This Is A Bubbline Appreciation Post and Gallery

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

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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.

Anyways. I’m speaking, of course, on the apparent relationship between Marceline the Vampire Queen and Princess Bubblegum.

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 Timeposted 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!

Avatar of Ali

Freelance writer and fiction author, Geekery Editor for Autostraddle.com and Fiction Editor for qu.ee/r Magazine. Keep up with her at her website.

Ali has written 229 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. Thumb up 14

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    Oh lordy, a Bubbline post on Autostraddle? It’s like Christmas! I may have started playing bass because of Marcy, I’m not even sorry (love this instrument).

    I really felt like “Sky Witch” was a massive piece of fan service to the Bubbline fans, as if I was being teased especially with the [POTENTIAL SPOILERS] Witch being all “THIS SHIRT HAS SO MUCH MAGICALLY JUJU ENERGY IN IT” [END OF POTENTIAL SPOILERS] and my Bubbline brain was screaming “YEAH BEACUSE THEY WERE IN A RELATIONSHIP” (I refuse to accept that Bubbline isn’t canon, curse you Pendleton). I really wonder if they’ll keep eluding to a relationship between Marceline and Bonnibel or cop-out and just try and push the “Oh they were just really good friends” because of the outcry when “What was missing” first aired.

    At least we’ll always have the delicious fanart. That one with Marcy chewing gum and Bonnibel saying “THAT’S SO DISRESPECTFUL” tickles me every time.

  2. Thumb up 10

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    This is one of my favorite posts ever. Bubbline for life!

    Adventure Time is legit one of my favorite shows ever, not only because I love the zany plotlines, but because of the depth. So many dark/deep/complex storylines and, no matter how crazy things get, everything makes sense in the Adventure Time universe. The consistency is amazing.

  3. Thumb up 6

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    I was so pleased by “Sky Witch” that after the episode I spent 3 hours going through the tag on tumblr. I needed the perfect posts to reblog, of course. And “What Was Missing” is one of the only episodes of a show I’ve ever downloaded. Adventure Time is fantastic and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees.

  4. Thumb up 5

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    Not to distract from the Bubbline feels, because they are perfect, but can I place a suggestion for next week’s Queer Your Tech?
    Because I really want to talk about Gone Home with Autostraddle peeps. (Bonus points if we can discuss the significance of so many straight male gamers losing their minds over it.)

  5. Thumb up 9

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    I LOVE THAT YOU WROTE THIS I AM SO HAPPY I CANNOT EVEN

    Sky Witch was the first episode of Adventure Time that I’ve sat down and watched in a while (probably since I Remember You). I’m terribly behind and need to get caught up, but I’m really glad that the writers are still giving us Bubbline storylines after the fiasco that happened when the Mathematical YouTube channel posted a discussion about Marceline/Bubblegum in response to the episode What Was Missing.

    The YouTube threads that occurred from what fans saw as Adventure Time and Cartoon Network endorsing a lesbian relationship on a kids’ tv show were the most inspiring and heartwarming responses I’ve probably ever read on the internet. The fact the channel got shut down and Dan Rickmers lost his job over it was so fucking disappointing.

    So I’m grateful the ship is still sailing, apparently unfazed by the CYA bullshit that resulted after What Was Missing. I remember Rebecca Sugar being pro-Bubbline, I think? And the other writer for the episode, Adam Muto, not so much. :/ We were all a little worried that was going to be the end of it. I’m so glad Adventure Time has proved otherwise.

    tl;dr god I love these two they’re just so mathing cute oh my glob

  6. Thumb up 2

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    “I never said you had to be perfect!” I just, YES.

    I would be totally cool, actually, if they turned out to just be not-over-each-other-firsties, and we get a whole episode of them Bad Decisioning back together, and watched it blow up(bubblegum pun) the same way as before. I also thing the soda theory…holds water(word play is the best play)

  7. Thumb up 3

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    my life is a bubbline appreciation post, ergo this post is my life.
    actually, though, thinking about how this ship might be non-canon queerbaiting aggravates my anxiety to the point where, after watching sky witch, I lay in bed reading the tumblr tag unable to sleep for several hours, so this analysis has both brought me immense joy and unreasonable fear. you might say that I take my cartoons too seriously, but to that I say hey, some of us like spending our spare making adventure time magic the gathering cards.

  8. Thumb up 3

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    It’s my understanding that Rebecca Sugar (artist/writer for Adventure Time) is pro-Bubbline but it’s not exactly the official stance of Adventure Time. This is from her blog:
    “It might seem like this episode is about friendship, but I wanted it to be about honesty! Marceline almost gets the door open because she drops her guard and tells the truth for a second while she sings this song.”
    (http://rebeccasugar.tumblr.com/post/10768697473/im-just-your-problem-the-demo-track)

    The above link also has the chords for “I’m Just Your Problem” which translates pretty well to the uke, if anyone is interested. Her blog also features some Anthy/Utena fanart which, to any anime fan, means super gay. I don’t know if she plays for our team or not, but she’s definitely like a supporting coach or something if not… I’m happy with it. But I’d be surprised if they ever made Bubbline canon just because it’s one of those kid’s shows where there’s a lot of subtexty stuff that only adults will understand…

  9. Thumb up 4

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    I just finished watching the Sky Witch episode and it was much scarier than I was expecting. I love Bubbline though and it’s why I started watching the show. The contrast between Bubblegum and Marceline color-wise just always looks so cool to me so this gallery is awesome! It’s so hard to see their relationship as strictly platonic though so I really hope they make it unquestionably canon and there are more moments because they are just too cute.

  10. Thumb up 4

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    The thing is, Bubbline can be real or it can’t depending on the way they want to develop it. I honestly don’t think Pendleton and co. will ever go down that route.

    It can be speculated that the reason there’s so much tension between the two is because there’s a lot of history — history that we’re not privy to since it took place so far in the past.

    As suggested by the “Simon & Marcy” episode, Princess Bubblegum, or some kind of proto-Bubblegum, existed. Perhaps they were long time friends and they’re not any more. Or maybe they were lovers. The way things are, it can swing either way.

    There’s no doubt that both PB and Marceline had boyfriends in the past. But that’s never to say they hadn’t fallen in love or were in love or are in love or are falling in love with one another. Sometimes I think it might be one-sided. I feel that Peebles must have some kind of romantic love feelings for Marceline, even if Marceline might be oblivious to them or does not reciprocate.

    All I know for sure is that these two girls cared something fierce for one another, and they’re both hurting over it.

    People give PB a hard time too (fans) but her actions in “Sky Witch” just solidifies what a selfless and brave person she is. To give away the most precious thing she owns without even batting an eyelid, just to make Marceline happy, that says a lot.

  11. Thumb up 0

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    You made my week for sure!I actually became interested in Bubbline thanks to Autostraddle -because of that post where it was discussed What Was Missing. I liked the show before watching that ep. but now I love it. I enjoy the subtext a lot and Sky Witch didn’t dissapoint me.
    A little off-topic: since you recommended the Fiona & Cake comic book for this fall, I think many queer readers will love the Lady Lemongrabs’ mini-story in it.

  12. Thumb up 0

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    (Warning for rape culture talk)
    “Ice King also goes from being an un-nuanced villain to a tragic hero”
    …which is really fucked up, since his whole conceit to begin with was that he was ~so lonely~ that he decided to start trying to kidnap young women and force them to marry him?
    The show taking the creepy fucking rapist-wannabe and deciding he should be a major sympathetic character with a fleshed out narrative and other characters deciding he’s ~not such a bad dude after all~ was the main reason I stopped watching it.

  13. Thumb up 0

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    First and foremost, I am a straight male that was raised by all women. When it comes to the bubbline topic, I believe it would really benefit Pendleton ward and his entire Adventure Time brand if they did embrace the fact that they did have a same sex relationship like a princess bubblegum and maceline had in there storyline. I get why they didn’t, cartoon network is a t.v. channel aimed towards children, so something like this wouldn’t happen because the media backlash would be ridiculous. I mean for ducks sake, the first gay football player trying to get into the NFL is under huge criticism for just being gay. He was the SEC defensive player of the year but that’s out the window because of his sexual orientation. As much evidence as there is pointing towards a bubbline situation, stupid ass mainstream has to feel comfortable with a cartoon( although I consider it an animated series because there are changes in the show vs things just going back to the same thing the first episode was) that has a same sex relationship in it. Even though there are states in the U.S.A that allow same sex marriages, people are still uneasy with the idea of today’s media taking the same steps as the government takes. Way to go America, shoot down another minority for several more years of your own selfish views to make yourself feel like its the got damn dark ages.

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