Invader Zim and Autism? (Doom Song, Pt.6)

“Walk of Doom” (3B) is a curious episode-fragment. On one level, it utilizes Zim’s unfamiliarity with Earth to project childhood anxieties about becoming lost in an unknown place. On the other level, meanwhile, is also displays the first of what could be Zim’s string of mental aberrations; specifically, there is a scene near the middle of the episode where, on a bus, Zim is overwhelmed by stimuli—emphasized by a mishmash of images and sounds—and must rush off the bus in order to cope with the amount of activity. Such a scene is reminiscent, or so I’ve been told, of how autistic youth feel when confronted with a plethora of stimulants.

All though a stretch to conclude that Zim has a strain of autism, we do see him preoccupied with the conditions of minds. After all, the episode starts with Zim upgrading and installing GIR’s directional processing chip; something which can only be done by physically handling—removing and inserting—aspects of GIR’s mind. Zim’s preoccupation with bettering GIR appears thusly as a dark reflection of parents drugging their autistic children.

Perhaps this is why the episode is so fragmented. Said again, it is a wild and unpredictable narrative. Zim is seen simply wandering the city in an effort to get home; he is thrown from the bus, panhandles for money, re-enters the bus before freaking out and leaving again, then gets mistaken for a criminal and pursued by police, all before he enters a cab and is dropped off at a random Latino dominated neighborhood. All of these seemingly random events might be construed as a lost autistic child’s fearful perception of the confusion of trying to locate a safe point when separated from his parents.

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Personally, I remember this episode with less than fond memories. Though for many fans it is a favorite, I always found it too off-beat for my tastes. Like many episodes, the ending is ambiguous and unclear, nothing is resolved. But, more to the point, nothing much happens to begin with—Zim upgrades GIR and then attempts a field test. Things go awry and they must attempt to navigate the environs of a hostile urban environment in order to return home. Then, the endings randomized closing, appears as though it was all for naught as the pay-off is disconnected: Zim, presumably, finds a way back home through magical recourse.

Whenever this episode cam on TV I tuned it out. I either switched around to see what was on another channel or I went upstairs to play in my room until it was over. Even as a small child I enjoyed episodes which directly contributed to the dialectic between Zim and Dib, since I knew that those episodes were the ones which were actually relevant toward Zim’s mission and would have deeper story elements. I realized that filler episodes like these were important, if for no other reason than fleshing out characters and the universe, but that didn’t mean that I had to enjoy the episodes.

Re-watching the episode all these years later, I found it more enjoyable, obviously, but still not my favorite episode by any stretch of the imagination.

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