Welcome to another installment of lessons on Geek Anthropology. We’re going to talk about shippers this time. As you recall, the Shipper is a fan who is more interested in relationships of the characters she/he loves than the canon stories within the fandom. These fans can ship any combination. Characters might be from different fandoms, the same fandom, or they can ship themselves with the chosen favorite character. Some people might argue that shippers are less of a fan just because they might be focussing all their passion in the ships they like the most. However, shippers are as valid fans as any other fans. So, why do shippers tend to be seen as less than others? Why might a particular fandom roll the eyes when shippers start to swoon?
Romance has been a female area during years. If you walk into a bookstore, and you visit the romance section, you’ll find tons of books with shinny covers: men with great muscles and women in distress. Romance comics have also had shinny covers in the same fashion. Not all romance authors are women. In fact, during many years most romance comics were made by men! But the problem doesn’t rely that much on the authors that create romance books and comics, but the audience that consumes it. As you might be thinking, society stereotypes have played a hideous, negative role in this genre, and thus, of the women who consume it. The genre itself doesn’t have much of good publicity either. Romance is for women, and thus, it has a lesser standard compared to other genres, makes their audience less compare to the audiences of other genres.
Shippers are interested in the romance that their favorite characters have on screen (or in their heads). As such, they’re consuming romance through their ships. This makes of them, in the eyes of other fans and non-fans alike, as less than other fans. It becomes worse when a man roots for his favorite ship! Old stereotypes attached to genres that live across media are making things difficult for shippers.
Romance is seen as a cheap way of entertainment for women. In the same way, the audience of romance novels is seen as bored ladies that need to get laid soon and stop feeding their cats; shippers are seen as the lesser of fans within a fandom. Why should they argue so much about the inexistent relationship between two characters that belong to two different fandoms? How dare you!? You’re not a true fan!
We’re doing a poor service to fandom when we consider other types of fans lesser than us just because they put their passion in another layer different from us. I can ship Captain Swan, Ragnar and Lagertha or Thorki; and at the same time, I can enjoy the shows and comics without needing to stop rooting for my favorite ships. Shipping is just one of the many different activities fans can engage into. Shipping is the beginning of creativity for many fans since they might even think about writing their own fan fiction or creating new fan art to celebrate the characters they love.
Shipping is a healthy way of enhancing imagination. Okay, it could be a naughty exercise, but it doesn’t need to be so: shipping has no rules and fans who engage in shipping are open to experience the fandom or fandoms that they love expanding their own boundaries in creativity.
Have you ever been shamed for being a shipper? If so, was it because they see romance as some lesser activity, or was it because something else?
Find the different types of fans explained in detail here.