A Career Invader (Doom Song, Pt.12)

“Career Day,” episode 6A, espouses some of the hypocrisies of the labor system. Specifically, of how arbitrary and meaningless standardized tests are for one’s futures. More to the point, though, it is an episode concerned with meta-commentary on the oddity of Zim.

Let’s consider the absurdity of students being forced to write down what they view ink blotches to be: the decipherment of three images is expected to result in their future career. Moreover, the answers are interpreted by a machine and pumps out the careers, literally, in seconds (which, supposedly, then instantly relies said results to the children’s mentors, adding a layer of disbelief and absurdity to the occasion not regularly seen). Of course what the children desire to be is irrelevant. But this is void of human agency is immediately undercut by their teacher, Ms. Bitters; recounting the tale of when she wanted to be an astronaut, she is depicted as a small girl in a rocket ship before it implodes. Then she is seen in the present, as an educator. Why?

One explanation is that is hints at the utter absurdity of attempting to pinpoint that one career which will make you happy; it subverts the dominant ideology of being assigned (‘drawn’) to what you are good at (been trained to by way of upbringing) in an effort to make you happy (content with your labor being exploited). If Ms. Bitter’s tale connotes anything, then it is that despite what you have been told, you can still decide your own fate, however violent such a path of individuation may turn out.

This subversion is taken to its logical extreme with Dib. Surprisingly, when the careers are assigned and the children are forced to shadow a person from their field, Dib is assigned a paranormal investigator. Again, surprisingly, what transpires is that his mentor enhances the subversion of institutionalized careers: Dib’s mentor, as it turns out, is backward; he believes the opposite of what Dib believes and endorses the paranormal theories which are actually bunk.

Dib’s lesson is that even when you are given the future you desire, it may not be what you desire. That your idea of an occupation is different from the institution and state which commands it. And so we have depth which fleshes out labor hypocrisy by emphasizing the frailty of even self-directed agency attached to a coercive state apparatus.

All of which is, of course, a meta-commentary by the writers as they write. Hence the inclusion of Dib’s mentor—a paranormal investigator clearly inspired from the X-Files. Slow and backward, Dib’s mentor believes the reverse of what is real in the Zim universe, thus signaling to the viewer a kind of self-aware absurdity which Invader Zim’s premise delivers; in other words, that even paranormal investigators trained in another universe’s ideology would find the Zim mythos to be believable. And so it all comes back to self-directed destiny: the world you are born into may be absurd, it may be violent and gruesome in how it tries to force you to conform, even in relation to other realities, but it is ultimately, like the weak spots on a video game boss, vulnerable to your force-of-will.

What of Zim? Not much happens: with him being mentored by a greasy teenager at a fast food joint, Zim suffers the burden of adolescent life as the writers superimpose on him puberty in the form of a galactic equinox which causes him to ‘hideously molt’ for several seconds. All of which is to say that Zim has acne and takes the form of a hormonal youth. So while Dib has the ride of his young life with figuring out his career, Zim deals with the mundane—with of being a teenager. How drool.

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