i think i draw more sabriel than destiel at this point

I think we need to talk about tags. I’ve had several discussions with people from varying ships recently and all have mentioned an issue with tagging. I’m not trying to call anyone out or cause hate but I think tagging needs more thought behind it.

I’ll put the rest after the cut in case people aren’t interested in this at all.

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“Fabricated and Irrelevant” aka what non-shippers need to understand about shipping

I’ve been getting increasingly upset/frustrated about the discussions about shipping I’ve seen on twitter and in fandom over the last few days and, as I usually do when I’m pissed off about something, writing about it seemed like a good way to detox. Although some of the negativity and downright hatred inevitably comes out of ship war hatred and homophobic dislike of queer ships, I’m choosing to believe that some of it is out of ignorance of shippers’ intentions so am going to try and explain why I ship what I ship and discuss why shippers often take issues with non-shippers’ reasons for disliking the phenomenon. I’m not unbiased when it comes to this subject so I imagine other shippers see the issue differently and it’s hard for me sometimes to relate to the non-shipper perspective, but I’m going to do my best.

The most common reason I’ve heard for people disliking shipping is ‘This isn’t what the show is about’. There is one slight issue with this, in my mind. Art is objective. There is no ‘one’ interpretation. Just look at any academic discussion surrounding any major piece of literature. For every group of academics who agree on something, there is another arguing the exact opposite. And this is great! Different interpretations help us to appreciate art differently, as Jensen has said himself. Shippers can draw out new perspectives on things that non-shippers wouldn’t think of. Vice versa. Even the actors and writers don’t fully agree on what the show is about, so why should we agree as a fandom? There is one caveat to this, however. You don’t like someone else’s interpretation? Fine. Just don’t harass them about it. This goes for both shippers and non-shippers.

There is an added issue in here, though, that complicates the picture further. Most TV will have promotions focusing around the ‘will they or won’t they’ of heterosexual couples. Supernatural hasn’t been a stranger to this either. Fans will ask questions discussing the issue, writers will often talk about it. Remember all the promotions at the beginning of S10 which presented Anne-Marie as a love-interest for Dean? Ditto with April. Fans were positively encouraged to discuss and speculate. Now let’s talk about queer ships. This does not happen. Fans asking shipping related questions, even those about the relationship dynamic, are booed at conventions. People have been sent hate. This hasn’t happened in the Spn fandom so much that I’ve seen, but I know in other fandoms, actors have been made to dramatically read out fanfic or shown explicit fanart (without the artist’s consent, may I point out). Queer ships are seen as something to be mocked, so ridiculous that there’s no chance of them happening. This has created two issues, though:

  1. People outside the shipping world see queer ships as purely pornographic in terms of people’s interests in them. This is incorrect. Yeah, some people enjoy the smut in shipping. But at the heart of shipping, there is a general love of the characters and their dynamic. There’s a desire for representation, for couples other than heterosexuals to be shown on TV. There’s enjoyment of the subtext within the media. (Before anyone disagrees with me here, I should point out that the Spn writers have admitted to writing in subtext and using romantic tropes. e.g Dean’s encounter with Aaron was described as a meet-cute by the writers on the audio commentary in terms of the tone and style in which it was written. You don’t have to interpret it that way, fine. I’m not going to make you. But don’t say it isn’t there, because it is, even if it is purely subtextual.) Shippers are often those who are the most passionate about meta, fanart and fanfiction. When I want to try and understand the dynamics between a pair of characters, I’ll often try and find a good fanfic on the subject just as it generally has the character exploration that you can’t always find in meta.
  2. When non-shipping people talk about ships, their word-choice is often influenced by such discussions in the general media. Hence, words such as ‘dirty’, ‘ew’ and ‘sick’ have been used to describe shippers and shipping. Samantha Smith, in her recent tweets on the subject, described shippers’ views as “completely fabricated and irrelevant”. Please, please don’t do this, non-shippers. Criticise shipping all you want. I’m not going to play the innocent here. I hate the trend of automatically shipping a man and a woman together because they’re in the same scene. I want more male-female friendships in my drama and the trend of the popular media to change it into something romantic infuriates me. Just do not portray it as something disgusting. Because shipping is very much a queer phenomenon. Historically, queer people had to look in the subtext for any kind of representation. Discussions of queer ships are often the same as discussions of hetero-ships, but with the issue that they are stigmatised by the general public. I’m not going to talk much about this: I’m straight so I have no right to talk about how important queer shipping is. But I have seen queer people in this fandom talk eloquently about how much shipping means to them, how it gives them some kind of representation in art. And I am asexual. I know what it’s like to have next to no representation of myself in the media I love. And you know where most of the representation I get is from? Fanfiction. That was how I even figured out that I was ace in the first place. One of the few mainstream-acceptable works featuring an asexual character that I’ve found is a fanwork turned into a published novel. So, like it or not, queer ships are crucial as a form of representation and as a place for queer people to take pride in themselves. And, when you say a queer ship is something disgusting, you are taking away one of the few pieces of representation queer people get and making it something they should feel ashamed of. So fair enough, dislike shipping all you want. Avoid it as much as you can. But please understand that when shippers get upset about criticism of shipping, there is often a deep-rooted issue there to do with the media and its lack of representation. In the wake of recent events on the show, with the ONLY main queer representation in the form of Charlie being killed off, there is an even greater sensitivity to such matters.

I’m sorry for this being a bit ramble-y, but I’ve seen a lot of misunderstandings between people on twitter and the whole business with Samantha Smith’s reaction to shipping just really brought home to me just how ingrained they are.