Why do We Ship?

21 Feb

I’m going to start by saying I’m okay with someone having a preference for a non-canon couple.  Heck, there’s lots of times when most of the audience agrees that the wrong people got together, and I’m not innocent of such opinions either. This isn’t about arguing who needs to hook up with who, but why do we, the reader, like what we do, and why it’s such a contentious issue between fans who like the same work.

But this doesn’t come from literature but from hanging out with my coworkers when they were in the middle of a marathon of Rookie Blue.

I’m not going to talk about the accuracy of first responder shows (I haven’t seen many episodes, but I rather like Chicago Fire) but how much one of my co-worker ships a couple – Andy and Sam.


This series has like, five seasons, between exploring their feelings and general drama, they hook up with a bunch of other people before they eventually end up together. My one co-worker, well, let’s just say she’s an adamant supporter, calling everyone else “Gross” or “She’s crazy, stay away!”

She’s not alone. I recall that in the Twilight craze, fans were on Team Edward or Team Jacob.  In a marketing move, this tried to extend to other series as well – such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Even if you didn’t like Twilight, people would point out that they hated X – but Bella should pick Jacob because it’s less weird, somehow.

One of the longest-running series is based on Archie Andrews not being able to decide between two girls. And we, the audience, all have opinions, even if that the ‘choices’ should murder the hypotenuse and move on.

Back in my Uni days, one of my friends didn’t care much for the LotR films, asked me, “The ranger guy – he hooks up with the dark haired girl, not the blonde one, right?” This friend has since been put right and has sat through all the films with her husband, so she can learn first hand that yes, that scene on the bridge with the jewel had a point.

And, I’m not innocent in this, either. Once upon a time, I joined a forum waiting for Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children. I joined a group that preferred Cloud x Tifa to Cloud x Aerith. And let’s just say, I made some online friends to whom I still chat with everything other than things FF related, but let’s say, between the clubs, things got heated.

There were people dedicated to how much Cloud really hated Tifa. In hindsight, we were pretty secure in our ship and didn’t have to do much other than make fun of the other side’s webpages of craziness. And FFVII isn’t the only story to have it’s share of crazy-shippers, it is among the more legendary, because of a dating mechanism midgame that doesn’t really effect the ending because, Cloud’s motivations aren’t as important as him saving the planet from the Bad Guy who’s really been dead all along, [/spoiler for 20 year old game. Feel old yet?].

So why do seemingly sane and rational people argue about who the better love interest for the hero is?

Is it to do with the romance genre – different than the love story – (Tristan and Isolde and Romeo and Juliet are love stories, not romances) or is it something else? I think this has two parts – one of which is cultural, and then, looking at it from a childish angle to a more mature angle.

I’m not saying that Christianity has any onus on the love story, but I think there’s something culturally going on here. Because so many of our stories have been lost over time, the ones that were saved over time had themes that people in the past found important. These were the works of the virtuous pagans that various monks viewed important enough to transcribe to survive the dark ages, such as the works of Homer and Aristotle.

My theory is that in the Book of Revelation, Jesus returns to his Bride, the Faithful Church. This is why so many of our stories end with marriage and happily ever after, as opposed to stories that originated elsewhere, and we saw virtues in married characters remaining faithful (The Odyssey – well okay, Penelope was faithful) or not (Tristan and Isolde).  It was only the more complicated stories that we see stories generally exemplify virtues – such as resisting the forbidden fruit as exemplified as virtue in stories such as Gawain and the Green Knight. I think a mistake I often made was that simple stories were of lesser value to more complicated stories – but we’re a story telling species, and some times, when we can’t express an idea, we do our best to tell that story in whatever media we have – song, dance, art, and the written and oral tradition.


Sir George and the Dragon. No parallels to anything in the Bible here. Nope.

The other aspect of shipping is where we see ourselves in characters – we identify with someone, and we want them to ‘win’ – and when I was younger, it was more or less that my preferred character got the object of their affection. We get introduced to Snow White and her Prince Charming, they’re a designated couple, even if, let’s be honest, they’re boring, because WINNING.


My official emblem when I was a kid; never mind that I preferred chocolate.

It’s funny listening to my niece talk about Archie Comics, and she says something along the lines of “Betty always wins” when I seem to recall Veronica usually being the first choice, although he’d dodder back to the blonde if other guys were paying attention to her. I too was a Betty fan, if only because I wanted the underdog to win, plus she was nice – don’t make me use that vanilla picture again.

Now, as a grown-up who let’s be honest, doesn’t read Archie; I do prefer the Archie x Veronica ship – the main reason why is that Veronica might not be the healthier choice if I was a marriage councilor, but demands his respect. She may be high maintenance and scheming, but in a way, it’s also because I meet girls like Betty – and to you I say, you can do better. Betty would probably be the supporting wife who puts up with too much – with Veronica, you don’t need crazy goings on to happen, she brings the drama. Exhausting in real life, but for fiction – entertaining. Plus, a potential cautionary tale.


Because after you spend all the money on botox, she’s still going to be a handful.

So what’s your opinion on shipping, at least, why do we get so up in arms about it?


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