I don’t know when I crossed from being an Outlander fan to a shipper. Don’t get me wrong, I’m both, but I’m identified as a shipper in this fandom. I can’t pinpoint when or where it happened; all I know is at some point I crossed some threshold and I’ve never been able to turn back.
One of the things that bothers me as a shipper is when people call us crazy. I’ve taken a couple of strolls around Datalounge and I’ve seen that word used: crazy shippers. Friends send me tweets from other Outlander fans or sometimes people in other fandoms about the Outlander shipper rabbit hole. I’m always offended by this; the people who think Sam is gay and bearding think WE are crazy?
But then I take a step back and realize that to someone who isn’t on the shipper side of the fandom - the nitty gritty shipper side - we DO seem ridiculous. They don’t follow tweets and likes and follows and locations and REAL locations and fan sightings and…the list goes on. They don’t deal in the day to day, they deal in the general picture of things.
I deal in narratives. When you piece together all the things we get to see that happen, they start to paint a picture. Of course, that picture, that narrative, is open to interpretation. For instance, people think shippers are crazy because some think Sam and Cait got married in secret. Of course that sounds insane, but when you look at what happened around that time - the weekend their friends were in London together, Luke saying Sam would disown him if he commented on hosting a bachelor party for him, the matching pictures of land posted at the same time on Instagram with a heart emoji comment by one of Cait’s besties, late night celebratory macaroons, and two gold bands on Cait’s hands in a Christmas video, one clearly being a man’s ring, doesn’t it become less “crazy”? Improbable, maybe, but crazy? No. Because piece it together and you have a narrative.
Or take the holidays around that time. Sam went off to Thailand, Cait went off to Costa Rica with her friends. There was a missed flight from both of them, which meant they both missed the PCAs were they were expected, except the only missed flights were out of CR. A figure on a boat that seems to have Sam’s broad shoulders and man bun sitting next to a leggy brunette. Super flirty, happy interviews together, a journalist saying she’s going to use a pin to keep them together, and then BAM, a crushing interview with powerful people in the room. Again, paints a narrative.
Or the time Sam cancelled a con because he had a work commitment. The man works himself to the bone: Outlander, MPC, Barbour, charities. Seems reasonable. Cait was off on a vacation at the same time. Only Sam wasn’t filming Outlander when he cancelled this con, he never showed up to the gym leading to being called out on instagram by his friend, he and Cait kept showing up online at the same time, and then he posted a weird stock photo of Edinburgh that Cait liked so fast Instagram couldn’t even refresh. Maybe all coincidences. Or maybe it’s a narrative.
There was a weekend last fall that Sam had another con in London. He and WCC followed each other on Twitter that weekend. Then WCC followed me, Jess and Julia at the same time. They started liking a LOT of blatantly shippery tweets and Instagram photos. Cait opened up their WIWY campaign and Sam finished it. Later, of course, she auctioned off her dress, Sam got the ball rolling on that and then personally thanked the winner. Interesting.
We could even talk BAFTAs last year. Terry was so excited to go, fans were so excited because both Sam and Cait were nominated. We expected great things. Then an anon pops in and says seating arrangements were changed last minute and Sam wasn’t happy about it. No Terry. But adjacents and one miserable looking Scot at the table the whole night. The first acting win for an actress who always keeps her cool but became misty eyed and flustered talking about her partner everyday on stage. A small part of a bigger narrative at play.
I could also talk about Golden Globes 2017 week, Cait’s birthday, the story that’s been spun for a year and a half now that has crater sized troll holes in it to those who are actually looking and watching. We could talk about all the many, MANY shipper tweets that have been liked, the shipper pics liked by their friends, the same online times when they’re time zones apart, the countless pictures where it looks like one of them are in the background. There are so many maybes. So many coincidences. As a fabulous friend said to me the other day, all of these coincidences are a pattern.
My point isn’t to try and prove anything here because it’s pointless. We all have our own sides and beliefs and nothing will change that. But when you sit back and look at the small intricacies of what has gone on for four years now (!), is it fair to call a group of fans crazy because they’ve strung words and images and actions together and see a painted picture? Of course we are responsible for choosing to still ship, those who still believe choose to do so, but can we acknowledge how most of us got here? We didn’t pull any of this out of thin air.
Maybe we are wrong. We’ve been told enough that we are. But maybe, just maybe, we aren’t. I think the fact that there is constantly a push and pull is why so many shippers stick around to discuss and speculate. Nothing is simple here. It’s a giant puzzle with so many pieces. It’s a bigger mystery than any plot on the show. And something about it isn’t right, which is part of the reason I stick around. That may make me a masochist, but not crazy.