A while back I wrote a post in defence of fanfiction. You might want to consider this one the whacky sequel. You see, shipping and fanfiction go hand-in-hand. And yet we don’t really pause to consider what compels us to assume that two characters would be a match made in Heaven? Is it that we see ourselves as one of the characters and want to give them the happy (aka perfect) relationship we might lack in real life. Is it that we believe that such a relationship would be beneficial to their character development? Is it plain and simple fanservice? Something else? All of the above? For me it would be all of the above. I have shipped characters because the relationship I saw developing between them was one I would like to experience in real life. I have shipped characters because I considered a romantic relationship between them an inevitable conclusion (coughAvatarcough). And yes, I have used the justification “But they look ADORABLE together!”. Fan wars aside, one of the cardinal rules of shipping is that if you can think about it, then someone out there is probably shipping it. (Of course that implies the existence of some rather disturbing pairings, but when you’ve hung out Fanfiction.net for as long as I have you learn to ignore them. Besides, I’m told Tumblr is scarier.)
Immature as it might be, I love shipping. I enjoy mapping out character interactions in general (which is why I cannot abide movies/series/books with more gunfire than dialog) but there is something about romance and the Molotov cocktail of contradicting emotions it causes that opens up so many possibilities. You know that scene in Moulin Rouge where they describe the premise behind El Tango de Roxanne? Yup, that at least partially sums things up for me. Even when considered through the cold lenses of science love is the product of a chemical instability. Well, to me, instability = chaos and chaos = interesting plot points. Why are romantic subplots casually inserted? Because it is an easy way to provide conflict and thus get the story going with new momentum if you hit a lull.
But I’m moving away from my topic: why ship? It’s easy if the pairing you support is considered cannon. Your actions then can be seen as building up to pre-established events. Heck! Implied pairings (you know the drill: long, longing looks, more shared screen time than what might be the norm, use of tropes usually reserved for romantic interactions…) get more respect than fan-made pairings. Fannon is what receives the heaviest fire. After all, if Word of God says two people are meant to be together, then who are you, the lowly fan, to say otherwise. Um…a fan? Besides, how often did you see a canon pairing and went “THE HECK?” I remember the first time I watched Big Bang Theory. It was a Season Two episode, I think, and I basically walked in on a scene between Penny and Sheldon. Something about their interaction immediately filed them under established pairing/will-they-won’t-they-situation. Imagine my disbelief when my brother, who had been watching the show for a while, informed me that Penny ends up with Leonard. I’ve watched the show on and off and I’m sorry, I don’t care what Word of God says, I stick by my initial assessment.
Romance has a different meaning for everyone. We carry over our experiences, our dreams, our expectations, and we project them on the characters. In a way (if you are not scared of giving your psyche an honest look) shipping helps clearing up what we do and don’t want out of a relationship. Granted, it’s also fun to speculate, especially in much-loved shows, but when it comes down to it even the most mindless of activities can teach us something if we actually bother to think it through.