Given that I’ve cosplayed Marceline twice now, it’s surprising that I haven’t written much about Adventure Time. It’s certainly a much smarter show than people give it credit for, and as I’ve pointed out in the past, one can glean some interesting theology by looking past its often weird surface.
I thought that crossover between Adventure Time and “The Creation of Adam” would be the only time I’d see the show mixed with classic Christian art, but then a couple weeks ago I stumbled upon this artist’s rendition of two Madonna icons.
I’ve already set a precedent establishing why fanart like this is not only fascinating and hilarious, but also why it offers Christians some very different yet profound ways of understanding our holy figures. Timothie, one of my college classmates, recently wrote a blog post about Adventure Time as a postmodern book of Judges (be sure to read the rest of his blog for interesting insights into Christianity and radical politics). It seems that this show lends itself particularly well to these sorts of readings, even though it’s not overtly religious.
What we have in these “Modern Madonnas” fanart pieces is a sense of both the love each Madonna feels for her respective Christ and the despair she feels at his imperfection or mortality.
Madonna with Child: Princess Bubblegum and Lemongrab
In my previous Adventure Time post, I drew parallels between God and Princess Bubblegum, and Adam and Lemongrab. Placing Bubblegum as Mary presents a much more motherly or parental, personal relationship with Lemongrab. In the show, Bubblegum struggles with the fact that Lemongrab is a failed creation and that his nature as lemon is the antithesis of the candy people. Though Bubblegum has the powers of science and creation at her disposal, she is not necessarily a divine figure. So, having her be Mary makes a lot of sense. Though Mary is a holy figure, she becomes so via her encounters with the divine (the Annunciation and Immaculate Conception), yet she is still a human and though her son is certainly of her own womb, his nature is vastly different. Christ is both human and God, and so is distinct from his mother.
In this Adventure Time icon, we can assume that Bubblegum doesn’t yet know what Lemongrab will become. Likewise, Mary does not yet know what Jesus will become. There’s an innocence and tenderness that hasn’t yet confronted the rest of the world. In Mary’s case, it’s Jesus’s growth, ministry, crucifixtion, and resurrection. In Bubblegum’s case, it’s Lemongrab’s rejection of her and his constant spiraling into a decrepit state, which she tries to redeem by reforming him and creating a companion for him.
Given what we know of Lemongrab’s character, it might seem irreverant to make him Christ, especially since I’ve analyzed him as Adam and fallen humanity. But Jesus’s lineage is traced back to Adam and he’s often described as suceeding where Adam failed. Jesus often calls himself “Son of Man”–where adam means man. So, seeing Lemongrab as Adam in one picture and as Christ in another highlights that connection. Though it might make us more comfortable for Lemonhope to be the baby Christ, Princess Bubblegum didn’t create Lemohope, so the mother connection would be lost. As it stands, Lemongrab as both Adam and Christ presents an image of both fallenness and hope.
Marceline the Pietà Queen
The second print in this fanartist’s set doesn’t continue the narrative of Princess Bubblegum and Lemograb. Instead, it places Marceline as Mary and Ice King as the dead Christ. It’s easy to see how this parallels their narrative in the show. Before Ice King was Ice King, he was Simon and he took care of Marceline in the aftermath of the Mushroom War. However, he eventually succumbed to the power of his crown, which made him lose his memory and become the Ice King. Marceline mourns this “death” and that’s highlighted in the icon. Mary cannot save her son Jesus from physical death, nor can Marceline save Simon/Ice King from a psychological one. In the moment when Mary holds Jesus’s dead body, there is no hope of the resurrection. This is a Madonna who has met the world’s cruelty and seen what Christ becomes. Marceline has also seen what Simon becomes–how power corrupts a man she saw as a parent and not only makes him forget her, but also forget himself.
Whether or not Simon “resurrects” remains to be seen. Admittedly, I don’t see much more to his placement as Christ than his relationship to Marceline, but it’s entirely possible that I’m not postmodern enough to see it or make a solid point about it. Like Lemongrab, everything else we see in Ice King’s character doesn’t match Christ. He’s an unsympathetic villain until his backstory shows up. Likewise, Marceline doesn’t create Simon/Ice King, though she may be trying to recreate him by making him remember who he was before the crown. There’s also an interesting play in that she’s a vampire, and vampires and Christianity have a long, turbulent history.
So, the parallels aren’t perfect, but they don’t have to be. It’s just fanart–fanart of fanart if we’re being honest about where iconography comes from in the first place. Adventure Time likely won’t explore many religious themes (though I wouldn’t be mad if it did), but it has certainly inspired religious art that, rather than being written off as irreverent, can instead make us think about the religious figures these characters are posing as.