The Oxford English Dictionary Online has recently added the word “ship” to its hallowed pages. I’m not talking about a boat, or the verb that means to transport something from one place to another. I mean ship as a verb, short for “relationship.” It expresses the desire to put two people together in a relationship, usually romantic, and has been in use by writers of fan fiction for many years.
Example: “I totally ship Sherlock and Irene Adler. There isn’t a greater romance out there.” Or, “I know they’re brothers, but I can’t help but ship Sam and Dean Winchester.”
For some, the addition of this word signifies a degradation of the English language. I disagree. Apart from the fact that language is an ever-evolving, fluid entity, the addition of “shipping” signifies an acceptance of fandom culture into mainstream media. People who love and are devoted to a TV show, book series, movie, comic book, etc. are no longer “nerds” who are seen as anti-social and overinvested in their chosen fandom. We're all fans of something, and “shipping” is a big part of that culture.
Without further ado, I bring you my favorite ships:
Captain Swan: Captain Hook + Emma Swan, Once Upon a Time
There’s nothing like a bad boy, but even better is a bad boy who can redeem himself in the name of love. The one-handed self-proclaimed dashing rapscallion is a fan favorite character who's been vying for the affections of Emma Swan for a little over a season now. The “savior” who helps to save the residents of Storybrook time and again is herself a woman who has a hard time trusting, making her relationship with Hook classically fraught with push and pull, all while the two of them smolder very prettily on screen.
Olicity: Oliver Queen + Felicity Smoak, Arrow
Slightly nerdy, awkward, beautiful and brilliant, Felicity Smoak is Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen’s computer-hacking partner in crime-fighting. She was so popular with viewers, her one-off appearance became a regular gig, despite the fact that the character was never in the original comic book canon. Even the show’s star, Stephen Amell, recognized that fans would love to see her begin a romantic relationship with damaged playboy Oliver. He’s even an Olicity shipper himself.
Zutara: Zuko + Katara, Avatar: The Last Airbender
It was a kids show on Nickelodeon and this particular unrealized relationship that got me started writing. These two were literally fire and water, wielding their respective elements to create some real steam in fans’ hearts. I recognized in these two the romantic concepts of opposites attract, redemption, better halves, forbidden love and the forces of push and pull. Unfortunately, the show took their romantic lives in separate directions.
Spuffy: Buffy + Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Before True Blood and Twilight, this was one of TV’s most toxic and intriguing relationships between a human and a vampire. Buffy had already parted ways with her first undead paramour, Angel, and it seemed she’d never have another love like him. She was right. Spike, the swaggering, Billy Idol-haired British vamp started having a thing for Buffy in season 4. Their relationship grew more and more twisted over time, and there are some genuinely horrible and disturbing moments from it. Yet, watching the two interact on screen generates some amazing tension. I guess sometimes forbidden fruit really can be sweet…even if it’s poisonous.
Who do you ship? Why do you find their relationship so fascinating? What two characters have you always wanted to be involved romantically? If the pairings never happened on screen, why do you think that was? Have you ever thought about two fictional characters from different universes who would be perfect together? Comment below!