when your characters ship themselves
Mom: “They’re cute. I’d put them in a boat.”
Mom: “Isn’t that what it’s called? When you think people would be good together? They’re on a boat?”
Sister: “You mean you ship them?”
Mom: “Is that it? I knew it had something to do with boats. I ship them.”
When old people say “they have no chemistry” while watching a movie
is basically just “i don’t ship this”
It just kills me when writers create franchises where like 95% of the speaking roles are male, then get morally offended that all of the popular ships are gay. It’s like, what did they expect?
#friendly reminder that I once put my statistics degree to good use and did some calculations about ship ratios#and yes considering the gender ratios of characters#the prevalence of gay ships is completely predictable (via sarahtonin42)
I feel this is something that does often get overlooked in slash shipping, especially in articles that try to ‘explain’ the phenomena. No matter the show, movie or book, people are going to ship. When everyone is a dude and the well written relationships are all dudes, of course we’re gonna go for romance among the dudes because we have no other options.
A lot of analyses propose that the overwhelming predominance of male/male ships over female/female and female/male ships in fandom reflects an unhealthy fetishisation of male homosexuality and a deep-seated self-hatred on the part of women in fandom. While it’s true that many fandoms certainly have issues gender-wise, that sort of analysis willfully overlooks a rather more obvious culprit.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we have a hypothetical media franchise with twelve recurring speaking roles, nine of which are male and three of which are female.
(Note that this is actually a bit better than average representaton-wise – female representation in popular media franchises is typicaly well below the 25% contemplated here.)
Assuming that any character can be shipped with any other without regard for age, gender, social position or prior relationship – and for simplicity excluding cloning, time travel and other “selfcest”-enabling scenarios – this yields the following (non-polyamorous) possibilities:
Possible F/F ships: 3
Possible F/M ships: 27
Possible M/M ships: 36
TOTAL POSSIBLE SHIPS: 66
Thus, assuming – again, for the sake of simplicity – that every possible ship is about equally likely to appeal to any given fan, we’d reasonably expect about (36/66) = 55% of all shipping-related media to feature M/M pairings. No particular prejudice in favour of male characters and/or against female characters is necessary for us to get there.
The point is this: before we can conclude that representation in shipping is being skewed by fan prejudice, we have to ask how skewed it would be even in the absence of any particular prejudice on the part of the fans. Or, to put it another way, we have to ask ourselves: are we criticising women in fandom – and let’s be honest here, this type of criticism is almost exclusively directed at women – for creating a representation problem, or are we merely criticising them for failing to correct an existing one?
YES YES YES HOLY SHIT YES FUCKING THANK YOU!
Also food for thought: the obvious correction to a lack of non-male representation in a story is to add more non-males. Female Original Characters are often decried as self-insertion or Mary Sues, particular if romance or sex is a primary focus.
I really appreciate when tumblr commentary is of the quality I might see at an academic conference. No joke.
This doesn’t even account for the disparity in the amount of screen time/dialogue male characters to get in comparison to female characters, and how much time other characters spend talking about male characters even when they aren’t onscreen. This all leads to male characters ending up more fully developed, and more nuanced than female characters. The more an audience feels like they know a character, the more likely an audience is to care about a character. More network television writers are men. Male writers tend to understand men better than women, statistically speaking. Female characters are more likely to be written by men who don’t understand women vary well.
But it’s easier to blame the collateral damage than solve the root problem.
Yay, mathy arguments. 🙂
This is certainly one large factor in the amount of M/M slash out there, and the first reason that occurred to me when I first got into fandom (I don’t think it’s the sole reason, but I think it’s a bigger one than some people in the Why So Much Slash debate give our credit for). And nice point about adding female OCs.
In some of my shipping-related stats, I found that shows with more major female characters lead to more femslash (also more het). (e.g. femslash in female-heavy media; femslash deep dive) I’ve never actually tried to do an analysis to pin down how much of fandom’s M/M preference is explained by the predominance of male characters in the source media, but I’m periodically tempted to try to do so.
All great points. Another thing I notice is that many shows are built around the idea that the team or the partner is the most important thing in the universe. Watch any buddy cop show, and half of the episodes have a character on a date that is inevitably interrupted because The Job comes first… except “The Job” actually means “My Partner”.
When it’s a male-female buddy show, all of the failed relationships are usually, canonically, because the leads belong together. (Look at early Bones: she dates that guy who is his old friend and clearly a stand-in for him. They break up because *coughcoughhandwave*. That stuff happens constantly.) Male-male buddy shows write the central relationship the exact same way except that they expect us to read it as platonic.
Long before it becomes canon, the potential ship of Mulder/Scully or Booth/Bones or whatever lead male/female couple consumes the fandom. It’s not about the genders involved. Rizzoli/Isles was like this too.
If canon tells us that no other relationship has ever measured up to this one, why should we keep them apart? Don’t like slash of your shows, prissy writers? Then stop writing all of your leads locked in epic One True Love romance novel relationships with their same-sex coworkers. Give them warm, funny, interesting love interests, not cardboard cutouts…
And then we will ship an OT3.
I would like to add a probably problematic addendum to this. In that in certain pieces of media that are pretty much all centered around families–where everyone interesting is related to each other in some way–that makes the probability that incest ships will get somewhat popular fairly high. Simply because there aren’t any real OPTIONS for ships that aren’t in some way incestuous or otherwise weird and taboo, like huge age gaps or really noticeably unbalanced power dynamics.
I’m not CONDONING shipping those things. I am simply saying that when you decry the horrific depravity of fandom for daring to ship two people who are related, maybe consider the statistics involved, and consider HOW those ships are commonly shipped over the fact that they are at all. Like if you find that fans are going out of their way to write characters who are siblings as not related to each other in AU for fic or whatever then like?? Yeah. That’s probably a factor.
I’ve been in different fandoms for ten years so far, and in that time, I also happen to have gotten a Sociology degree. And these are the “rules” I’ve picked up on.
1) Shipping will happen. Accept it and plan for it.
2)The most popular ship will be amongst whoever character’s inner life, relationships, and screen time are delved into the most–as long as…
Addendum to 2: they’re marginally attractive. If that important main character happens to be, say, a talking dog, then most of the fandom will resist and ship other things because of the “marginally attractive” rule. Others will come up with elaborate body switch/humanization/whatever plots to handwave it away and imagine the dog looking like their favorite actor. There will be a small group who straight up ships the dog as is anyway, but waaaaaay smaller than if it was a normal attractive male human. But still–you’ve put a talking dog in center stage, so prepare for fanfic to be written about it in some way. It will just be significantly less if it breaks the “marginally attractive” rule.
3)There will always be outliers in fandom. Just because a fanfic exists of Roy Orbison in clingfilm, doesn’t mean much. That just tells us about the proclivities of that particular dude who write it. When we notice overall TRENDS and popular ships of broad swaths of people, then we can start seeing actual patterns. So there WILL be people who break these rules in disturbing ways, but those people are exceptions to the rule that don’t discount the overall trend.
Now, WHAT fandom and people as a whole considers acceptable for the “generally attractive” rule, that’s when we can notice some interesting things. The majority of fandoms where I’ve seen lots and lots and LOTS of ships around what are technically underage teenagers are from media that are a)Films with characters played by much older actors, and b)written narratives where we can imagine the characters as said much older actors. Our idea of what certain ages “look like” is warped pretty heavily from Hollywood casting much older people in the roles. Fanart of teenage characters from written works usually bear this out–they will usually be drawn older than an actual person that age tends to look.
Now, let’s apply this rule to one of the mysteries of Tumblr: The goddamn Onceler. Now WHY of all goddamn things the completely mediocre Lorax movie got so much fanart and fanfiction attention, I don’t know. I’m still picking apart what creates MORE fanfic of one media property over another(its not just popularity–lots of book series can be popular but have bupkis for fic), but I have a feeling, even if I did, the goddamn Lorax would probably still end up as a paradox. But when you look at the characters with ACTUAL SCREEN TIME in the movie, it becomes easy to apply this rule. The only people with significant lines and screen time are characters who are VERY clearly children, a strange little creature voiced by Danny Devito, and the Onceler. The only marginally attractive one is the Onceler, so the only possible option fandom could come up with is to pair him with HIMSELF from the FUTURE.
When you frame it in terms of how fandom makes decisions on who gets shipped, it makes perfect sense. Weird Onceler time shipping was bound to happen just from how the movie is written. If your only alternatives are straight-up pedophilia and imagining this strange orange creature with DeVito voice having sex, then yes, I’d choose shipping the Onceler with a future version of himself too.
Let apply it to another fandom: Supernatural. Now, any fan of that show can tell you that for a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time, everyone but the two main characters–who are brothers–dies around them. ESPECIALLY if you’re presented as a love interest in any way. The two attractive brothers have absolutely no one to depend on but each other, only about once a season visiting a long-time associate holed up in a bunker, who provides pretty much only resources and infodumps(spoiler alert! They also inevitably die, it just takes longer). Think of the rules: the Supernatural writers basically wrote their fandom into either writing incest, or sitting on their hands and shipping nothing at all. I will certainly not deny that incest is a kink some people have, but statistically there are no doubt lots of shippers in Supernatural who never thought of doing such a thing–and for which the kink has no particular thrill–who have nevertheless been roped into doing so just because the need to write SOMETHING to comfort those beleaguered characters.
After Supernatural had an episode or two lampooning fan culture and generally letting the audience know they were aware of their fandom, they finally wised up that they’d put their fans in this weird position and gave the brothers the consistent angel associate, Castiel. But this was seasons and seasons late in the game, so for some, that damage has already been done, so to speak.
You’ve made a show where most of the characters are robots, like Transformers? Well, prepare for written robot sex. You’ve written a show about humanized animals and their adventures? Congratulations, you’ve made furries. You can apply this to basically anything.
I think this also ties in with fandom’s accepted problem with racial minority characters as well. If the show just shoves a character in there for diversity’s sake and the writers seem unwilling/afraid to actually use a character, then the fandom won’t either. The characters fandom will write the most about will statistically be white males, because those are statistically the most common heroes and characters with the most development and screen time. Now, does the usual unconscious bias of fans also hurt matters? Ab-so-fucking-lutely. But fans also aren’t writing in a vacuum. They’re building off the original work, and some of the flaws of the original are going to come through.
It’s amazing to see how this post has grown and the amazing additions to it.
Now THIS is fandom discourse worth reading
But also, it’s worth pointing out that fandom does itself create cultures and trends which feed into one another.
I honestly think that’s actually where the Lorax fandom on tumblr came from. Around about the time it came out was when fan creators were getting really good at meshing together computer animated films in the form of GIFs and fan videos, combining movies like Rapunzel, Brave, How to Train Your Dragon, and Rise of the Guardians into stuff like the Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons mash-ups. Fandom were expressly looking for content from pretty, high-budget animated films. Edits and mash-ups subsequently lead to ideas, which creates fic and fanart, and this new content becomes a source of fuel and interaction for further fandom escapades. However, if you don’t have the technical skills to make the necessary video and image edits, you’re probably just going to end up jumping into whatever fandom has content you’ve seen/accessed, and doing stuff like roleplay blogs, fics, headcanons, etc for that one. Hence, Onceler blowing up Tumblr.
Teen Wolf became a fandom sensation in part because it gave teens who had been interacting with the Supernatural fandom an outlet that was geared more towards their interests, and gave Supernatural fans fresh content with a familiar formula. A lot of what happened in Teen Wolf fandom was built off of trends that had been established in Supernatural fandom. And SuperWhoLock, like Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons and other fandom mash-ups, was a result of lots of crossover between fans that made it easy for people to just move around between those fandoms, and, with a wide audience and lots of content being created, to also contribute something with a certain degree of guaranteed success and attention.
But this networking creates trends that are problems, too. Namely, the established nature of slash fandom and the way in which it manifests means that a lot of people just expressly go looking for two white dudes in any major franchise, and then start shipping them together. Slash is a fandom genre unto itself now, and people know how it works and what to expect from it, so they perpetuate it and look to mainstream content to provide specific tools for it – regardless of what got them into it in the first place. Even when there are other viable and prominent alternatives in media, even when things get more diverse, the ‘slash fans’ now look for specific elements to reshape in particular ways for an audience who knows how to look for it. Rather than seeing two characters in the series and feeling inspired to ship them, they instead look for the basic elements that appeal to them (and it’s not just slash that does this, either, among M/F pairings, villain x heroine is commonly subjected to this).
This can also happen inadvertently when a series is building off of an existing fandom, like when the Star Trek Reboot came out, and new fans had a plethora of existing Kirk/Spock fanfiction to sink their teeth into. Or when Iron Man came out and, even though a Captain America movie hadn’t even been hinted at, the Steve/Tony ship saw a dramatic upswing in interest, and previously tiny archives of fanfiction started to blow up.
Fandoms have had issues with racism, homophobia, misogyny, etc just the same as mainstream fiction, but in different ways and with unique trends that have carried through and impacted one another. Fandom is not purely reacting to the source material – it’s also reacting to the rest of fandom, and to the fandoms around it. Usually that’s the missing factor in people’s data. Why would Iron Man/Captain America become a huge ship for a movie that didn’t even have Captain America in it? Even a minor appearance in the actual film should have put someone else over the top, and even if we go ‘fandom was too sexist for Pepper and too racist for Rhodey’, there was still Happy. But that discounts the influence of fans from the comics influencing the rush of movie fans, and also the existing fandom content for the Steve/Tony ship.
So fandom has its own media trends that mean that a lot of people now look to mainstream offerings just for specific content that they can bring back to fandom in ways they find entertaining. Shippable hot dudes. Villain x heroine or hero x rival or ‘best friend’ dynamics that fit easily with ship formats. Unfortunately, this can actually cause catastrophe when the mainstream media finally breaks form and does something diverse, because even people who want to manipulate those elements don’t necessarily know how to work with something that isn’t staring at a baseline of ‘zero’ in terms of representation. And trying to apply fandom concepts that all operate under the presumption of a mostly white, straight, cisgender cast can backfire SPECTACULARLY when you’re not actually working with that.
The problem you can have, if you write too many shippy fanfics, is that you can see all the romantic possibilities in every single thing you do.
there’s a difference between the ‘enemies-to-lovers’ trope and shipping someone with their abuser
Reblogging again for @deirdrearchleone‘s insightful tags:
#the difference is that enemies are on a somewhat equal power balance#and can give as good (or as bad) as they get#whereas a large part of abuse is the abuser using the large power imbalance weighted in their favor to hurt their victim
me: *accidentally starts to ship something*
me @ me: honestly what the fuck
when ur thirsty for fic but you have quite fucking literally read every single quality fanfiction for the pairing
#there comes a time in every fandom#you have reached the last ao3 page#when the well has run dry#you look out at that barren plain#heave a sigh#go back to the first page#lower your standards#and start again (via archnemeton)
these are the truest fucking tags.
we have all known this painful lowering of standards.
my weakness is two broken characters who are broken in two completely different ways finding each other against all odds and healing each others wounds