Why I Will Never Stop Being a Shipper
Everybody’s talking about shipping these days. Though it’s been around for several decades, the term “shipper” has become increasingly recognizable across pop culture, regardless of whether you assumed the TV show Shipping Wars was about the Supernatural fandom. You also don’t have to roam far across the Wild West of the Internet to find fans and creators bemoaning the, let’s say “passion,” of the shipper. Jason Rothenberg, creator of The 100, took it so far as to notoriously tweet, “I hate shipping” to his fans, which to me is the equivalent of saying you hate people who aren’t afraid to use their imaginations. Rude.
Yes, there is every level of maturity in every corner of fandom, but seldom do we see people celebrating the capacity to root for fictional couples. It’s rarely a banner we wave offline, and more like a secret fangirl badge we flash when we feel we’re in safe company. But I’m here to say that shippers are the best kind of people. Personally, I plan on imagining fictional characters in ridiculous and romantic scenarios until the day I take off to that big Netflix marathon in the sky. Here’s why.
Shippers have the best imagination.
A lot of people watch television or read a book and never wonder what happens to the characters off screen or off page. But a shipper knows that fictional characters are not priceless action figures you keep tucked away on a shelf. They are meant to be taken down and played with until somebody’s head pops off. Until a love story is so illogical and laughable that you have to start over with a new one. Rinse and repeat.
Somehow when we reach adulthood, people start telling us that it’s time to hang up our imaginations and penchant for good old fashion teenage-level angst. We roll over, and we start looking in the back of the book for all the answers. We accept the canon we are given.
But a shipper has never hung her imagination up to dry. Watching TV or following a boy band is not a passive activity. Instead we are active creators. We are our own conductor, orchestra, and audience as we consider how two people might fall in love. And imaginative people feel less lonely, experience less stress, and have more active social networks.
Shippers make the best friends.
Ask most adults how they met their friends, and they’ll tell you it was through school, their partner, or maybe a community sportsball team. The truth is that it’s really hard to make friends past a certain age, because we forget how to be vulnerable with strangers. But the shipper, she can make friends as easily as Ryan Murphy can ruin your life with a television show.
Maybe it seems super weird to you that friendships blossom over the prospect of two characters doing the dead, or a forehead kiss, or even a single glance, but blest be the tie that binds. I have made my closest and dearest friends because we were both rooting for the same two fictional idiots. We both wanted Rizzoli and Isles to realize they were super married, or we both wanted Juliet and Sawyer to make it off that damn island. Choosing to invest in the same pairing is powerful, so it’s no wonder that friendships bloom when you start planting the seeds of stories together.
Shippers can fall asleep at night.
Often I’ve heard from friends that they can’t seem to turn their brain off when their head hits the pillow at night. There’s plenty to worry about when you have relationship problems, money troubles, family drama, or any of the 99 problems that adults have. But a ship ain’t one.
When you’re a shipper, you collect all these scenarios or “episodes” you’ve imagined for your favorite couples. Maybe they’re angsty, or maybe they’re fluffy, but we all have our favorites. If you’re a fangirl, you know what I’m talking about. Maybe Lexa and Clarke open up a Bed and Breakfast outside TonDC. Or Castiel and Dean are arguing about shower curtain options at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Rules? There are no rules.
Being able to use your brain for story telling is a powerful antidote for the worries or “what ifs” that infect your brain at night. Fangirls can whip out this weapon when they’re bored at the doctor’s office, surviving an endless staff meeting, or are drifting off into what is hopefully a night full of OTP dreams.
Shippers can root for ourselves.
Sure, there are plenty of fictional ship tropes that don’t work in real life. Angry yelling doesn’t usually lead to sex. Colleagues who hate each other will probably still keep hating each other. Princesses and scoundrels rarely interact. But if you look closely, many of the best qualities of your favorite ship are ones you hope to emulate in real life.
When you root for your favorite couple, it often becomes easier to root for yourself, whether you’re single or in a relationship. You start demanding that people respect and cherish the unicorn that you are. You apologize when you’re wrong, and you set your sights toward becoming more like that character you admire. When you practice hoping that someone else’s story will resolve itself, it becomes a little bit easier to believe that things will work out for your own.
Shippers have the most fun.
You can argue the mental health benefits, but the truth of the matter is that shipping is unabashed fun. I have never experienced anything so close to pure joy as I do when my eyes soak up a 50 chapter Alternate Universe fan fiction. Or when a friend texts me some ridiculous idea of a fight that our favorite couple had after episode 7. Or make outs. Did I mention make outs?
In these joyful moments, I am six-years-old again. I’ve popped open the latch of the orange suitcase I hide under my bed, the one stuffed with dolls and action figures. When I ship, I’m creating stories. I’m being ridiculous and vulnerable. Nothing can touch me. Not a TV show creator who thinks I’m taking things too seriously. Not an angry Internet troll who thinks I should care more about plot development. Love is plot, and love is life. If you have a problem with that, then take it up somewhere else. Because I’ve got some shipping to do.