Anyone familiar with Tumblr will probably be familiar with a whole bunch of terms related to “ships” that have absolutely nothing to do with ships. In Tumblr-sphere, a “shipper” refers to someone who wants a pair of fictional characters or celebrities (most likely those who collaborated in a project like a MV or a film) to fall in love and get together. It may sound incredibly dumb, but the shipping culture has become more and more popular of late, especially among younger teens. And the fandom is not to be trifled with. Not only do you have to wholeheartedly support your dream couple, you also have to wholeheartedly oppose any other pairing, hence creating what is called a “ship war” in which fans who ship different couples fight and abuse each other on social networks.
That’s not to say shipping is not an intellectually-stimulating activity. Every year, the shipping culture produces a slew of impeccably-edited Youtube videos, clever gifs, and highly graphic fanfic dedicated to their OTP (One True Pair). Some of those fan-made works are so remarkably well-created that I often wonder if the sole reason those fans go to sleep every night is to dream about two actors sharing a fake kiss. And I wonder: why is it so important to these fans that two characters with absolutely no connection to their actual lives become a couple? Why do we care so fucking much?? I mean, it’s understandable if you get excited watching two of your close friends who look absolutely adorable together start to develop feelings for each other. But why do we feel like the whole fucking universe just collapsed when Kate went back to Jack, or when Elena dumped Stefan, or when Robin divorced Barney (THAT SELFISH BITCH)?
Though an ex-shipper of multiple OTPs myself, I don’t really have any solid answer other than the fact that it’s just so exciting to live vicariously through the characters once you get attached to them and their stories. Because, let’s be honest, our love lives will probably never be nearly as romantic or exhilarating or illicit as that between a super hot teacher and a student, two castaways on a deserted island, or a vampire and a werewolf. As cheesy as many of these storylines may seem, it’s just nice to know that sometimes love can work out even in the direst situations. Or maybe we just like rooting for something we can’t openly support in real life. Like pedophilia/necrophilia in Twilight, or statuary rape in Pretty Little Liars. Like seriously, who actually thinks it’s hot that their 16 year-old classmate is hooking up with the fucking English professor. And who the fuck would want their bestie to marry a man-whore who’s fucked over 250 girls? No, I do not feel ashamed of shipping Barney and Robin for six whole seasons (FUCK YOU CREATORS), but I wouldn’t think it’s cool if they were people I knew.
To be honest, I think the most compelling part about this whole shipping business is the lead-up. The whole “will they or won’t they” moment that sometimes last longer than the relationship itself. In some ways, the lead-up is probably the most realistic part of an onscreen love story. You know, that magical moment when his hand accidentally brushes yours, or that brief instant when you sneak a glance at him and catch him furtively staring at you too (it goes for both guys and girls, but I’m just too lazy to write “him/her”). It’s cheesy as hell, but we still dig it. And if we can’t experience first hand all the time, we might as well soak it all in on the screen. But it’s only so sweet and beautiful until that first kiss happens. Once the ship sails, the magic leaves as well.
So is this whole shipping thing a waste a time? Probably. But it was fun while it lasted.