By expanding the shared backstory of the two characters in Adventure Time: Distant Lands – Obsidian, the series recognized and solved the serious problem of representation that arose in its initial release. The popular Cartoon Network show was liked by both children and adults with its bright colors, bright humor and touching stories that touch on really important life issues. In particular, the show attracted a large number of fans from the LGBTQ+ community due to the many aspects encoded in a strange way. However, some felt that the show needed an explicit representation of LGBTQ+.
One of the main advantages of Adventure Time was that they knew when to take things seriously. It intertwined with storylines about war, trauma, abandonment and loss of identity. He even dealt with existential crises in his episodes, which featured a Lich, a being who wanted to bring darkness and destruction to the Land of Uuu. When it hinted at a romantic relationship between two young women, viewers were thrilled with the promise that the show would take LGBTQ+ issues just as seriously. When “Adventure Time” struggled to go beyond hints, fans began to wonder why it didn’t stick to the plot.
Only in the finale of the series “Adventure Time” did LGBTQ+ fans receive an award for their dedication: Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, the vampire queen, finally kissed on the screen. While this eventually confirmed the strange coding that viewers noticed throughout the series, others were disappointed that it took so long for the couple to be canonized. So Adventure Time: Distant Lands — Obsidian almost serves as an apology, devoting an hour to exploring and contextualizing relationships. To Adventure Time’s credit, the delay in the official release of Bubline was not due to a lack of effort. Behind the scenes, the couple’s biggest advocate was writer and storyboard artist Rebecca Sugar—eventually the creator of “Stephen’s Universe,” Cartoon Network’s more openly queer show. But the desire of the network to remain in demand on the international market limited the creators’ ability to develop the story more actively.
Starting with the 3rd season of “Adventure Time”, we got a little acquainted with the common past of Gum and Marceline. One of Gum’s favorite shirts originally belonged to Marceline, and in the episode “What Was Missing” Marceline sings a song that hints at a complicated romantic past. Later, the characters shared small, tender moments, for example, Marceline stayed with Gum and took care of her after the latter lost her crown due to the manipulative King Uuu. However, there was no explicit talk of an affair. So “Adventure Time: Distant Lands — The Romance of Obsidian” seemed like a much-needed course correction.
What pleased LGBTQ+ viewers even more was that “Adventure Time: Distant Lands — Obsidian” was not the couple’s origin story. Instead, he focused on the complex nature of the relationship. At the beginning of the special’s timeline, the couple recklessly breaks up after a clash of heads while Gum is trying to save the Glass Kingdom. Centuries later, after they have revived their romance, they must return to the Glass Kingdom and face the problems that led to their breakup in the first place. Instead of making it a simple story about a meeting, Obsidian depicts a bold, multi-layered queer relationship.
Adventure Time: Distant Lands — Obsidian helped strengthen the legacy of Adventure Time. It also allowed the creators to finally do justice to Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s relationship, which they deserved. By making their relationship the driving force in the episode, he perfectly resolved the show’s earlier problems with explicit queerness.