Shipping Wars get vitriolic fast. Nothing brings out the angry hoards faster than proposing a theoretical yet unpopular ship.
As I’ve said before, I think this is silly. All ships can and should coexist peacefully.
But I get why this happens. People get very emotionally invested in ideas—and especially in ships. And when you’re invested in a non-canonical ship, odds are that people in real life have probably looked at you like you were crazy when you mentioned it. And it’s hard to stand up for yourself in a real life situation, when your parents, friends, or classmates are staring at you like you’re insane because you see the homosexual subtext in Supernatural.*
So you transfer all that pent up frustration with your real life friends to the internet, and suddenly you’re lambasting everyone who thinks that maybe Dean and Castiel aren’t meant to be together.
Look, we’ve all been there. I know I’ve been emotionally invested in ships. I grew up in the Harry Potter era, and let me tell you, Luna/Harry was never the most popular ship. Most people fell in the Harry/Hermione and Harry/Ginny camps.
But shipping wars—aka huge, hate filled arguments about which ships are more valid—are not the answer. And to avoid them, I abide by a few simple rules when dealing with online (and real life) discussions about ships.
1. NEVER use the word “canon” like it’s the ultimate end to any discussion. I guarantee the shipper you are arguing with knows what is and is not canon. But the joy of shipping is the joy of thinking beyond canon, thinking beyond the page—even if it is in support of a canonical ship. Ultimately shipping is about critical thinking. So if you want to argue in support of your canon ship, you need a better excuse than “it’s canon.” I want to hear: “Hermione & Ron make sense together because of these reasons.” Think about why you support a ship. Don’t just support it because an author told you to. Support it because it makes sense!
2. LISTEN FIRST. Look, you don’t have to agree with me that Sirius and Lupin were totally an item back in their Hogwarts days. That’s fine. But remember this is a theoretical discussion where most of the fun is pulling apart clues from the text and psychoanalyzing characters. We may not agree, but it’s still fun to see what the other person’s rationale and reasons are. You might learn something about one of your favorite characters from it. But the key here is: don’t start yelling as soon as you hear “Sirius/Lupin” cross my lips. Listen first. Then prepare your counterarguments or questions. Or maybe just say “Yeah, in that context, that makes sense” and then explain to me why you think Sirius/Snape makes more sense.
3. Do not insult a person’s ship. You may think it’s the dumbest pairing you’ve ever heard—that there is no way in Hell that Crowley and Sam Winchester would get together (get it? No way in HELL…sorry, is that just me laughing over here?**)—it doesn’t matter. Insulting a person’s ship is like insulting…a person’s actual naval and/or space vessel. You just don’t do it, or else Captain Kirk is probably going to punch you in the face. So instead of saying “That’s dumb” or “That’s stupid” just say “I don’t really see that, but if you do that’s cool.”
4. Sexual orientation is always malleable. Remember this is an exercise BEYOND canon, and remember that we live in a world that has very few gay and lesbian characters. Also, very rarely is a character’s actual sexual orientation called out. Yes, Clint Barton had a relationship with Natasha Romanoff and Bobbi Morse in the past, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t bisexual. Yes, Harry dated Cho Chang, but he wouldn’t be the first teen to discover he was gay at a later date. And you know what—I don’t remember Draco explicitly dating anyone. Which isn’t to say that your straight ships aren’t equally valid. Just accept that you can ship someone who might seem canonically straight as anywhere on the QUILTBAG spectrum. And vice versa. You want to ship Dumbledore/McGonagall? Go ahead, my friend. Ship to your heart’s content.***
5. Remember it’s supposed to be FUN. Any time we’re discussing a theoretical geeky topic, it’s because IT’S FUN. If you find yourself getting angry or upset, you’re doing it wrong. So step away from the computer and take a deep breath.
6. Ships ARE NOT mutually exclusive. This is the big one, and the part that most fans get hung up on. For some reason, people think that my believing in Clint/Coulson impinges on their right to believe in Clint/Natasha. This is simply not true. All ships can and should coexist in peace. I can simultaneously ship Clint/Coulson, Coulson/the Cellist, and Clint/Natasha. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s not mutually exclusive. Heck, the Avengers exist in different forms in like five canonical universes. Make up your own separate universes in your head. IT’S OK. And just accept that someone else’s ship exists in their universe. Remember rule #5. It’s about fun. Not about who has the canon-ground or who has the best psychological profiles to match two people up. IT’S ABOUT FUN.
7. DON’T FEED THE TROLLS. This is always a good rule to abide be when dealing with the internet. If someone is attacking your ship from an angry place, just don’t respond. No one is making you interact with anyone here. And in real life, just remind them of rule #5 and then walk away from the conversation.
And that’s it! My seven rules on avoiding a shipping war. If you have any additional rules or thoughts, please share them in the comments!
*”Subtext?” you cry. “That’s not subtext. THAT’S TEXT.” And I agree. But not everyone sees it, and you know what? That's okay.
**You still don’t get it? You must not watch Supernatural, so brief explanation—Crowley is a demon and the King of Hell. Look, it’s funny. Just trust me.
***Though remember that things can get sticky in this sort of situation. People might accuse you of straightening a character because you’re homophobic. In these cases, just remind them POLITELY that you are shipping based on chemistry and remember the other rules of shipping.