If we look at the above five readings, we can see they all have to do with one thing: creation. The AT writers and storyboarders create the show and characters, Magic Man creates the episode by slipping Finn the magic bag, Big Finn creates semi-pornographic stories about Little Finn and his little friends, and Adventure Time’s fans create actually-pornographic fan-fiction based on the show. All of these acts harm the creator, the creations, or, most likely, both.
At first, this reading confused me. Why would a bunch of writers and artists produce an episode about the evils of creativity? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that AT’s writers have been criticizing certain forms of artistic creation for a while now. As mentioned above, Jay T. Doggzone’s book Mind Games is a hilarious parody of modern books on pick-up artistry. As Richard mentioned in his excellent piece on “Fionna and Cake,” that episode is a satire of gender-swapped fan-fiction (as written by the hopelessly lonely and delusional Ice King). And Princess Bubblegum’s creations are almost always horrific – see Lemongrab for a rather high-pitched example.
In subtle ways, “All the Little People” references the above examples of bad creation. Finn reads Jay T. Doggzone’s book, he forces characters with no romantic chemistry together just as the Ice King did in “Fionna and Cake,” and he tortures little people like Bubblegum did in “The Lich”:
Assuming Jay T. Doggzone is actually a younger version of Jake (I don’t buy it when Mr. Ward says Doggzone is Shelby the worm), then those three characters are three examples of creative adults Finn can grow into if he’s not careful. Finn can become a bad version of Jake, who uses writing to convince readers that women are interchangeable archetypes who must be manipulated. Finn can become the Ice King (as he already sort of did in “Jake the Dog”), a delusional stalker who uses writing to convince himself that every woman in the world is secretly in love with him. Or Finn can become Princess Bubblegum, who uses her creative powers thoughtlessly, destroying real people as if they were paper dolls made for fun.
In all these examples, creation is masturbatory – the creation is meant to make the creator feel better, not to help the creator connect with other real people – and in each example creation is harmful. In all four cases the creators harm their characters by forcing them to do their bidding. Jay T. Doggzone doesn’t ask the women of the world if they like being imagined as mere “bu-bumps” in his books. The Ice King doesn’t ask Finn if he minds being made into a female fan-fiction character who announces that she’d love to date the Ice King. Finn doesn’t ask the Little People if they’d like to be forced into bizarre romantic pairings. Princess Bubblegum never asks her scientific subjects if they’d like to be cut into pieces or put in a centrifuge so she can make a sandwich:
All four authors force characters to do things they wouldn’t normally do so their creators can have the climax they think they want. In these bad creations, everything is solipsistic and planned. There is no collaboration, and nothing ever arises spontaneously.
Contrast these over-controlled acts of individual creation with the collaborative, dadaesque spontaneity of Adventure Time. This is a show where a bunch of writers and artists come together, and… well, this sort of thing happens:
All for no reason whatsoever! And it is wonderful.
So I don’t think Adventure Time’s writers are criticizing all art and all artists in “All the Little People.” Instead, they’re criticizing artists who force things, overplan, and live in their heads instead of relaxing, improvising, and collaborating with others. After all, Adventure Time is at its best and its characters are at their most fulfilled when they’re improvising songs and dances together on the spot. It is during these acts of spontaneous, collaborative creation made by an uncritical “group mind” (as improv comedians would dub it) that the characters truly enjoy themselves, connect to each other, and reveal themselves in ways they couldn’t otherwise:
At the end of the day, what I think the writers were trying to say was, when you force characters to do things in your art, as Finn did in “All the Little People,” everything becomes a masturbatory fantasy that ultimately leaves the creator feeling unfulfilled and disconnected. But when you hang out with your friends, relax, and allow things to happen organically and randomly, you can have a dance party, and everyone will leave happy.