Tagged: Invader Zim
I still think it should be considered part of the zeitgeist. It’s a bit of a parody and it’s split between cyberpunk and space opera-ish sci-fi, but Dib’s a trenchcoated hacker, there’s an episode where a robot has an identity crisis because it has Dib’s memories, and there’s that story arc that literally revolves around technomancy spellbooks. What do you guys think?
I definitively think that Invader Zim is part of the punk science fiction zeitgeist. I think it falls short on the low-life elements of cyberpunk, but it does conduct a thorough post-modern deconstruction of society, which cyberpunk is also well known for. I hesitate to call it cyberpunk, but it certainly shares a lot of themes with the genre. I wonder what other members of the community think?
I think it fits. I think that there are degrees of low life and for people in the upper-middle class, they will start to look more like the lower middle class.
Oh man yeah that’s a difficult one. I’d say yes though. I think having a looser definition of genre is important for analyzing media. And Zims getting pretty old, it would be nice to give it a run down and maybe introduce it to people who haven’t seen it.
Invader Zim is definitely a Space Opera, with Dark Science Fiction elements.
I’ve actually been torn on this when I think about The Fifth Element.
It starts out on Earth with Cyberpunk feel:
-Korben Dallas just trying to survive working for a MegaCorp
Then moves into a Space Opera:
-Korben Dallas trying to save the Universe
It stands out because of how distinct the two parts of the film are.
I believe this was not the intent of the director, but a convergence of ideas while writing the story.
As for Invader Zimm, I don’t think it fits into the world Cyberpunk. It lacks too many elements.
Hey Keith, what elements do you think the show lacks?
Just working from memory here having not seen this series in a long time, so bare with me.
The supporting characters appear Punk, but come off more Emo IMO.
It had tech, but it wasn’t presented in a way that fits world where people are trying survive or resist.
Did Dib do anything such as Mod Alien tech to fight back? I’ll probably re-watch this and change my mind later.
It’s possible the Space Opera element overpowered the rest.
I think that there is a bit of emo-ness to the show, but it is definitely subversive in the most punk of ways showing the school as a totalitarian state, showing minimum wage jobs as akin to slavery, and things like showing the marketing as mind control idea.
Dib is the son of an inventor who owns a megacorporation, but he definitely creates his own tech and uses it to pursue conspiracies and Zim. There are deep philosophical themes, although usually through the lens of humor.
Even the space opera elements show that the alien society has many of the same problems, this is no utopian vision, and it hardly reaches military sf levels.
If there is one major criticism from my perspective as a punk show, it is that all of the characters are middle-class or higher and are largely outside the punk subversive things happening around them. This makes the show not feel particularly low-life, but maybe this is part of the illusion of a totalitarian state. I’m still on the fence about this, but I think there are strong arguments on both sides
You make some interesting points.
There maybe some unintended cross pollination with Invader Zim as with a lot of SciFi.
I’m still cautious on placing this in the Cyberpunk category, when it’s not deliberately written as one.
We could use a rating system similar to what is found on cyberpunkreview.com:
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: [Low|Medium|High|Very High]
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: [Low|Medium|High|Very High]
I guess from my standpoint, a lot of the show’s cyberpunky elements seem pretty deliberate. The dystopia is draws similarities to the ones you see in Fahrenheit 451, Idiocracy, and Transmetropolitan–anti-intellectualism in Zim is rampant to the point that the only character that isn’t oblivious in some form or another is Gaz, and she’s too nihilistic to care about anything that happens anyways. I’m also not sure why class distinction and resistance are necessary components, either. Even when there is a revolution in cyberpunk, it seems to me like the main characters usually stay out of it because they don’t really hold any sort of idealism in high regard, and there are plenty of clear cyberpunk titles that more prominently feature characters that are middle class or even willingly working for the system (Ghost in the Shell, Dredd, Ex Machina, Armitage III, Bubblegum Crisis and its 100 spinoffs, the list goes on and on). Adam Jensen might be fighting the Illuminati undercover, but he can still afford hella nice apartments.
Also, if you step back and examine the “emo” or “goth” subcultures (the distinction to me at this point seems fairly arbitrary as they both started out covering the same thematic material), they both branched off from punk (goth was first rooted in the post-punk movement with bands like the Cure and the Misfits, emo appropriated punk affectations in the early 2000s), so it feels somewhat roundabout to me. I know emo isn’t as blatantly anti-authoritarian as punk, but that’s where I started in my teen years, and considering Invader Zim is aimed at teens…
I do see the qualms with the space opera elements though, that’s a fair point against it. Still, most of the show takes place on Earth. Zim’s identity as an alien does take a lot of focus in the show, but a lot of his tech is VERY characteristic of cyberpunk. Just because a creator doesn’t necessarily have the intent on creating something within the cyberpunk genre doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen to land there anyways–look at stuff like Dollhouse, Gattaca, the XCOM games, Dreamfall, or the Alien movies.
I feel that, even if it’s a bit of an outlier in the genre, Zim’s got some pretty heavy cyberpunk elements that can’t be ignored. Maybe we should organize the database like tvtropes does and include a subcategory of cyberpunk-inspired works?
I think that I agree with you Shadowlink. A lot of inspirations for Invader Zim are cyberpunk in origin, even if they aren’t particularly blatant.
Revolution is an element that shows up in cyberpunk a lot, but I don’t think that it is a necessary condition.
I think that the main difference between Zim and most of the titles you mention is the depiction of low life elements, even if the protagonist isn’t from that world. There is very little low life depiction in Zim, although there is some.
I agree that the punk/goth/emo distinction is a murky one and I’ve never found it particularly useful since there is so much overlap.
I think that Zim doesn’t feel particularly cyberpunk on it’s face because of the focal points that it chooses, but thematically and sometimes visually it definitely aligns.
I have been thinking about starting a series call “Is X Cyberpunk?” Maybe Invader Zim would be a good entry in that series.
As for Database organization, if something isn’t inherently cyberpunk but included, we usually include a note to why it is included. In this case if we choose to include it, we might say something like “Heavy Cyberpunk Themes.”
Good points, Veritas. Earth in Zim does strike me personally as a bit dingy and grungy, but I suppose the occasional low-life characters are more of throwaway jokes than prominently featured characters.
I think your idea for an article series is a good one–it would more publicly open a dialogue in the community on how to classify cyberpunk. I’ve got a few pieces in mind that I feel would be worth discussing.
What other titles do you have in mind that are worthy of larger discussion?
Well, just off the top of my head, I’ve always called into question the validity of calling the Terminator movies cyberpunk, personally. They’re very black and white, the world they show has always been identical to our own, and their inclusion of time travel seems too implausible for a conventional cyberpunk story. I also wonder about certain biopunk properties like Dark Angel, as well as post-apocalyptic/post-industrial IPs like Judge Dredd, Elysium, and Looper–each of which I really like, but I feel are more cyberpunk-adjacent.