Thoughts on shipping.

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the image, as well as the caption)

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the caption as well as the image. I’m not that clever).

Not that kind of shipping. Shipping. Like when you write fan fiction (on paper or in your head) in which fictional characters fall in luuuuve with each other and (presumably, at some point) have sex and/or are permanently joined together in sacred and/or fleshy bliss. It comes from the word “relationship” – hence “shipping,” as in: “I ship Harry and Ron, everyone knows they were the real love story at Hogwarts!”

And if you don’t know it yet — yes, that really is a thing, all across the various realms of geekdom, and recently more broadly in popular culture. So you’ll have fan communities who create art or write stories or make videos that bring together two (or more) characters who were not imagined by their creator as romantically involved.

Coupla things. Thing the First, and let’s just get this out of the way: I have a thing about canon. The creator is, to my mind, God in the universe of these characters to whom we feel so attached, and thus, if JK Rowling didn’t think that Harry and Ron would fall in love — well, she would know. Plain and simple. It’s one thing to create fan art that builds on the creator’s world, but I honestly think it’s another thing entirely to upend the story as the creator intended for it to be told. In my always humble (and probably minority) opinion.

But here’s Thing the Second, and Thing the Second is actually the thing that I believe is most important.

Most of these imagined relationships (Harry-Ron, Kirk-Spock, Jess-Jules [Bend It Like Beckham], Arthur-Merlin [Merlin], Katniss-Peeta-Gale, etc and so on, ad infinitum) don’t just upend the story as originally conceived, they upend the sexuality of those involved, often because the characters are so close — their relationship runs so deep — that we do not know how to let it be friendship. We do not know how to understand need and longing and fierce loyalty, unless it’s about romance and sexuality.

And thus, to my mind, when we ship Kirk and Spock, or Arthur and Merlin, or Sam and Frodo, we’re not only doing a disservice to the creator’s vision, we’re dishonoring the characters, and revealing more about about ourselves and our society than we may have intended. 

Note, for instance, that most shipping seems to entail male characters — as a society, we’re usually ok with girls and women loving each other and expressing that love in a way that is not romantic or sexual. Men on the other hand? We really don’t know what to do with that.

So we change it. We diminish and dismiss men’s capacity for loving each other — truly, deeply loving each other — and insist that such love can only find true expression in something akin to 21st century notions of romance and sexuality.

Once upon a time, in mid-19th century America, men wrote love letters to each other — honest to God, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking of our last hours spent together,” love letters to each other. Like, it was thing. You wrote to your friends and told them how you felt.

And true to late-20th/early 21st century form, letters such as these have led some to conclude that Abraham Lincoln himself was gay, despite copious evidence to the contrary — because why else would he express such tender affection for a man? Even though I presume that at least some of the men writing these letters were, in fact, expressing an emotion to which they were otherwise unable to give voice, sheer statistics would suggest that most of them weren’t. Which is to say: We weren’t always like this, America.

I do understand that some fan fic/shipping comes in response to the appalling dearth of LGBTQ love stories in our culture, and I guess it’s easier for me, a straight woman, to not want to validate the work that some people create around a love they’d like to see expressed. I will concede that.

But beyond that, mostly it just cheeses me off. You cannot tell me that a romantic, sexual relationship between Sam and Frodo would have been deeper or more real than the relationship we are told they had; you cannot tell me that Merlin’s love for Arthur was any less because they didn’t have sex.

I’m tired of telling boys and men that they cannot, may not love each other — frankly, shipping of this kind is little more than the flip-side of guys who yell “No homo!” after a big hug. There is nothing wrong with men falling in love with other men; there is also nothing wrong with men having loving friendships.

And with that, I have likely sealed my fate in the geek community, and so I bid you adieu. It was fun while it lasted. I’ll just be over here, reading my books.

House rules.

Apropos of absolutely nothing (except, possibly, a certain up-coming movie event), I hereby present

Sure I just ran this picture a few weeks ago – but can you think of a more appropriate illustration for this post? I certainly can’t.

Rules that exist in my house

  1. No Harry Potter movies until you have at least three books under your belt. To the extent that I can maintain some level of wonder in my children’s lives, I will lay down rules to do so, dag-nabbit!
  2. Ice-cream rule #1: We get ice-cream every Friday after camp. This is iron-clad. If the ice-cream man isn’t at his usual post-camp hang-out, we find ice-cream elsewhere. (Lest you think this generous, however, the guy is there every.single.day. Ice-cream rule #1 was formulated a few years back in response to a couple of weeks of constant begging — and thus, quite handily, serves as both carrot and stick: “No! And if you don’t stop whining about it, you won’t get any on Friday, either!”)
  3. Ice-cream rule #2: If an ice-cream truck drives down our street, everybody gets ice-cream. Also iron-clad, because: Dude. Summer! Now, it is undeniable that this rule has occasionally led to the unfortunate (or, depending on your perspective, fortunate) circumstance of both boy and girl getting two ice-creams back-to-back, because we just got back from camp, and hey-oh! Here comes an ice-cream truck! But, you know: A rule’s a rule! (Also in my defense: Summer!).
  4. You can swear all you want among your compatriots, but don’t let me hear it when an adult’s in spitting range. Honestly, the love-hate affair that Americans have with curse words is more than a little redonk. The best example of this redonk-ness is, of course, at your local cineplex: Kiddies can mos def handle dozens of violent deaths and oodles of hyper-sexualized women before they turn 13, but the f-word? Heaven forfend! Slap an R on that slice of rolling danger! So the husband and I have taken what we believe to be an reasonable middle road: American adults really do freak out when kids say those words, and American culture is the culture in which we live. But we don’t really care. So have enough respect for the adults around you to lie like a rug, that’s all we’re asking.
  5. No biting the table. You would think this goes without saying, but at age 2 1/2, the boy proved otherwise.

Good stuff: Huzzah! Your day in stupid. (The good kind).

So. Apparently the people of Tunisia are rising up to claim what’s theirs (and along the way providing astonishing evidence that maybe FourSquare can be a power for good) and — as is the way in such things — are being met with brutal violence.

Meanwhile, here in America, on the same day that Sarah Palin equated her PR difficulties with the slaughter of countless thousands of Jews (in the words of my fave rave Ta-Nehisi: “What part of ‘Sarah Palin’ don’t you understand?”), the President delivered a speech I hear was quite moving at a memorial service I hear was quite odd in honor of those killed in last Saturday’s attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords life.

I wouldn’t really know though.

I haven’t been following the Tunisia story, I didn’t watch the President, and I’m not even really sure what Palin said (other than it involved the words “blood libel”). I’ve embedded a bunch of links that look helpful, but I wouldn’t want you to think I’d actually read them (well, I actually read the FourSquare thing, and Ta-Nehisi’s post. And that one tweet) — because the crazy people in my life, and the crazy people in the lives of people very dear to me, appear to have decided to hold a virtual crazy conference over the past few days, with today being the plenary or something, and man oh man alive, my bones have been sucked of their very marrow. I have nothing in me for Tunisia or Tucson. I’ll have to catch up tomorrow.

But like yesterday, I’m banking on the fact that even if (perhaps especially if) you have been paying attention to Tunisia or Tucson (or the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, or the floods in Australia, or the political crisis in Lebanon) (nope, didn’t read those links either. But they’re all from the New York Times, so you’re probably in good hands) — you, like me, could might maybe use a wee bit o’ stupid right about now.

And so! Herewith I present you with a short and surely very random collection of some of the very best stupid the intertrons can provide! Huzzah!

You are, as they say, so very welcome.

1) 30 Second “Harry Potter Years 1-5 Part 1” (in Bun-o-vision!).

2) 30 Second “Harry Potter Years 1-5 Part 2” (what, you thought I’d make you look for Part 2? I’m not cruel!) (Though I have to say: If you have to do your 30 second Bun-o-vision in two parts, you’re not really sticking with your own self-imposed limitations, now are you?)

PS How is it that Bunny Harry Potter actually looks like Daniel Radcliffe? Weird, man! Moving on.

3) How It Should Have Ended: Lord of the Rings (honestly, people, you have giant eagles…)

4) How It Should Have Ended: The Empire Strikes Back (because of course. Duh).

And finally….

5) Cee-Lo’s epic ode to the brokenhearted, “Fuck You,” as interpreted in American Sign Language — verily, the awesome sauce, it has been poured!

Life. Sometimes it’s just better when it’s stupid.