Here I’ll explore the philosophical paradigm that overlays our understanding of how synergistic behaviors are maintained in an ethical society.
This is about fans, known as shippers, that really want non-existent people to get it on. They want it enough that they engage in shipping on the couple’s behalf – writing romance and/or porn, drawing pictures, compiling clips into music videos, or just arguing that they belong together. Then when they encounter others who disagree, they can engage in ship-to-ship combat. Many epic battles of this type have been waged since communication became rampant, and here are seven of the biggest.
Spoilers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
1. Spirk vs Spuhura
While the term “shipping” didn’t show up until the X-Files came along, Kirk and Spock were some of the first characters to be shipped to ridiculous excess. Kirk and Spock shipping was abbreviated to Kirk/Spock, and then just “/” or “slash.” Then “slash” became the term for any gay ship, particularly those with men.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, when acceptance for gay lifestyles has made huge gains, and the original Star Trek movies are being rebooted. All those slashers were hoping Kirk and Spock could finally be together. Instead, Spock was paired with Uhura. Angry disappointment followed.
There isn’t much basis in the original TV show for a Uhura/Spock romance. They share perhaps one scene of friendly affection, and Uhura had the first interracial kiss on air with Kirk. But they had to raise Uhura’s social importance somehow, and pairing her with Spock is better than further inflating Kirk’s ego.
2. Bangel vs Spuffy
While both Angel and Spike are vampires with souls (at times, anyway), they are very different characters, and their relationships with Buffy are very different. Angel and Buffy are romantic, star-crossed lovers – but they’re also cheesy and melodramatic. Buffy and Spike’s relationship is gritty, realistic and passionate – but at times unhealthy and mutually abusive. Anyone who ships for one side can find plenty to dislike in the other.
If only Joss Whedon could leave a character in the Buffyverse dead, this wouldn’t be such a debate. Instead, each undead love interest got his time with Buffy, was utterly annihilated, and then somehow made it back to the world of the living. Naturally, their new lives didn’t include Buffy, but left open the possibility that their relationship could be resumed someday.
3. Team Edward vs Team Jacob
Choosing between two hunks must be a common female fantasy, because it pops up in a lot of stories with female protagonists. And every time, there is a shipping war over which one the heroine should pick. In this case, Team Jacob was fighting uphill. Bella was always on Team Edward, and let’s face it, the writer’s white, Bella’s white, Edward’s white, Jacob is not… you can predict what the outcome is going to be.
I don’t have much more to say on this, because I haven’t read any of the Twilight books. If you have, fill me in with a comment.
4. Zutara vs Kataang
Avatar: The Last Airbender was a cartoon run by Nickelodeon. Like most Nickelodeon shows it was made for kids, and in particular, boys. That’s why they chose a twelve-year-old boy, Aang, as the main protagonist. Katara, a more mature girl, was chosen as his love interest. Since they thought their audience would identify with Aang, he pined for Katara, instead of Katara pining for him.
But as it turned out, their show was popular with adult women. And skinny, twelve-year-old Aang wasn’t much of a heart-throb. Instead, many fans fixated on dark and brooding Zuko as a love interest for Katara. But Aang is still the hero, and he’s got canon.
5. Gabrielle & Xena vs Xena & Ares
Popular stories were still completely neglecting gay romance back when Xena was producing new episodes. So even though Xena and Gabrielle were supposedly straight, the chemistry between them felt so right that a lot of gay fans began shipping them.
The writers noticed this, and though they wouldn’t make the pair gay outright, they started adding innuendos and bits of sexual tension. The straight Xena/Ares shippers were outraged by this, insisting the writers should stop pandering. Then the Gabrielle/Xena shippers called the Xena/Ares shippers homophobic. No doubt some of them were, but straight shippers fight pretty dirty even without gay romance as their adversary.
6. Willabeth vs Sparrabeth
Putting Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp in the same movie was just asking for trouble. It didn’t help that Depp stole the first movie with his performance, but the Bloom’s character got the girl.
When Pirates of the Caribbean was in its heyday, the ship-to-ship combat was so intense that it hijacked entire forums, forcing some threads to be shutdown and the sides forcefully separated.
Though Will ultimately won canon, the writers pandered to multiple groups. In the beginning Elizabeth was reserved and completely devoted to Will, but by the end she had kissed almost everyone.
7. Harry & Hermione vs Hermione & Ron
I think Rowling intended Hermione as a quirky sidekick – endearing, but too much of a stuffy know-it-all to be the love interest for her hero. However, taking an objective look at what happens in the series, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Hermione is superior to Harry in almost every way, and leagues ahead of Ron. So naturally, a lot of fans felt that for once, the brainiac should get the guy. They even had their own fanatical fringe, the Harmonians (you don’t really want to follow that link).
But Rowling created Ginny to be Harry’s dream girl, and was intent on pairing up the contrasting sidekicks. Naturally many fans thought this was great. Ron and Hermione shippers allied with the Harry and Ginny shippers, and fought on behalf of what would become canon. The battle reached its climax during the era of the Half-Blood Prince, when Rowling made the mistake of chuckling after an interviewer called Harry & Hermione shippers delusional – creating outrage that flooded the entire interwebs.
I have to confess – everything I’ve just told you is an over-simplification. Ship-to-ship combat most often involves not just two, but many factions. In every battle between two heterosexual couples there will be slashers who pair up the ends. And some who think they should all be a trio, or a quartet. Then there’s the party-poopers who don’t want any romance at all, or insist it’s getting in the way of the main plot.
Is Shipping Weird?
It certainly can be. Rule #34 works for shipping too; every possible combination of characters, even those from different stories, of vastly different ages, or just downright physically incompatible with each other, will be shipped. However, most shipping caters to tastes that are common, and therefore, not weird. I’m sorry to rob you of your naiveté by informing you that Snape is a common subject of lust. Well… no, I’m not.
If you’ve ever been interested in any romance, in any story you’ve encountered, you know what it is to be a shipper. There might be others that are more passionate or just more vocal about it than you, but the same goes for fans of your favorite baseball team. Ship-to-ship combat is really just romance sports. Unfortunately, like sports competition, it can be taken too far. Playful debate is fun and healthy, but mean-spirited cyber mobs are not.
I Leave You With This Important Message
Soulful Spike and Buffy for the win!!!
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