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20 December 2007 @ 07:49 pm
What It All Boils Down To...  
I'm talking about ships.

I've noticed that in multiple fandoms (Smallville, Stargate, X-Files, and Harry Potter for example) there may be discussions about plot, character, themes, and story, but in the end it all seems to boil down to ship. (Defining ship here in the broad sense - het or slash.) Sure, there are people in fandom that are there just for characters and plot. But those that are mainly focused on shipping is by far the majority. Once you weed through the hearty discussion of character arcs and plot, you'll see that people are arguing for "who ends up with who." Out of everything, this becomes the main focus and the most passionate for fans.

Take a look at any forum or discussion area. Doesn't matter which fandom. Most of them mirror each other.

So, I ask why? Why do we (in general) abandon everything else about the story, making it secondary to the ship? Why is it so vital to have the end goal be "so and so ends up with Clark" or "so and so ends up with Mulder" or "so and so ends up with Jack?" Why does that becoming the most defining attribute of the story or the characters? Why are we defining them by their romantic entanglements? Why are we defining them by their prize at the end of the day?

And is it the woman who is the prize in the end? Or the man? I've seen this go back and forth and it may depend on the fandom.

It happens across fandoms. I've noticed it a lot lately. As stargazercmc mentioned, is this something inate or does fandom perpetuate it? I wonder does this feed some basic human need or is something else going on here?
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Spiletta42: Daniel/Valaspiletta42 on December 21st, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
I'm going to go with the quick answer here, and maybe I'll think about this later. But maybe it's that with a quality show, we trust the writers to give us an engaging plot, and even when we don't like something, they frequently change our minds in the next episode. We like to be surprised by the plot, even as we try to outguess it, and there are always multiple ways a well plotted show can go.

However, we don't trust them to leave our characters happy in the end, and on many shows they've been teasing us with UST for years, because it's part of the formula. So it's not that we care more about the ship than anything else, it's that we feel compelled to not leave it in the hands of the professionals. We worry about whether our beloved characters will get their due, and that worry becomes fannish obsession.

And for me, personally, whether or not I ship varies from fandom to fandom. There are entire fandoms where I don't give a frak who snogs who (BSG, TOS, TNG, HP . . . ) and others where I'll read/write gen or ship. Although I do seem to write more ship, probably because I get hounded for it, while my gen fic can sit half finished for years and nobody says boo. Which brings us back to fandom wanting ship, because it's so much harder to get that from the source.
Working for the Mandroid: Look Beyondmoonshayde on December 22nd, 2007 03:57 am (UTC)
But do you sit down to watch a horror movie and expect a happy ending with a romantic outcome? (If you do, it's not a knock at you at all.)

That is what I am curious about. If I watch or read a romance, I expect a romantic ending, whether it's happy, bittersweet, or tragic. Whatever the set up is for the story I expect the resolution to be on the same level.

So I get curious as to the psychology of why sometimes fans (and I've done it myself) take a romantic subplot and conflate it to the main plot. Not in fanfic. I mean as the expected end goal for a tv show or book, whatever.

That concept interests me :)
Gategrrl: T-rex Close Upgategrrl on December 22nd, 2007 04:26 am (UTC)
Horror movie happy ending:

Norman gets together with his mother.

Jason and Elm Street Nightmare guy go off into a dreamy sunset together.

Frankenstein gets his happy ending in "Young Frankenstein"!

Mina and Drac keep getting it on, happily ever and ever and ever.

Spiletta42spiletta42 on December 22nd, 2007 04:46 am (UTC)
No, I sit down to a horror movie expecting blood and terror. But then movies are a different animal from television shows. In a movie, you only have an hour or two with the characters, so you get one or possibly two aspects from a slice of their lives. With a television show, at least with a good television show, you get to know the characters on multiple levels for an extended period of time.

I expect my 'ships to end happily if my 'ship has a canon basis -- deliberate UST on the part of the writers. Tease me, and do it well enough that I care, and I expect payoff.

However, I'd be completely pissed off if I sat down to watch Stargate SG-1 and instead of fighting the goa'uld, the team all retired to raise psychic beagles or whatever the hell it was that got mentioned the other day, and the show suddenly revolved around frolicking and snogging and raising lots of babies.

As a rule, I avoid chick flicks as dull, and prefer plotty sci-fi. In a forty-two minute show, three minutes of time dedicated to 'ship is plenty, maybe a few more minutes on a very special and rare occasion, with the 'ship limited to subtext and flirting that fits smoothly within the plot more often than not.

No, I don't think a romantic relationship is the end goal, but resolving an onscreen and deliberate situation of UST would take up three minutes or less of a series finale, and belongs there in some way. Sam and Jack fishing in Threads following the defeat of both Anubis and the replicators -- a fine ending.

Alternately, Buffy the Vampire Slayer did not have a romantic ending, at least for most of our characters, and it did not need one. Romantic ups and downs were woven into the show as a whole, and no relationship was in the process of building towards something that had to wait for the finale.

Roswell oozed shippy angst for three seasons, to the point where it frequently overshadowed other plot aspects, so whether or not the kids ended up together mattered. Other shows, not so much.

I expected a J/C and EMH/7 ending to Star Trek Voyager because the show seemed to promise it, but as pissy as I was when they ended that badly, it was only one of the reasons the finale sucked (what the frak happened to morals of any kind, future Janeway?), and I would have been even pissier if they'd just said 'screw the regs' and jumped into bed earlier in the series.

I'm also one who will write shippy fanfic, but secretly hate overly shippy episodes. Star Trek Voyager's shippiest episode was Resolutions and let's face it, it was a terrible episode. Multiple giant plot holes, and long flowery speeches. Gag me. On the other hand, SG-1's Divide and Conquer was beautiful.

It has to be done right, and for sci-fi, right means in moderation. Although I could probably watch the Daniel/Vala show all day, because they can spark and bicker and save the galaxy all at the same time, without missing a beat, and it's awesome, but they're the exception rather than the rule.
Spiletta42spiletta42 on December 22nd, 2007 04:55 am (UTC)
Your movie question sent my mind off in a different direction as well. I do want happy endings for Sam/Jack and Daniel/Vala and other assorted tv pairings I've let into my heart, yet my favorite romantic themed movies . . . *goes to non-sci-fi part of dvd shelf* . . . Casablanca, Ladyhawke, Like Water for Chocolate, Lost and Delirious, Romeo and Juliet . . .

Interesting.