Welcome to the forty-second installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.
Header by Rory Midhani
feature image by There Be More Foolery | Tumblr
As we’re eagerly awaiting the last episode of season five, it might be a good time to pause and reflect on our favorite budding relationship in Adventure Time. And you know I/we do a lot of pausing and reflecting on Adventure Time. We’ve even got the Fiona and Cake comics in our Fall 2013 Book Preview post.
I had to think long and hard about whether or not to write about this at all, because it could just be an example of queerbaiting, and I would rather slowly pull out all my teeth and drop them into a deep, snake-infested well than write about unconfirmed lesbian subtext in any teevee show ever. But I actually think we’re moving from the realm of wishful thinking into the realm of actual plot/canon. Here’s why.
Adventure Time‘s characters are not in a state of perpetual youth. Take the show’s main character, Finn the Human. Finn started out as a 12-year-old boy, quite possibly the last human on the planet. It was made clear in the episode “Mystery Train” that he was turning 13 – that whole episode is about a birthday surprise that his dog, Jake, planned for him. He is currently 14, meaning he’s entering his awkward teenage years with a vengeance – if you listen to his voice in the first season versus the fifth, his voice is much different. And the show’s content reflects that change in age. He’s making a lot of the same mistakes in interpersonal relationships that teenage humans make in real life – taking women on dates they’re not into, falling for two girls at once when a relationship with both of them is clearly not on the table, crushing on people outside his age bracket when they are clearly not into it. The show even dealt with the concept of fantasies about women in its classically kid friendly approach (it is a kid’s TV show after all, even though we love it). Finn dreams about Flame Princess being an adventurer and beating up his nemesis (and setting him on fire… in his pants), the Ice King, and then spends the rest of the episode “Frost and Fire” trying to surreptitiously get Flame Princess to reenact the dream without telling her what’s going on for him. This doesn’t get him what he wants.
Or take the show’s other main character, Jake the Dog. Jake becomes a father in season 5 (episode: “Jake the Dad“), having a litter of rainicorn-puppy children. Adventure Time then deals with a parenting plot, with Jake being over protective of his new brood and moving away from his and Finn’s tree house.
The show’s main characters aren’t the only ones whose age and plot lines are doing a little growing up. Ice King’s backstory has been deepening since season 3 (episode: “Holly Jolly Secrets“) where his video diary reveals that about 1000 years prior he was Simon Petrikov, and the crown corrupted his personality and memory while giving him magic and immortality. We get to see his history more in depth in season 4 (episode: “I Remember You“) when we discover that he rescued Marceline after the “mushroom war” (nuclear holocaust?) before she’d become a vampire. She was seven. We delve even further into this story in season 5 (episode: “Simon and Marcy“) where we see him battle with the crown’s effects, and we see first hand the relationship he had with Marceline back when he was Simon. Marceline’s coping mechanisms and emotions reflect many aging/sick parent story lines and tropes, suggesting that we are dealing with the VERY mature plot line of age and death, or at the very least mental illness. Ice King also goes from being an un-nuanced villain to a tragic hero, giving his own life and sanity to save Marceline. Those are very complex feelings indeed, demonstrating a willingness among the show’s writers and creators to explore whole characters and grey areas, even though the show is made for children.
They are also extremely apparently willing to explore grey areas in gender and sexuality as well – one of the more major supporting characters, BMO, is gender neutral. They go by he or she, depending on the situation.
(Yeah, we’ve played that before).
In the episode “All the Little People,” Finn wonders if BMO and Ice King would make a good couple – a gender neutral video game system and a thousand year old King. And Jake says in that very same episode, if you feel something, you feel something. You can’t stop what you feel. Couple that with Princess Cookie and we’ve got some very well explored gender and sexuality in-betweens.
All in all, the show deals with and jokes about kink (Ice King in “I Remember You“), erections (Finn and Jake in “All The Little People“), intercourse (Prince Bubblegum in “Adventure Time with Fiona and Cake“). The references and plot lines are growing up a bit with the characters, and Marceline and Bubblegum seem to be no exception.
Which brings me to their specific plot line. Marceline is the only character that calls Princess Bubblegum by her first name. They appear to have a history together:
Marceline: “Looks like you aren’t as perfect as you thought! Guess you can’t judge me anymore.”
Bubblegum: “I never said you had to be perfect!”
–Season 3, “What Was Missing“
And in that very same episode, a thief comes around and steals everyone’s most prized possessions. He takes Finn’s wad of Bubblegum’s hair, Jake’s baby blanket, BMO’s controller and… something from Bubblegum and Marceline. The only way to get through the door to the thief is to play music as a band. Marceline sings to Bubblegum that she’s going to “drink the red from your pretty pink face,” which Bubblegum thinks is “too distasteful.”
That’s when Marceline gets real, singing that she’s just Bubblegum’s problem, that she shouldn’t have to be the one to make up with Bubblegum even though she wants to. But Bubblegum staring at Marceline throws her off, and we don’t get to hear much more, at least not in song. By the end of the episode, we find out that Bubblegum’s most prized possession is one of Marceline’s old tee-shirts, something that she gave Bubblegum, which the Princess now uses as pajamas. Marceline, by contrast, had no prized possessions stolen, she just wanted to hang out with everyone.
Fast forward to “Sky Witch“, the third to last episode of the current season (season 5). This episode is entirely about Marceline and Bubblegum, where they venture off to retrieve Marceline’s childhood teddybear, Hambo, from the Sky Witch. It opens with Bubblegum legit smelling the shirt that Marceline gave her, and opening her closet door to reveal a photo of the two of them together.
At the end of the episode, while Marceline is fighting the witch’s familiar, Bubblegum finds the witch and the receipt from Marceline’s awful ex-boyfriend selling Hambo away. What results is perhaps my favorite line in all of Adventure Time history:
“By the laws of my kingdom, I must honor the exchange of goods for legal tender. But guess what? I’m not leavin’ without Hambo.”
The witch requires something rife with sentimental value as she’s been using all the sentimental value in Hambo for her spells. So Bubblegum trades the prized shirt that Marceline gave her. Marceline, as of yet, doesn’t know.
So have we seen confirmation of everyone’s hopes and dreams for the Marceline/Bubblegum ship? Actually…probably. This ship is probably evolving into canon, given the tone of the show, the maturation of story lines, the comfort with gender and sexuality in-betweens, and Marceline’s undercut in season 3. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. And and! Those involved in the illustration and creation of Adventure Time are not discouraging our suspicions – quite the opposite. It may be queerbaiting or not, but Jesse Moynihan (co-writer for Adventure Time) posted a photo from Skywitch as a preview, with the caption “SHIP SHIP SHIP SHIP.” Natasha Allegri, illustrator on the show and mastermind behind the gender-swapping characters in Fiona and Cake, has even posted a few Marceline/Bubblegum drawings on her tumblr (one of which is included down below!). But I may go one step further and argue that we’re not seeing the beginning of something, but rather the middle. Or the rekindling of something past. I’m basing that speculation on everything we’ve been given about their history. Considering the hell Marceline has put her dad through w/r/t the fries, I imagine the breakup looked something like this.
But I could just be speculating, because perhaps they were besties. Childhood friends?. As an assurance that I haven’t done a whole article on lesbian subtext, I will also give you a gallery of Bubbline fan art that explores all facets/possibilities of Bubbline. That way if it turns out I’m totally full of shit, this has still been a productive Saturday morning. You’re welcome, nerds.
50 Beautiful Fan Art Pieces Featuring Marceline and Princess Bubblegum
And may I point out that many of these artists are available for commission and/or freelance. Just sayin’.
Artists: as always, if you’d like to be removed from the gallery or if you’d like your credit changed/updated, email me: ali [at] autostraddle.com and I’ll do it soonest!