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Pairing: Zim/Dib Membrane
Alternative name(s): ZaDR, ZADR, zadr
Gender category: Slash
Fandom: Invader Zim
Canonical?: No
Prevalence: Popular
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ZaDR (Zim and Dib Romance) is the pairing of Zim and Dib Membrane from the Nickelodeon cartoon Invader Zim.


Zim is an Irken invader attempting to take over Earth while attending elementary "Skool" to blend in. Dib Membrane is an 11 year-old (12 in the movie Enter the Florpus) student who is the only one who realizes that Zim is an alien. No one else believes Dib, so he repeatedly thwarts Zim's plans. The ship is not canon.


ZaDR has always been the most popular IZ ship, as well as the most controversial. Its disdain earned it an anti-shipping club on DeviantART in 2005, called the Anti-ZADR-Club.

As of Nov 8, 2020, On FFN, when sorting by all ratings, Zim and Dib, and the romance genre, there are 2.0K fanfics listed, or 21%. On Archive of Our Own there are 1313 tagged as Zim/Dib, or 45%. The second most popular ship on AO3 is Purple/Red with 150 tagged, or 5%.

Naming Convention

On May 8th, 2021, Tumblr user sourlime44 asked:

I know I’m probably just stupid but why on earth is the ship called Zadr? Wouldn’t a make like Dim or Zib fit more? I’m just a stupid confused person.

A response from another user explained the unique naming convention directly in a reply:

On one of the major websites Invader Zim fanfiction often circulated back in the day, fan made characters and traditional ship names such as Dim or Zib could get your fanfiction taken down. So the _A_E/F/R system was introduced as a way of informing others in the community of the relationships in your fanfiction and not risk the site taking your work down.

When the site fell out of use the naming convention just stuck. Hence: ZADR.

OCs were not allowed and traditional ship names often sounded to much like an OC name and would get the work taken down.Replies by jarlsthegreat

Tropes & Fanon

A very early trope that existed near the beginnings of the fandom is the Highschool AU. In this AU, the characters are written as growing up together until at least high school age, where their relationship changes. This is more often than not as a result of Zim finally realizing he is a defective outcast from the Irken Empire. He's usually written as going into a spiral of depression and eventually finds comfort in knowing Dib still thinks he's a threat. The trope where he realizes the Tallest hate him and he becomes depressed is based off of an unfinished episode of the series. Then, since Dib becomes Zim's only reason to still fight the Earth, their relationship becomes co-dependent and later grows into friendship and romance.

In canon Irkens are "hatched" as smeets (children) from cloning tubes. Fans make a myriad of headcanons about the Irken relationship with reproduction and cloning, though usually the most popular consensus is that they are, straight forwardly, cloned as in canon, but can still engage in sexual relationships. Depending on the artist, these relationships may either be taboo (having supposedly been "bred out" of them) or remain purely rank based and social (particularly with one character socially submitting to the other). Other headcanons are that, while Irkens could still have genitals despite their extensive cloning, they do not engage in sexual acts and also find human shame at nakedness to be a sign of weakness. Some artists will depict Zim or other Irkens not understanding human social norms, and may walk in on naked humans (particularly Dib in ZaDR) and not understand why the human becomes upset. Often, ZaDR fanfics and art will indeed give Zim genitals, which may be a combination of an opening and a phallus, which is also a popular trope among other alien-based fandoms (such as Steven Universe).

Courtship and bonding rituals are sometimes important parts of Irken fanon. A popular trope in ZADR fanfiction is that Zim's antics have been attempts to court Dib in the way Irkens would court, but because Dib is a human he is unware. The type of courtship varies between fanon. In some, the courtship is violent, meaning any time Zim has a physical altercation with Dib he is flirting. In others, like the fanfiction Polaris by CatlynGunn from 2017, the Irken courting behavior is to "impress" the other by any means possible. This includes acting over dramatic, showing off, giving gifts, and grabbing the other's attention by any means neccessary.[2] Some fanon includes a way for couples to mark one another as taken, consensually or non-consensually. In Polaris this involves the Taller gifting the Smaller a necklace called an "Orok," which is made from the Taller's weapon and blood, thus eternally claiming the Smaller as their mate. In the fanfiction The Human Kribliss by Swing-21 from 2008, the mark is non-consensual. In this fanfic's fanon, an Irken can mark any other creature with a "Kribliss" tattoo non-consensually, which is a barcode-like tattoo that means "back off, mine" and can mean anything from the mark-holder is the other's to kill, to the mark-holder is the romantic property of the other.[3] In that particular fanfic, Zim marked Dib with the tattoo when they were young because they were mortal enemies, but as time went on it became more of a romantic mark.

Cryptid Hunting AUs are popular, more so with the new-wave of fans spurred by the comics and 2019 film. In these AUs Dib and Zim, after becoming unlikely friends, spend time together by traveling and looking for cryptids. A similar AU is the mermaid AU where Zim is a mermaid, or the mothman AU where Dib is mothman. Found Family is a popular trope in ZaDR, and often includes Gaz as a main character befriending Zim and growing closer as a sibling to Dib. She may be used as a wingman where while Zim and Dib are refusing to confess their feelings, she sarcastically encourages them to get it over with.

Zim and Dib becoming close friends or lovers, building a spaceship, then flying away from Earth together to partake in space adventures is a common trope. They spend time together in close quarters while in their spaceship, and then get into misadventures on the surface of the planets they visit.


Vasquez dislikes it, but other people working on the cartoon have drawn art of it or shown support in other ways, such as when Andy Berman (voice actor of Dib) said "I love you, Zim!" at Invadercon.

After Enter the Florpus aired, ZaDR anti-shipping was renewed by new fans. The reason ZaDR is so controversial, despite also being popular, are the characters' ages. While Dib is undoubtedly a middle school child, Zim is an adult or teenager.[4] However, historically fans have treated Zim as a child. This is evident in the way many artists (in visual art and fanfiction) make Zim "aged up" and in high school, showing him as aging at the same or similar rate as Dib. Many now adult fans of Invader Zim were children or teenagers themselves during the height of its popularity, suggesting they either didn't see Zim as an adult or, if they did, didn't understand why shipping Dib with an adult was inappropriate.

Fans in 2020 are much more conscientious of minor/adult ships, so discourse surrounding it may be more common in late-fandom Invader Zim. This is also why modern Zim fandom have begun shipping Zim and Professor Membrane, as those who see Zim as an adult believe this ship is more acceptable. Still, ZaDR remains the most popular, and those who see Zim as Dib's age even in 2020 may be engaging in the concept of "death of the author," in which no matter what the showrunner says, the fandom is in too deep to suddenly turn around and say Zim is an adult or teenager after a decade of believing otherwise. Due to this, some fans are made uncomfortable by Zim/Membrane, because they see Zim as a minor.

Some anti-ZADR shippers refer to ZADR as child x Irken instead of Dib x Zim, equating Irkens with adults and Dib with children, regardless of how other fans view their ages or if they have aged up the characters.[4] These particular anti-ZADR shippers may disbelieve in "death of the author," and see the show bound by statements made by the showrunner on his Twitter. To these anti-shippers, Zim is and always had been an adult, and Dib is and always has been a child, thus to them ZADR is a clear cut case of an child/adult ship and constitutes as pedophilia.

A comment on the Anti-ZADR-Club's says:

4. Stated by Jhonen himself, Dib is 11. Zim is 160 earth years. Let's do the math: 1 Irk year equals 10 Earth years. So, that's 160 ÷ 10? Zim is 16 Irk years, which means he's fully grown. By the time Dib's a teen, Zim will be in his late 20's, so Dib would be out of his league. Any fanfic or pornography of Zim and Dib having butt-sex would be considered pedophilia to me. Anyone who finds enjoyment in an 11 year old being raped needs to seriously get evaluated.agentalienscum (deactivated) Feb 14, 2014[5]

But, furthering the idea that the majority of ZaDR shippers are either children or grew up identifying Zim as a child, is a comment from Tumblr by user armada-idolizer, whose bio identifies them as a minor themself.

so as the title implies, i dont ship zadr but i support people who do. ppl who are so riled up over this ship between a alien and a boy: most ppl who ship zadr are minors and dont view it as p*do shit so PLEASE just block the zadr tag if you dont like it, dont participate in discourse lol [6]

Pro-Shipping and Anti-Shipping

There may be a difference between a proshipper and a ZaDR shipper, depending on how the artist(s) define a pro-shipper and their relationship with the term and ship. A pro-shipper on Tumblr or Twitter in the 20s follows a specific ideology that does not simply denote someone in support of a particular ship, but rather a grouping of ideas related to shipping in general. This means a ZaDR shipper can be a ZaDR shipper without identifying as a pro-shipper. A ZaDR shipper may simply enjoy the ship and not see it as problematic in the first place, but a ZaDR "pro-shipper" would support ZaDR in spite of its perceived problematic status, along with any other perceived problematic ships outside of it.

A good example of this is an advertisement for an 18+ ZADR discord server, "Shmoopiness of Doom," which specifically says that pro-shippers/anti-antis were not allowed on the server. This means that those of that particular server, though they ship ZADR, do not equate ZADR with pro-shipping ideology, even if many non-ZADR shippers do.[7] Another example is an anon ask sent to a Homestuck Tumblr blog run by a sixteen year old named c4sp3rth3gh0st, saying that they were a ZADR shipper but not a pro-shipper. In response, c4sp3rth3gh0st said the anon was not welcome on their blog, and tagged it as "btw zadr is inherently a proship ship thank u now pls block me wtf 'zadr shippers dni' 'but I'm not a proshipper..' yeah u r get out," proving the disagreements on the topic.[8]

Some ZaDR shippers do consider themselves proshipers, or "anti-antis," and subsequently some who dislike ZaDR are considered antis.[9] Some artists who ship ZaDR claim that they are bullied or harassed for liking the ship, though usually the particular artists reporting such behavior have made or discussed NSFW content regarding the ship. For example, one ZaDR shipper named mdzadr (who later deleted)[10], who identified as a proshipper, joked about flooding "the zadr tag with incredibly fucked up content on purpose out of Pure Unadulterated Spite™️," in reference to receiving negative attention towards their NSFW ZaDR content.[11] They specifically blamed the "antis" on an Invader Zim Discord server for being "hazardous" towards pro-shippers (though the server owner clarified in a response that they themself were a pro-shipper). They placed blame on this ZaDR community for the reason they were ostracized from a now ex-friend and the server itself, saying that if one didn't "ship zadr the right way" one would be spoken badly of behind private servers.[12] Someone else from the Discord server made a post addressing the accusations from mdzadr and countered them, stating that the Invader Zim server was very friendly and housed all manners of shippers and anti-shippers alike without problem, [13]

However, SFW ZaDR shippers, such as the popular ZaDR fanfic writer and fan artist Bamsara, have not reported receiving the same negative attention. Bamsara's ZaDR content, being all SFW, has only received droves of kudos on AO3 and notes on Tumblr, with none of the supposed backlash that some other ZaDR pro-shippers report having. This aligns with general antishipping ideology (from Tumblr and Twitter) where often "problematic" ships focused on children are only targeted when they're made NSFW (particularly by adults).





Links & Resources


  1. ^ I know I’m probably just stupid but, Tumblr. May 8, 2021 (Accessed 5/20/2021) (Archived 5/20/2021)
  2. ^ Polaris, Archive of Our Own. 4/17/2017 (Accessed 11/27/2020)
  3. ^ The Human Kribliss, Jan 1, 2008. (Accessed 11/28/2020)
  4. ^ a b hiiiiii 😳😳😳 look at y’all shipping Zim and Dib. Tumblr. Jan 2, 2021 (Accessed 4/15/2021)
  5. ^ DeviantART Comment. Fev 14, 2014 (Accessed 7/7/2020)
  6. ^ My thoughts on zadr as a non zadr... Tumblr, Sept 11, 2020 (Accessed 10/29/2020) (Archived 10/29/2020)
  7. ^ do you like zadr? are you 18 or over?, Tumblr. Oct 11, 2020 (Accessed 4/15/2021)
  8. ^ hi! i like zadr but im not a proshipper, Tumblr. Jul 1, 2021 (Accessed 7/11/2021)
  9. ^ Being pro+ship and pro-fiction doesn’t mean you like everything you see. Tumblr, Jan 13, 2021. (Accessed 1/13/2021) (Archives Jan 13, 2021)
  10. ^ mdzadr, Tumblr. Archived Jan 12, 2021 (Accessed 1/18/2021)
  11. ^ I hope one day when you feel comfortable again, Tumblr. Jan 12, 2021 (Accessed 1/13/2021) (Archived Jan 13, 2021)
  12. ^ My love has left tumblr once again. Jan 16, 2021 (Accessed 1/18/2021) (Archived 1/18/2021)
  13. ^ Hey, don't bother reading this if you're really stressed about the recent discourse. Tumblr. Jan 17, 2021 (Accessed 1/19/2020) (Archived 1/19/2021)