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Rules to Ship By

Rules to Ship By
by Adrea Scheidler

I love stories. Books or TV or movies, I’m not high brow about it. After all, it's all stories with characters, loves, plots, etc.  Wait - that sounds like *I* love all stories.  No, no. I am highly biased about it, just not high class.    A lot of what makes something lovable or not to me has to do with the relationships within the story.  But not any relationship.

Classic relationships that work? Best example off the top of my head is Mulder/Scully in X-Files.

This paragraph here is just to prove that yes it’s possible for me to appreciate a good story  regardless of shipping.  They are rare, but they are out there: Sherlock (BBC), The Martian, The Closer, Monk, Sherlock Holmes (movies) to name a few.  But those are not the stories I’m going to be writing about… mostly.  

Which brings me to the definition of “Shipping.”

Shipping is the common internet term for preferring a 'relationship pairing' in a TV show, book or movie.   So, if the relationship that you root for is happens in the story then your ship has sailed.  If, however, it is suddenly revealed that one part of the pair you support is actually in love with their butler and is in league with assassins to kill lots of innocent people - your ship has been sunk.   Of course, there are all sorts of varying degrees to this - after all there could be redemption - the other pairing could be killed off - basically at the end of the day - you can ship whatever you want because if a storyline goes on long enough - who knows what could happen.

There are quite a few franchises out there that don’t rely on a main pairing, but rather want to really take advantage of a Shipper’s enthusiasm - these shows will rarely get me invested - but I do get it.  And for those Shippers that just love to get that little hit of drama or chemistry that comes from a ship and are not caring about the 20 year picture - that’s fine for them.  That’s not me.

The classic ships in my life (in no particular order):  Scully/Mulder, Harry/Ginny, Scarecrow/Mrs. King, Remington Steele/Laura, Shawn/Juliet, Goren/Eames, Menolly/Sebell, Beth/Daryl, 11/Clara, Lizzy/Darcy, John/Vicky, Emerson/Peabody, Ben/Leslie, Jim/Pam… I mean these are just a few.  Did all of these ships sail? Nooooooo, not by a long shot.  Did some of them crash and burn and leave me bitter and depressed despite all logic that there was no chance for the ship? Yes, yes they did.

It seems to me there are three sorts of large content story consumers out there:

The Non-Shipper:  These are the people who want to gag anytime there is a will they/won’t they relationship in their favorite show.  These people want the CSIs, Law&Orders, The Walking Dead and X-Files shows to focus on plot and mystery and not the romantic escapades of their characters.  Hey, I get it Non-Shipper - there are a lot of LAME romance plots out there… but I live my story-consuming-life looking for the needle in the haystack where good writing, chemistry between actors and storyline come together.  And it frustrates me that so many of the people that make these things happen are non-shippers.  The creators and at least half the writers of these shows are with you Non-Shippers!  I understand it - they don’t want their show boiled down to whether or not two characters are going to kiss every week - there is so much more that goes into making a show than that part of it.  They want us to appreciate all of it.  Also, they are living under the threat of a completed ship being a dead ship - i.e. once the question of will they/won’t they is answered, then their audience that was only there for the drama of the question will jump ship.  Well, hey - I get that, but sometimes a ship shows up that even the creators weren’t expecting and if the people in charge are slow to act it ends up hurting the integrity of your show. The best example of this was X-Files.  Watching X-Files was like playing the  lottery.  Some episodes were obviously written by people who wanted Shippers to shrivel up and die, while others were written by people who obviously enjoyed the chemistry between the characters.  The continuity suffered.  The show suffered.  And therefore their work did as well.   I put the blame on Shippers here too - if Shippers didn’t jump ship with the will they/won’t they question is answered then the powers at be wouldn’t be so afraid of it!  Which brings us to the next type of story consumer.

The Shipper: This is me;  Even though I don’t like being thought of as someone who would jump onto any ship that any show throws at me (because seriously - they are CHUCKING ‘em out at us in quite a few shows nowadays - trying to stuff it down our throats with no build up and zero chemistry)  - I do understand this is me.  Now among us shippers there are a wide variety of people.  There are people that only ship cannon ships (Ships that the story is clearly advocating like Felicity/Oliver currently in Arrow).  While other people delight in the non-canon pairing (and among here it can range from wildly inappropriate like Snape/Hermione to just a fun idea of a pairing - like Penny/Sheldon) *traditionally there have not been a lot of same sex storylines in cannon until very recently but that’s never stopped the avid shipper.  The Shipper is someone who will DVR a series and skip thru each episode for the five minutes of relationship focus and only watch that.  I mean - it’s not ideal, but I don’t particularly like Arrow, it’s… gah, too much… but the Felicity/Oliver stuff is fun - LOOK, don’t judge me too harshly! Did you watch that first season?  Oliver sleeps with like 30 different random people.  Now that Oliver/Felicity has sailed, it’s just a matter of time before they get torn asunder so they can start all over and that’s just how that type of show goes.  Therefore, I’m not going to invest my time in watching the whole episode.  Paradoxically I love the idea of Sherlock/Molly (Sherlolly), but I don’t have my hopes pinned on anything happening there.  It is a rare case where the tiny little bits they throw out to my Shipper heart are delightful but the show stands on it’s own.  

The Regular Person:  The Regular Person is someone us Shippers and Non-Shippers like to pretend we understand all the time during our arguments.  We say things like “Even a REGULAR person would see Beth and Daryl are heading toward something!”  or, “Yeah, but no REGULAR person cares that they just threw away that whole storyline without payoff.”  You Regular people seem to consume a story and the relationships in it simply and without bias.  For example, maybe you’re a Doctor Who fan and you’ve seen the Doctor Who ships come and go 10/Rose, 11/River, 11/Amy, 11/Clara and you don’t mind who the 11th Doctor seems to prefer at the end of his run.  You’re in it for the character and the adventure…  Yeah - I USED to enjoy Doctor Who for the character and the adventure, looking at the avid Shippers with a pretentious, patronizing smile because duh it’s not like The Doctor is ever going to settle down.  But then Clara was introduced and *sigh*, I knew I was toast.  I liked her, I liked how they wrote her, I liked how the actor played her, I liked the storylines, I liked how The Doctor treated/reacted to her.  A lot of REGULAR DW fans hated the entire Impossible Girl arc because the show did focus more on a relationship rather than the normal rhythm of DW stuff.  But of course that’s why I loved it.  I knew 11/Clara weren’t going to get married and get a house in the suburbs!  But they guy is basically eternal - why NOT spend a few decades with one gal - you don’t have to SHOW it to us - you can just say “Oh look, Clara is 100 and dying - what a wonderful life they had together:  Now onto the next monster of the week!” He doesn’t even need to age!  But no….  they BROKE my HEART (said in tone of Michael to Fredo).

So my little posts here on Good Nerd, Bad Nerd will be mainly for the Shippers out there, though I’m sure to ruffle a few feathers as tensions run high in the Shipper world, but hey - you never know:  Someday you might find yourself on the same ship with me and we can high five as the showrunners take a torch to our sail and leave us to suffer and die on the oceans of unrequited storybook love.
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