If you have ever ventured onto any kind of fan related site – or you have a tumblr – then you might have heard the term ‘Shipping’. If you’re unfortunate enough to know me then I have probably dropped this term into a conversation more often than is healthy. But chances are you had no idea what I am talking about and no, it does not have anything to do with sending products overseas which is why I decided to write this blog because I am sick of having to explain the term to people who don’t spend their time obsessing over fictional characters.
According to TV Tropes the term comes from the word relationship, which makes sense because it’s all about romance. Basically the act of shipping means really wanting two (usually fictional) people to ‘get together’ (I mean to say as in the sex).
Let’s use a fictional example – Say you love Romeo and Juliet but you have only read the first act. It might seem crazy but there is definitely something going on between these two youngsters. There are other options, maybe Romeo will go back to Rosaline or Juliet might end up marrying Paris after all… but despite the obstacles you are sure that Romeo and Juliet are meant to be. You really really want them to be in a romantic relationship. You have just jumped on board the HMAS Romeo and Juliet… in other words you ‘ship’ them.
I feel the need to state that just because Romeo and Juliet did get together does not mean that the couple you ship has to be in a relationship in the actual text. You can ship anything whether it is canon (what actually happened), subtext (the hidden meaning – usually subjective) or total crack (based on nothing what so ever except your own crazy brain). If they exist you can ship them, they don’t even have to be the same species.
What happens now – you need to give your ‘ship’ (the couple: Romeo and Juliet) a name. This usually means combining the couple’s names into a portmanteau word. It can be either first or last names or even a combination of the two. Romeo and Juliet could be: Jumeo, Monulet or even Romulet (please don’t judge me on my creation of portmanteau’s it’s really not my thing – but Jumeo… lol). This name makes it easier to talk about your couple and find people that join in your belief that these two love birds are meant to be… but mostly it’s used to track tags on tumblr.
I should also point out that shipping is not exclusively heterosexual in fact it often comes with a rainbow flag. The shipping of slash (male/male) and femslash (female/female) couples is a massive part of the shipping world. It’s also a lot more controversial, not just because of the homosexuality thing but also because the number of same-sex couples in canon is very limited so most of the slash and femslash pairings tend to be based on subtext.
Maybe Romeo is only going after Juliet because he really fancies Tybalt but because of the moral expectations of the day he is unable to show his true feelings so he settles for his cousin. Or you might have notices that Juliet and The Nurse are a little bit too close – something is definitely going on there. If you ever had the notion that two supposedly straight characters were not acting particularly straight then the shipping community is the place for you.
So you’ve read the play and watched all the adaptations and you’ve decided that you’re pretty sure Romeo and Juliet are meant to be. Then you need to decide just how much Jumeo means to you. Ask yourself the ultimate question – are they you’re ‘one true paring’ (OTP for short). Would you rather jump in front of a bus than see Romeo with someone other than Juliet? You will need this kind of conviction because if you decide that this is indeed your OTP (for this fictional universe at least) then you have to be able, and willing, to argue your point with all the other shippers out there who don’t agree with you. Let’s face it, the relationship comes out of nowhere, it’s understandable that other people might think it’s not meant to be.
Of course you don’t have to be exclusive with your shipping. I just so happen to be a massive multi-shipper. That means that while I might think Romeo and Juliet are good together I also think that Juliet has come chemistry with Paris so I wouldn’t mind seeing them together. And the way that Mercutio looks at Romeo is definitely something more than friendship. This is OK, in fact I think it’s probably the saner way to deal with this kind of thing but remember that if you choose to multi-ship you will be a point of controversy for those who believe in their OTP. Have fun but watch out because shippers are a dangerous breed.
This brings me to the negative aspect of shipping and unfortunately this is what you are most likely to encounter. Some shipper can get a little bit obsessed with their paring to the point where they will argue (violently) with anyone who contradicts their chosen couple. They usually fight amongst themselves but don’t be fooled they will attack anyone – even the actual text.
I’m not trying to scare you, a lot of shipper are actually pretty reasonable and sometimes it can be fun to argue about which pairing is the best. I just feel the need to warn you that Romeo/Mercutio fangirls would be the ones to find where Shakespeare is actually buried just so they could dig him up either punch him for killing of one of their OTP or clone him so that he can finally admit that there really was something going on… just saying.
Anyway, there you have it. From now on the world is your imagination. So pick your couple, talk to your fellow fans, make posters, graphics, gifs and of course write all the fan fiction you can… as long as it’s got porn in it.
If you want to know more about the many aspects of shipping click here. (Although if you do click I can guarantee you will ever leave that site).