Ships, Shippers, FanFiction and the Colossal Power of Romance Shouldn’t Be Shamed

It’s 2021 and I’m tired of defending romance, ships, and shippers at this point. But don’t fret, so long as there are incompetent nincompoops that insist on raining on our parade, I’ll be here to shut those voices down. Today’s issue? We’re back to meaningless hot takes from men (and a writer at that) claiming that “shippers” don’t deserve respect.

What? In a world where we have terrible racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, ableist, people living amongst us, it’s shippers who don’t deserve respect? Excuse me, I ask this again, but what? Imagine thinking that’s a hot take worthy of being tweeted. 2020 was one of the worst years we all collectively lived through and while we all had different journeys, surely the one thing we all felt was loneliness—even if we weren’t living alone. Because that’s what this year should have taught us that, human connections matter, companionship matters, hugs matter. When people were told they had to socially distance and couldn’t have gatherings, most cynics flipped and started screaming about how that was obscene even though it was to help protect our loved ones from an infectious disease.

So, if we’ve all presumably learned this lesson, even the most jaded amongst us who’ve insisted that they cannot comply with guidelines because physical contact is important, why on earth are we sitting here on the internet trashing people who just want to see two people happy and in love? Of all the things in the world to be upset about, to deem unworthy of respect, this shouldn’t be one of them. This shouldn’t be one of them for a myriad of reasons, at the top of the list being the fact that shippers are just fans wanting to see stories that bring them joy.

And okay, yes, there are a lot of bad apples in almost every fandom that take things too far. We aren’t talking about that now, but what we are talking about is the fact that romance drives the conversation and romance brings a large majority of the views. Take online stats for instance, look at the reviews that feature breakdowns of romantic relationships and then look at ones that don’t. One of those will have significantly less views than the other and I can guarantee you, it’s the one lacking in romance. Sometimes, this can be frustrating because really, when a series is great, all parts of it should be celebrated in equal amounts, but ultimately, no one should be shamed for caring about a romantic pairing. No one should be shamed for gravitate towards it above all else.

It gets pretty tiring having to sit here and justify why romance is so glorious. I genuinely have such a hard time imagining the fact that there are people out there who think, ugh God these two love each other, that’s so boring. And here’s the thing, I love a good action sequence or a masterclass showcase of special effects in a science fiction feature, but even if I didn’t enjoy those things, I’d never sit here and question why people do. I’m a chicken who’d never watch a horror film, but countless people adore it and understand it in a way that I don’t, so why would I go questioning or insulting them? You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to support it, but to adamantly deem it less than just because it isn’t your cup of tea is low and petty.

There are bigger things to worry about.

It’s no longer cool to sit behind a computer or phone app and insult fan fiction when Oscar winner Chloé Zhao writes fan fiction. And what that solidifies is that there’s never been and there will never be anything wrong with continuing stories we adore and expanding on them. At the end of the day, dude bros who sit behind their computer screens and try to insult women for enjoying whatever it is they want to are proving that toxic masculinity has always been at the forefront of these reservations towards romance. And news flash, there are countless men who enjoy romance too.

People get invested in romance and “ships” because the buildup, when done correctly is always part of the storytelling that touches on humanity beautifully. It’s this same notion that presumably strong, badass women are somehow weakened when they find love when in reality, vulnerability is strength and while two people are strong on their own, together they can help one another grow into even better versions of themselves. Bond always gets the girl at the of the film and last I checked, seldom do people complain about that. (Although I have 101 complaints about Vesper Lynd’s unnecessary death.)

Comedies are iconic not because they’re hilarious but because at the end of the day, some of the best, most steady relationships were featured in comedies and people tuned in weekly to see the development. Monica Geller and Chandler Bing take the crown on F.R.I.E.N.D.S., Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly on The Office–the list goes on and on. Ships and romance stay with audiences because they’re a reflection of the companionship that humans crave because we weren’t designed to be alone in the world. We are all meant to love and be loved, whether it’s romantic or platonic. While it looks and even sounds differently to all of us, the emotion is a universal truth.

Furthermore, romance readers and viewers are smart. We recognize the tropes that writers utilize and hi yes, we pick up on what’s being put down. If you don’t want viewers shipping something then perhaps don’t bait them with tropes because that not only equates to crappy storytelling, but it equates to lazy, petty writing while using the audience for your own gain. Don’t set up something like it’s going somewhere only to rip the rug right out from underneath because this isn’t subverting expectations, it’s just a desperate attempt to be “different” and that’s just ridiculous at this point.

If people didn’t want to see a good romance, if viewers weren’t so tired of dark and dreary then Bridgerton, a TV adaptation of a specific genre not many read, wouldn’t be the number one show on Netflix right now. People who had never read a romance novel before tuned in to watch and actually enjoyed it–a surprise to many perhaps, though not to those of us who’ve been a fan of the books. It’s utter proof of the fact that people care about relationships because contrary to horrifically misogynistic beliefs, it’s not about the glorified sex scenes, (which might I add, films and TV series in genres other than romance have tirelessly used a woman’s naked body and catered to the male gaze to draw in more viewers), but it’s about watching people go through life’s everyday struggles together.  

And that’s so often what fan fiction, fan art, and fan videos are too. They’re works expanding on stories that often show two people embarking on everyday life events and doing it together. When shippers are invested in a TV series, they so often are the reason it’s saved from untimely cancellations. Some examples being shows like Timeless, Lucifer, Sanditon and more. Shippers are the ones who keep conversations going because they take the time to notice all the little things that make the couple extraordinary. The plot matters, but the characters always matter more–where they are headed, what they do, their growth, their relationships.

People, “shippers” if you will, tune in and they get loud because they start to care deeply about these characters, hence, they care deeply about their happiness. And Christ, how on earth is this a bad thing? How is it not beautiful that people want people to be happy, in love, free, and alive? Make it make sense. Oh, right. It doesn’t.

So yeah, shippers should actually be respected with great fervor because fans spread a lot of goodness and fans drive so much of the popularity and discourse. And again, while there are bad apples everywhere, the majority of fandoms are a beautiful, exciting place that’s all about celebrating the piece of fiction, characters, and ships we love. And fan fiction needs to leave the mouths of those who aren’t going to put some respect on the fact that people do this for free.

Fan fiction is FREE. No one is paying anyone to write it, but people are doing it because they want to. They’re exercising their creative passions and giving people quality content to read that’s spreading joy. Imagine thinking that’s a problem, something to be frowned upon when there are a myriad of real world problems we should be trying to improve with our time instead.

In this house, we respect ships, shippers, and fan fiction. And that’s today’s tea.

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