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.

Josh Hutcherson: “I would probably list myself as mostly straight.”

Josh Hutcherson — a young man who might just make the 40-something among us long for their misspent youth, and furthermore can be seen below holding a puppy, just to make that longing more acute — appears to be a hell of a young man. If one is to believe the interviews one occasionally reads, most recently, in Out Magazine:

“I have this dream that one day, my kid’s gonna come home from school and be like, ‘Dad, there’s this girl that I like, and there’s this guy that I like, and I don’t know which one I like more, and I don’t know what to do.’ And it’d just be a non-issue, like, ‘Which one is a good person? Which one makes you laugh more?’ ”

To read the whole interview, click here — but let me warn you: You’ll have to look past an inordinate amount of fashionably applied hair gel. I mean, it won’t kill you, but honestly, Out Magazine — his hair was fine.

(Also, I may or may not have just re-watched The Hunger Games with the family and not for nothing but #TeamPeetaForLife).

On The Hunger Games and general female badassery.

We saw The Hunger Games on Sunday — and oh my God.

That’s kind of the sum total of my review, because, dudes: Oh my God! So good!

Sosososososo good!

Ok, there could have been a few fewer hand-held close-ups — but mostly they worked. And ok, Gale should have somehow been given a few more minutes to establish just how close that relationship is. And I’m not sure Lenny Kravitz was really meant to act.

But other than that? OH MY GOD. (And come on come on, the 12 of you who are silly enough to have any Josh Hutcherson [Peeta] hate. He.was.perfect. Haterz to the left! Done).

Plus, bonus: We didn’t go on our own. We brought the boy (who got me into the books in the first place) and one of his closest friends — two seventh grade boys absolutely determined to see a girl with a bow kick some serious ass on opening weekend. They loved it. LOVED it. The boy’s one critique? “Jennifer Lawrence was great and everything – I just wish Katniss could have been even fiercer, somehow.”

The times? They are achangin’, my friends. (And they and the husband were kind of pumped about the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer, too).

I, of course, have long been a fan of badass women. And of geekry (such as that inspired by these amazing books) of all kinds.

The only problem is that in most fantasy worlds, women are not, actually, badass. And unlike Katniss in both book and movie, they are all too often clothed in a fashion that would not only render badassery impossible, but sheer survival would be tough.

So, yes. Part of why I loved this movie so much, and the book, is the sort of thing that I hope will one day be entirely unremarkable: Its main character behaves and dresses as a person in her position actually would. This is also part of why I’m so excited to see Brave, and so loved its trailer (below), wherein we see the main character literally rip her dress at the seams, so that she may shoot her arrows.

And it’s part of why I, too, was totally pumped to see the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer — because this young woman

will not be fainting onto a dwarf’s bed and awaiting salvation anytime soon.

It’s also why I love this

source; artist

and this

source; artist

and this

source; artist

so very, very, VERY much.

It’s why I could flip through sources like the Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor tumblr (my source for the three above images) for hours. I am hungry to see women who look like what my dreams look like, who look like what we really are, who look like they could stand their ground and win the day.

We so rarely see such women in our culture.

But in the wake of The Hunger Games, and in advance of Brave and Snow White and the Huntsman? I do wonder if the times might be changing for more than just my boy and his friend.

I may have to take up archery.