If you’ve ever attended a movie premiere or book signing, you’ve probably heard someone squeal, “I totally ship them!”
I admit, the first time I heard this was at Cassandra Clare’s book signing in Kansas City over a year ago…and I was super confused. “Ship?” I thought. “Like a boat?” So here I am, picturing Dido singing, “I’ll go down with this ship.” Which, in retrospect, kind of works with today’s lingo. But at the time, a cosplaying Shadowhunter kindly explained to me what she meant, and I still dig her for it.
For those of you who don’t know, “ship” is short for “relationship.” Saying you “ship” a couple means you love those two characters being together. Yes, even when they’re sailing on boats. (Excuse me for my poor humor.) Fans can ship a couple that is actually together in the story or characters you wish were together. The term largely started in fandoms and fan fiction.
I’m totally for shipping whoever you want. I think it’s so much fun, even when I see people point out ships that are purely imagined. In fact, I’ve come across some ships that I had never even considered, but thought were awesome. (*cough, cough, Elsa and Jack Frost, cough cough*) It’s fan fiction heaven. That being said, there is always a negative side.
Recently, I’ve started to see people say things like, “If you ship those who aren’t together in the story, you’re a bad fan,” or “If you ship X and X, you promote abuse,” or blah blah blah.
Listen, I think it’s great to debate aspects of fiction, like how abuse is displayed. But “debate” is the keyword here. Just because one person feels a certain way about a character does not mean everyone should feel that way. One of the best parts of fiction is how malleable it is. A dynamic character could be seen differently by millions of people. Not to mention that fiction itself is fiction. Just because something criminal happens in a show does not mean it was criminal in the context of the show. Example? Take post-apocalyptic fiction. If it’s the end of world, and you see someone stealing from a store (or even killing another person), you automatically sympathize because survival, right? But if that character was doing that in our world, they’d be a bad person. In the context of a post-apocalyptic situation, the moral paradigm has shifted. Does that make anyone bad or good? That’s up for debate. *wink*
Sometimes, fiction is just fiction. Sometimes, a ship is something we sail on. It doesn’t have to have double meaning or be scrutinized beyond the fact that it’s purely entertaining. Just because a fan ships a couple on a show doesn’t mean they would ship them in a real-life situation. As an example, I thought I’d discuss a movie (hopefully) everyone has seen by now. If you haven’t, don’t worry. Just go to the next bolded line.
Spoilers for The Last Jedi beyond this point:
So, as many of you know by now, there was quite the shift in Kylo Ren and Rey in the last movie. Though nothing traditionally romantic happened (i.e. kissing), many felt their relationship was romantic in nature. Where it goes, no one knows, but that doesn’t stop the fandom from drawing photos, posting theories, and just plain ol’ fan girling.
Do I ship them? Yes and no. To me, I find their dynamic fascinating, which—as someone who is here to be entertained—is all I want in a story. So, yes, I love what happened between them in The Last Jedi, because I never saw it coming, yet it was believable, twisted, and exciting. But no, I wouldn’t encourage that sort of dynamic in real life.
Basically, if my best friend came to me and said, “This masked guy chased me through the woods as I shot at him, and then he knocked me unconscious and tried to read my mind. Later, I scarred him, and he killed his dad, but now we have a universe connection.” I would definitely not ship it. I would call the police. But Star Wars isn’t my best friend. Star Wars is a space opera. It’s not functioning on our moral constructs. In the setup of the fictional universe, you’re literally talking about a dark side and light side colliding in a space war. Of course unhealthy moments are going to happen. Does that mean you can’t enjoy the story? Maybe. Maybe not. If that ruins the story for you, that’s fine. If you want to debate it, go for it! But I draw the line at fans telling other fans what they can/should/want to enjoy.
If you dislike a ship (or a story), by all means, we’re all allowed to our opinions, but I will always draw a line on those who shame others for enjoying (or disliking) a piece of fiction.
We’re here to be entertained and to have fun, and yes, there are times for debate. Yes, those debates are super important. I’m not telling you to stop debating. In fact, one of my favorite all-time quotes is, “The history books will tell what happened, but the art will tell them how we felt about it.” (Jermaine Rogers.) Debating art is society trying to encapsulate how they feel about current and past issues. Debating fiction is a natural response. All I ask is that we respect one another while we debate. No name-calling. No ship-shaming. Just a couple of fans having a reasonable discussion about how we feel about certain stories. Then, at the end of the day, we can enjoy our fandoms and sail off into the sunset on our preferred ships without trying to sink others.
Who are some of your favorite ships? (Actual boats allowed.)