Slice of Life
To All Fandoms (Right Now Looking at You, Once Upon A Time): Shipping Wars are Asinine
I saw something on Twitter that upset me. There’s a user that I follow on there who is a sweet young lady. I don’t always agree with her, but she’s been respectful, kind, and defends her point of view without being mean. She got chased off of Twitter. People attacked her and her point of view. She got harassed over the most idiotic thing imaginable:
This person supported a ship in a television show.
A ship is short for “relationship” in fandoms. While it can stand for friendship, more times than not it’s about romantic relationships.
While this can be applied to all fandoms, I’m going to be writing a big open letter to the Once Upon A Time fandom right now. This has been going on for years, and it’s absolutely ridiculous. Fans harass each other, the cast, the crew, and the creators of the show. This behavior is atrocious for one reason and one reason only:
It’s a FICTIONAL television show with FICTIONAL characters.
Sadly, this behavior happens in just about every fandom. The absolute worst shipping war I can recall was hands down the Hetalia fandom. I watched shippers (people who ship characters) break out in fist fights at anime conventions. I remember reading posts of one girl carving her ship into her arm. It was insane that a five minute show about personified comedic countries caused so much trouble. It’s probably because Hetalia is a rare show where there are almost no canonical ships. The characters of Austria and Hungary were “married” for awhile in the show (because Austria-Hungary was a combined single country at one point). Outside of that, there are no canon ships in the show. It made for heated debates in the Hetalia fandom that often boiled over into physical altercations. Luckily, the Once fandom isn’t that bad yet.
I say yet, because I did get punched by a Oncer. Its wasn’t over a ship, but it was uncalled for. I’m going to call her “L,” but I’ve spoken with many fans who had trouble with this one individual. “L” has attacked multiple fans on Twitter. She’s asked inappropriate questions at panels. I remember one time another person disagreed with her, so she told her followers to berate that person. That person got chased off of Twitter. For me, I knew “L” online and met her in person at Dragon Con a few years back. She ended up in line behind me in the Walk of Fame. She didn’t seem as bad in person as she did online. Some people just feel protected behind their computer screen. I figured that was the case, and she was nice to chat with at first. We started talking about a particular finale of Once. I believe it was the finale that Maid Marian came back to life getting in between the Outlaw Queen ship.
“L” said (and I thought she was joking), “We don’t talk about that finale!”
I followed up with, “Hey, how about that finale with Maid Marian?”
“L” punched me in the arm with no warning. My friend with me was shocked that she did it. I shouted at her that she should never touch someone else like that especially over something like a joke about a show. She didn’t know that I had a past in abusive relationships. I admit, I almost hit her back simply out of an automatic reaction to protect myself. I used to have to protect myself against men. That’s the thing, “L” didn’t know my past. I could of had some cardiovascular disease that caused easy bruising or clotting. That’s why you don’t lash out at people for idiotic things like a television show.
That was by far my worst moment in the Once fandom. Still, the verbal and written harassment on Twitter is getting out of hand. I want to address why ship wars are stupid in this open letter.
First and foremost, I must start by saying…
I absolutely understand that representation matters
We watched television shows as an escape from reality. We want to see ourselves portrayed in characters on the screen. It makes a show personal and important for us. That’s why certain shows stick with us well after they’ve ended.
One show like that for me is Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Growing up, I liked Star Wars, but I didn’t love it. I wasn’t really in the fandom much. I didn’t really connected to Princess Leia. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker were fun, but I didn’t love them. Then when I was in college, a little show on Cartoon Network called Clone Wars started. I was introduced to a character that influenced my life more than any other character in my television history.
Ahsoka Tano was a new young female character assigned to be Anakin Skywalker’s padawan. Through the course of the show, she struggled. She made many mistakes. She got her men killed. She was rash and jumped into things without thinking. She spoke her mind first and regretted it later. Thing is, she learned from all of this. Over the course of six seasons, we got to watch Ahsoka grow up into a strong young woman. She fought against her own PTSD to save lives. She became a leader to other padawans. She fought to make sure justice and peace was maintained. At the end, she chose to walk away from the Jedi Order. She walked her own path that was best for her and left behind her entire life to start anew.
Ahsoka was so important to me. Like I said, I was in college. I was learning how to be an adult. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. Should I pursue what I loved with writing or should I settle to make money with any job I could get? Like Ahsoka, I had to struggle to figure out what I wanted. She helped guide me through her own examples and gave me strength to find my own path. Because of Ahsoka and Clone Wars, I now have a deep love of Star Wars. I got my Captain Rex tattoo. I have a Clone Wars podcast. I’m all in for this fandom. I don’t like Star Wars anymore. I love Star Wars.
What’s even better is now that I’m an adult, Ahsoka returned as an adult herself in Star Wars: Rebels. Her incredibly hard path led her to be a leader in the Rebellion. Her service working with Bail Organa led to her literally saving an entire planet by herself only losing a few lives (see the Ahsoka novel). I literally got to grow up with this fictional woman, and she changed me more than any other character in television.
Sometimes I cry if I think about Ahsoka long enough…
So I get it! Characters in television shows can be so important to us as fans. We want to see ourselves represented in our media. We want to enjoy characters and stories we love. We want to relish in the drama and suspense while praying and hoping our favorites live, fall in love, and have happy endings.
Another show I love as much as Clone Wars is Once Upon A Time. I wouldn’t be the news writer on What the Fangirl if I hadn’t met my editors through the Once fandom. I talked over 50+ hours about the show on my podcast and as a guest on other podcasts. I have written so many articles on the show. I have made more strides in my career in the last six seasons through Once than I have at any other time in my life. There are characters I love (Oh Jefferson, I miss you!) and characters I love to hate (Looking at you, Cora. Love her and hate her at the same time!). Once Upon A Time in Wonderland changed my life through Will Scarlet who is my Ahsoka Tano of Once. I’m still waiting to get my Once tattoo (the line “I will always do my best” in Raphael Sbarge’s handwriting!). This show is incredibly important to me.
That’s why it absolutely breaks my heart to see fans bashing each other over shipping wars. It’s something I can’t even begin to understand for so many different reasons.
There’s a difference between facts and opinions
Here’s the thing. People have the right to like what they like and dislike what they dislike. You can love or hate characters. You can love or hate story lines. I know I’m in a minority when I say I loved Greg and Tamara. I know most people hated it, but it’s doesn’t mean I love it any less. We all have the right to love or hate elements of a show.
I’ve seen people on Twitter say someone is “wrong” because they like a ship. This make absolutely no sense at all. If someone likes a certain ship, that is their opinion. Let’s take Swan Queen for example. In the Once canon, Emma Swan and Killian Jones are together. Regina Mills and Robin Hood are a couple. Both couples have been stated to be true loves. These are canon ships. But if a fan likes Swan Queen (which is Emma and Regina together), that doesn’t make them wrong! It is their opinion that Swan Queen is a ship they like.
Is it canon? No.
Will it become canon? I hate to say it, but probably not. It doesn’t seem to be the direction of the show. They could do a slow burn reveal like The Legend of Korra did in the final moments of their finale where their female leads became girlfriends. Honestly, I don’t see it happening.
Is it wrong to like Swan Queen? NO! It is not wrong in any way to like Swan Queen, Captain Swan, Outlaw Queen, Swan Thief, Wooden Swan, Gremma, Davey Jones (David and Killian), Snowing, or any ships of any kind.
So I’m going to break it down really easy for you what is wrong and right when it comes to fact and opinions with shows. I’m making it simple, because a lot of people seem to have trouble grasping what the word “wrong” means.
Facts can be wrong or right/correct. Here are some examples of correct facts.
- Colin O’Donoghue plays Killian Jones.
- Neal is Rumpelstiltskin’s son.
- Belle and Rumpel are currently married.
These are facts for Once. Incorrect facts would be if you said that Peter Gadiot played Killian, Emma is Rumpel’s daughter, and Belle was married to the Blue Fairy. Those are wrong, because the fact is they’re not true in the canon of the show.
Opinions are how someone feels about a fact or about elements in a show. Opinions can never be wrong. For example:
- I like Killian Jones/I hate Killian Jones.
- I think killing Neal was a bold choice/I think killing Neal was the worst mistake in the world.
- Belle and Rumpel are my favorite couple/Belle and Rumpel’s relationship makes me uncomfortable.
None of these opinions are wrong. Now if you have a wrong fact mixed into an opinion, the fact is wrong. The opinion is still okay. You can say, “I like Zelena, because she made mittens for Grumpy.” The fact is Zelena never made mittens for Grumpy (though, that would be adorable!). That doesn’t mean you have to stop liking Zelena. It is your opinion to like a character or not.
To recap, facts can be wrong or right. Opinions can never be wrong. You like what you like. You dislike what you dislike.
You can ship one ship with your OTP, be an open shipper, and love non-canon crack ships
It would be really boring if we all liked the same thing. Diversity is what makes fandoms a lot of fun! It sparks friendly debates, amazing fanart, genderbent AU’s, and all sorts of crazy antics. Part of that diversity is the different ships in a show.
Shipping is a lot of fun. Some fans like to stay with canon ships. They like Captain Swan, Outlaw Queen, Snowing, etc. These are your OTP’s or One True Pair. This is perfectly fine. It makes sense to root for canon ships, because we see them the most on screen.
You also have people like me. I’m an open shipper meaning that I’m pretty much good with all ships. There are some I like more than others. While Emma is with Killian, my favorite person Emma was ever with was Graham way back in season one. I’m still a diehard Gremma shipper to this day. That’s my canon OTP for Emma Swan. That being said, it doesn’t make me dislike Captain Swan. I do think that Killian and David have better chemistry, but I have no problem with Killian and Emma being true loves. I also think Swan Queen is a beautiful ship. Lord knows, they have some gorgeous fanart and fanfics out there. I can totally understand where the SQ’ers are coming from. Emma and Regina are the central characters of the show. Almost all story lines revolve around them. They’re both mothers to Henry. They’ve become good friends. They trust each other more than their love interests at times. If Emma and Regina got together in the end, I wouldn’t mind at all. I personally think open shipping is way more fun. You get the best of all worlds with all the characters.
I also want to throw out that I love crack ships too. Crack ships are relationships that will never, ever happen. I personally love crack ships, because it allows fans to explore situations you would never see on screen. For a short time, I shipped Archie Hopper and Killian. In my headcanon, Archie treated Killian in therapy. He had to put aside his own troubled feelings of Killian kidnapping him in season two to do his job. Once he realized what kind of person Killian was, Archie and the pirate fell in love. Obviously, this would never happen on the show. It is still fun to talk about with people.
My all time favorite crack ship in Once is Mad Whale. That is Jefferson and Victor Frankenstein as a couple. Thanks to Marvel taking away Sebastian Stan, this will never happen. Victor is a minor character. While he’s in my top five favorites, I am sure we will never see Victor’s happy ending either romantically/finding his brother Gerhardt. Is that the fault of the writers or creators? No! You don’t always get what you want in story lines. Because Victor and Jefferson are minor characters, they are not the focus of the show. If this was “Once Upon A Time in the Land Without Color,” then I would totally expect more Jefferson and Victor interactions. Once is about Emma and Regina and their journey. Therefore, Mad Whale is simply not meant to be. It doesn’t stop me at all from loving Mad Whale any less…
…Or Blue Cricket (Blue Fairy/Archie), Red Cricket (Ruby/Archie), Davey Jones as mentioned above, Robin/Will Scarlet, Flook (Captain Hook laying on the Floor), or any of the amazing crack ships out there. I’m going to continue to ship crack ships, and there’s no one out there who will ever stop me!
Just to throw this out there for fun, my favorite Emma crack ship is Mad Swan which is Emma and Victor together. They’re both logical characters. Both were raised in lands with little to no magic. They both had rough upbringings and parent troubles. These two have a lot of similar character traits, and I love shipping them together. Will it happen in the show? NOPE! Does it stop me from loving the ship? NOT AT ALL! Bring on all the Emma/Victor fanfics!
If you want to ship canon things only, that’s totally fine. Open shipping is wonderful. Crack ships are a hell of a lot of fun. There is nothing wrong with shipping how you want to ship.
Which is why I am so confused why people get up in arms when discussing ships.
Learn how to agree to disagree
I’m going to tell you something that a lot of people seem to have problems with:
We don’t always have to agree with each other.
A few years ago, I was chatting on Tumblr with a person who shipped FrankenWolf (Ruby/Victor). As mentioned above, I’m a Mad Whale fan. I’ve never been into FrankenWolf unless it gave Victor more screen time. She laid out all the reasons she liked her ship. I told her the reasons I liked mine. She explained the problems she had with Mad Whale. I said the issues I had with FrankenWolf. We didn’t agree on any of our points. We accepted that we didn’t agree, then we talked about how our work week went. After that, we talked about Project Runway.
And of course years later, Ruby ended up being Dorothy’s true love. Stuff happens.
You see, you don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion. You can respectfully listen and then say you don’t agree. There’s nothing wrong with that. They can offer you the same courtesy back. It’s really easy. Just say, “It’s cool you like that, but it’s not my thing.” Boom. There. Done. It’s really easy!
Which is why it confuses me when people seem to take a lot of offense when people don’t agree with them. Tell me something, why does it matter? Seriously, why does it matter if someone likes the same ship as you do? Or hate the same ship for that matter? This is a point that I don’t understand in ship wars. You don’t think that Emma and Victor works as a ship like I do? Awesome! It’s no skin off my back. It doesn’t damage my daily life when I got to work. I’m not going to look at my customers and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t serve you today. I’m too upset that someone doesn’t like Mad Swan.” I don’t care if you don’t like my ship, because you have an opinion.
That’s the thing. When you attack a person about their ship, it’s going to make them hate that counter ship even more. You’re not helping your cause at all. For example (and this is not to throw any ships under the bus. It’s just an example), say you like Swan Queen. You get harassed by me, a Gremma fan. I say you’re wrong for liking Swan Queen. I say “Well, at least Graham and Emma were together in the show for a bit!” I say “Ugh! How can you like Regina? She raped my precious baby Graham! You should hate her for that!” All I am doing by harassing that Swan Queen fan is leaving a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to Gremma shipping. If a Swan Queen fan attacks a Captain Swan fan, you’re making them hate Swan Queen! And vice versa! That road goes both ways.
Those kinds of negative impressions only hurt your cause.
To put bluntly, it makes you look like a jerk too. What good is it to get mad at someone who doesn’t like your ship? What do you even accomplish? What’s the point?
All you become is a bully. You make yourself look bad. You also sound incredibly childish. I once got mad at another kid in kindergarten, because he didn’t like the Yellow Power Ranger like I did. Putting down someone else for different opinions is what kids do on playgrounds. Thing is, people remember you. Remember “L” I talked about at the beginning of all this? I’ve talked to other fans, and people remember her years later too. I will never forget her.
I refuse to dox or put up people’s Twitter’s accounts for examples (BECAUSE DOXXING IS INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS AND CAN LEAD TO VERY SERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES! NEVER, EVER, EVER DOX A PERSON!). I believe people have rights to their opinions and a right to privacy. But if you just search a certain ship like Captain Swan or Swan Queen on Twitter, I’ve seen people be called “crybabies.” People say things like “you should be embarrassed” for speaking an opinion. People get called “spoiled brats.” I’ve seen some people tell other fans to kill themselves over ships.
This is atrocious. This is absolutely terrible behavior. Why do you ask?
Because at the end of the day, IT’S JUST A TELEVISION SHOW
It’s just a television show! It’s fictional! Emma Swan, Regina Mills, Killian Jones, Snow White, and all the characters aren’t real people! It would be one thing if they were real life human beings. But they’re fake!
This is the one thing that freaking blows my mind about ship wars more than anything else! People bully and harass other fans over FICTIONAL CHARACTERS! Is it truly worth hurting another human being with feelings and emotions like you do over a television show? Are ships truly that important to you where you would hurt another person?
If you answered yes, then you really need to reevaluate yourself. No ship, character, or TV show is ever, EVER worth harming another person either physically, verbally, or emotionally. That’s ludicrous behavior, and it makes you the villain in that narrative.
Eventually, Once will end and go down into television history. It won’t be around forever. Do you know what stays around for a long time?
How you treat other people in a fandom sticks with people. “L” punched me years ago, and I remember her for it. I know exactly where we were, who was there with me, our conversation, and the hit. I will always remember her for that single moment. When you bully someone, they remember it. When you disrespectfully call out the cast, crew, and creators, they remember it. With social media now, people can screencap a conversation as proof of harassment. Berating another fan can easily be documented. People remember the person who hurts them.
You also have to keep in mind that people can’t hear your tone on social media. You might type something one way, and someone might read it completely differently. Just be open to clarifying points if there’s a misunderstanding. A joke to you might hurt someone else.
One more thing…
Just to add as a side note since this pops up on occasion in fandoms, actors are not their characters. Actors get a role, go to work, and go home just like we do. You can hate a character without hating an actor. For example, Michael Socha is my favorite actor. That being said, I can’t stand his character in The Aliens. The character is atrocious in so many ways. It doesn’t make me hate Michael Socha. You can like Colin O’Donoghue and hate Killian.
And sometimes, you can dislike actors too. I don’t like Zachary Levi outside of Tangled, and he was a voice actor in that. It’s nothing against him personally! He just doesn’t do it for me. That said, I would never berate him just because I don’t like his work. That would be childish of me and would serve no purpose to anyone other than making me look bad.
To put it into perspective, you wouldn’t want someone coming into your work or sending you messages at your job saying how terrible you are. Be courteous, and don’t do that to the actors.
Clearly, there are some times when actors do truly horrific things. That’s understandable to dislike then. Can people change? Totally! People can learn from mistakes. Do you have to like them? Nope! You don’t have to like an actor if you don’t want to.
Still, there’s no reason to be mean to people if you don’t have to especially over something like a ship in a show. Dislike an actor for their actions and not for showing up to work to play a character they got cast in.
At the end of the day, shipping wars are idiotic. There’s absolutely no reason to hate on your fellow fan just because they like something different from you. It’s like saying, “You like bananas? I hate bananas, so I hate you for liking them.”
No, that’s dumb. Don’t hate on each other for a television show. At the end of the day whether you like Once Upon A Time or hate watch it, we fans are in this together. Something brought us to the show and made us love it. There’s enough hate and adversity in the world. We should support and love each other despite our differences in which fictional romance we support.
That’s how a fandom should work.
Hope set out into the world to be a Pokemon Coordinator. When she realized that Pokemon were not real, she pursued her other passion: writing. Hope was raised in fandoms and saw how they can help save the world from her work with The Harry Potter Alliance. Now, she works to bring that love into writing one article at a time. She's also a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, so don't diss her team.