Recently, there has been some fantastic news for Bubbline (Princess Bubblegum/Marceline) shippers everywhere! Olivia Olsen, the voice of Marceline the Vampire Queen and a contributing author for the The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, said at a book signing that Marceline and Princess Bubblegum totally used to date.
In case you are unable to listen or can’t hear the video, this is the full text of what Olsen said:
I was at the studio on Tuesday and Pen was actually there because he was recording for Lumpy Space Princess [crowd goes wild!] and I wanted to ask him a lot of questions, because he’s trying to write the book and stuff, so I wanted to pick Pen’s brain a little bit. And he says, “Oh, you know they (Marceline and PB) dated, right?” And I said, “Wellll, that’s what I figured from all the creepy fan art.” [crowd goes wild again!] And I said, “Are they going to do it on the show at all, 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, it’s sort of illegal.” So that’s why they’re not putting it in the show.
After hearing this statement I, along with many other fans, rejoiced that Bubbline was now canon, but I was also feeling disappointed. My disappointment stems from the fact that still more queer characters in children’s shows and movies are still basically being forced into the closet. While Adventure Time is not without its issues, for the most part it has been a pretty progressive show, especially in its portrayal of female characters and various feminist issues. I had hoped beyond hope that maybe, just maybe Bubbline would soon be canon and that Adventure Time would go down in history as the first children’s cartoon to predominantly feature a queer relationship.
Yet now, despite the confirmation that Bubbline is canon, I can’t help but think: is Bubbline really canon now? Without any actual mention of either character’s sexuality and no actual mention of their relationship in the show, can we really call that representation?
Here we run into the same problems that we did when J.K. Rowling confirmed that Dumbledore was gay. It’s nice that it was confirmed, but without that confirmation being in the books, queer people are left with no one to identify with or see themselves in. Furthermore, it allows for homophobes to simply dismiss or deny the existence of these queer characters despite what the author/writers have said, simply because it’s not in the official canon. More than one person has claimed to me that Dumbledore is not gay because it was never mentioned in the books. I am sure many people will do the same for Princess Bubblegum and Marceline.
In some ways J.K. Rowling seems to have started a disturbing trend in children’s media of hinting at a character being queer and then later confirming that the character is queer in interviews but never actually having those characters’ sexual orientations confirmed in anyway in the actual canon. How to Train Your Dragon 2 did it, and now Adventure Time is doing it.
Now I wouldn’t call this queerbaiting, not necessarily. Queerbaiting is when the producers adds homoerotic tension between two same-sex characters to attract queer and/or liberal audiences, with no intention of actually revealing that the characters are queer. In most of the cases with the children’s shows/books/movies listed above, and especially in Adventure Time, all the characters are directly hinted at being queer, and their queerness is always immediately admitted by The Powers That Be. But this is still a lack of representation. Queer characters should not be an Easter egg in a TV show/movie that fans need to keep their eyes peeled for. Now, especially with children’s media, it is possible that this is done simply because the producers/network worry about adding things that are considered “adult” or “controversial” to more conservative viewers. Heather Hogan from After Ellen writes:
There have been rumors swirling around for years that the Adventure Time creative team has gone as close to the edge as Cartoon Network will allow them to go with PB and Marceline.
If these rumors are true, not just for Adventure Time but for other children’s shows and movies as well, it may explain the recent trend of Easter Egg Queers — if you look hard enough you can find and enjoy it, but you can also dismiss it without changing or affecting the story in anyway.
However, these rumors were never really confirmed until recently, with Olivia Olsen admitting that Adventure Time airs in places where gay marriage is illegal, which is why Bubbline will never be on the show. And while I understand the show’s creators and producers not wanting to cause controversy or risk getting canceled, here at Lady Geek Girl & Friends we always discuss how the media can transform and change people’s perceptions, and there is a large part of me that wishes Adventure Time would take the risk and just have Marceline and Princess Bubblegum date in the show. But on the other hand maybe having these Easter Egg Queers is necessary, at least for now. It is, after all, better for queer children to see themselves in these hidden queer characters than have the show get canceled and these kids having nothing. It’s a fine line.
So is Bubbline really canon? No, probably not. Not in the real, out in the open way that we would like. But as a queer woman I will continue to think of them as canon even if that is never realized in the actual show.