With the release of Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad , and the marketing focus on a huge part of people’s interest in the film, the Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship, there’s been a wave of the exact same sentiment repeated ad nauseam on social media, that this relationship is toxic and should not be endorsed on any level. Going on any social media platform and searching the words “Joker and Harley” invites an avalanche of people lecturing no one in particular to “Stop shipping these 2! It’s abusive!” or some variation of “When I see a person who ships those 2 I think they are TERRIBLE and get MAD!”. The phrase “shipping” refers to basically anything having to do with wanting two people to be in a romantic relationship with each other, it usually refers more to potential couples rather than established ones, but it has evolved into being more of a nebulous term for fictional couples (and sometimes even celebrity ones). The Joker and Harley Quinn relationship has become a particular point of interest because it is not a healthy relationship, it is an abusive one between two very dangerous people. The knee jerk reaction becomes outright rejection of it among several circles of the internet, to the point of intolerance of anyone who enjoys watching them together. But it’s in that where people are overlooking what so many people liked about the pair in the first place.
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When people found out The Legend of Korra would focus on teenagers, they knew what it would result in. On some level I’m sure we all saw a lot of angst and heartache coming for these narcissistic little teenagers, and when it came, it brought out a mixed reaction (which is often the case with these things). The teens placed way too much stock on their romantic lives, they acted recklessly and selfishly, and none of them seemed to know what they really wanted… which is exactly like real teenagers. Trouble is, real teenagers have a habit of being infuriating. In the end, we received one of the most infamous romantic subplots of all time, and on an animated series no less. This one is going to be remembered for a long time because of the notoriously angsty behaviour these characters engage in, but also because of the unexpected and strangely fitting turns it takes. Before I discuss this particular love triangle though, its best to go over its players. We’ve got Korra (the show’s star), Mako (the original male lead), Asami (Korra’s chief romantic rival), and Bolin (a non-factor, but still worth mentioning).
The Original Love Triangle
Asami seeing the obvious
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Veronica Mars actors supporting their opposing factions by wearing the “wrong” T-Shirts.
Love triangles are essentially double-no, triple edged swords. They are tricky to begin, even harder to keep interesting, yet are incredibly easy engage the audience with. So many of these love triangles fall flat, but writers keep turning to them every chance they get. I have yet to see a single love triangle that didn’t do at least one thing wrong, but at the same time, I have yet to see a single repeated trope that gets as much as a response as these do. As terrible as they often are, people love love triangles. Everything about them just draws you in. They involve characters you care about, they incite dangerous shipping instincts in all of us, and they are so damn divisive. There is nothing in this world that unites us more than an enemy, and love triangles create them in spades. This is why when love triangles are introduced, people tend to classify their preferred choice for the fought over party with teams (Ex: Team Peeta vs Team Gale). Its that adversarial aspect that initially draws people in, but its also the ways people can relate to them in real life that strikes such a cord. Not everyone will be locked in a three-way love or death struggle, but whether you like it or not, someone’s going to end up on the wrong side of a choice between two suitors. However, even with our natural desire to be invested in romantic entanglements, they still tend to fall apart a lot for a few big reasons.
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True despair awaits those who choose to “ship”. No, I am not talking about boating, I am referring to the fandom practice of “shipping” (as in relation-shipping) two characters together in hopes that they become a couple. At first it begins as innocently as anything, maybe a remark or two about how “perfect these two would be for each other”, but then it begins to creep into your thoughts. Eventually, you’ll suddenly find yourself consumed by the idea of two fictional characters falling in love with each other, pray that they will become “endgame” as the series concludes, and proudly declare them to be your OTP (One True Pairing) to anyone who is (or isn’t) listening. Conversely, you can become dedicated to the sinking of a ship, to hate one so completely that you’ll never miss a chance to insult it; since the two characters are “obviously wrong for each other” and no one else can see it. Shipping is a complex thing indeed, but perhaps the most interesting thing about it is why people enjoy doing it. The joy of having a ship of yours sail (become canon) is nothing compared to the joy you get wanting it to sail. The pain, the heartache, the despair, and the frustration are all things people truly enjoy out of the shipping experience. Like masochistic servants pleading for harsh admonishments from their master/mistress, shippers tend to flock to the most tumultuous of pairings, ones where the Will They/Won’t They dynamic doesn’t come off as a forgone conclusion.
Continue reading “The Conventions of Shipping” →