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That Ship Has Sailed

« August 2016 »

Memo to shippers: JUST STOP ALREADY.

It's been a while since we've had a proper chat about awful nerds. But I've been wanting to talk about this increasingly-toxic nerd subset for a while now, and recent events have given me a perfect opportunity to make some points that desperately need making.

So here's the skippable paragraph where I tell you what most of you already know. Nerds have been turning "ship" into the worst verb ever for decades. At the core, "to ship" is to think that two fictional characters who aren't romantically involved should be romantically involved. Or be in a relationship. Whence the "ship". And that's fine, at the core, but nerds never leave anything at the core, do they? No. Nerds gotta make shit A Thing.

The usual forces of obsession and potentially diagnosable traits that make nerds ruin everything make them ruin love. That starts, but by no means stops, with combining the two names of the characters like they're a celebrity couple instead of a couple of minor celebrities. This is, like many nerd pursuits, 10% clever and 90% annoying, but wouldn't in and of itself qualify shippers for the scorn of this column. Though it certainly would be enough to tempt me.

Shipping also brings out nerds' love for factionalization and internecine warfare, because why wouldn't it? Sure, the people who think Abby and Ziva should be fucking may think the people who think that Gibbs and Abby* should be fucking are homophobic pedophile heathens, but I don't care, because I don't go on Tumblr, where this kind of thing tends to happen.

No, the problem happens where the problem always happens. Where fans get confused between What They Want and What Creators Owe Them. You'd think this wouldn't confuse people who, under most other circumstances, can distinguish between "everything" and "nothing", respectively. But they do, and when they do, they get angry, and then they get abusive and stupid.

This recently happened with, of all things, Steven Universe, because let's face it, all adult nerds love a kid's cartoon with adult complexity, and it's super easy for shitty nerds to love them too much. Cough cough friendship magic cough cough. One of the show's writers deleted her Twitter account because of abusive shipper assholes.

And the "best" part? She was getting shit from two different groups of assholes, both of which had drawn a completely erroneous conclusion from the writer retweeting fan art of two characters, Lapis and Peridot. They both decided that that meant this writer was totally on the side of Lapis fucking Peridot. This on a show where nearly every romantic relationship is handled by a metaphor that's not even exclusively used for romance.

One group was furious that the writer was promoting a romantic pairing when CLEARLY the ONLY ACCEPTABLE PAIRING was between Peridot and Amethyst. Don't worry if you don't watch the show. All of this makes exactly the same amount of sense whether you do or don't, because the idea of shipping Steven Universe is complete and utter madness to begin with. But they were mad because things (they thought) weren't going the way they thought.

The other group was mad because they were excited about a pair of cartoon anthromorphic gemstones sleeping together, and were mad when an episode featuring those two characters heavily didn't actually advance any kind of romantic relationship. This is some weird form of cockblocking where both the cocking and the blocking are entirely fucking imaginary.

So an episode aired, and nobody got what they wanted. Well, nobody except the people who watch the show for good writing and entertaining characters. But the people who watched it to see cartoons hook up didn't get what they wanted, and therefore, there was NO OTHER OPTION than to harass the writer on Twitter until she got fed up and deleted her account. Self-awareness? Not an option. An appropriate attitude toward entertainment products? Come on.

I especially love the people who accused the writer of putting forth the pairing she liked at the expense of the pairing they liked. This is an attitude I've run across before, with AV Club commenters accusing Arrow writers of "shipping" Oliver and Felicity even though the fans know it's not true love.

Listen up, because I'm only going to say this once so you only have one shot at rejecting this perfectly normal logic and explanation of how words work in order to protect your delicate worldview. There are people whose jobs it is to decide who ends up in love with each other, who remains friends, who breaks up, who lives, who dies, who wins in the end and who loses. They are called "writers" and they help make the thing you like by deciding what happens in it. A writer cannot ship. Shipping is something fan nerds do. When a writer puts two people together, those people are together. You can like it or not, but it's the writer's prerogative to do so, or not, as they see fit.

So if a writer decides that two characters should spend the episode as roommates showing off their attempts at art instead of pledging their undying love for each other, the writer did not "trick" you into thinking they'd be together and then pull the rug out from under your feet. Nor did the showrunner, the executives, or any of the other people responsible for what you ultimately saw on the screen. And if they do decide to put two people together, and you thought two other people should be together, they didn't betray you and they didn't get it wrong. At best, you guessed wrong about a TV show and should move the fuck on. At worst, well, we've seen you at your worst, haven't we?

So get over yourselves, calm down, and maybe find other lenses to view entertainment through besides who's banging whom.

*It was tougher than you'd think to find a show I didn't watch, but knew enough characters from to make this example work. In case you were wondering why the fuck I went with NCIS.

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