Super Porp, it hits the spot / messes up your train of thought / If you’re thirsty and out of shape / get down on that fizzy grape!
If something is good – and if it’s literally a thing that we enjoy consuming – should we care where it comes from?
“Dark Purple” opens with BMO, Marceline, Finn and Jake awaiting the weekly drone delivery of Super Porp, a soda that has apparently been around since Marceline’s childhood, so before the Great Mushroom War. This prompts Finn to wonder how it could still be in production hundreds of years after the apocalyptic event. Jake, Finn’s pleasure-seeking companion (perhaps his id in a psychoanalytic paradigm of the show), is content with blind consumption. As he says, “Super Porp is good…why question this good thing?” Finn agrees, but the adventure continues for the audience, as we are exposed to the mystery that Jake is reluctant to pursue: the means of production of “good” stuff. Although we typically identify with Finn, the show is inviting us to push past his (and Jake’s) naivety in order to see the darker side of the things we enjoy and how their existence and persistence are grounded in exploitation of labor and cheap marketing.
In this journey, we are taken to the human underworld of Susan Strong, where the masses eagerly await their Super Porp shipment like Finn and Jake. They echo generations of mindless consumption, happy to obey their corporate leader, spokesperson Cheryl. Sprite’s “obey your thirst” campaign comes to mind, which is bent on securing heteronomous action, meaning that we act according to laws that are not our own. For instance, in buying a can of sprite, we are primarily guided by its marketing appeal, which promises more than the product itself. It empowers us with a shared identity: other Sprite consumers. If the sway is strong enough, we follow, still maintaining the illusion of agency and freedom. Really though, we’re abiding by a desire we haven’t chosen. We’re obeying our “thirst.” It’s not for soda, it’s for belonging.
Susan Strong refuses this primitive enjoyment (even belonging, to some extent, although she gets a few followers) and questions the “fake juice” promoted by Cheryl and Corporate reality. Like Jake, the masses are pleasure-seeking; Super Porp is “good,” so why care? Just enjoy it, right? This isn’t enough for the inarticulate but independent Susan, who goes on a mission to save a human baby. The baby was abducted by a Corporate drone attempting to keep the Porp machinery alive and the means of production hidden; apparently a specific target was sought, so this is a “special” baby. This part is never fully explained. Regardless, it’s better – for corporations and the individuals profiting from their success – that we don’t know where stuff comes from; otherwise we might start to think about it and stop consuming. The end of consumption is death to a corporation. Of course, in a biological sense, it’s also death to an individual organism. (We aren’t autotrophs, after all.) Still, there’s a difference between necessity and the desire attached to something like soda.
Susan fights against such desire. She’s attempting to save the next generation (“baby”) from Super Porp’s tyranny. At the Super Porp factory, she discovers an enduring facade; the hierarchy is enough for the hierarchy to continue, especially if there’s no consciousness among the laborers, the lower class whose ignorance is essential for the profit of the few. And yet…there doesn’t seem to be “the few” anymore for Super Porp, just a large vestigial population that can’t shake off its shackles. Internalized oppression keeps them down in their place. Susan is potentially creating historical change here by trying to grant the lower class consciousness, which is the realization that they’ve become their own oppressors by letting the initial message of their inferiority determine who they are forever. Of course, Susan isn’t deliberately trying to save the workers; she’s focused on the human baby (of her own ilk). Their consciousness is a by-product of her fight. In liberating a single baby, she liberates an entire population.
Or at least she frees them from Super Porp, even though in order to do so, she has to perform as Cheryl, the only face they’ve ever known and obeyed. What the heck will they do in the absence of their oppressor? That’s quite an identity gap to fill. For Finn and Jake (well, just Jake by the end of the episode), Super Porp day was simply a fun thing to do every week, not an integral part of their worldview (evident by Finn’s absence at the next shipment), so they’ll move onto the next adventure fairly easily. For the Super Porp creatures, whatever they are, what’s next? And what’s next for Susan and the other humans?
Note: my memory of Susan’s development in the Adventure Time universe is spotty, so further theorizing about her role in the overarching narrative is on hold. Stay tuned.