According to Wikipedia, ‘shipping’, which is derived from the word ‘relationship’, “is the belief that two characters, fictional or non-fictional, are (or will be, or should be) in a romantic relationship”.*
Other definitions I found online say about the same thing. A few made mention that shipping could be platonic, but typically its romantic in nature, and that’s what I don’t get. Why can’t fans be content with friendships?
I’m not against shipping in general (Cory & Topanga forever), but it certainly seems to dominate most online conversations, almost annoyingly so. And I respect other fans’ passion for TV characters and shows; but, I find it bewildering that so many seem unsatisfied with the depicted platonic relationships, especially between men and women. After all, everybody needs friends.
I think the character of Leslie Knope says it best:
“We need to remember what’s important in life. Friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. It doesn’t matter. But work is third.” – Parks and Recreation (3×13)
Why Can’t We Be Friends
Star-crossed lovers, sweeping romance, and unrequited love all make for good drama and storytelling, but let’s not overlook the rare TV friendships that exist between men and women. In my opinion, I think some of the most fascinating and multi-dimensional relationships on TV are platonic. Which is why I tend to ship against romance.
Here’s just a few of my favorite pairs on TV that buck the ‘friends with benefits’, ‘will-they-won’t-they’, and ‘meant-to-be-together’ trends.
Firefly – Zoe & Mal: The crew of Serenity had their fair share of functional and dysfunctional relationships. After all, there was a preacher, married couple, brother/sister duo, and a companion (legalized whore) on board. But one of my favorite partnerships was that between Mal and Zoe. Although Mal was, and always will be, Zoe’s Captain, they both have the utmost respect for and trust in each other.
Parks and Recreation – Ron Swanson & Leslie Knope: Opposites don’t always have to attract, sometimes they just make a really great team. Leslie cares about everyone and everything. Ron mostly just cares about woodworking, meat, and breakfast food, but over the last five seasons we’ve watched Ron come to care more and more about Leslie. He’s gone from just putting up with her because she did all the work in the office, to being the man to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.
Elementary – Dr. Joan Watson & Sherlock Holmes: Although this new CBS series has only aired 17 episodes, the showrunner of Elementary has repeatedly stated that these two will not be hooking up or falling in love as long as he’s in charge, and I respect that. So far I’m enjoying the quirky antagonistic friendship that has formed.
Hart of Dixie - Lavon and Zoe: Most CW shows thrive on love triangles, and Hart of Dixie is no different, but this series has made it through almost a season and a half without having Lavon and Zoe move beyond being friends. Given time I’m sure it will happen, but right now I really enjoy watching these two banter over breakfast each morning.
Revenge – Emily Thorne & Nolan Ross: Nolan is like the Afred to Emily’s Bruce Wayne. Together they are an unstoppable reveneging machine, with incredible outfits to boot. As long as Nolan is by Emily’s side they Grayson family better watch out.
Nikita – Nikita & Owen: In case you’ve never heard of Nikita, it’s a spy show with adult characters, making it the odd duck of The CW line-up. The majority of characters are connected to a top-secret and illegal government branch, making friends or even allies hard to come by. Which is why I really root for the Nikita and Owen friendship. They might share a complicated past, but Owen really admires and respects Nikita and she’s already engaged to Michael, so I’d like to believe that they will only ever be field partners. After all, you can never have enough backup, especially since Division’s Alpha teams are so incompetent.
So that’s my case for friendship-shipping. If you’re interested in reading more about fandom and shipping in television, then I highly suggest checking out SpoilerTV.com’s current discussion series on Fans & Fantasy. So far they’ve explored why fans ship, what’s considered in canon, and what it takes to make the perfect ship.
*Shipping also extends to same sex characters, whether it’s canon or not, but if I were to include same sex friends in my pool of examples, then this blog would be extremely long. Hence my reasoning for sticking strictly to male/female relationships.