Princess Bubblegum & Marceline: Still Just Almost Girlfriends

It’s only natural that the first post on my shiny new blog should be about these two, isn’t it?

Let me preface this post by saying that I love Princess Bubblegum and Marceline and Bubbline and Sugarless Gum, all of that — whatever you’d like to call it, I ship it. Hard. I may not be a long-time Adventure Time fan; I have not experienced firsthand the “What Was Missing” controversy, the joy delivered when Sky Witch premiered, and so on. I jumped on-board late, binge-watched my way to this pairing, which washed over me with all its fluffy, tumultuous grace. I was vaguely aware that it was a popular ship as I made my way up to “What Was Missing”; I transcended as I witnessed Marceline’s impromptu, angst-ridden love ballad to Peebles; I immediately rewatched “Go With Me”, eager to see the pair’s first on-screen interaction; I stormed ahead to “Sky Witch”. I filled my tumblr with all the lovely fanart in existence for the couple, bemusing my followers who already taunted me for my FemShep/Liara obsession; I formed headcanons, all of it.

In that same vein, I would love to see the two become canon — not just because I ship them as I do, but because representing bi or pan1 people2 and relationships on television — children’s television, no less! — is top priority here.

That being established, I think we need to rewind a little bit and go through the history (which, if you’re reading this post, probably isn’t any kind of news… but bear with me).

Following the première of “What Was Missing” — essentially, Bubbline gospel — a promotional video series titled Mathematical! posted a recap of the episode, as they were wont to do. In it, they commented on the “possible subtext” within the episode, using some of Natasha Allegri’s more suggestive art. The video was pulled, Mathematical! was discontinued, and a man fired. While fans speculated otherwise, cancelling Mathematical! did not, apparently, come from Adventure Time or Cartoon Network. Since, “Sky Witch” and the Adventure Time comics have tantalized fans waiting for the ship to become canon, but not much more. Oh, and Marceline made good on her promise to drink the red from Bubblegum’s “pretty pink face” in Red Starved.

Back into the (almost) present, Olivia Olson — the voice actress for Marceline — appeared at a Barnes & Noble panel, where a fan asked her about the relationship between PB and the Vampire Queen…

[Pendleton Ward] said “Oh, you know they dated right?” And I said “That’s what I figured from all the creepy fanart… are they going to do it on the show? Or can we say anything about it in the book?” and he’s like “I don’t know about the book but in some countries where the show airs that sort of thing is illegal,” so that’s why they’re not putting it in the show. So who knows, maybe there will be something about it in the new episodes that we’re not supposed to talk about…

See the video here, which, as you might have guessed, was shared almost instantly. A day later, Olivia Olson tweeted:

I like to make things up at panels. Ya’ll [sic] take my stories way too seriously…

The tweet was subsequently deleted, but is preserved by the lovely TweetPoster. Sounds a lot like damage control, to me — if I had to guess, Olson was relaying genuine information, realized the video had blown up, attempted to cover up her tracks — albeit gracelessly — and then deleted the tweet for some reason (likely because it was so sloppy).

Six days later, Buzzfeed picked up the news, and HuffPo not long after that, both assuring readers that the couple was confirmed.

And don’t get me wrong — I’m thrilled. Absolutely jazzed, not just because this has given the Bubbline tag new life on tumblr (even if it’s just excited gifs from even more excited fans, which is precious in its own right). But we haven’t reached canon yet. Of course, the very definition of canon is complex. One needs only scratch the surface of the multiple levels of canon within the Star Wars universe to understand just how complicated it can be, but absolute canon strictly adheres to only the source material — that is, the Adventure Timeshow — and official, “word of God” statements (which a paraphrased account from a voice actress is not).

Yo people need to quit saying that Bubbeline is canon because the Marceline voice actress said so. Unless it’s on the show it’s not canon!
It’s cute and sweet and she’s a delight but it isn’t canon
I wish!
They won’t let me put it in the books

Kate Leth on Twitter

I’m not harboring any delusions of Prubs and Marceline making out on-screen, of course — I acknowledge that this is a children’s show, though light kissing has become commonplace since Finn’s relationship with Flame Princess, and mature subject matter isn’t exactly excluded either. Until we have that in-show confirmation, though, I’m dubious about dubbing the two “canon.” I can’t blame those who do, though — with the extremely limited representation of queer romances in the media, and the few being shown often being problematic, fans have to take what they can get. It’s a time to celebrate, certainly. But we’re not out of the closet yet — and that’s not just my preferences on what is and isn’t canon speaking.

Given all the wonderful, beautiful qualities and nuances of the show, I have faith in them to do it. Adventure Time is one of the most popular children’s shows out there today because it doesn’t underestimate its audience; it doesn’t shy away from subject matter because it might be controversial or uncomfortable, even if often done allegorically (I’m looking at you, “Lemonhope”). I want the Adventure Time crew, and Cartoon Network by extension, to have the bravery to stick their necks out and stand up for the cause of representation.  To have such a popular show openly come forward with two of its major characters in a bi/pan relationship would be earth-shattering. Little steps are great, but we should not satisfy ourselves with less than what the show is capable of and what fans — and children, and queer people, — deserve.

  1. It’s unclear which. Many people — including myself, in the past — have labelled the two and/or the relationship as lesbian, incorrectly as both have dated or otherwise been romantically involved with men (Marceline with Ash, PB with Mr. Creampuff, Braco, and Finn, the latter two arguable). Furthermore, I think it would be most important to allow the characters — and therefore, the creators, — to choose whichever term they sexually identify with, if any. But I digress, and find bi or pan most accurate. 

  2. Also they’re not exactly people. One is made out of candy and the other is a demon/human/vampire hybrid. But, FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES. 

Responses to “Princess Bubblegum & Marceline: Still Just Almost Girlfriends”

  1. […] In her Astral Plane song, she similarly reflects on how seeing so many live and die has left her to view others as nobodies, and how time distances her from cherished memories. The image of “a trash bag when it’s windy out” is especially interesting, as it apathetically allows nature to carry it through the air. The “butt that has a face” line seems also to be an expression of Marceline’s low sense of self-worth, which is explored with more focus in the (fantastic) comic series Marceline and the Scream Queens. Adventure Time manages to sneak in a reference to farting (the fifth line was originally “‘hot boxing up the palace’ but it was changed to avoid a possible drug reference, although that wasn’t the intention”)((, and the fact that it refers to a palace — and a female subject — definitely hints at a certain, also lonely and isolated, Princess, with whom Marceline has a troubled past. […]

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  3. […] only part-time, I’ve dabbled in a variety of niches, all of which I’ve enjoyed — media representation, literary and lyrical analysis (the latter twice!), video game reviews, and some more personal […]

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