But apparently the shipping wars of yore still burn hot in some sectors of the InterWebz.
I’ve been fortunate to receive relatively few nasty comments based on my more unusual shipping choices, but several of my flisties (excellent writers and artists all) have recently been on the receiving end of hate comments because they have the temerity to like, or even—Merlin forfend—write or draw ships that are deemed “problematic.”
I enjoy and write certain ships BECAUSE they are problematic.
It is, as they say in the delightful patois of marcom professionals, a feature not a bug.
A problematic ship gives good story.
The best stories thrive on tension, and placing obstacles in the path of characters in search of True Love is a time-honored way of creating it.
External obstacles, like those that bedevil, say, Romeo and Juliet are great, but it’s even better (I think) when there are internal obstacles, as with Beatrice and Benedick. And it’s downright superb when the obstacle is awful and insurmountable and the love is transgressive and morally disturbing, like Humbert’s obsession with Lolita.
Just my two knuts, of course, but if it was good enough for Shakespeare and Nabokov, it’s good enough for me.
Fiction is about the great What If?
Not, What Is, nor What Should Be.
(It can be about those things too, but that’s the icing, not the cake.)
Enjoying a problematic ship doesn’t mean one thinks the ship would be a good idea in real life.
It doesn’t mean approving of abuse, incest, adultery, pedophilia, or insert-your-bugaboo-here, any more than enjoying war movies makes you a warmonger or liking mysteries means you want to murder Colonel Mustard in the library with the wrench. Writing or drawing any of these things doesn’t necessarily mean glorifying it (although that happens.)
In short, liking or not liking a particular ship doesn’t hurt anyone and isn’t indicative of anything other than (perhaps) one’s own interests and kinks.
Because these are—and I can’t stress this enough—fictional characters.
Stories should be judged on the merits of the writing.
This doesn’t mean you need to read that 100,000 word Harry/Severus mpreg novel if it doesn’t appeal, but if you want to argue that it shouldn’t exist (because, I don’t know … Reasons?), you’d damn well better read it. Because that story may well contain something that speaks to someone, even if it isn’t you, and to erase it simply because you don’t think you like it it is an act of supreme hubris.
None of this is to say a story can’t contain problematic elements that amplify harmful attitudes and stereotypes. Clearly, many do. But the answer isn’t to try to wave the Elder Wand and Vanish them. It’s far more fruitful, I think, to examine how they get it wrong.
Moreover, aside from being impossible, gatekeeping, no matter how well intentioned, always seems to disproportionately affect the voices that are most in danger of erasure for reasons having little to do with “harmful” content.
There are too few stories by and about BIPOC, queer, or disabled people, and that is worth examining and addressing. A bigger tent is a start.
And a bigger tent is going to contain some areas that are uncomfortable for some people. I’m cool with that.
For the record, my favorite “problematic” ships include:
If any or all of these squick you out, no problem. It really, really, really doesn’t matter to me if you like or hate the same things I do.
I’m not going to bother saying which popular pairings I don’t (usually) ship, because a good artist or writer can make me believe anything, and honestly, no one cares what my particular squicks are.
So, creators, do your worst.
Luna/Umbridge. Hagrid/Giant Squid. Helga Hufflepuff/Severus Snape.
Whatever. It’s all good by me.
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