Sunday, May 19, 2024

It’s time to make the call: Bubbline is canon

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Not long ago I wrote about how I have no idea what to make of Adventure Timeif I should be annoyed or not. You see, my OTP “Bubbline,” that being Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum and Marceline Abadeer [the Vampire Queen…not that she seems to have subjects about whom she’s particularly concerned], *has* sailed. These two simply are together. That’s what I argued the episode “Broke His Crown” revealed, because I’m sorry, but even flirty friendos do not just casually clean up each other’s faces:

I mean, maybe I’ve just been flirting wrong?

Now, in the comment section, many of you tried to assure me that despite the trollish nature of that episode (“So, you got a boyfriend yet?!”), PB and Marcy are still in “slow-burn” mode; that this is all leading to some future payoff, and we really can look at everything we’re seeing as flirtation. And you know, a part of me actually believed that.

Then “The Music Hole” aired. I don’t know if it’s because I heard there was an episode where Marcy would sing a song and my mind assumed “oh here’s the romantic payoff” so my expectations were subverted; I don’t know if it’s because Cartoon Network has the wonkiest scheduling ever so it feels like Season 7 is basically over; I don’t know if it’s because this picked right up on the trollishness where “Broke His Crown” left off; whatever the reason, any optimism I might have had is gone. They are together, and it happened off-screen. I’m making the call: Bubbline is canon. It is done.

Well, to be fair, it actually happened on-screen, at the end of the “Stakes” mini-series:

“Varmints” showed PB coming to a place where she was ready to allow herself to expose her vulnerabilities and have Marcy back as a girlfriend, and then all of “Stakes” was about Marcy getting to the point where she was mature enough to handle that. The larger romantic beats of their relationship are entirely explicated and really leave almost no room for any sort of deniability (though just enough if you’re working as a Russian TV executive).

What I mean though, is that 100% incontrovertible proof that these two women are romantically involved happened off our screens, and I’m of the opinion it’s likely to stay that way. If I’m proven wrong, I will be the happiest person. But if I’m not, and that’s that for the season, then all we can do is move forward. And how I do that is through thorough, quasi-neurotic analyses.

So without further ado, I bring you Bubbline, The Analysis™.

We know from Marceline’s voice actor Olivia Olson that Bubblegum and Marcy had dated “in the past,” pre-canon. Yes, she did a take-backsies tweet the next day (which she took-backsied itself by deleting it), but I am more than inclined to believe this. I mean…“I’m just your problem” is pretty dang intense for a lost friendship, no?

Bubblegum’s voice actor meanwhile, Hynden Walch, said in a podcast (which I’m sorry, it seems like the original track was deleted):

“And what happened was that Bubblegum grew up, fast, because she had to rule over the Candy Kingdom. And as soon as she became a grownup, or even started acting like one, Marceline didn’t want anything to do with her anymore. So, therefore, Bubblegum has all these abandonment issues, and it’s also a reason why she won’t ever let anyone really get close to her ever again, because her first, and best friend left her. Isn’t that sad?”

That’s supes sad for sure, though “Varmints” sort of introduced some ambiguity there. That it wasn’t just Marcy peacing out, but that maybe PB pushed her away by burying herself in her work. Because she’s a Martell.

The comics, which as far as I know are canonical, support this as well. In Marceline Gone Adrift, we’re treated to PB recalling her past with Marcy, mostly because she’s a ball of guilt over everything that happened, then and now.

Peebs does her thing and dismisses this while talking about how when Marcy gets back, her new kingdom will basically be done. And then this happens:

This is…not platonic

“Varmints” sings a similar tune of PB having buried herself in work and sort of hiding behind it as a way to avoid emotionally honest conversations. Because she’s a mother-flippin’ Martell.

Bubblegum: “I didn’t always have to worry about so many things, you know? The Candy Kingdom used to be so small, so manageable. Then it kept growing and growing and there was always some new disaster to prepare against.”

Marceline: “Is that why you stopped talking to me?”

Bubblegum: “No! I—” [interruption]

Later in the episode, PB continues along this line of thought:

“I tried. I really, really tried. I just…I thought if I shut everything out and just focused on work, it would all be okay. All I managed to do was push everyone away. I pushed you away. I’m sorry Marceline. I’ve been a real dinger to you.”

So from this, we get the impression that while PB loved Marcy, Marcy was never more important than her job, and she eventually got squeezed out because PB never asked her to stay. I’m begging you; read Arianne’s sample chapters.

However, this does sit slightly in contention with what Ms. Walch said, as well as a couple of moments from “What Was Missing.” For instance, in the song Marcy sings, one of the lyrics is:

“I shouldn’t have to prove anything to you. I’m sorry that I exist, I forget what landed me on your blacklist. But I shouldn’t have to be the one that makes up with you.”

The “blacklist” concept is kind of confirmed in “Go With Me,” an episode that pre-dates “What Was Missing” (and thus pre-dates heavier Bubbline subtext), where PB says a very grudging and downright pissy “Hi Marceline,” while Marcy works overtime to pull a prank on her (and potentially sabotage Finn’s efforts to romance her). So you do get the feeling that it wasn’t just PB pushing Marcy away and the vampire being hurt as a result of that because PB actually did have a problem with her. The abandonment reasoning Walch cited makes a ton of sense here. It’s almost like they were both hurt or something.

Which the comics pretty much confirm too:

Add to this one last little exchange from “What Was Missing”:

Marceline: “Ha! Looks like you’re not as perfect as you thought. Guess you can’t judge me anymore.”

Bubblegum: “I never said you had to be perfect!

To me, the best sense of this I can make is fairly speculative, but I do think it’s reasonable. Because on one side we’ve got Marcy who’s so clearly hurting from being pushed away by PB (and a PB saying it was her fault and she was a “dinger”), and on the other we have a PB who felt abandoned and actively angry at Marcy, and a Marcy who felt like she needed to become more “grown up” (the premise for all of “Stakes” ).

In my view, there had to have been some kind of fight. Maybe it was when Marcy got back from her 6-month residency in the Primordial Filth Kingdom (do we even want to know?). But whenever it happened, there was always this tension in their relationship where Marcy felt a bit resentful of PB’s work, and would often try to pull her away from it. And for PB, her work would take priority over everything, even to a fault. Basically, they both made mistakes, they both were people who needed a good bit of reassurances in this department, and they both lacked the ability to have an emotionally honest conversation because of a shared flaw.

So this was a powder-keg waiting to happen. And how I imagine it igniting was something like PB was dealing with Responsibility #482, and Marcy was probably sulking or doing something generally unhelpful, likely because PB hadn’t been giving her much to any attention that week, month, whatever. Keep in mind: Marcy has a dad who she didn’t think cared about her at all at that time, and another parental figure who doesn’t even recognize her; feeling unloved is maybe a bit of an issue for her. At the same time, PB was feeling genuinely stressed because running a kingdom (especially her way) takes a crap-ton of effort.

Cue something snapping, and PB saying something along the lines of “If this is how you’re going to be then get out!” Which Marcy ended up taking very, very literally. Time passes, she doesn’t come back, PB has the weight of a kingdom on her and her only form of support is now gone…so she hardens, and gets to be that pissed off princess we see in “Go With Me,” feeling betrayed and abandoned.

Marcy, for her own part, sees that PB is somehow the one angry with her, and that just turns the knife, making their relationship devolve even further. The sentiment “sorry I don’t treat you like you’re perfect; like all your little loyal subjects do” is rather confirmed with Marcy’s swipe at PB about her soft-hand with the Door Lords. Simply put, things were acrimonious for years. Like…so many years. And while PB was more wont to hide behind her work and ignore that Marcy even existed, Marcy tried to hide her own pain under biting sarcasm and pranks.

Until, of course, Marcy sang “I’m just your problem” to PB, which basically has lyrics that amount to “I’m still in love with you and am really hurt and this sucks,” which was portrayed as bit of a revelation for Peebs:

And then like 5 minutes later Marcy learns that PB kept a shirt she gave her which was a “treasured” item, demonstrating that she obviously still cared too.

Following this, the two women seemed to be on totally friendly terms with one another. Marcy sort of grudgingly admits that she needs PB’s help with a teddy-bear situation, but the two get along fine the whole episode, and end it flying happily home together:

This continues in their smaller interactions, where they’ll joke around through texts with one another, or where PB will seem excited at the prospect of Marcy rapping for her.

The rest is pretty much on-screen history. In “Varmints” PB apologizes for having pushed Marcy out of her life, and Marcy tells her that there wasn’t a need. Then as an almost direct follow-up in the “Stakes” mini-series, Marcy expresses her desire to be mortal, as she feels too “messed up.” She ends up kind of saving the world (though blamed herself for putting in danger), and her take-away once she’s a vampire again is that the experience allowed her to grow up. Which is why she then tells PB:

“Now, I guess we get to hang out together forever.”

Contextualized by their relationship and what happened, this is Marcy admitting that in the past she had been too immature to be the type of support PB needed, likely demanding more of her time than was reasonable given PB’s responsibilities (but she probably also had a point about being pushed to the side…). Which is why I am declaring them as dating now. That’s what the “forever” line meant, and these two are now girlfriends again. The end.

This is a very good thing; we see by “Broke His Crown” that both of these women are finally in a place to support and complement each other in a way that brings out their best. PB will indeed get away from her work when Marcy asks her to so that she can have a karaoke night with her girlfriend’s sorta!dad, while Marcy in turn seems to understand the concept of work-life balance, urging PB to self-care while also recognizing there’s a time for her to take care of business:

Also she thinks PB’s science stuff is rad (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧. No seriously, Marcy was so smiley the entire episode, which after what she went through in “Stakes” was more than a little refreshing to see. Not to mention PB managed to have fun at a party!

“The Music Hole” totally continues on this line. These two simply are dating. PB even casually wears her girlfriend’s necklace from the previous episode!

And you know…they just behave as happy, loving girlfriends.

…happy, loving girlfriends who will also snap into action together quickly to fire a pillow-launching bazooka when the situation demands it. Sometimes it’s best not to ask with this show.

Oh, and I’m going to run away with headcanons about why we weren’t shown the other side of PB’s bed when she answered Jake’s phone call.

We can also certainly read into Marcy’s choice of which Mitski song to perform, since the line “I don’t need the world to see that I’ve been the best I can be, but I don’t think I could stand to be where you don’t see me” seems rather on the nose given the events of “Stakes”:

So there you have it. Marceline and Bubblegum’s relationship. It is canon, and with what we were given, this is the best sense of it I can make.

Now all I can do is sit back and hope that Season 8 will give us a:

Because seriously, I’m dying here.

Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

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