One of the positive aspects of fanworks and fandom that’s often brought up in discussions is their openness to and frank celebration of romantic relationships which don’t receive much mainstream attention or exposure. Say what you want about slash fics; at least they (mostly) take queer relationships seriously and treat them as the norm rather than as sideshows or tokens. Frankly, I’d rather be the position of complaining about too many gay relationships than too few; and anyone who is upset because those relationships go against canon should really think hard about why canon relationships are so rarely queer. But anyway. I’m sure that point has been made plenty of times already far more eloquently than I ever could. In this post I wanted to bring to your attention a truly beautiful relationship (which is canon within its little odd series) which transcends notions of gender, sexuality and even humanity in the most adorable way.
If you don’t recognise this gif, it comes from a YouTube series called Baman Piderman which was sadly cancelled by its syndicator Mondo Media in December 2012. And no, the title isn’t a typo. Baman and Piderman are two rotund, animated versions of the comic-book characters Batman and Spiderman, who move in physics-defying ways and inhabit a universe with gigantic snowflakes that can crush houses, houses that sail along like boats and cookie pies that act as interdimensional gateways, amongst other things. Along the way they are joined by friends like Tuba, a sentient instrument; Pumkin, an anthromorphised Pumpkin; and Squib, a mass of green tentacles. Those last two are the subject of this post and the ones you can see in the gif above you.
So what is it that makes this unusual romance in an already off-the-wall show so damn lovable? Firstly, it’s very subtle and understated. Neither Pumkin nor Squib can talk, though Squib hisses with its many mouths, whilst Pumkin communicates via gestures and body language. The entirety of their romance is expressed through actions, which start off as Squib mischievously picking on Pumkin, holding him upside-down and stealing his shoes, and later develop into more caring and protective gestures between the two. One of the Baman Piderman fandom’s favourite moments begins with Squib sneaking a package into Pumkin’s room, which contains a jumper. The jumper has a little pocket on the sleeve which he simply can’t find anything to fit into, but later he discovers that it is a perfect Squib pocket:
If you go on Tumblr and search “squib pum(k)in”, “squibkin”, “squmkin” or a similar term, you’ll find oodles of fan-love for these two. A lot of fans express shock that they could have become so passionate about such an odd pairing – “I can’t believe that I’m shipping a pumpkin/vegetable/anthropomorphic pumpkin/vegetable with a squid/tentacle monster/vine monster/mass of green tentacles” (delete as applicable). A good deal of them have gone so far as to declare it their OTP (One True Pairing, i.e. favourite pairing in all of fandom). Considering the wealth of other diverse pairings out there, both fan-invented and canon, it is remarkable that many would consider a wordless romance between a pumpkin and a tentacle monster in a rather niche, off-the-wall Internet show to trump all of those. There’s just something about the way the romance is portrayed that’s unbelievably endearing.
As for Pumkin and Squib’s gender, both of them are referred to by other characters in the show as “he”, although given that Baman and Piderman are shown to have toddler-like intellect (Piderman in particular has difficulty counting up to three), that doesn’t make them the most reliable of sources. The show’s co-creator Lindsey answered questions about the pair’s genders on a livestream by saying:
“Pumkin is a vegetable and Squib is a squib. Hopefully that clears things up.”
She later stated that Pumkin identifies as male, hence why I use a male pronoun in this post, but when you think about it there’s really no reason why either of them should be gendered at all. They’re a humanoid vegetable and a tentacle monster. We have a knee-jerk need to pigeonhole participants in a romantic relationship into narrow gender categories and roles, even when it defies logic to do so. Artists who want to draw Pumkin and Squib as humans can find ways to portray them as androgynous, and when it comes to using pronouns there are various gender-neutral options available, which take a lot less effort to use than trying to puzzle out Squib and Pumkin’s gender identities would do.
I know that Squib and Pumkin aren’t the only unusual, non-human or expectation-defying pairing out there, but all the same, it says something that fans are drawn to a pairing that doesn’t even lend itself well to being described, but in which they can still find something to care about and relate to. It’s a real shame that Mondo Media chose to pull funding for this unique and lovable little series. There was talk of a Kickstarter by fans back when Baman Piderman’s cancellation became official, but as far as I know nothing came of it, and it’s unclear as to whether or not creators Alex and Lindsey Small-Butera plan on giving the series a better or more significant ending than the one it got.
It’s a good thing that Pumkin and Squib’s romance will still live on in the hearts and works of their devoted fans, no matter what.