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May 18th, 2010

Rant on shipping @ 11:53 pm

It seems impossible in fandoms today to avoid ship wars. Or, in fact, being a shipper. Maybe you exclusively read GEN stories or, I don't know, you follow a fandom where a character is perceived of as asexual, but I'm guessing that really limits your reading choices. Maybe you take the abbreviation seriously and say "shipper" only applies to someone advocating or writing about a relationship and not...porn, which, yeah, would really offer lots of choices. But by and large, I'd bet that, if you write or read fic in any popular fandom today you at least have some experience with being a shipper.

I don't see an inherent problem in shipping. Even though I've never bought into the idea of OTP in the few fandoms I've been active in, I see the appeal of it. Still...I tend to be loyal to a show or book, or one main character, more than I'm loyal to a canon or fanon relationship, which is why I say I hate militant shippers. And because this rant includes some spoilers for the season finale of [H]ouse, I'm going to cut right here.

Right. I suppose I should start with a disclosure of my own shipping history within the [H]ouse fandom? Keeping in mind that the term "shipping" here is loosely defined in that it may imply casual sexual relationships and/or serious long-term relationships, I've shipped House/Stacy, House/Cuddy, and House/Wilson. And, if we include fanvids...House/Cameron and House/Foreman. It all depends on mood. These days, I rarely read [H]ouse fic anymore (been sucked into the Doctor Who fandom, which is a story for another post), but when I do, they are almost always H/W because there are some cracking good writers in that bunch and because I think the on-show relationship between those two characters is the most interesting and complex. But still, I friggin' loathe the vibe on, say, the main H/W LJ community every time an episode is aired, because all of a sudden it becomes this proprietary wank fest. Oh, who am I kidding? There's nothing sudden about it.

Just because you want more than anything for two characters to get together doesn't mean that's the vision of the show's writers. I'm not saying the writers always do a great job. Some writers fuck up characters you love. It's a sad fact of being a fan of any series that, sooner or later, a character you love will do something stupid or horrible and you'll want to scream at the top of your lungs that the writers are fucking up your House or Wilson or show or whatever it is that you've invested so much of your time and attention and affection in. I say this because I've been there. Of course I've been there. I'm still bitter about what J.K. Rowling did with Remus Lupin in Deathly Hallows. I even had my little irrational moment of going "that's sooo OOC!"

But then I stepped back and realized it's not out-of-character when it's coming from the character's creator. Really, it's not. It can't be. What it can be, is bad writing. It happens. Sometimes it's tough to find that line between revealing a new aspect to a well-known character for dramatic effect and having utterly failed to signpost that this character may have hidden depths or, in Lupin's case, hidden shallows. I say that as both a fanfic writer and, well, a fan.

So what does this have to do with the season finale? Everything, really. Because the thing I really hate is when rabid shippers so blatantly judge an episode based on what happens, or doesn't happen, with their particularly ship. I think the penultimate episode of this season was excellent, and all the H/W shippers could focus on was how the last five minutes of it ruined it for them and were shitty and poorly written. Why? Because the last five minute alluded to House's interest in Cuddy. They say it came out of nowhere, had no place in an episode that had focused so much on the House/Wilson relationship, and accuse the writers of bowing to the pressure of Huddy fans.

Seriously? I can't stand shit like that. And if you honestly think that Cuddy popping up came out of nowhere, I'd call you delusional. Or a lazy viewer. House's interest in Cuddy has been lurking in the shadows the entire season. Her popping up in a therapy session that almost had to be a montage of House's many issues simply because it's the only one we've been allowed to see should NOT be a surprise. House is a complicated man. He's got a lot on his plate. Wilson is arguably the most important person in his life, but not the only one. And maybe I'm extra judgmental because House/Wilson is not explicitly canon (in terms of a romantic relationship), but I don't understand them not ending up together on-screen is a failure on the writers' part. I'd rejoice if they ever confirm that House is bisexual, but so far they haven't and until then we're left with a man who has a sexual interest in an attractive woman. That interest has waxed and waned throughout the years, but it's been there for the entire run of the series so saying it came out of nowhere or is out-of-character is just ridiculous.

And then the finale. House and Cuddy kiss in the last scene and the H/W comms explode. I just find it disheartening that so few shippers seem capable of stepping away from their own ships and judging an episode or scene on its own merits, based on canon. Did I think it was perfect? No. But that's not because I like H/W. It's because Cuddy never struck me as the sort to accept a man's proposal one night, break the engagement the next and then immediately rush to another man's bed. But there's that pesky line again! Because...is that really out of character for her? I don't know. We've never seen her in a relationship before. We've seen her go after what she wants plenty of times, but who knows how much that has changed since she's become a mother? And you know what, I really want to watch next season to see how this all plays out.

Because I think I know the writers well enough to be certain they don't plan on giving House (or House/Cuddy) a happily-ever-after. And even though the writers don't have the best track record of seeing a storyline through to its end, I'm hoping they sustain the House/Cuddy relationship through a majority of next season. And that's because, more than being a shipper of any sort, I'm a fan of House. The man. And I know that the leg and everything that came after changed him. I just don't know how much. So I want to see him in a relationship. He lived with Stacy for 5 years, and we'll never see that version of House again, but I'd still love to see how he behaves in a long-term romantic relationship. I want to see if he softens his edges at all. If he comprimises. If he's a closet romantic. If he's kinky. I want to see how he balances his romantic relationship with Cuddy with his relationship with Wilson! Because God knows I've always hated how Wilson seems to drop House as soon as he has a woman in his life. I want to see if House does the same (though I hope he doesn't, because I want House to have the moral high ground on this issue. Bros before ho's, man). And, yes, I'll admit it...I secretly want to see an episode of babysitter!House.

So, I call on shippers to exhibit some critical distance. Not saying the show's writers are infallible or that you have to like the directions they take their characters. Just...I don't know. I think they deserve respect and the acknowledgment that it's their show and their characters to do with as they please. And I don't know them personally, but I think it's laughable to assume they bow down to shipping pressure (or hell, even heteronormative agendas since that's been suggested as well in some circles). As for me, I've got to accept that I'm always going to be frustrated when I read episode reviews on shipping communities, so I'm just going to stop. Which is a shame. Part of the joy of being in a fandom is feeling that you share a common passion with other people. Rabid shipping just ruins that for me, I guess. Because my passion is for the show itself and how one character in particular develops. And in this age of shipping, people are just too quick to tear episodes down when they don't serve their OTP.

End rant.
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