“Shipping” isn’t a bad word. It’s not deserving of mockery. It’s not childish, bizarre, or exclusive to solely social media fandoms. But it is a promising word, and it’s an important one that emphasizes something many people can do if they’d just stop looking at it as some outlandish impossible feat just because it comes only from “loud fangirls.” It’s those loud fangirls that are saving canceled shows. Thank you very much. Since the dawn of time, anyone who’s picked up a book or watched a show or perhaps even stared off into the distance, watching two people interact has likely wondered about romance.
What most people don’t want to discuss is that 90% of the TV shows and films we watch aren’t realistic. Procedurals don’t accurately depict what’s happening in the real world, Game of Thrones is a made-up fantasy, Bridgerton doesn’t capture the realities in Regency England, and so forth. Most of what we consume, even reality television, is fabricated to appeal to the masses. However, there’s one thing almost every medium of television has in common, and it’s the detail that romance is something we experience in the real world too. Shocking, yes, but “shipping” doesn’t make a concept real or not—it is what it is. It exists outside of television.
Still, romance is a part of the real world. While it might not always last, it certainly exists (as do other things, yes), and the art of “shipping” is responsible for loud fanbases that ultimately (and often) save canceled TV shows. It’s loud, brilliant fandoms that are responsible for Warrior Nun returning. Fans saved NBC’s Timeless back in the day. If heaven forbid Stranger Things was canceled, Jopper shippers would bring the series back from the dead. The passion that these fans have are incomparable, and at the same time, because they’re the ones crafting videos, writing fan fiction, etc., they’re bringing attention to the series in more ways than one.
We merely have to look at how much greatness BookTok is responsible for. They aren’t the minority here—they aren’t immature people viewing the show or movie differently than the more prestigious “mature” viewers; they’re the ones who are seeing far more than meets the eye. They’re the ones picking up on what writers are putting down. If romance was a genre only a small group of people wanted, Bridgerton wouldn’t be one of the biggest shows on Netflix.
In truth, most people want a romance; they are just scared to admit it, thinking that it’d somehow make them seem silly or bizarre for looking at two people with insane chemistry and wanting them to bring joy to each other. What’s so odd about two people finding solace in each other when that’s something that happens in the real world?
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It might never not be tiring to hear the words, “But they’re better off as friends,” and “Why can’t a man and a woman just be friends?” Followed by, “Why does everything have to be romantic?” the cynics will cry out. Well…it doesn’t, but we need to stop acting like romance is some foreign concept that only TV and film push down our throats when it’s a part of many lives in the real world. We might not have many things in common, but many of us can say we either have a partner or would like one.
And no, romance isn’t always necessary to equate to great storytelling, but we need to stop acting like “shipping” is ruining everything. Who cares if someone on social media wants Ted and Rebecca from Ted Lasso to be together and you don’t? Why does it bother you what someone else desires? Why is it so threatening that someone else watches TV differently than you? It’s bizarre to be so intimidated by someone else’s fictional opinions on social media. The next time you feel strongly about looking down on “shippers,” it’s time to check your internalized misogyny and question why you’re disturbed by people finding joy in the media they consume.