The Pros and Cons of 'Shipping
Sandra Oh, Kevin McKidd
Obsessing over TV couples has become quite the hobby for fans. The popular pastime, commonly known as "'shipping," has even grown beyond canon and heterosexual relationships. Sometimes undeniable chemistry between two actors of the same sex can lead to an imagined romantic pairing, a movement known as "slash." But whether you love a scripted couple or an imagined one, the obsession consists of a serious emotional investment in the pairs' relationship. But are fixations like this healthy or does it only lead to more heartbreak?
Photo Gallery: TV duos who should do it
Pro: It gives you something to root for
Picking your favorite onscreen couple raises the stakes of watching a show (though it can also be quite the gamble). But as any poker player will tell you, there's no fun without a little risk! Choosing sides in a character's love life can create an exciting rivalry with other fans that outlasts any given episode or season's story line. For years, I tuned into Law & Order: SVU not just to see how they solved the murder of the week, but to watch for any new developments in Benson and Stabler's relationship. The pair's close bond had me continuously asking myself, "Will they finally do it?" along with, "Do I even want them to?" These are questions I've debated with fans in the past— and still do, despite Stabler's absence — that help to elevate SVU above the dozens of other procedural dramas.
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Con: Will-they-won't-they romances can become frustrating and predictable
As novelist Wilkie Collins once said, "Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait." But sometimes, no matter how much you laugh or cry, the wait simply isn't worth it. When a pair is obviously destined to be together, what's the point of dragging it out other than to up the fans' frustration? No one has mastered this art of emotional manipulation more than Grey's Anatomy showrunner Shonda Rhimes. After Meredith and Derek finally got their act together and started being happy, Rhimes simply switched the tension over to Cristina and Owen (and now Callie and Arizona, too!). It's gotten to the point where seeing a content, functional couple at Seattle Grace would be far more surprising — and entertaining — than yet another pair on the rocks.
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Pro: The satisfaction when they finally get together
I barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I remember the moment when Veronica and Logan first got together on Veronica Mars perfectly. Watching the couple lock lips on the Camelot terrace, I felt a joy reserved for most people on their wedding day. I experienced a similar feeling when Friends' Ross and Rachel smooched inside Central Perk and Gossip Girl's Chuck and Blair got down and dirty in the back of his limo. Seeing these beloved couples get together gives me a sense of hope for my own future. If Chuck Bass can find love, why can't I?
Con: Satisfaction can be fleeting
Typically known as the Moonlighting curse, sometimes having a fan favorite couple get together is the television equivalent of a stake to the heart — absolutely deadly. When Moonlighting's Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis) slept together in Season 3, the series achieved its highest ratings ever only to drastically plummet in the post-coital aftermath. This begs the question: Can TV characters be happy? If every onscreen couple's relationship was all roses and white wine spritzers, where's the conflict? Where's the story? Victoria might have been right on How I Met Your Mother when she said the anticipation — or "the drumroll" before the kiss — is the best part. Maybe we should all settle for a lifetime of unfilled longings, lest our dreams be dashed upon realization (at least when it comes to TV couples).
Supernatural: Is Wincest dead?
Pro: It makes you feel special
Supernatural is one of the most meta shows to ever hit the small screen, but they outdid themselves when the Winchesters came face-to-face with their most disturbing acquaintance yet: a Sam and Dean slash-fiction writer. But fans of the unorthodox couple have been getting validation for the pairing long before showrunners wrote a Wincest writer into canon. Since the first season, Supernatural has included cheeky nods towards the brother's oddly intimate relationship, allowing supporters of Sam and Dean to feel they're in on a special joke that other viewers don't quite understand.
Con: Some loves will never happen
While most Wincest fans are content with the fantasy "what if?" world of fan-fiction, not all slash fans are so easily appeased. Supporters of Teen Wolf's Stiles and Derek have started requesting the relationship to go canon. Though the showrunners and actors play up the fictional romance, even filming the two actors cuddling for a promo, when it comes to down to it, Stiles and Derek are never going to happen. This sad reality most likely also applies to any Rizzoli & Isles hook-up, a Rachel and Quinn romance on Glee and a literal bromance between Sam and Dean. (Though, when it comes to strange incestual couples, the jury's still out on Arrested Development's George Michael and Maeby. If they aren't blood related, is it still so wrong?)
What TV couples do you root for? Or do you think 'shipping gets in the way of enjoying your favorite shows?