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. 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.
So Fred did it go a little far because we’re dealing with queer relationships and that’s just not appropriate? (And all the straight relationships in the show are)
I love you all and I love the show buuut this still feels like a cop out answer to me, and it still feels like you’re erasing queer identities and any queer representation on the show.
There was nothing inappropriate in the cartoon, that’s why I said that CN will run it again and again, like they do with every other show. The only thing wrong was that my Frederator/NY team put up a Mathematical! episode that misrepresented the cartoon itself and its creators, which on any level, I never intended to do.
Hey Fred, I’d like you to read this, if you have the time.
A lot of the fans ship Marceline/Finn, even though the show has confirmed that they don’t like each other that way. He only flirted with her when he had no idea what flirting actually was, and thought you had to make grand romantic overtures to go to the movies as friends. As soon as he found out he was accidentally asking her to be his girlfriend, he was like “wait, what? no.” She turned him down every step of the way. So it’s pretty obvious that, at least for now, they’re not meant to be into each other. At all.
But it’s generally accepted to talk about, you know? Nobody’s going to decide that fans talking about Finn/Marceline is inappropriate. If the Frederator blog talked about Finn/Marceline, then nobody would think it was controversial or decide to pull the video, even though the show is not trying to establish them as a couple right now. Even if the show never intends to establish them as a couple, which is probable.
Also, look at the fanart on the video. Go on, look at it. Now think of your favorite Disney princess movie. If none come to mind, let’s use my favorite Disney princess move, The Princess and the Frog. Here’s a clip. If it’s not immediately obvious, the Marceline/Bubblegum fanart is about the same level of content as the kiss in this movie. Nobody posted fanart of Marceline and Bubblegum having sex, or taking off their clothes. The characters weren’t groping. None of the poses were suggestive of sex. There wasn’t any nudity. In fact, there wasn’t even any real kissing. You could say that the last kiss from Princess and the Frog is even more adult than the fanart on the Frederator video, since Tiana and Naveen’s lips actually touch.
Does that mean that Princess and the Frog is inappropriate for kids? Not at all! By the end, Tiana and Naveen are shown as very in love with each other, but it’s shown as a matter of romance, not a matter of sex. Watching it as an adult, yes, I can tell that sex is probably going to be part of their relationship. But kissing and embracing? Those things by themselves are not indicative of sex, they’re indicative of love. Kids get “two people fall in love with each other”, even if they don’t get “and sex happens.” Love is not inappropriate, and none of that fanart showed Marceline and Bubblegum having sex, it showed Marceline and Bubblegum being romantic.
So tell me one good reason why the fanart is too “spicy”. And don’t you dare say “because two girls.” Because you know what? Two girls are every bit as capable of innocent romance as a boy and a girl are. Yes, the girl/girl romance is going to be seen as much more sexual than the boy/girl one, but that’s not something that queer girls did to ourselves. That’s something that came out of homophobia and exploitation, and by being in a position to treat girl/girl romance as just romance, you’re in a position to teach kids to know better than that.
One good reason. I’m waiting.
Nobody is demanding that Marceline/Bubblegum is made a part of the show. For myself, I’m going to ship it no matter what, if anything, becomes canon. And I know a bunch of people are going to do the same. But 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.
Queer kids who see positive representations of queer people (as in: not based on gross stereotypes, not written as a token, not just a stand-in for the creator’s political opinions on the gays) are less likely to hate themselves when they figure it out. Straight kids who see positive representations of queer people are less likely to be bigoted toward their queer classmates and peers. Do you think maybe this could make a difference? Maybe it’s not a big deal, it’s not like we’ve got straight kids bullying gay kids (and even straight kids that just are thought to be gay) in our schools. It’s not like some of those gay and perceived-gay kids are being tormented so horribly they end up taking their own lives. It’s not like the ones we see on the news are only the ones that actually die, and there are lots more that make attempts, or think about suicide every day… wait, huh. That actually is going on.
Right now, somewhere, there’s a gay kid who is so tortured by the homophobia they face that they desperately want to die.
Stop. Take a moment. Just think about that kid.
Maybe that kid’s going to be okay. Maybe that kid is going to talk to the counselor and get some help. Maybe that kid’s parents are going to be supportive. Maybe that kid has a loving group of friends who’ll help get them through it until they’re old enough to find a community that’s going to actually care about including them.
But maybe not.
And no matter what happens in the future, whether that kid grows up to be happy or whether the pain gets bad enough that they take their own life… right now, that kid is suffering in a way that, unless you’ve been bullied yourself, is impossible to imagine.
Because homophobia is bullying. Homophobia is deciding that 10% of the human population is unacceptable, or needs to change their ways or they’re going to be tortured forever, or maybe should be allowed to exist but kids shouldn’t know about them. You might not think that “gays are okay, but we can’t talk about them around the children!” is homophobia, but it is. You’re saying that 10% isn’t as good as the rest of us. You’re saying they deserve to be hidden away from the “normal” people. You’re saying that people who treat them badly should be catered to, when you’re not thinking about the gay people at all. You’re saying that the people who hate gays and want to make sure their kids do too are worth more consideration than the gay people out there who just want to be treated like human beings.
But you just don’t want kids to be exposed to that yet? Forget that some gay people have known since they were 8, or 12, or 14. Forget that some of those kids are probably going to be in your audience. Forget that 10% of the little boys who watch your show are going to grow up to love men, and 10% of the little girls are going to grow up to love women. Just listen to this: kids are already learning about gay people. Kids learn that gay people are Not Like Us when we talk about them like they’re a whole different species. Kids learn that gay people are not to be included when almost all the relationships they see in the media are heterosexual. Kids learn that homophobia is okay and natural when the adults around them are homophobic themselves, or refuse to take a stand. Kids aren’t stupid. They pick up the attitudes around them. Gay and straight alike, they learn that straight is normal and okay and wonderful, and gay is weird and different and gross.
Remember that kid, from before? Who wants to die? That kid has sure learned about gay people, namely that straight people can treat them however the hell they want to, and unless there’s a body count a bully can get away scot free.
Maybe you’re doing great, maybe slightly annoyed by all those activists bothering you. That kid is still nowhere near okay. You’re probably never going to meet them. If you do, you’re probably never going to know they’re that kid. But that kid is real. Somewhere, that kid exists, and is thinking about suicide right this minute.
And there’s not just one of them.
You might know somebody who used to be one of those kids. You might know somebody who would have been one of those kids, if not for supportive family and friends. Somebody who used to be one of those kids is writing this to you right now.
Do you know why I’m telling you this? It’s not to make you feel bad. It’s because you’re in a position to help, and I want you to understand what this decision actually means. I want you to get that treating gay people like human beings, human beings who want to see relationships and characters they can relate to, is a choice you are facing right now.
Maybe Marceline/Bubblegum is never going to be a part of the show. Maybe they’re just going to reconcile as friends, and hang out together platonically and stuff. Maybe one or both of them will get together with somebody else. Maybe nobody’s going to get together with anybody. And that’s okay. If that’s not the story you want to tell, it’s not the story you want to tell. But there’s a ton of speculation online about ways the story could go, and they can’t all be the story you want to tell. These stories, as long as they involve straight relationships, get brought out into the open and and the discussion is acknowledged by the people in charge. Even when one of the people involved is a child and the other is an adult, it’s not declared unmentionable. To be fair, most Finn/Marceline and Finn/Bubblegum shippers want their pairings to happen once Finn’s grown up a bit, and people can ship whatever they want. But a straight adult/child relationship shouldn’t be totally appropriate when a gay adult/adult relationship is way too much.
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. If Marceline/Bubblegum doesn’t happen, and I’m assuming it won’t, I hope only that the writers treat it like whatever Finn pairing doesn’t happen, or both, if none do. That’s all we’re asking, really. The characters can love whoever the writers want them to love, or nobody. But treat gay romance as romance, not as some weird separate thing gays do that normal people shouldn’t be exposed to. And treat the Marceline/Bubblegum shippers like you’d treat any other shippers. If you show fanart of Finn and Bubblegum getting cuddly, or acknowledge the Marceline/Finn fans, what’s wrong with posting some PG-at-the-worst Marceline/Bubblegum art, or asking people what they think about the pairing in a video? Nobody thinks the writers will change the canon for us, but can’t we at least have an equal space in the fandom?
You’re setting a precedent if you do this. You’re saying that even with straight canon, or mostly romance-free canon, queer fan interpretations are okay. If people see you doing this, then they’ll feel more safe to do it if they want to- and some people do want to. There will be more and more shows that still don’t include prominent non-token gay characters, but that at least try to give their fandoms the impression that it’s not inappropriate to be gay. Fandom’s full of kids, some of whom are going to be queer, some of whom are going to be suffering. You might give somebody hope.
And then in the future, if people want to make a family show that does have a prominent gay relationship, if it’s commonly accepted that queer interpretations are okay, then queer canon is going to be easier to get in. And it’ll be a step toward showing the people of that generation, people of all orientations, that gay people are a normal part of life. It’ll be a step toward a culture where gay people of course end up on shows, because who’d be offended by something like that?
The thing about progress that some people don’t realize, especially people who haven’t been discriminated against, is that it doesn’t just happen with time. Progress happens when people make it happen. If everyone just plays it safe and has it both ways- of course gay relationships are alright, we just don’t want to be associated with the gays- then things stay exactly as they are.
Maybe the status quo is okay for straight people, but it sucks for everyone else. You should be better than that.