As a child, I constantly watched animated shows. From the age of five to the present day, cartoon television has held a very special place in my heart. From its vibrant colorful landscapes to the interesting storytelling, animated television offers an entire world full of escapism for kids and adults alike. A place where everything can exist.
Which is why it was so difficult to say goodbye to Adventure Time last year. Having watched the exciting and surreal series for 10 seasons (eight years), it was difficult to completely let go. Watching that series finale was like saying goodbye to a childhood friend. Not only had it meant a lot to me personally, but the cartoon was regarded as monumental for the revitalization of cartoons. Adventure Time proved that animation as a medium had the ability to create moving stories for everyone. In the hour-long special, the audience watches a truly moving adventure unravel and gets to witness a happy ending for all the creatures of the Land of Ooo.
As a lesbian, the series held even more importance for me. Although I watched for all the reasons listed above, mostly I watched for two specific characters -- Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen. The princess and sassy vampire duo stole my heart, as well as those of many other LGBTQ viewers. Beginning in the third season, it was teased over and over that the characters had romantic feelings for each other, and as the show began to dive into the complexities of the plot, so did the "hints" of their romantic relationship. The two have never been confirmed as girlfriends, but LGBTQ fans could not look away from the obvious love that sparked between the characters.
I was definitely among those that could not turn away -- especially during the finale. During the last few moments of the show, the past five or so years of chemistry came to fruition. Marceline and Bubblegum rush together and share a kiss in a moment also flooded with relief that they're both safe after the final battle. The episode ends, but not before offering viewers one last shot of the two snuggled up under a blanket, watching TV, and drinking hot cocoa. It's a perfect ending, not only for the show as a whole, but for the viewers who had long awaited a fairy tale ending for the pair. My eight-year wait for same-sex love was finally rewarded.
While Adventure Time is the latest children's show to have offered up LGBTQ representation, modern day children's cartoons like Steven Universe have seriously upped the game when it comes to diversity. So many TV shows, including Adventure Time, have created characters that provide positive representation for the LGBTQ community, often providing heartwarming examples of queer characters. The expansive environments of those shows provide the positive visibility LGBTQ children have always sorely needed.
Beyond Adventure Time, Steven Universe has continually broken barriers with its diverse characters in children's programming. Since its inception, the series has depicted queer love on screen. Gender fluidity has also made up the Steven Universe world. The gemstone aliens, who are sex-less but go by she/her pronouns, exist in that world easily as non-binary people and as women. The fascinating story of intergalactic space battles is wholly intertwined with themes of love and friendship. It's so seamless and natural to that world that inclusion of LGBTQ characters can sometimes go unnoticed. However, for me, and for the young kids that watch Steven Universe, we see ourselves. Watching it, it's easy to know in your heart that we too can be the heroes of these stories.
While right-wing conservatives continually advocate to keep LGBTQ people out of children's media, I know from my lived experience that the inclusion of beautiful stories of equality could do nothing but good. By allowing LGBTQ children, who already exist, to see themselves on TV and within their own programs, they can learn that who they are is acceptable and worthy of love.
While children's television continues to grow more progressive, I'm thankful that a show like Adventure Time paved the way. Confirming the queerness of our two favorite girls in the Land of Ooo was more monumental than some people may believe. Although new cartoons like Clarence and Steven Universe can take over the reins, Adventure Time was a leader in breaking through those walls. That's why that final, happy, queer moment between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum is on continual rewind for me.
BECCA DOWN is a student and a former editorial intern at The Advocate.