„Girls like us just gotta stick together.“
Finn and Jake are Adventure Time’s protagonists, and both are male. It is thus no surprise that the theme of female friendship is seldomly featured on this show, a fact „Princess Day“ tackles rather pointedly: set at Princess Day, an event in which most of the show’s irregular female cast gathers and uses to bond.
Breakfast kingdom hosts this year’s Princess Day, but not everyone is thrilled: Lumpy Space Princess gets sick of the other princesses‘ wailing, throws one of her temper tantrums and leaves the room. Another guest, Marceline the Vampire Queen, agrees with her sentiments – together, they plot some mischief…
Spoilers for the episode as well as the movie Thelma and Louise from here onwards.
To get this out of the way first: LSP is an annoying character. Adventure Time sometimes has an ill-conceived attachment to the character, possibly because its creator, Pendleeton Ward, lends his voice, and possibly because the drama queen’s antics may be popular with kids. Frequently, though, her constant blabbering prove to be rather one-note, but at least „Princess Day“ uses it to good effect, simply because this time, she is right for once. The princesses do needlessly bitch around in what is possibly a reference to an all-girls class at school – notice how the tables and chairs are arranged just like in a school class room.
What also works really well is the pairing of LSP and Marceline – a first, as far as I can remember. Lumpy Space Princess‘ childish want of revenge (for effectively uninviting her of a charade she didn’t want to be part of anyway, no less) is a great springboard for the show using one of Marceline’s more endearing qualities, her mischievousness. It’s the first time we see Marceline for more than just a few seconds this season (unfortunately without her upgraded bass), and she is a very welcome partner in crime for LSP, as she puts the things they do in perspective, providing the episode’s morale: just because you do something that’s bad, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Not that that’s Marceline’s prime function: she’s there to have some fun.
The supposed „badness“ of their plot for revenge is a great source of laughter. Truth be told, „Princess Day“ is one of the show’s funnier installments in recent memory, providing dozens of quotable one-liners and some hilarious slap-stick. There is a good deal of breakfast-themed humor („Okay, let’s take a lunch break, everybody, and when I say lunch I of course mean breakfast.“), some nice dead-beat jokes (LSP trying to distract a guard but virtually doing nothing) as well as some humorous toppling of expectations, such as when Marceline promises to „handle it“ but then just puts the unexpectedly abducted Breakfast Princess into the trunk, or when the two criminal princesses provide her with a shovel in the middle of nowhere, only to make her dig a sandcastle instead of the expected grave.
Possibly the biggest laugh, however, awaits those who know Thelma and Louise, a movie about two women who end up committing a crime and trying to escape to Mexico. Thelma and Louise, who bond and learn to assert their position in a male-dominated world (not unlike an Ooo of a lesser show, were it not for Adventure Time’s sure-footed characterization of its female characters such as Marcy or Princess Bubblegum as well as its willingness to let its two main protagonists sit out an episode every once in a while), end up being cornered by the police, only to „flee“ by driving off into a canyon. Thelma and Louise drive pretty much the same car as LSP and Marceline, minus the car’s breakfast components, and even the camera angle match up pretty well – the difference being that Marceline and LSP nonchalantly exit the car simply by hovering.
Girls just wanna have fu-un.
While I am afraid to report that not the entire Adventure Time episode can hold up the comparison, the Thelma and Louise reference is strengthened by the movie’s themes that resonate in „Princess Day“ as well. People raise eyebrows when I tell them that most if not all of Adventure Time’s female characters are princesses, but the show has always played this more as a joke, enjoying to subvert expectations: Princess Bubblegum, for instance, may look like the stereotypical pink queen character (think Nintendo’s Peach), but instead is a somewhat ruthless scientist that believes in the greater good. With Marceline, the show also found a character that is feminine yet not girlish. Not that there is anything wrong with girlish itself, but it is great to see that Adventure Time has refused and continues to refuse to reduce female characters to that attribute.
LSP and Marceline enjoy their brief but fun quest to prank the citizens of Breakfast Kingdom. It turns out that the two girls do not behave all that differently from the guys, and one could easily imagine Finn and Jake taking the places of LSP and Marcy, respectively. Yet at the same time, there is just something that would prevent a gender-mixed set of protagonists interacting as easily and fluidly as Lumpy Space Princess and Marceline do. Think of the text messages Marcy and PB send each other, for instance – if Jake were to send PB a message telling her Finn was acting „soooo bad!“, an uneasy feeling would immediately settle in. Similarly, shoving Breakfast Princess into the car’s trunk may be perceived as weird if it were done by a pair of men, but when done by Marceline, it ends up being merely a prank.
LSP and Marceline connect on a level they couldn’t connect with if the other were male, and they turn out to play off each other surprisingly well: Marceline makes LSP feel better (such as when she compliments her for distracting the guard, when in fact LSP didn’t accomplish what she set out to do), and in return LSP is the „bad“ companion Marceline enjoys having around. Still, despite the mutual appreciation, their relationship is not a balanced one – just like Jake is a mentor to Finn, Marceline forms a protective bubble around Lumpy Space Princess (metaphorically speaking). Thanks to Marcy’s effort, though, it works for the both of them, and I look forward to having their relationship mirror that of Jake and Finn in the future – once again, Adventure Time effortlessly manages to set up some promising narrative threads, which the show can, but does not have to pick up.
Another female relationship that is explored further in „Princess Day“ is that of Marcy and PB, although the episode remains weirdly ambiguous, if not to say inconsistent about it. At first, PB dismisses Marceline’s offer to join them ditching Princess Day by claiming to be too invested in a crossword puzzle, without even looking at Marcy. Crossword puzzles are essentially distractions, indicating that spending time with the Vampire Queen is not a top priority for PB. On the other hand, their text conversation appeared to be genuinely reciprocal, even going so far as to suggest that they have had these kind of exchanges before. But that is a minor quibble to an otherwise pretty good, funny episode. While „Princess Day“ is rather low on stakes and therefore excitement and tension, it makes for it by its dedicated focus on character interaction (and breakfast puns).
Even more bla:
– I love how LSP tries to refute Breakfast Princess‘ mean-spirited digs at her kingdom by bragging about not having being invited in the first place – she’s clearly hurt by both her ramblings about Lumpy Space Kingdom and by not being invited, but tries to hurl it back at Breakfast Princess by selling the fact that she attended Princess Day anyway as an affront to the princesses, not as a means for LSP to blend in and feel better. It’s a great, understated moment that shows us how LSP deals with the little recognition she receives (for living in a rotten log, not a box).
– Mobile phones? I feel like this is a little tardily inconsistent. Then again, being a day late with this review, I shouldn’t complain about tardiness…
– Breakfast Princess‘ fear of dozen of unregistered princesses swarming the land is a great little tidbit, telling of these princesses‘ elitism. The term „princess“ has never been taken too literally on this show, but in this case, they most definitely are being princesses – characterally speaking.
– „I hate this album, but I’m taking it anyway, hehe.“
– „Let’s get back to princess business.“
– Too bad I could not review last week’s „Thanks for the Crabapples, Giuseppe“ – a thoughtful episode that almost requires repeat viewing, but an episode that is also bogged down by its cast’s large size, failing to characterize them thoroughly enough.
Rating: 7,5 out of 10 points.
„Princess Day“ is a fun episode – it’s funny, and it pairs up two characters that have had little interaction before. Once again Adventure Time proves its secondary characters can easily stem episodes on their own, letting the girls take over.