Pop Culture Shipping: A Primer

Happy Shipping Week at The Wannabes! It’s like Fleet Week but better (and less nationally significant)! This week we celebrate the unbridled joys and merciless angst of shipping. Shipping is the term used to describe a fan’s desire for two — or more but mostly two — fictional characters to engage in a usually romantic relationship.

Ships comes in all shapes and sizes, ranging from everything between adorbs and “NOPE!” Here’s a brief introduction of the most common types of ships that sail throughout fandom. Anchors away!

Canon Ship: Ron/Hermione (Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series)

Shipping the canon pairing means that you picked up on the romantic vibes of the show/series/movie/pop culture product put out. A perfect synergy of audience and authorial expectations means you’ve experienced the cultural content exactly as it was intended to be experienced. It may be mainstream but it doesn’t mean it’s lamestream.

Avatar-Zutara hug

Popular Debunked Ship: Zutara (Zuko and Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender)

A popular debunked ship is a pairing that many supported as the series progressed but ultimately did not pan out. The most common example of a popular debunked ship is the unfulfilled side of a love triangle. Still, an active and pervasive shipping culture remains, making it almost as fulfilling as a canon ship. Shipping a popular debunked pairing also doesn’t mean that shippers stop hoping for canon acknowledgement. Examples include JK Rowling and Emma Watson’s conversation solely intended to infuriate me and fan celebrations like Zutara Week. Shippers never say die.


Non-canon Slash Ship: Sterek (Stiles and Derek from Teen Wolf)

A slash ship is a same-sex pairing, often including at least one character who is shown to be heterosexual in canon. Non-canon male slash ships are especially popular for adolescent (and adolescent at heart) women, just as yaoi is widely popular among female manga readers in Japan. There is little to no indication that the pairing will ever happen in canon but that doesn’t stop it from being a vigorous portion of the fandom.


Ambiguous/ Baiting Slash Ship: Johnlock (John Watson and Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock)

They won’t get together. They’ll never get together — not in the “real” canon. But the showrunners know people ship it. Heck, maybe a few of them ship it too. So, they bait you with hints and small moments that they know you’ll eat up. It’s a cycle of ambiguous moments and FEELINGS. As a result, this is the ship that often results in the most angst from its shippers. (Speaking of, Happy Belated Red Pants Monday.)

GoT-SanSan art2

Inappropriate But You Ship It Anyway Ship: SanSan (Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire)

This is the ship that if the two characters were real people, the IRL (in real life) pairing would be icky, if not, illegal in some countries. This includes all sorts of incest (looking at you Wincest), major age discrepancies, and emotionally unhealthy relationships. For some these are guilty pleasures and for others they are genuine OTPs like any other ship. What is liberating about shipping culture is that almost anything goes as it is by definition an offshoot of the wide, weird world of pop culture.

CrackShip: Elsa/Jack Frost (Queen Elsa from Frozen and Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians)

Also known as Crossover Ships (according to me although apparently not TV Tropes), CrackShips are pairings of characters from different universes that would never, ever come together without fan intervention. Some CrackShips almost make sense like shipping the elusive Carmen Sandiego and Waldo. Others are…different (see: MyCake).

There’s No Fandom For My Feels Ship: Agent Knox/Hoover (Agent Warren Knox and J Edgar Hoover from Boardwalk Empire)

This is the ship you follow on your own. After working yourself into a frenzy, you look for evidence of others being affected in the same way. There isn’t any. Take, for instance, the huge following for villain Agent Knox and J Edgar Hoover. What following? Exactly.

Orphan Black-Dancing Clones

BROTP: Clone Club (The Clones of Orphan Black)

An offshoot of OTP (below), BROTP is a platonic ship in which you root for the camaraderie between two or more characters.BROTP clarifies that “shipping” is short for “friendshipping” as opposed to “now-kiss-shipping.” It’s often used alongside the more well-known term, bromance. Like bromance, a BROTP doesn’t have to be between two or more male characters but can refer to a friendship pairing of characters of all genders.

Torchwood-Janto kiss on the head

OTP: Janto (Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones from Torchwood)

Ah, the OTP is the flagship ship in your arsenal. Short for One True Pairing, it is a favorite, if not, the favorite ship of a fandom. It can also represent your favorite ship of all time across fandoms. It could — and should — stand for any ship you really care about regardless of how doomed, cracked, or slashed it is.

Remember, pop culture creators build and destroy ships every day. It is up to us to keep them going and not destroy rival ships in the process.

Oh, and yes, I ship all of the above pairings with a passion.

Originally Published on The Wannabes Buzz Blog.


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