If you’ve never watched Invader Zim, you’re really missing out. It’s snarky, clever, funny, random, and definitely pushes boundaries. In its essence, it’s a cartoon about an alien invader (Zim) who was so annoying his superiors sent him on a fake invasion mission with a malfunctioning robot (GIR) to earth where he poorly tries to blend in with human society while preparing to take over the world, and the only person (Dib) who considers him a serious threat and also is a huge conspiracy believer so of course no one, including his scientist dad, listens to him. But we’re not going to talk about any of them. We’re going to talk about Dib’s sister, Gaz.
Gaz is a little bit of an icon for me. In the series, she goes to great lengths to play video games and get a new gaming system (brilliantly called the Game Slave 2). She’s always got an attitude, takes no crap, is phenomenal whenever she decides to do something, spends time reading, and often puts her brother in his place. Gaz is aware of what Zim is, but she doesn’t care. She knows he is too incompetent to take over the world.
The kids have, of course, been exposed to the series. Bits and pieces. It’s not an easy series for kids. They have to be in the right mood, have to understand it’s not serious, have to be aware of nuances of humor, and have to be prepared for some shocking ideas, like Zim harvesting human organs to appear more human-like to the skool nurse. So I don’t push it on them, though I absolutely hope one day they watch the whole thing. One of the episodes, however, we did make sure they saw. Why? Because we needed them to see “You’re doing it wrong.”
Take a minute or eleven and watch the episode here Invader Zim: NanoZIM. Gaz enters at 6:13, relevant phrase at 8:08.
For those of you who didn’t watch, in the episode Zim shrinks himself and his ship and goes into Dib’s body to make him destroy evidence that Dib took of Zim’s home and alien existence. Long story short, Dib swallows a micro robot to stop Zim before he can destroy his brain. Gaz mistakenly thinks it’s a video game. Dib is being incompetent as usual and Gaz gets frustrated, tells him what to do, and even asks to play instead. When Dib’s arm nerve gets taken out and he can no longer pilot the robot, Gaz takes over and completely owns Zim.
We made sure the kids saw that episode because in the middle of it all Gaz says, “You’re doing it wrong!” When you play video games, you have to be aware that you might feel like you are an expert at a certain game or a certain playing style or a certain level or a certain character. That’s fine. You might be. But what you may not do is make someone else feel inferior by telling them, “you’re doing it wrong.” Not in this house. You will definitely find yourself sorely tempted. The person playing might simply be going the wrong way down a corridor and you might be bursting to tell them, “No! The other way!” If they didn’t ask you for help, you can’t do that. You might know that the person playing is using a magic spell or a weapon that is ineffective against the enemy they are facing, but you can’t tell them that. You have to give the player time to figure it out for themselves. And you certainly may not make someone who keeps loosing or dying in a game feel stupid for it. We all struggle sometimes, be kind.
Implementing that rule was not why we showed NanoZIM to the kids. Sure, it’s a great example of the behavior the rule is about, and that might be reason enough to watch. But there is a shadow reason to showing them Gaz’s little outburst. It’s funny. You have to remember that we are human and we are family. Sometimes we’re going to make the mistake of saying, “you’re doing it wrong!” while watching someone game, or do dishes, or build a campfire, or what have you. And instantly, we will all think of Gaz and our mood will lighten. Maybe we’ll giggle. There’s certain to be at least one of us who calls out “You’re doing it wrong!” like Gaz. The person who said the phrase in the first place will recognize their own mistake and silently but powerfully apologies will be made and all will be forgiven. And that is why we showed the kids this episode.