If you enter the world of Fandom, you have to be prepared for there to be a whole lot of group “OMG!” flailing and also a number of other things. In this post, I will try my best to discuss shipping and what exactly it entails. I’m going to try and remain unbiased, but undoubtedly that may fall apart at the seams so I apologise in advance.For every Fandom out there, there are multiple ships (romances or wishes of romances between characters) and even more shippers (people who support the ships) than can be counted supporting each of them. There are also people out there who do not ship the characters in the show but who watch based on their love of the show as a whole. I have one such show myself. On a basic level this all seems pretty simple, right? Maybe if you’re not a part of Fandom. Want me to explain further? Okay, but I warn you this is going to get complicated.
In Fandom Z there are five main characters who we shall call a,b,c,d and e. Some fans ship a and b, others a and c, a and d or a and e. Another selection may ship b and c, b and d, and so on and so forth. Some will ship more than one of these combinations, others will ship combinations of more than two characters or the whole cast of characters. Others still will not ship any of them. Each group of shippers will, invariably, at some point have a contingency that proclaims their ship to be the best one out there. This then leads to others with different ships retaliating and we have a ship war. A point where some of Fandom Z’s members forget that they all essentially watch the same show and turn on each other and those without ships will feel pushed to the side and forgotten (although this can also happen when those with ships forget there are people out there who don’t ship).
Now on top of this basic structure of shipping, you then throw in shipping within sexuality brackets. Het shipping is the shipping of a male and female character, slash is the shipping of two males and femslash the shipping of two females. Now some people will ship a het couple and a same sex couple or a couple of each variety. Others, however, in their over zealous ways can use their ships in such a way that externalised and internalised homophobia occur. (Externalised being those who ship het ships bashing those who ship same sex ones, internalised those who ship male/male or female/female bashing those who ship the ‘other’ same sex form of slash).
Are you still with me? Or are you starting to feel queasy and dizzy and therefore losing the will to continue? You’re still here? Okay, we have one more aspect of shipping to look at. RPS (Real person shipping).
RPS is exactly what it says on the tin. This is where we move past shipping the characters and ship the actors who play them. This in itself can become extremely messy as there are divided opinions on whether or not this is morally ethical and several grey areas are seen by some in between. Ethical issues tend to revolve around the following questions and ones like them: Are the actors involved married or in a relationship? Do they have children? Are the actors of the same sexual orientation or not?
Looking at it, shipping isn’t so simple after all. What may, to the uninitiated as a simple “Oh so you like those characters together?” is a socio-political minefield, one that whilst I’ve attempted to cover some of, there are far more intricate details and rules that are unspoken. If you hate a ship, don’t tag the ship in your hate on a blog post, if you love a ship, don’t ram it down someone else’s throat when they don’t, being just two of them. And in reality, nearly every person in Fandom has failed at following the rules at some point or another when it comes to shipping. It’s human nature to get over excited over something you love or hate. In my experience, it’s rare to find a person who can honestly say they’re completely tolerant and accepting of all ships. But I am starting to find that some people would rather ignore the ships that they don’t like and remind themselves that everyone is different in an effort to avoid the drama of ship wars. If someone directly bashes their ship, however, that person is fair game for a smack down.