What is it about the ‘Ship?
If you’re here, I’m going to assume you read romance novels or woman’s fiction, (aka chic lit) or that you at least watch romcoms. And, if you do, then you probably also have at least one fictional pairing that you are a super fan of… otherwise known as “shipping.”
Fun fact, in 2015, Business Insider did a whole article on this concept, stating that shipping started in online fandoms, and that, “Relationshippers [or ‘shippers for short] are people who care deeply about the romantic relationships between their favorite characters — and sometimes, celebrities or even the people in their own lives.” They also declared that this would change the way people talk about relationships. #noliesdetected
Over the years, I’ve shipped many couples, both in literature (ahem, I use that term somewhat loosely) and in television and film. If you follow my IG, you’ll know I’m a huge fan Pacey and Joey from Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003). Recently, the Netflix series Bridgerton has revived my love of Julie Quinn’s characters Daphne and Simon from The Duke and I (2000). And, while I’ve never really loved Shakespeare’s tragedies, I am a fan of Leo and Claire in Romeo + Juliet (1996). I adored Jamal’s love-lost-and-found struggle with Latika in Slumdog Millionaire (2008), even though I never actually read the novel it’s based on, Q & A (2005). Long before I had a blog or even a website, I used to post on IG some of my favorite literary couples (like Wesley & Buttercup, The Princess Bride) and not-so-literary couples (Coach Eric & Tami, Friday Night Lights).
And I’m not alone… there are unofficial creative works, also know as fanfiction and fanart, dating back to 1996 ‘shipping favorite couples like Mulder and Skully from the X-files. These usually resulted from audiences who felt that the show runners or book authors did not take the characters romantically far enough or in the right direction.
Some of these are so comically bad, there are entire Reddit threads devoted to them. In just the world of Harry Potter, readers have launched ships as varied as ‘Drarry (Harry and Draco) and ‘Magrid (Hagrid and Madame Maxine).
But, lest we judge, shipping is not just for teen readers of Harry Potter — In fact, I personally remember being so obsessed with Pearl Cove’s Hannah and Archer (from author Elizabeth Lowell, aka Ann Maxwell, 1999) that I scanned her next book, Midnight in Ruby Bayou (2000) in the bookstore for even a hint because I missed them!
What is it about fictional couples that creates this kind of connection?
Obviously, a huge part of it is the same general reason that romance novels are the most profitable and popular genre for books sales: we love love! We also love escapism. And, with fictional characters, especially when well developed, we see potentially perfect relationships that we’d love to have. We can safely play out fantasies that feel real, without the distraction of reality. Mostly, it seems the ‘ship is about hope and adding a little more “happily ever after” into our lives.
And, who doesn’t want that? If you’re up for it, I’d love to know in the comments who you ‘ship!
In love and laughter,
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