The year was 2003, I had just hung up the phone promising to meet up with my group of friends as soon as the series finale of Dawson’s Creek aired. I remember it so clearly because my friends didn’t understand why I was so glued to my television screen. But I had waited almost 6 years, invested my heart and soul, and I needed to know if Pacey and Joey wound up together. Karaoke and drinks could wait.
Pacey and Joey were my very first ship, except back then we didn’t really use the terms “ship” or “OTP.” The expression relationshipper was tossed around occasionally, but I never used it. I would say, Pacey and Joey have the best relationship, they are meant to be, or Pacey and Joey are the greatest couple. So, what changed? Why is shipping such a big deal now? Why are there shipper wars that occasionally lead to online bullying and harassment?
Every generation evolves, and possesses their own slang terms. Back when I was in college I wrote an essay on slang words used throughout the years. In my opinion, millennials have taken the concept and terms like shipping, fandoms, OTP, etc… lit the fuse, and caused the biggest explosion of generational vocabulary. Everyone knows what shipping is, except my mother but that’s a story for another time. The point is, shipping has taken over our TV shows, movies, and books. Shipping is everywhere.
I think part of the reason shipping became so popular is because of the idea of escapism. We can forget our troubles, let our imaginations take over, and ship whoever we want. We fantasize about the perfect lives our ships have together. If you have a bad day, you can count on your ship and your fandom to cheer you up. Shipping is fun, but most importantly it brings people together. You end up forming new friendships with your fellow shippers. Social media provides a platform for fellow shippers to connect, and to share their thoughts, pictures, gifs, memes, and fan fiction. The colossal growth of social media over the last decade or so has definitely contributed to the popularity of shipping. We’ve come a long way since the days of AOL chat rooms.
Unfortunately, there is an ugly side to shipping. Shippers are intense and passionate about their couples. This fanaticism paves the way for shipper wars which often results in online bullying and harassment. Shippers not only attack each other, they also harass actors, writers, producers, etc… Here’s the thing, disagreeing is a part of life, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But, it should never reach a point where people are threatening and demeaning others over shipping. It’s absolutely unacceptable and beyond immature. Most of our ships are simply fictional characters on our TV screens. It’s not real life. There are plenty of ships that I don’t like and occasionally find annoying. But I would never contact fans of these ships just to harass them. I don’t agree with some pairings, but I respect the shippers because when it comes down to it, they are people. Social media is both a blessing and a curse. It allows us to unite with fellow shippers, but at the same time it can provide an unsafe environment where cyber bullies roam free.
Love your ship. Be passionate. Respect the shippers who disagree with you. If you happen to find yourself engaged in a shipper war, don’t be a bully, instead be the better person. Rise above. Be kind.
We are surrounded by shipping. It’s become part of our everyday life. It’s hard to imagine but within the next decade the term might just become obsolete. The next generation will have invented a new word, and so on, and so on.
What are your thoughts on the rising popularity of shipping? Send me your opinions on Twitter. Let’s talk ships! @KerrBearkru