Thursday, March 31, 2016

So I'm 29

Last week was my 29th birthday. It's not an important birthday, but it still feels weird that I've been on this Earth for 29 years. The fact that next year I'll be thirty kind of terrifies me, since it means that I'll no longer officially be young. Well, I knew for a while that I was no longer young, most recently last week when some punk kid at a gas station called me "sir," with no sarcasm implied with that. On one hand, hey, respect. On the other, I came off to a kid as someone he shouldn't be bothering. I had a full-on beard at the time, so that may have factored into it, but I'm not so sure.

I've realized that I'm at an old enough age where I've met people in college right now who were born after Ren & Stimpy went off the air. The Simpsons started going downhill when they were in diapers. They weren't around when Beanie Babies, Furbies and the Backstreet Boys waged their war over their stranglehold of the country. These were kids that never knew a world with only 150 Pokemon. The internet, cordless phones and a unified Germany had always existed.  Where "Cory in The House" is spoken with the same wistfulness that I have with the original cast of All That.

If you don't understand a word of that last paragraph, you're either right in that age group...or you're most likely older than I am and want me to stop acting 12. Okay, so I never knew a world with only three tv channels, Masters of The Universe being as popular as Pokemon was back in the day and George Bush was just this old guy on TV.

I'm getting off track here. To make you all feel old, yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the first airing of not only Invader Zim, but also Fairly Oddparents, two beloved Nickelodeon that took separate paths through history. As of today, Fairly Oddparents is STILL on the air. It's a show that wants to die, but it won't It aired finale movies, live action movies, added a baby, a talking magic dog, an evil twin for both of those characters, and now a new neighbor girl named Chloe.

Yeah, fuck Chloe. This show FINALLY went the Poochie route and added a character that was meant to lure in new viewers, but it feels like she's only there to take over the show with herself as the star. She's only around to be another kid with fairies, which is a good idea on paper, but the execution is a bit lacking. Timmy has to share his fairies with her. Again, it makes sense on paper. Apparently, there's a fairy shortage for kids, and Timmy, a kid who has three of them, must share them with someone else.

But the show has bent itself to her whims. Those characters I mentioned earlier? They stopped showing up. Timmy's other, real friends? They haven't been seen either. The show started as a kid who coped with having the most vicious babysitter in the world with magical fairies that could grant every wish he wanted...and now Timmy has to deal with an annoying girl that makes the same mistakes he did 15 years ago. Hell, the theme song changes for her! They didn't change a word for the baby or the dog, but Chloe is different. It's only been a few episodes, but she's definitely a character that would make everyone ask "Where's Chloe?" when she's not onscreen.

This show could, and really should, end after this season, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. Regardless of quality these days, it still gets pretty high, consistent ratings among the kids. But that's what happens when it's on a channel that airs nothing but it, Spongebob, and Dan Schneider's latest yelling garbage pile. This used to be a really great show, but it lost its luster several years back, let alone now.

Invader Zim, on the other hand, suffered from the other problem. You see, Nickelodeon gave it the axe while the first season aired, not caring how it would affect production. Half of the second season exist only as audio, while the other half that was completed didn't see an airdate on American TV for years afterward. they showed up in a complete series DVD first, then airing on the Nicktoons channel during the last decade.

One episode that DID make it to air during the original run was "The Most Horrible Xmas Ever," which featured a character named Minimoose.

He is a little Moose whose only function is to float around like a dummy. Also, he has deadly rockets for fingers. This was all laid out in his introduction episode "Nubs of Doom," but that was one of those episodes that never got completed, so he was in that episode with barely any explanation. It's also the ONLY Minimoose episode that was completed to boot (he was to become a second sidekick), so now he's this strange one-shot character that barely contributed anything.

There's a few theories I have to why the show was cancelled: Too dark, bad taste (the episode "Door To Door" featured a post-apocalyptic New York City, which was produced around the same time as the 9/11 attacks and was shelved for weeks), who knows. Granted, Nickelodeon probably shouldn't have given the reigns to a kid's show to a guy responsible for a comic called "Johnny The Homocidal Maniac," but Nick was cool to experiment like that. They've always looked for outside, indie creators to make their shows. Ren & Stimpy, Doug, Rugrats, Rocko's Modern Life, Hey Arnold, CatDog, and even Pig Goat Banana Cricket were among those born from Nickelodeon willing to give their creators a chance.

This was a show that really spoke to me. Maybe it was the tone of the show, a tiny violence-loving alien bent on world domination has to learn how to navigate the crap-saddled world that is Earth and failing at it every week made for great television. I was hooked from Day 1 and it's responsible for me finding my first internet community. I found like-minded people that liked most of the same things I did. It was my first taste with an obsessive fanbase that only grew more rabid when Nickelodeon gave it the shaft.

When the show was pulled, do you wanna know what Nick aired in its place? Baxter & Bananas.

This was just one cartoon. One lame, weird cartoon that the channel aired in Invader Zim's slot for WEEKS. It only made things worse when we found out that there were a lot of episodes that were scrapped, and the ones that ended up never airing. But we all came together for this one show. We gave each other a sense of belonging, a sense of community. We even wrote and shared terrible Zim fanfiction; thankfully for you folks, you'll never see mine. We were ready to boycott, send letters, even kidnap Jhonen Vasquez himself if the show didn't come back, but none of that ever came to pass.

While my rabid fandom of this show waned in the years that passed, I still consider myself a fan. If it weren't for this show and Nightmare Before Christmas, I don't think Hot Topic would've stayed in business. There's LOTS of people I see with Zim merchandise now, which only made me wonder where they were 15 years ago (hint: probably too young or not even born yet).

One day I do plan to go to a convention that Jhonen was at just thank him for creating something I loved. Something that I was able to share. Something that didn't struck a chord to young me since the Simpsons. I'd just go up and thank him for creating this wonderful show. That's all.

Even if this never gets to him, I'll say it now: Thank you, Jhonen, for creating Invader Zim. Happy 15 years.

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