Princess Bubblegum is the Ultimate Feminist Role Model


After 8 years, 10 seasons, and 283 episodes, the popular Cartoon Network show, Adventure Time, has come to an end. Even though the show is for kids, my sister and I love to watch it--it is funny, adorable, and wholesome (a nice break from the world we live in). When I watch a show designed for kids, I tend to think about what the show is teaching them. Every character has strengths and flaws, but my favorite has to be Princess Bubblegum (PB for short). I love PB because she teaches young girls to be total badasses.

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She teaches us to love science and logic.

Princess Bubblegum is in charge of the Candy Kingdom--a city she created in her own lab. PB rarely finds a problem that science can’t fix. Although the gap is inching closer, women are still underrepresented in professional science and engineering. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, “Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.” Women in the sciences have to deal with what is called “stereotype threat”, which is basically struggling under the pressure of proving everyone wrong. If a girl is told all her life that math and science is for boys, she’ll have to work twice as hard to prove that she is good enough for the field.

This is where positive role models become so important. Young girls need to be encouraged to seek out their potential in every subject, they need to be shown that they can do anything. Princess Bubblegum does this with her excitement to share her knowledge with her kingdom, and her subjects rely on her to find rational solutions to their problems. PB even gets thrown in wizard prison for saying that “all magic is science”--name another kids show that will tell them that.

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She teaches about stress and how to deal with it.

Ruling a kingdom is a lot of work, and I love that the show doesn’t depict PB as some endless source of power and energy--princesses need breaks, too. In one episode, she becomes so exhausted that her friends have to step in to finish her project so she can rest. This teaches kids the important lesson that it is okay to ask for help--one person can’t do it all, even if they want to.

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She shows that it is okay to say “no”.

Because the show is about preteens with no parents and ran for eight years, the subject of dating was bound to come up, and Adventure Time does a fantastic job teaching kids about it. In one episode, PB has to save her friends from a creature that claims all of his wrongdoings are out of love and devotion for the princess. Despite his attempts to manipulate her, she knows that she owes him no mercy for his admiration. She tells him that she’ll marry him only if he can beat her in hand-to-hand combat, then continues to roast his science skills.

Also, most of the characters in the show accept the fact that PB has no interest in dating. She is not looking for a prince, and that is okay. Any character that tells her different is quickly shut down, showing young girls that a man is not required for their own success or happiness.

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She’s a total boss--but she isn’t perfect.

There are many kingdoms in the Land of Ooo (the post-apocalyptic world Adventure Time takes place in). There are Slime, Fire, Ice, and even Breakfast Kingdoms, but when things go wrong, PB is there to help wherever it is needed most. She takes charge of kingdoms that are not her responsibility because she knows that we are stronger together.

PB makes the big decisions because her people trust her to do right by them. At the same time, she does face some ethical dilemmas. She has surveillance over her entire kingdom to keep it safe and secure, even inside her loyal subjects’ homes. She has had experiments go bad: there’s an entire kingdom that she created because of an abandoned project to create lemon people.  I like that in a subtle way, the show is teaching children not to blindly follow an authority figure--even princesses can make wrong choices, no matter the reason.

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Not everyone likes her (and that’s okay).

Some citizens are more forgiving than others when it comes to PB’s mistakes. Like any politician or ruler, she faces public scrutiny on occasion. Being the strong, fearless leader still does not make the princess a saint in everyone’s eyes.

I’ve always been really grateful to my mom for teaching me that I can’t please everyone. Sometimes, people won’t like you even when you’ve done nothing to them, and you can’t control it; you can only control yourself.

One character in particular, a sweet, elderly elephant named Tree Trunks, hates Princess Bubblegum. She doesn’t trust the princess or her methods, and for good reason: PB almost destroyed a planet full of Tree Trunks’s alien friends. At the end of that episode, Tree Trunks tells PB that they will never be friends, but will help each other in important matters like this. How did Adventure Time manage to show children what a professional relationship looks like? Not everyone will be your friend, but that doesn’t mean they have to be your enemy.

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She teaches the value of diversity. 

PB knows that our differences make us stronger. We find out in a later season that PB’s brother, Neddy, has a developmental disorder. When her friends start to ask questions about it, she tells them that his differences don’t matter, only he does, and she loves him very much.

Diversity is an asset and should be treated as such. The world we live in today can feel so full of hate and discrimination, but kids shows like this give me hope for our future decision-makers. That being said, I’ll leave you with my favorite line from Princess Bubblegum, "People get built different. We don't need to figure it out, we just need to respect it.”