Monday, May 18, 2009

Platonic Chemistry and the Anti-Ship

If you look at my list of ships, from Jate to B&B to, I don’t know, Carter and Abby, there’s one single reason why I ship those couples. It’s simple, really.

I was told to.

Not by Mae or Leigh or anybody else--but by the writers.

More...
This scene is eight minutes into the pilot of Lost.



This ER scene is poignantly wedged between Abby’s first patient death in the ER and Carter getting stabbed downstairs.



Here’s Derek and Meredith in their pilot, fifteen minutes in and already experiencing some morning-after angst.



And of course, if Booth and Brennan's firing range scene in the pilot of Bones doesn’t scream “SHIP US!” then I don’t know what does.

To illustrate my point about latching on to what I feel I’m being fed, I’ll admit that at the beginning of Alias, I was very serious about Sydney/Will. (I know, right?) For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, Will (Bradley Cooper) was Sydney’s best friend who helped her get through the death of her fiancé. As a journalist, he sought (and ultimately found) the truth about Danny’s murder, which would have been great if the truth wasn’t something that (A) Sydney already knew and/or (B) was gonna get Will murdered for knowing, too. Sydney/Will played prominently in the first three episodes (they even shared a kiss), but soon after that, the Sydney/Vaughn got played up, and I realized the error of my ways.

I hate to say that my ships are the easy ones to get behind, that I’ll only follow the ships that are being crammed down my throat. But there may be some truth to that. I don’t want to ship a couple who’s never going to end up together. (Sydney/Sark folks, I will never understand you.) I want the dreamy, savior-type leading man and the doe-eyed brunette with a fear of commitment. I mean, look, that’s pretty much all of those people pictured above. Plus, let's face it. Getting on board is about the easiest part of dealing with these people. Shipping Jate has never been easy.

It’s so hard to verbalize why this is okay. There are about a million other reasons why I ship Jack and Kate, a million glances and touches and Darlton quotes since that scene in the pilot, but there’s just something about those early, setup scenes that are reassuring as a Jater. This is the endgame; this is what you should ship.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe others are okay with accepting that their ship is just never going to happen and appreciate the AU fandom for what it is. I’m not. Having Carter and Abby collapse around my fandom, when they were so clearly heading toward Doug-and-Carol Land before Noah Wyle ditched the show, almost ruined me as a fangirl. I might stop watching television altogether if Jack and Kate don’t figure it out in the end.

Anyway, this blog is about the anti-ships. I mean that with all due respect, in the same way that anti-matter is still something. It's just not the foreground screaming and hollering, canon canon canon ship.

I’ve been engaged in a little Twitter back-and-forth about the ships of The Big Bang Theory. As a caveat, I should say that, while I watch this show every week, it’s not something I flail about. Except during the theme song. I honestly had never thought about this show’s ships until last week, when someone (Anna?) asked if I ship Sheldon/Penny.

Um, what?

No?

Again, I’ve never been a flailing fangirl about this show, I’ve invested no time in analyzing these ships, but if there’s gonna be a romance on the show, isn’t it between Leonard and Penny?

I mean, I get the hilarity of Sheldon and Penny as friends. But I’m not sure how their chemistry is any different from, say, the love/hate dynamic of Sheldon and Raj or Sheldon and Wolowitz.

I highly doubt (and so does Jim Parsons) that something could ever happen there. And what’s the fun of that?

The real build is between Leonard and Penny. I’m incredibly curious to hear the other side of this argument, because I just don’t understand how you could disregard the fact that the emotional romantic arc of the show is blatantly, explicitly Leonard/Penny.

To me, this is similar to the debate over Liz and Jack on 30 Rock.

Tina Fey has said, explicitly, that that’s not going to happen. And yet, there are people out there shipping Liz/Jack. And, yes, there are hints there week-to-week (some might even call them anvils), but as someone who’s not shipping them, I don’t see any significance beyond feeding into the platonic chemistry.

So I guess that’s my question for those of you who do ship couples like Liz/Jack and Sheldon/Penny and Cam/Hodgins (and most slash pairings, too, I suppose)--do you think these couples will eventually hook up, or is it just fun to ship them as an aside?

11 Responses to “Platonic Chemistry and the Anti-Ship”

onebreath said...

*raises hand*

Yup, I am one of those Sheldon/Penny and Jack/Liz shippers (not Cam/Hodgins, though I do find something appealing there and I wouldn't turn my nose up if they DID have a fling or something. Heh.).

TBH I think it was because I went into both fandoms with those pairings in the back of my mind. Before I'd seen either show, I'd checked out the fandom and found (especially with TBBT) that the majority of fans shipped those couples, so I guess, in a way, I was told to ship them? I was told to ship them by the FANDOM not by the show's writers is more what I should say. I just don't see the appeal with Leonard/Penny on TBBT. I can see the show is set up to focus on them, but eh, they just don't do it for me.

Overall, I tend to be like you. The ships I go for are the ones that are pretty obvious from the start (Jack/Kate, Booth/Brennan, Mer/Der etc). Carter/Abby. Hmmmm now there's one I DIDN'T like even though it essentially had all the potential for a ship I SHOULD like. I think I was still bitter over Lucy's death tbh, and I was a hard core Carter/Lucy fan. I also preferred Abby with Luka.

The one fandom that springs to mind where the couple introduced at the start that we are told to ship, but that I despised, was Smallville's Clark/Lana. UUUGH. Dear God. SO. MUCH. HATE. I loathed that paring more than Sawyer/Kate LOL. I also never shipped Clark with the other 'rival paring' though (Chloe), I didn't ship Clark with anyone until Lois was introduced in season 4 because HELLO! Clark Kent and Lois Lane!! Legendary couple there!!

Slash ships? Yeah... I just don't go there LOL.

inluv4evr said...

I definitely agree. That's what I've always thought about Jate, it's the OBVIOUS choice. Sawyer didn't even play a factor in their relationship until midseason, IF then. Jate has been there since the very beginning.

Same with other couples (Mer/Der, Jim/Pam, Ross/Rachel). What is shown to be the main couple is who I ship, and if I don't really like the ship, chances are I don't really like the show. Why watch a show and get involved in it if you don't like (or in some cases, blatantly HATE a character), for instance Jack - I'll never understand hating a character like that, especially when the character isn't pure evil, he's trying his hardest with the circumstances presented to him. IMO, hating a character only detracts from liking the show itself.

And I do kinda ship Liz/Jack a bit, nothing hardcore, but I think they're very cute together. But I know it's never going to happen and I'm completely fine with that.

S. said...

Having Carter and Abby collapse around my fandom, when they were so clearly heading toward Doug-and-Carol Land before Noah Wyle ditched the show, almost ruined me as a fangirl.Me as well. I was such a die hard Carter/Abby fan I had a website devoted to them. They were my first introduction to the internet fangirl community. Loosing them was about as emotionally painful as the loss of a first love.

Of course, I never really learned from my mistake, because I moved on from them to Derek/Addison. They of course were always moving down the path to destruction, but I think that had more to do with my love for Addison than the actual couple. I just wanted her to be happy.

Like what inluv4evr said, if I don't ship the main couple of the show, I don't really like the show. Which probably explains why I stopped watching Grey's the second Addison left, and why I am so head over heels for House (and House/Cuddy).

Shows need ships in order to pull in a certain base if you ask me. Which partially explains the Jack/Liz ship. Of course it's ridiculous and never going to happen, but for many viewers, love and marriage is the only way they can see their favorite characters living happily ever after. For ER, my favorite character was Abby, hence the Carter/Abby obession. Addison for Grey's, cue the Derek/Addison obsession. People ship the couples that they feel will work best for their favorite character, and so if your favorite character is part of the canon relationship, then most people are more than happy to take the relationship that they are fed. If they lean towards more non-traditional favorite characters, things become more difficult relationship-wise, hence the strange and unusual relationship shipping.

onebreath said...

Oh, I also just want to state that I know that Jack/Liz are never going to go anywhere and I'm okay with that and I think it's becuse I ship them KNOWING for a FACT they won't go anywhere, that I can deal with that. But it doesn't stop me enjoying them. :)

Sheldon/Penny on the other hand I feel could possibily, maybe somehow, somewhere down the line... go down that route. I hold onto that hope LOL. But again, I could deal with it if they never do.

Alli said...

I'm with you--canon couples all the way! (Spuffy shippers: WATCH "CHOSEN")

I think viewers can read (too much) into character interactions in media the same way people can in real life, certainly, and I think a lot of non-canon ships people like work because they're not completely out of the realm of possibility (certain slashy Harry Potter mixes excluded).

I'm not sure what the appeal in shipping non-canon-ly is--part of the fun of watching, say, The Office or Bones for me is waiting for that little glance between Jim and Pam, or the moment when you want to bang together Booth's and Brennan's heads and yell, "MAKE OUT." The only context in which that works for me is when the show's over, so it's not clear what happens next and you can reasonably let imagination run wild.

pokey-isdead said...

There's normally the biggest payoff from shipping what the writers tell you to, but sometimes I get bored with the predictability. Also, if I disagree with plot choices for the ship (Derek/Meredith, Seasons 3-4), it becomes really hard to keep watching.

I like non-canon ships because they give you a different perspective on the characters. Try shipping Alex or Mark/Meredith; it's fun to imagine where the show could've gone instead. They will also never let you down, because they were never going to happen anyway. Jack/Liz will always be the emotional center of 30 Rock, but you don't have to worry about a messy break up creating drama.

I can also think of one example where a random, unconventional ship for the first 2 seasons became serious endgame material by the 4th season - Barney/Robin on HIMYM.

That being said, I would never ship against Sydney/Vaughn or Booth/Bones. It all depends on the show.

pokey-isdead said...

There's normally the biggest payoff from shipping what the writers tell you to, but sometimes I get bored with the predictability. Also, if I disagree with plot choices for the ship (Derek/Meredith, Seasons 3-4), it becomes really hard to keep watching.

I like non-canon ships because they give you a different perspective on the characters. Try shipping Alex or Mark/Meredith; it's fun to imagine where the show could've gone instead. They will also never let you down, because they were never going to happen anyway. Jack/Liz will always be the emotional center of 30 Rock, but you don't have to worry about a messy break up creating drama.

I can also think of one example where a random, unconventional ship for the first 2 seasons became serious endgame material by the 4th season - Barney/Robin on HIMYM.

That being said, I would never ship against Sydney/Vaughn or Booth/Bones. It all depends on the show.

Danielle said...

Along the lines of what Alli said about non-canon shipping when the show is over: I think it can also apply to minor characters. For example, you want to ship Wendell/Mr. Nigel-Murray in Bones; it's weird and random but we don't know enough about them to know for sure that it's a complete impossibility. But I don't know how you can ship, say, Brennan/Hodgins when you're being hit over the head by the BB frying pan every week.

Personally, I can enjoy a show without ships - for example, Dollhouse: I'm still undecided about the show, but for me any shipping going on there would have a certain ick factor - or if I don't have any real investment in the canon ships but I'd be put off if I find them really annoying. I'm pretty much a canon shipper, but I think you can have canon ships which aren't going to have a happy ending.

Alli said...

Canon ships can definitely exist without the happy ending. Case in point: one of my all-time OTPs, Buffy/Angel. Ending so opposite of happy that he got spun off into his own show and the follow-up comics are owned by different people. But it's hard to argue about the pairing. Except if you ship Spike/Buffy, in which case I say again, rewatch "Chosen." And note who she kisses and who she lets die.

As for Dollhouse, I actually think it's been fascinating how they've dealt with the glimmers of pairings on the show so far--it's actually one of the most interesting aspects to me. Paul and Mellie/November has me hooked--I'd love to see Miracle Laurie back next season to take that in a new direction given the events of the finale. And Victor's little thing for Sierra (so far unreciprocated except in "Needs") is interesting for a host of reasons that get back to an essential point of the show regarding one's sort of core self-ness. The various employees' "sampling" of the merchandise is a whole other can of worms. (The Alpha/Echo thread is somehow so much less interesting, mostly because I haven't talked to a Dollhouse fan who's psyched about Echo yet, but that's also another can of worms.)

On a different note, one thing that I always thought was interesting about "The West Wing" was that the pairings were there from the beginning, mostly, but as much as everyone's personalities and histories were on display in every episode, the pairings really took a backseat to the politics. It was more realistic, yeah, but you could also appreciate what good television you were watching even if a few episodes went by without Timothy Busfield guest-starring (CJ/Danny all the way!) or Josh or Donna awkwardly seeing someone else.

But hey, no one does these things better than Sorkin and Whedon. It's really a pity the only thing they can't seem to do is a successful relationship with a happy ending. *sigh* And still I watch. And fangirl.

ale-la-pazza1 said...

I'm all for the obvious endgame,except some particular cases ;)

Caroline Carter said...

That's interesting what you said, pokey-is-dead, about Barney/Robin--it's so true. Check out the HIMYM tab here and read about how much that show stresses me out. I felt so conflicted, feeling like I should be falling for Ted/Robin when I knew they weren't going to end up together. (I still think maybe they might, though!) And I also thought of another one--Pacey/Joey. That shit was messed up.