“Dark Harvest,” (4B) is an episode about bodily insecurity. Zim, evidently suffering from ‘head pigeons,’ is sent to the nurse’s office. Before he leaves, however, Dib whispers that once he is there and the nurse examines him, he will be revealed as an alien once she glimpses his lack of human organs. And so Zim unleashes upon the school a reign of terror as he skulks in the shadows harvesting students’ organs, replacing them with random objects. Though, interestingly enough, his plan to fool the nurse works once she sees Zim swelled to the brink with all manner of internal appendices, and Dib framed as an alien-human ‘cow-boy’ hybrid, it is done so while paying great attention to in an attempt to assimilate into the human body politic.
Assimilation is a time honored tradition of folks coming into a new territory. Or, should I say, that assimilation is a coerced tradition forced upon new populations coming into a new territory, one which they must do or risk facing catastrophic violence (instead of, you know, the casual everyday violence which they will face anyways). Zim pushes back against this tradition by his rude harvesting.
Continuing with our metaphor, the body politic is Zim’s new home. Planet Earth. He is not one to silently bear the absurd practices of his new homeland. So he does not take assimilation sitting down. No, he assimilates into the body politic by literally assimilating organs onto himself; and replacing them, as we see, with an appropriate counter-part faithful to the human society—commodities.
I am not sure I could make the episode anymore loaded then it already is. But, there does seem to be a poetic kind of justice, does there not? That the human replacement for the biology is commodity, that other lifeblood which flows through humanity. So we see Zim’s assimilation come at the price of humanity being assimilated deeper into their own culture, an interior representation of the exterior pain suffered by migrants; essentially, Zim is dragging humanity kicking and screaming into the mirror and forcing them to endure a fraction of the pain which they inflict by having them ‘taste their own medicine’ and feel what it is like to adjust to a new body politic.
So we see a switch: just as Zim becomes over-assimilated with his bulbous cache of organs, humanity becomes so as well, but to their own culture forced back onto them in a literal, colonizing manner. I am sure if Lacan was alive, he would have some choice words for such a practice in how it relates to his three register. But, at the end of the day, that is what Invader Zim as a show is all about; it is concerned with distorting the symbolic register and pushing it into overdrive. Sort of like an accerlationist tactic for culture. The understanding being, of course, that the reward for doing so, is the revelation of the violence and bigotry which seethes just beneath the surface of the everyday.
Examined another way, the fascination of organs in this episode, and the battle between him and Dib, Zim going as far as to steal an organ from Dib, is not doing anything to assuage the pre-sexual tension between the two lads (though, again, there is a possible, and problematic, age difference between Zim and Dib since we do not know the dynamics of Irken aging and life-cycles). An attempt to forcefully delineate one’s bodily presence is always a sure sign that certain biological functions are happening which the bearer would otherwise wish to cease (i.e., puberty). So, we can add adolescent existentialist trauma to the laundry list of issues which this episode raises.
Score one for critical theory! Woot!