit. GIR/Mini Moose too, though this is even rarer.
    • Ship Mates: Most of the time fan fiction in which the main couple is ZAGR will tend to include some DATR as well. TAGR (Tak/Gaz) might include ZADR from time to time, though it's rarer vice versa.
    • The Ship's Motor:
      • The fandom will often justify sex with Irkens by claiming that Irkens have sex at all. Canon seems to imply that they're all grown in a big factory, and naked Irkens have no apparent genitals. It's particularly common to assume that they lay eggs.
      • Also, ZATR fans often portray Zim and Tak having known each other prior to the events on Devastis, even to the point of having been best friends since they were smeets. This is despite the fact that, from the way Zim acts when Tak reveals herself on Earth, it seems they never met before... though considering the type of character Zim is, he probably wouldn't remember either way.
      • Though Dib/Gaz isn't very popular, those who do ship it sometimes use a Word of God statement about Dib being an experiment created by Membrane to suggest that he and Gaz aren't really related. That said, creator Jhonen Vasquez spews out tongue-in-cheek statements and sardonic jokes as though its a biological necessity, so whether this actually is the case is up in the air. Beyond that, he notably never mentioned how Dib's sister Gaz fits into that scenario; since Fanon often makes Dib Membrane's clone, some extend this theory to make Gaz a clone of Membrane's dead wife in a weirdly literal case of Generation Xerox.
      • Canonically speaking, Zim is not an actual child, but a very short Psychopathic Manchild. He and other Irkens seen in the series are hundreds of years older than any living human, with an unfinished episode revealing that he's even around the same age as his leaders, the Tallest. To get around this huge age gap, it's common for Fanon to treat Zim and Tak as being equivalent to teenagers by the standards of their species, which is how the rumor that Zim is "16 in Irken years" got started. The fact this doesn't actually fix much in terms of shipping, especially considering Dib and Gaz aren't even teenagers themselves, is never acknowledged for some reason.
    • Ships That Pass in the Night: ZAGR. Zim and Gaz have very brief interactions in only a few episodes, but it's the second most popular pairing in the fandom overall and the most popular hetero ship. Their sadistic natures and hatred for humans (especially Dib) seem to be big contributors to the ship.
      • Gaz/Tak has a fair number of shippers. The two never exchange a word, and only interact when Gaz helps Zim and Dib defeat her.
    • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Mostly ZADR vs ZAGR, though ZATR will sometimes join in.
  • Squick: Up to Eleven. Spurting pus, dripping grease, and squishy organs. And one of these things is almost guaranteed to explode once in a while.
    • Dib had to clean up the spurted pus in "Rise Of The Zitboy," which basically flooded the whole classroom. He had to do it with a tiny sponge. Don't forget, this was spurted alien pus.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: Pig Girl, an alternative version of Gaz with pig characteristics that was only seen in Gaz, Taster of Pork, is this, complete with merchandise like toys and a theatrical movie.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A common criticism of the comics is that they ignore much of the Myth Arc set up by the proposed later episodes of the television series, with plot elements such as the Resisty and characters like Tak being completely absent.
  • Toy Ship: Dib/Gretchen — based on her evident crush on him in "Tak, the Hideous New Girl." There's not a lot of fic for it, but there is some.
  • Ugly Cute: GIR
    • Creepy Cute: GIR, but in an unnerving way, like a Creepy Child in a horror movie. Just those dead green-blue eyes...
      • Zim may qualify for some, particularly when his antennae droop and he looks sad.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Even a show set 20 Minutes into the Future couldn't prevent this. Specifically, the notable lack of smart phones.
    • The plot of "Nano Zim" in centered around Dib sending a physical disk with incriminating photos of Zim to a TV show to expose him. A decade later, he could have taken the photos with his phone and emailed them directly to the TV producers the second they were taken, if not livestreamed his entire break-in.
    • For a show depicting the masses as drooling morons, there are a noticeable lack of cell phones being held up to record the scenes of destruction they look upon.
    • In "Most Horrible X-Mass Ever," Dib whips out his laptop to video-call Gaz, who answers using a video watch. Today, both of them would just FaceTime.
    • Similar to the above, the yuppie who calls his friend to brag about his new car in "Invasion of the Idiot Dog Brain" would most likely be talking on his phone while driving rather than calling from a payphone.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: While Dib does bring a lot of suffering on himself and isn't so much a straightforward hero, his suffering becomes a lot less funny when you realize he is legitimately trying to stop a monster from killing his planet.
    • Dib's horrible home life in the original series also provoked this reaction even with info from Word of God stating that Dib does share a degree of fault in the situation (i.e. constantly using Gaz as a test subject when they were little). It got to the point that even Jhonen noticed and eventually fleshed out the Membrane family dynamics.
  • Unpopular Popular Character:
    • Dib is very unpopular in the show, but he has a huge fanbase. Crew member Eric Trueheart said this on his blog about Invadercon:
      "Speaking of Dib, I’m shocked at just how many girls like dressing up as Dib. Seriously, I saw a dozen female Dibs this weekend, and barely one male one. It seems like Dib has almost become some kind of butch-girl icon. I think that’s pretty cool."
    • Zim as well - He is essentially hated by his entire race and sent to Earth solely because the Irkens didn't even realize there was a inhabited planet that far out.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Coach Walrus looks like an overweight man and is voiced by male voice actor Fred Tatasciore, but the 32nd issue of the Oni Press comic book establishes that she is female.
  • Villain Decay: Whether you consider Zim or Dib the villain, they both got considerably worse at their tasks as the series advanced; early episodes would usually have one best the other, while later many ended with them both of them enduring some terrible trauma. Some later episodes seem to imply that Dib has flat-out given up on trying to expose ZIM and sees him as less of a threat and more of a pest.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The show's cel-shaded computer animation has aged remarkably well, especially for something made on a TV budget. It helps that it was use more as a necessity for animating complicated things like space ships and dynamic backgrounds rather than for spectacle.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: This show was more grotesque than most of Nick's other worksnote , featured things like children summoning demons and a disturbing amount of body horror (including one kid getting his eyes plucked out), and was created by a man who wrote a comic series about a homicidal maniac. It's kind of in between this and its sister trope, very clearly meant for a young teen audience, but for whatever reason Nick shoehorned it in a block that was otherwise targeted at a different demographic that the show was completely inappropriate for. That said, it's still questionable for even the intended demographic - while it's toned down from JCV's comics, it's basically a hair away from Squee! in terms of content, which is very solidly meant for adults.
  • The Woobie:
    • Dib could be seen as such, or a Jerkass Woobie.
    • The unnamed blob alien in Abducted. Its description of its suffering is almost a Tear Jerker.
    • GIR has had his moments.
    • Keef, if you think about it. Yeah, he's an obsessive stalker who needs to take a hint when people tell him to get lost or stay out of their business as Zim (and Dib in the an unfinished episode) can attest to. But he's also one of the only nice kids in Skool, it's clear that nobody really likes him, and Zim and Dib were downright brutal in their tactics of getting rid of him.
    • Shunk in Battle Dib, who despite his grotesque appearance is a Nice Guy who initially tries to get both him and Dib to tie in their duel and go see the presentation together, but gets manipulated into fighting Dib in earnest by Gaz lying about Dib making fun of his large head, something he's very understandably sensitive about.


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