Adventure Time Gay Subtext: “Spicy” or Adorbz?

Bubblegum is seated as Marceline floats towards her, it looks like an intimate moment between these two cartoon characters.

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.”

another illustration of Marceline and Bubblegum. Marceline's head is in Bubblegum's lap. Marceline is sticking out her tongue at Bubblegum in an instigating way, but Bubblegum doesn't seem to mind
Spicy! From

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]

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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27 Comments Have Been Posted

Gay relationship would be the most normal thing ABOUT that show

My ten-year-old loves Adventure Time, and I have to say that a thinly veiled gay romance on that show would be the most "normal" (in other words, found in REALITY) aspect of that show. I normally LOVE weird stuff, but that show is some WEIRD STUFF! In other words, for adults who get disturbed at gay narratives in children's programming, this would not have been the first time something in Adventure Time will have DEEPLY disturbed them.


There IS a lot of weird stuff going on in Adventure Time as well as a lot of thinly-veiled adult issues as subtexts. I think that's why it attracts an audience of 20-30 somethings as well (like me!), and why "What Was Missing" struck such a chord.

But in addition to all the wacky stuff, I also think you're right there are some disturbing subtexts as well--like intoxication in the episode where Jake doesn't know how he ended up at a party because he "blacked out" from laughing at his own jokes too hard. But DEFINITELY what I think there SHOULD be controversy over is the Ice King, who is often shown tricking women into being romantic with him, imprisoning princesses, and just in general being an unconsensual creep. Sure he's the number one villain of the show, but I feel like there's not enough inner-show commentary about why what he does is so wrong. I have a lot to say about that, but I'm not sure the blog needs another 1000+ word post on Adventure Time
; )

A Controvery Unveiled

It is understandable that many people are concerned about a children show containing more controversial issues, such as gay relationships, but as mentioned above, there are more controversial issues that are presented in this show. The writers clearly understand who their target audience is and choose to write episodes of the show based upon the age group(s) that watch the show. Now, I'm not saying young children watch this show because they clearly do, but they are not the main audience group. I started watching this show not too long ago and noticed the rich adult humor mixed into a whimsical child's cartoon, wondering what parents would let their kids watch this very adult-humor focused show? However, after watching the show with my five year old cousin, I realized that young children are not watching the show at all for the "deep meanings" but for the sole purpose of watching a show that is visually pleasing and a brave kid having a quote on quote "play-date" with his morphing dog. It may seem as if I am going on a tangent discussing this show, but I feel this is relevant to the reason as to why a queer relationship is being shown on a children show. I feel as if we shelter children too much, trying to constantly keep them from being exposed to more controversial issues. By exposing children at young ages, we can discuss with our children that not all relationships consist of a man and a woman. Now, if you don’t agree with children being exposed to this issue, then you should not let your child watch this show because, as said before, this is not the only problematic issue that is being shown on this show. The problem with today’s society is that we feel we need to constantly protect our children and the younger generation from these issues, but we must understand that it is the younger generations that are more accepting of gay relationships. Also, it should be noted that some children recognize themselves as being transgendered by as young as age 4. It is the older generations that are making these issues way more problematic than they need to be. Just because a child watches a relationship between two people of the same sex does not mean that the child is going to automatically turn gay. Honestly, stop worrying about exposing your children to issues that we are exposed to every single day. Ultimately, what you tell your children heavily influences them. Now, I’m not saying that the media doesn’t influence children because it does; I’m simply saying that a homosexual relationship is the least problematic issue a child could be exposed to in today’s society. I’m sick of people “freaking out” over media that chooses to actually show stuff that goes on in the real world other than men being dominant and women being emotional and inferior, portraying the “damsel in distress” stereotype. Seriously, quit bitching because this isn’t a big deal at all.

Yeah...I oscillate between

Yeah...I oscillate between thinking that the Ice King is a really sympathetic villian/hilarious part of the show...and feeling really bothered by the rapey vibe I get from him. I have totally thought about this on many occasions.

AT club

i LOVE what adventure time is doing most of the time. giving children some surreality, some otherworldliness, to compare to the world they inhabit is an invaluable teaching tool. an outside perspective is an important and challenging concept and i think this show does a great job of conveying this to kids. paired with relatable characters that change and make mistakes this show is a wonderful way to spend some tv time.

i love that the show seems to always have a 'right' thing to do that turns out to be wrong. it shows that people and actions aren't usually just good or evil but are complex, and require an understanding of the other's experiences. it upturns the concept of 'the other' more completely and imaginatively than any i can remember. they take a strong stance on consent ('nobody flicks me in the butt without my consent!'- finn) and attack controlling, manipulative relationships.

obviously i ADORE this show and would recommend it to any- and everyone. but it's not perfect and neither are the people who make it. it's easy for me to imagine a scene where cartoon network execs called up the producer and demanded an apology be posted. at the end of the mathematical recap there was a phone number to call with comments and someone could have made a threatening call and CN didn't want to get involved. BUT, that's all optimistic thinking, me not wanting the producers to really have done this. it was not on cartoon network's site, it was on the studio's, and they hold responsibility. it's disgusting what they did.

at least the creators are encouraging community involvement by not attacking the fan vids or censoring the actual show. the full fionna and cake episode was on youtube for a few weeks from the day it aired, uploaded by someone else. there's a website devoted to streaming full episodes. the artists seem to have full say on what they post on their personal tumblrs, and the show stands as it originally aired. i hope they continue to put queer characters in the show. another vote for a queer main plot!

thank you for shining more light on this and opening a new place to talk about it! i consider myself a more-than-casual fan of the show and i hadn't heard anything about this.

again with the ice king...

I agree with almost everything you have to say! however I'm not sure about AT's "strong stance on consent," mostly with the handling of the Ice King, on of the major characters. (Finn's line about butt-flicking is, in my opinion, just one line in one episode uttered by the protagonist, and doesn't really have that much power, to me. I mean, how many Princesses have you heard say something similar?). I feel like the Ice King's incredibly unconsensual character is treated really lightly, and he's shown to be a pathetic character more than a dangerous one. Most interactions resemble the following: "Oh Ice King! You're just always kidnappin' princessses! When will you ever learn hahahah!" instead of there being a message conveyed that there's something seriously effed up about a manipulative male character with power holding women hostage.

Ice King Debate

I agree with what you have to say, but at the same time, I feel as if you are taking the idea of male power too much into consideration when it comes to the Ice King. Sure, the characters react lightly to his acts, but that goes to show how powerless he truly is. Look at the other characters and how they are portrayed: Princess Bubblegum is a GIRL, which shows that women can be in charge of themselves along with an entire kingdom. Also, Marcelline is an independent woman that lives on her own and is powerful. Lumpy Space princess may not be one of the more regular characters, but she left home to go and live on her own and experience a new place to live and meet new people. So, while the Ice King's character does portray the typical male dominating role, there are still characters in the show that break the barriers of the typical male and female stereotypes.

Guys, guys, guys! Enough with

Guys, guys, guys! Enough with the queer this and queer that! It's an outdated word...

what's a better word, then?

"Queer" is a word that has been reclaimed by non-cis and non-straight folk. It encompasses everyone under the TBLG umbrella, and potentially QIA as well. It's a great word! I'm a bi/pan person who notices that people tend to omit the "B" word (bisexual) while simultaneously talking about people who are gay, lesbian, and/or trans. Let's fight for queer solidarity!



guys they've clearly broken up or something

WHY is everyone like "best couple evar!" ??

While there is definitely the implication of something more than friendship between the girls in the song, what's REALLY clear is that they are in a fight. Or maybe they broke up! We know that all is not well between them: "I shouldn't have to be the one to make up with you!" Also "I'm just your problem," Duh.

So...why are we exposed to this same sex relationship/friendship now that it's over and in the "how do we learn to be friends again" stage? It's not just that the show has to hint around it in code. It's that the show has to hint around in code that something happened and is now over.

(Also... I love this episode and I adore the implication that Marceline and Bubblegum may be bisexual--they'e both had boyfriends in the past. I get why it's exciting! Bi girls in an awesome cartoon show! Yay! But still. They've broken up.)

Adventure Time Gay Subtext: "Spicy" or Adorbz? | Bitch Media

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Appreciate it

Well so what... a man shouldnt get fired posting true stuff

Marceline and PB are said to be bi or lesbians. So what everyone is making like a big deal and you fire someone a take down the video. Its part of their realastionship. So why do all this grab a crap.

Look I am all for gay rights

Look I am all for gay rights but these people who support it never think of the other side of it. Yes people are against it and people always will be. Calling them stupid or ignorant is terrible because it's mostly because of religion. The bible DOES say some things about gay marriage though Jesus never does. Putting gay things into adult shows is okay but when you openly put it into a cartoon than it's wrong because it is not taking into account the views of the other families. I know that the song wasn't really too explicit but most of the comments here are talking about actually making Marceline and Bubblegum date which is wrong. Other families who are Christian will be offended if their kids are taught that it's okay through tv. Everyone has a right to believe whatever they want I believe in gay rights however I can completely understand why someone would be against it as long as they dont hate you.

Well, no. Homophobes are called ignorant because that is precisely what homophobia is. There is literally not a single, logical reason to marginalize non-heterosexuals. Yes, that means "the bible says its wrong" is an illogical reason. If a Christian family, or any other family, has a problem with the show, they could simply watch something else.

Honestly, apply your logic to something else. What if someone said "don't put Jews or Blacks or Asians into a kids show. Some people think it's wrong, so they should be excluded." With no sound logic supporting them, that person will rightfully be called exactly what he/she is: ignorant.

Uh....that's not quite how it works.

Well, no. Homophobes are called ignorant because that is precisely what homophobia is. There is literally not a single, logical reason to marginalize non-heterosexuals. Yes, that means "the bible says its wrong" is an illogical reason. If a Christian family, or any other family, has a problem with the show, they could simply watch something else.

Honestly, apply your logic to something else. What if someone said "don't put Jews or Blacks or Asians into a kids show. Some people think it's wrong, so they should be excluded." With no sound logic supporting them, that person will rightfully be called exactly what he/she is: ignorant.

Well, no. Homophobes are

Well, no. Homophobes are called ignorant because that is precisely what homophobia is. There is literally not a single, logical reason to marginalize non-heterosexuals. Yes, that means "the bible says its wrong" is an illogical reason. If a Christian family, or any other family, has a problem with the show, they could simply watch something else.

Honestly, apply your logic to something else. What if someone said "don't put Jews or Blacks or Asians into a kids show. Some people think it's wrong, so they should be excluded." With no sound logic supporting them, that person will rightfully be called exactly what he/she is: ignorant.


Sorry about the triple post. I didn't realize it took that long for one reply to show up, so I posted thrice thinking my messages weren't getting through.

Look I'm a Christian

I see your point and I respect it but I have to put my 2-sense in.
The Bible was man written. And almost EVERY branch of Christianity has their little version of the Bible. Along with other religions- they have their books in which speak about their Gods. But just like you said: the Bible mentions about Gay marriage- but Jesus didn't. and We will never have proof of what happened and what Jesus really said; if that occasion really did occur for that matter. There's a fine line between religion and ignorance, and I believe too many people are being ignorant bastards.

To which I must say: I see where you're coming from, but honestly I think there's more teenagers and adults watching this show than actual kids. What I think needs to be done: this show should be removed from its original air time and show at 10:30- 11 PM. So most parents that are too worried about their children's sake from this show can put them to bed before it shows. Because obviously if a parent is so deeply concerned about the message their children may recieve from the show- they can just block it. Spongebob Square Pants was originally a sex ed project created by college students. Look where that show landed- in the eyes of millions of children.

I hope you get what I'm trying to say.

Who cares?

It's not like they're having sex. It's not porn. It should keep doing what it's doing. Now a days, things like these should be promoted. The bible had nothing to do with this. As I can say, I'm agnostic, but if God was real, he gave us a gift called "free will." And people can do what they want, this show is innocent, and perfectly suitable for kids. It's not like they're teaching how to rape, or murder. It's not like they're promoting sex. It's just two people who like each other. And they happen to be both girls.
It's not a big deal.
And as for your religion, I respect it dearly, and I hope you don't think I'm coming off as mean.

"What is missing" I do not think it is gay.

While not against the idea of Marci and bubbles together I don't think the "What was missing" gave a strong enough indication that they are anything but friends. It seemed more like two girls who are friends but fight a lot. I think Marceline might feel that bubblegum is really snooty and puts her nose up to her. I think despite this she really wants to be friends with bubblegum but is left feelings inadequate by it all. Marceline probobly doesn't care to follow any of bubblegums rules so probobly gets corrected a lot by PB.

As to how polite company must act and musnt act. Since Marceline is probobly very head strong she might take this as an insult or attack. I think they are more like best freinds but not lovers. I guess since women are close to each other anyways that any type of interaction might be gay. Given anything you are really stretching for this to be so. This episode was one of my favourite episodes that I have watched. This and the Fionna & Cake part one and part two(bad little boy). While I do believe given the characters this relationship might be in the realm of possibility I do not think this is a big enough hint.

Two men hugging is not an indication they are in sexual relations to one another. It might just be two men hugging. Man grabbing a mans butt or something like that might be an indication. You can not take the term"I want to drink the red from your pretty pink face" as indication either. As if you look at many other things Marceline says random crap like that all the time. I dont think her songs ALWAYS mean something. As for losing her song I think she just ran out of what else she could sing and thats the only thing that came to her head. I also think she was singing her thoughts at that very moment. I mean she drinks the colour red. Why would she not want to drink the pink from Bonnibells face?

Pink is indeed a shade of red. So of course she wants to drink from bonni. She also drained jake when they first met. So is it not like she has not sucked colour out of her friends before. Why is that really all that suprising.? I also think her remark to bonnibell was frustration as she feel she messed up in front of her and the pressure of having to prove herself in front of the ever prissy delightful Bubblegum. So I do not think this was in anyway gay. I also dont know why people are picking on this episode either when we have another clearly gay scene from adventure time in the wizard compitition. They have that pink guy which if you look at kind of looks like omg..... ok if no one is smart enough to see this I wont say anymore.

The fact everyone misses this shit and trys to say "What is missing" is possibly gay is ridiculous. You are all so blind. You had credible evidence to indicate certien things but you completely ignore it. Clearly anyone saying this show are gay do not really care about the "Adventure time series" or they would see the obvious stuff that is questionable. I am a big fan of Adventure time and very observant. If you are going to pick one episode why dont you want the whole series? If you dont you have no room to talk.

Since you clearly are missing EVERYTHING! You can also watch all the shows online if you know where to look and they post the new episodes every week. I dont think finn will ever be with PB nomatter how old he gets either. I think pb cares about Finn a lot but sees him as a little brother. I think the main cast (Marceline, Bonnibell, Jake, lady,ice king) sees Finn as a little brother or little kid. Ice king is just nutty so can can exclude him from the list. Everyone in the main cast seems older and probobly love finn but they see him as a little kid. Marceline:1000, Bubblegum:18, Jake:28 IceKing: 1043 Lady: well uhm not sure how old she is but probobly closer to jakes age. I dont think lady would be that old.

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I really appreciate this post. I


I didn't pick up on any lesbian undertones, I just thought Marceline was frustrated because Bubblegum is so pretty, perfect, and proper, etc. I usually notice the weird or more adult subtexts and stuff, but this one just flew right by me! I do love how the writers leave all that stuff up to your imagination by just inserting vague, maybe-suggestive lines or images. Such a great show.

I enjoy the subtext, but I

I enjoy the subtext, but I think that if I were them, I would have taken down the video as well. The whole fun behind the subtext was fans figuring it out anyway - it was a fun and sweet addition to the show, but it was supposed to be something you had to look for in order to find, right? So an official from the show confirming it as true is just sort of... boring, isn't it? It's more interesting to keep it a wink-wink-nudge-nudge type thing. And as far as I can see, it's still totally there as subtext - the recent Sky Witch episode only proves that.

I'm 15, and I love Adventure

I'm 15, and I love Adventure Time. In all honesty, I think the following episodes in seasons 5&6 should build up to Marceline spilling the beans about her affection for Pb, and Pb admitting her feelings back to Marceline. Since "What Was Missing" was interpretted by fans in so many ways, I personally think Marceline and Princess Bubblegum should have a 'more than friends' romance between eachother that was based off of a previous friendship which was broken from Marceline going behind Pb's back and talking about her to cover up her true feelings for Pb.
In reality, things like that happen, as do gay/lesbian romances. I have nothing against it, nor should others. I'm all for it. Everyone else should be too. Because believe it or not, homosexual relationships DO HAPPEN. and I believe that the kids now-a-days need to realize they do happen, and having a cartoon as showing a slight and minor gay romance might influence them it's not a bad thing. If shows and movies can air heterosexuality, can they not air homosexuality or even pans? I think yes. Yes they CAN.

Marceline and Bubblegum

I am 13 and I love adventure time, I love the characters, the back story line (Nuclear war) and last but not least the couples. I'm pretty sure Pen Ward wanted them to be something more than friends but Cartoon Network shot it down due to 'inappropriate' love or whatever. But seriously, I don't see why Marcy and Bonnibel being a couple is any more shocking than Finn and Flame Princess and Jake and Rainicorn.

For globs sake, if a dog can get a rainicorn pregnant and go to 'tier 15' why can't a vampire and a princess be together?

I think Pen left various hints in the show like in the episode "Sky Witch" with Bonnibel and Marceline's t-shirt.
If it was a girl sniffing a boys shirt nobody would question the relationship.

One last thing is I'm sure the episode "Go with Me" is Marceline's jealous attempt to turn Bonnibel against Finn so maybe they can get back together...


Look, I'm all for gay rights and I have nothing against queers, but I see their relationship as best friends that fell out and want to repair the relationship but don't know how.
I think it's really rude for people who say that all people who don't support it are stupid or homophobic or something. I don't see them as lovers, and that's my opinion. It's only hinted, you can say Sky Witch proves it but I don't believe that, and I still see them as ex-friends only.
So you shouldn't call the producers 'awful' and stuff just because they don't agree that the pairing is canon, or they say it's up for interpretation. It's not canon, and personally I don't really want a whole episode centered around their romance like other people want, because it seems a bit pointless and I don't support that pairing.

So that's my opinion basically. TLDR; I don't support Bubbline and I only see them as friends.

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