I try not to winge too much about things. Not a big fan of winging, personally. I am not immune to it however, and do, on occasion, winge.
There was once a time where I could handle boating, but these days, are another matter. So I am not overly fond of ships…
I digress. The focus of my winge today is not the see-faring vessels of the modern age, but the explosion of over-the-top, heavily sexualised, innuendo based Fan-Fiction that seems to be more active and in-your-face than Trolling ever was. I am talking about the internet phenomena that is called “Shipping.”
Simply put, it is the pairing of fictional (or even real) individuals in romantic, or more often sexual, combinations that go against the reality of the actual narrative of the original story, or real life events.
Once the realm of the private fantasy, where fans would often imagine themselves with their dream date, musical hero, or acting idol, this has not become a massive movement. I can expect that in virtually any show with a large cult following, that each and every one of the characters have not only been imagined in every possible combination, but have been drawn, written, discussed, drooled over, and even developed a sub-cult following. I have seen rather serious arguments about the preference over various pairings, and which on is best. Even on-line polls!
I love a lot of shows. Science-fiction, fantasy, paranormal, period, murder mystery, the list goes on, and I have joined a number of communities in the hopes of connecting with other similar minded fans. I have had to leave most of them, because of Shipping. I want to discuss the ideas of the story, the development of the characters, theorise about where the story might lead, not to discuss who SHOULD be rogering who in yet another OTP (One True Pairing) contrivance.
What’s the problem?
At first, it wasn’t… a problem. It was the reserve of particular forums, and if it wasn’t your type of thing, easily avoided, and often it was (as I said above) personal fantasy fiction, which I have no problems with. It is one of many ways young writers experiment with fiction writing, and can be quite useful to them.
It has moved beyond the realm of personal enjoyment to having near equal popularity with general fandom itself, and it sets the scene for a very uncomfortable environment, particularly for men.
Sorry? For men?
Yes. I personally think that there are some particularly confusing messages out there for men, and if you give me some time, I’ll explain.
For years, the stereotypical boy growing up has been encouraged to hide their feelings, don’t show people anything. I know. It was a message I got as a boy, and wasn’t very good at doing. I tended to wear my heart on my sleeve. Still do in many ways. As I grew older, I was labeled a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy), a Metrosexual, or whatever was the current trend at describing a sensitive man. I was often asked if I was gay, accused of being so, and even approached by homosexual men who were rather forcefully convinced that I should be, and that I was only denying the “truth”.
I am here to say, at the age of 43, I am 100% certain that I am heterosexual. That said, I am also very comfortable with the knowledge that not all men/women are, and that there are various sexual compatibilities around the world. I believe that everyone needs to find their own leanings, and that homosexual marriage will NOT bring about Armageddon.
Being as heavily involved in theatre as I am and have been over the past few decades, I have met, and worked with a variety of wonderful people, of nearly every sexual persuasion in the LGBT community. So I would like to think that I have no issues working and interacting with such individuals, and that I can appreciate their right to personal choices.
I will admit to having an issue with being perceived as being homosexual, and this goes hand-in-hand with my discomfort of being accused of anything I know to be categorically false. When I was younger, I would react rather aggressively to being accused of something false. These days, I have developed a more rational reaction, yet I still feel the old fears of being misunderstood. I hope this lays the basis for where I am coming from.
The coming of the Bro-mance.
As a natural progression from SNAG, Metrosexuals, and the other various names of the past, we have the bro-mance, which I rather support and can appreciate. Modern boys and men are being actively encouraged to open up, and be more expressive. We are being told that it is acceptable to show affection to you friends and peers. Men hugging is more obvious these days. Even good male friends demonstrating more brotherly affection is common place today, and this is great. There is a general loosening of the male tough-guy image.
This is great, and such a welcome change for me personally.
There is still a long way to go however, and I believe we need to keep encouraging this type of behaviour as much as possible. I actually attribute the feminist movement for a large part of this change. As women fight for the right to be seen as partners in the human race, it has exposed men for the posers we have been.
The ship that sinks
Then along comes Shippings. This current mania for artificial pairings in itself is bad enough. It is the rather single-minded focus on male-on-male pairings that I draw issue to, and not because it is homosexual, but because they are heterosexual characters drawn in homosexual pairings. I’ll give you some examples, that I’m sure many have heard of already;
- Dean and Castiel (Destiel) from Supernatural
- Sam and Castiel (Sastiel) from Supernatural
- Sam and Dean, they are brothers for crying out loud
- In fact, almost any of the angels, including Lucifer, with either of the boys, or each other, from Supernatural
- Sherlock and Watson, or Moriarty from the new Sherlock series
- David Tennant’s Doctor with Jack Harkness from Doctor Who
- Harry with Ronald from Harry Potter (I shit you not) which is one of many
- Any of the GIRLS together from Harry Potter
- Look up recent Anime cult series, and you’ll find more of the same…
And it doesn’t stop there. Musical bands, real people, are being shipped. The boys from One Direction have been written about in the pleasurable company of each other. Various other international ensemble bands have undergone the same treatment.
It is not simple fan fiction anymore. It has become so manic that people who distribute this stuff are looking for even the slightest hint that their sexual fantasies actually have some truth. The boys from Supernatural cannot demonstrate moments of brotherly affection for each other without that particular quarter of the fandom melting into lustful puddles claiming that the hug at the end of the latest episode is proof that their twisted imaginings are completely founded.
Japanese boy band, Arashi, whom have a huge following in their home country, can’t even touch each other with the net being utterly swamped with multiple wet dreams being publicly transmitted over popular social media feeds, and social groups.
Where is it coming from?
People from all walks of life are being swept up in this internet trend, and interestingly enough, it is young women that seem to be the largest group pushing the Shipping craze. Teenage through to early 20s form a majority, and this is based on my observations, and the observations of others close to me. I can’t find any definitive analysis on this at the moment, but would be very interested to see some. It is by no means isolated to the group, and there are clearly giddy participants from both genders, and all ages.
So what is your point Jeff?
My point is that with a generation of men being actively encouraged to express themselves, and be more affectionate with each other, we now have a situation that even the slightest demonstration of affection is being twisted into an exaggeration of sexual interaction. Now why would anyone do anything when the chances were someone was going to over-react and see something that simply wasn’t there?
I fear that we are seeing something that for many will only cause confusion, and potentially push some men away from opening up, back into hiding.
I apologise for the winge in this post. I don’t normally winge. This is an exception. I’ll go back to my normal business now.