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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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AstroGirl: brain hurtsastrogirl2 on December 21st, 2007 07:30 am (UTC)
Beats me, but it annoys the hell out of me. It's making Doctor Who fandom practically uninhabitable. :(

I mean, I'm certainly more interested in character inter-relationships than in anything else in most shows, I don't mind me a bit of well-written porn, and I'm not automatically against shipping and romance, by any means. What I don't understand is the whole OTP thing, the way people invest so heavily in particular, very narrowly-defined ideas about relationships to the point where everything else in the show -- all the other characters, other themes, plotlines whatever -- start to distort around the concept of the ship until everything is all about the ship and nothing else is allowed to matter at all. I call it the Black Hole of Shippiness, and it makes me tear my hair out. In Farscape, it led to characters, concepts and relationships I was a lot more interested in taking a firm backseat, for the fans and TPTB alike, to the John/Aeryn relationship, and in Who it's resulted in evil shipwars and character hate. And I just do not understand it. Does it have something to do with the cultural notion that romantic love is supposed to be this all-consuming, all-important obsession at the center of everyone's universe? Because I don't buy into that, either.
Working for the Mandroid: John and Aerynmoonshayde on December 22nd, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)
I think gategrrl actually found the one of the key issues regarding this topic. It's all about what the main theme of the story is.

If a romance novel, obviously the couple is the main theme. So in the end, you would expect the end result to be about them. Everything in the story revolves around them. They are the main plot.

In a show like Doctor Who, it's not. When I think of Doctor WHo, I don't automatically think of a pairing. i think of a guy who travels through time and has a soft spot for humanity and tries to help them. This is the fundemental aspect of the show. In Farscape, the John finding home (whether that is Earth or in space) AND the John/Aeryn theme were quickly established as the main goals of the show. So in the end, you would expect both these elements to weigh in heavily into the final outcome.

It doesn't surprise me why the shipping in the DW fandom would bother you in light of this.

I hope that makes sense.
AstroGirl: Doctor/TARDIS OTPastrogirl2 on December 22nd, 2007 06:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think what kind of expectations the show (or the book, or whatever) sets up, and what kind of genre the viewer/reader goes in expecting to see has got to make a huge amount of difference. And expectations can vary between people, too.

In the case of Farscape, one of the things that I really liked about the show was that, while Crichton was sort of the glue that held the whole thing together, it really wasn't all about him, but also about the lives of all these other fascinating people that he met and teamed up with on his travels. In my mind, it was very much an ensemble show, so what I expected from it was that we'd get a balanced exploration of all the characters' story arcs. Which, to be fair, it did try to do, it's just that in some cases it was more successful than in others. On the other hand, someone who really does see the show as being primarily about Crichton -- which is perhaps an understandable impression to get from it -- might resent time spent on other characters that could be devoted to exploring the relationships of the greatest importance to John, even while I'm complaining that time is being spent on J/A that I'd rather see devoted to D'Argo or Stark or whoever. So maybe that's a case where your expectations depend a bit on your perspective?

Doctor Who is an interesting case, actually, because for someone who came into the show at the start of the new series, I can see how the expectation of romance as a major theme would be there; whereas old school Who fans come into the show with a very different perspective and a whole different set of expectations about what the Doctor/Companion relationship is and what it means.

Erm, all of which just leads me to think, basically: "people who go into something predisposed to see and latch onto a romantic theme are more likely to see a ship as primary and central." Which hardly seems terribly insightful or profound. :)