A recent Adventure Time episode, "What Was Missing," featured Princess Bubblegum (a science whiz) and Marceline (the Vampire Queen) joining Finn and Jake (the show's stars) on a quest to retrieve their most prized possessions (stolen by the Door Lord). Marceline begins a song on her bass guitar to get through the Door Lord's door, a song that turns out to be about her...complicated feelings about Princess Bubblegum. You can watch her song at Cartoon Network.
In the "Mathematical!" video recap for the episode (behind-the-scenes videos featuring commentary and storyboards), explicit reference was made to Marceline's and Bubblegum's potentially un-platonic relationship. (It also includes an episode recap that is a bit more succinct than the 500 emotional words I initially had to say about the episode, and decided to cut...for your sake).
Towards the end of the Mathematical! video, the narrator says, "In this episode, Marceline hints that she might like Bubblegum a little more than she'd like to admit. Maybe a little more than [she likes] Finn?" Some illustrations of Marceline and Bubblegum being...more than just friends are shown. " ...See where I'm going with this?" the narrator picks up again. "What do you think about Marceline and Bubblegum...getting together? Does that leave Finn out in the dust or is it just adorbz?"
CLEARLY IT'S THE LATTER. "What Was Missing" handled female desire--female queer desire at that--in a subtle but complex way, and did a great job (I thought) of decentering 13-year-old Finn's hetero crush on Bubblegum (an ongoing plot point) to focus on a more mature, queer relationship. Also, how awesome is it that the Mathematical! vid is so open about a consenting, cartoon, lesbian relationship being "adorbz"?
Oh wait. The video above was re-posted by a fan because the original, official one was taken down. Fred Seibert, an executive producer of the show, and founder of Frederator (which runs Channel Frederator, which runs the Mathematical! shows) posted the following:
Well, I completely screwed up. There's been chatter on the internet recently about our latest Adventure Time "Mathematical!" video recap that we created, posted, and removed here at Federator [sic]. I figure it's time to clear up the matter.
In trying to get the show's audience involved we got wrapped up by both fan conjecture and spicy fanart and went a little too far. Neither Cartoon Network nor the Adventure Time crew had anything to do with putting up or taking down our latest re-cap. The episode "What was Missing" remains a terrific short and will be shown again and again just like any other Adventure Time episode.
I let us goof in a staggering way and I'm deeply sorry it's become such a distraction for so many people.
It's hard not to see Seibert's language as pretty coded: By "spicy" fan art, I think he was referring to the depictions of Bubblegum and Marceline being more than just friends (though the images in the video are, at most, PG-13), and by "distraction" I think he means "distracting for people who were really excited to see their life experience reflected back at them for once." What the math, man?
One Adventure Time fan wrote a thoughtful an lengthy response on their Tumblr, with many concerns other commenters echoed. Here's an excerpt:
It's not unreasonable to demand that queer romance gets treated the same as straight romance. Don't sweep it under the rug when people think two girls would make a great couple, because you know what? A lot of those fans are women who love women, or men who love men, themselves. A lot of those fans can look back and see signs that they were attracted to the same gender even as kids. Even back when they were in the target demographic for shows like… oh, I don't know. Maybe Adventure Time. [...] The writers don't have to cater to us in the story, but let us treat gay pairings like an actual possibility, because girl/girl love reflects the real lives of many of the fans...Treat gay romance as romance, not as some weird separate thing gays do that normal people shouldn't be exposed to.
Rest a little assured, though. Two members of Adventure Time's creative team, Natasha Allegri (who Ann profiled here) and Rebecca Sugar have both, on their own websites, referenced "Bubbline" (that's Bubblegum + Marceline), and their allusions don't seem to be going anyway. Allegri has illustrated the two characters in many a loving embrace, and Rebecca Sugar wrote the following about the episode: "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."
Spicy! From natazilla.tumblr.com
Plus, other folks involved with the show seem to be heartily encouraging fans to interpret the episode however they would like to. The most important indicator though is the response of fans--there's several renegade "Mathematical!" videos up on YouTube and the Bubbline fan-art fountain is, well, bubbling. I feel like there's a glimmer of hope out there for this queer cartoon subtext to turn into a queer cartoon subplot. (And a main plot would be great too some day...)
"Adventure Time"'s Animated Lesbian Subtext Is Too Hot for TV [Autostraddle]
Internet Crush: Adventure Time's Natasha Allegri [Bitch Media]