Jay’s Galactic Espressions
Shipping is a relatively new term in our collective repertoire of vocabulary – or is it?
The term seems to be exploding everywhere in the media these days, especially in the Star Wars fandom universe. But, what is shipping, how did it become a “thing,” and why do we humans feel the need to partake in such a practice?
“To ship” is basically to link two characters together, usually in a romantic way, but this does not always need to be the case. By doing so, we endorse the pairing, thereby saying we put our ‘seal of approval’ on the relationship. Oftentimes, we see the evolution of a new name to label the ship, assigning that new entity a word that blends the once separate souls into one seamless word that rolls off the tongue.
Shipping can be seen as a sort of by-product of our own desire to make an emotional investment in a relationship. That investment may not be our own leap of faith, per se, by entering into our own adventure, but we project that desire and investment into a pairing in which we can value. We root for happiness, success, and in many cases, a steamy romance.
In real life, we have seen celebrity couples shipped quite a bit. The most famous that come to mind for me are Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), and Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner).
Ships can also be friendships, or even worships – like a bromance between two guy pals (Prequel Era Anakin and Obi-Wan immediately come to mind for that example). A worship example would be Kylo Ren and his idolization of Darth Vader.
My first a-ha moment to the idea of shipping fictional characters was from watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory, in which Sheldon and Amy’s romantic relationship was renamed “Shamy.” I didn’t know that the practice actually had a specific nomenclature attached to it, I just thought it was cute and endearing.
Once the idea of shipping was ingrained into my psyche, I started hearing the term seemingly everywhere (a phenomenon known in psychology as “The Red Car Syndrome”), so I decided to dig a little and find out what this whole shipping fad was all about.
After perusing a few resources, I found out some interesting things. The term is said to have been inspired by the word “relationshipping, or “coupling” in Japanese. One of the first couples to officially be shipped was Mulder and Scully from the original X-Files television series. However, upon further investigation, I also found a lot of references to a certain bromance – Kirk and Spock – from Star Trek. Fans of this pairing would label the ship as Kirk/Spock, then eventually shortened it to K/S. Eventually the Star Trek community referred to these fans as simply “slashers” (2).
Pokemon enthusiasts were also known for their shipping of characters, especially between the members of Team Rocket: Jessie and James, which became known in the community as “rocketshipping.”
After I thought about it awhile, I realized that there has always been an undertone of shipping in every fandom with which I’ve ever been involved, and the idea of romance in any era has always existed. Anyone remember Twilight? Team Jacob and Team Edward? Now, there’s a perfect example of media-driven shipping, designed to align our emotional preferences and sell merchandise. Yep, I fell for that one. (*points at self, while wearing Team Jacob t-shirt*).
What also I found so intriguing about all of this is the fact that there is a major sub-culture going on under the surface of the canon in every fandom. So much so, that there has become some etiquette about the way the names of pairings are created, and even the usage of the words in everyday vocabulary and syntax. Here are some examples (1):
ship (pairing) : Example: “I support that ship.” means “I support that pairing.”
shippy (supports a ship) : Example: “That hug was shippy.” means “That hug makes them look like a couple.”
shipping (action of supporting a ship) : Example: “I enjoy StormPilot Shipping.” means “I enjoy supporting Finn and Poe as a couple.”
ship (action of supporting a ship) : Example: “Do you ship?” means “Do you support that/any pairing(s)?”
shipper (supporter of a ship) : Example: “We are all shippers of that couple.” means “We are all supporters of that pairing.”
Many a fan-fic piece has been inspired by a shipped pairing, but one does not need to take pen in hand to imagine the possibilities that exist among characters. Everyone, no matter their walk of life, has an OTP (One True Paring) they would love to see evolve into reality (thanks goes to my teenage son for that last reference), and will defend that pairing until the proverbial cows come home. People are very passionate and protective of their favorite OTPs, sometimes to the point of obsession and potentially destructive social behaviors. Many battles rage endlessly online concerning which characters should be paired with whom at any given time (should Link be with Zelda, Midna or Malon?).
Case in point: this video. Although a fun representation of the emotions and psychology involved with shipping, it does contain images that may be offensive to some viewers, especially minors. Viewer discretion advised.
Enter the new era of Star Wars and The Force Awakens. Right away, fans started shipping their favorite relationships, and lovingly hashtagging the living daylights out of every single one of them. Go to any social media website, and you’ll see countless examples. Before you start perusing the online images, I must offer a bit of caution: the fan community’s imagination is boundless, and some of the fan art/fan fic are less-than-discreet!
Some of these ships started because of one simple line in the movie (“…where’s my boyfriend?”). Others sprouted from a glance, a hug, an interpretation of a conversation, or a bitten bottom lip that launched thousands of ships (#smolder).
Here’s a short list of some of the most popular Star Wars ships I’ve seen lately:
Reylo, Reyben (Rey and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo)
Mazbacca (Maz and Chewie)
Stormpilot (also called PoeFinn)
Frey (Finn and Rey)
Render (Ren and Vader)
I must say, I’ve been drawn into some of these parings myself; not just because of the fun of it, but also for the possibilities that (could/do/might) exist. Right now, I’m on a Reylo kick. Not necessarily that I ship them as a romantic couple, but I do like the idea that their pairing could help balance the light and dark sides of the Force. For me, this ship represents my desire to see Rey “save” Kylo Ren from himself, from Snoke, and the Dark Side, and to bring his true soul – Ben Solo – back to the light. I’m literally mesmerized by the idea that this paring could bring back that balance. For me, this is the image that sums it up. See if you can view it from my perspective (it’s also my current cell phone wallpaper).
I interpret this image as a hope of redemption. Isn’t that what Star Wars is all about? Perhaps it’s just my personal sappy nature to want to “fix” broken relationships…
Do you have any favorite ships? Who would you consider your OTP in your world(s) of fandom? I would love to hear about them!