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I Don't Like Your Girlfriend

I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend
Shipping and the Denigration of Awesome Characters
 
 
Introduction:
 
I suspect that I am batshit about my shipping tendencies. I suspect that, to all rational observers, I am completely, utterly, irredeemably, wall-to-wall batshit. I suspect this, and quite frankly I am more than willing to accept it. But I would like to take a little bit of time aside and use it to dissect some forms of batshit far more pernicious than mine. I speak, of course, of the sort of batshit that leads one to denigrate characters who are made of total win.
There are two fandoms on the internets to-day whose insane wank and crackery will be of great help in providing examples of this sort of madness: Avatar: The Last Airbender and Doctor Who.
 
I.  Doctor Who: Romana, Martha, and the nature of lollery
 
Doctor Who fandom online lives at a place called, understandably, doctorwhoforum.com. While many quite lovely and reasonable people go on this site, large sections of it are unfortunately the domain of some of the most irrational, insane, wanky shippers in the history of fandom. Here is the land of people slagging off on Martha Jones for being a ‘token black,’ being ‘ugly,’ being ‘a bad excuse forr a Rsoe replacement,’ looking ‘like Bgs Bunny,’ and being ‘wooddenn.’ Here is a picture of Martha in Smith and Jones. This should be enough to dispel the accusations of ugliness, Bugsiness, and woodenness.
 

So, that’s that. But quite frankly, Freema Agyeman’s appearance is generally so vastly different from Billie Piper’s that attempting to judge them by the same standards instantly makes you look ridiculous. This is Billie Piper, as Rose, from The End of the World.
 
 
Yeah. Hot shit. Both of them. In completely different ways. STFU, batchippers.
Incidentally, the site that I got this image of Rose from also has somebody leaving the immortal comment ‘you speak a load of blah and should have your brain fixed, you are a stupid person in a stupid world, get a life, and criticize yourself not flippin ROSE TYLER.’ And ‘YOU NEED TO SNUFF IT YOU COMPLETE TWAT ALSO YOUR A SSPASTIC BRAINLESS NOBODY SO HA HA BOO SUCKS YOU.’
It quickly becomes apparent why the rest of fandom tends to regard batshit Rosefen (or ‘batchippers,’ a name derived from the character’s fondness for chips) as maybe a little unhinged (especially after her downward spiral in Season 28/Series 2. If you stopped watching after The Parting of the Ways, and you’re a Rose fan, I applaud your judgment).
And then there is a delightful thread on the LiveJournal, at the community dw_anon, from last year—a community that, presumably for reasons that will soon become obvious, no longer exists.
‘Romana is a DEAD BITCH.’
Some background: Romanadvoratrelundar, or Romana, was the Doctor’s Time Lord companion from 1978 to 1981. Midway through her run, she regenerated from Mary Tamm into Lalla Ward. In a story called City of Death, Romana II and the Fourth Doctor basically run about Paris holding hands and flirting madly. There is also a plot in there somewhere. The standard Rosefen interpretation of City of Death is that, in 1979, Douglas Adams wrote a story filled with Doctor/Romana handporn and shipping as a sort of deliberate dress rehearsal for the Real Deal, Doctor/Rose, twenty-six years later.
I am not kidding.
Still, it’s better than the more dogmatic Doctor/Master (the Doctor’s evil Time Lord foil) shippers, who tend to exist in a state of denial that City of Death ever happened, and sometimes that Romana ever existed. Needless to say, this is very worrying to me as a Doctor/Romana shipper.
Anyway, back to the ‘dead bitch’ comment. First, get your facts straight: Romana is not, strictly speaking, dead; she is a missing person. Her current whereabouts are unknown. Either she’s still in a different universe (where we left her in Warriors’ Gate, her last TV canon appearance), in a safe house outside normal time (where she ends up in Gallifrey: Panacea), living as a human somewhere without any memories (what Mary Tamm says), or dead. That’s three out of four, and even if you think she’s a bitch, which I really can’t fathom (okay, maybe with Romana I I can), that remaining one out of four doesn’t give you any right to call her a dead one.
Here are pictures of the two Romanas:


Romana I, in The Androids of Tara.


Romana II, in Destiny of the Daleks.
Which rather puts a damper on any possible Agyemanesque claims that Romana is ugly, doesn’t it?
Oh, and by the way, this is a picture of the Doctor and Romana doing what they normally do, in The Stones of Blood.


I rest my case.
II. Avatar: Mai, Katara, and what in God’s name is wrong with you people?
Oh, Avatar fandom. How I loathe thee.
This is a tale of four characters: Avatar Aang, Katara, Fire Nation Prince Zuko, and Mai. In canon, Aang/Katara and Mai/Zuko are the primary relationships and will very probably stay that way for the remainder, as there are only ten episodes left before the series ends early next year.
But when has that ever stopped fandom? The main ship in Avafandom is known as ‘Zutara,’ and, as the name implies, is Zuko/Katara. There is no converse Mai/Aang ship, at least not a very large or vocal one.
So what’s with this ‘Zutara’ thing? The characters’ personalities are as follows:
Aang: Started off fun-loving, goofy, unserious. Has since matured into a very driven and charismatic person, but retains the capacity to goof off.
Katara: Mature, kind, trusting, and dedicated, but sometimes resentful and given to periodic fits of rage. Much more serious than Aang, but still able to enjoy herself, particularly when he’s enjoying himself with her. She also appears to have vaguely criminal tendencies (theft in The Headband; an overtly naughty ‘that is so wrong’ in The Great Divide).
Zuko: HOLY SHIT. This guy is DAMAGED. He was raised in a nightmarish Zendaesque court filled with backstabbers and double-crossers, his father and sister are both openly psychotic, his mother was banished for some vague sort of treason when he was ten years old, he was scarred and disowned three years later, and so on and so on and so on. He is angry, impatient, and paranoid. He is controlling but ultimately incapable of making well-thought-out decisions (except for in The Day of Black Sun, where he finally grows a pair). His sole motivation for the first two seasons was to be accepted by his abusive father. He ignored and eventually betrayed his much kinder uncle, a pretty much completely awesome man named Iroh, who is pretty much the only character on the show who fandom doesn’t hate on. Pretty much his only consolation is Mai, on whom more:
Mai: Mai is, like Zuko, damaged, but she is damaged in such a very precise and elegant way that she is incapable of realizing how damaged she is: her mother, a domineering social climber, forced her to suppress her personality so that she wouldn’t get in the way. She has a dry wit, questionable loyalties, and preternatural skill with throwing-knives or shuriken. She becomes rather more relaxed around Zuko, and she lends him a sympathetic ear during his many fits of angsty rage. Also, they make out a lot.
So, what gives?
Part of the problem is that fandom thinks that Mai is ugly (you can see how limited these people are). At avatarspirit.net, which is Avafandom’s equivalent to doctorwhoforum.com, it is our profound misfortune to read:
Mai. Mai all the way. She's uglier than Li and Lo, for God's sake! *twitch* She just bothers me. The lack of facial expression, the crazy thin lips, the pointed chin, and the HAIR.

Have you noticed she's the only one with shiny hair? It's probably greasy. Like Severus Snape. Mai's archenemy is shampoo!
This is Mai.


In all honesty—and I mean this in the most respectful way possible—I’d tap that.
There is also the matter of Mai’s personality.
And, yes, I detest Mai mightily, but I think I would detest any character whose idea of a good time is riding around town in a litter that must be borne by servants.  Or ordering food just because she can...
Entirely disregarding the fact that the scene in question, from the episode Nightmares and Daydreams, was played entirely for laughs, there is also the fact that these are the characteristics of a normal rich teenaged girl. Mai is, of course, not a normal rich teenaged girl (she can pin you to a tree from fifty paces, for one thing), but you know who’s sometimes held up as a paragon of normality to whom to compare her?
 
Zuko.
 
Once again: I am not making this up.
 
In response to the avatarspirit.net person quoted above, a Mai-liking person wrote,
 
No way, they adore Mai, she funny, blunt, realistic and an overall wonderful character to develop, she's the jewel in a rough of uglies. She's the under dog.

I don't see why you hate Mai because she's being a rich kid, Azula's rich and you don't hate her, what is that makes Mai hateable, she's being herself, she finally does something expressing and multi layered in this episode and you still bash her.

Maybe it's the Zuko fan girl envy or something.
 
Yes. Zuko has many, many fangirls. The obvious fangirl identification character in the show is Katara. I leave you to make of this what you may.
 
Oh, BEE TI DOUBLE-U:
 
This is Katara. With Aang. Dancing. This was a hot scene, as I recall.
 
 
This is Zuko and Mai. It’s fairly obvious what they’re doing.
 
 
There are no comparable scenes for Zuko and Katara. And, really, I still can’t see that Mai is ugly or doesn’t care about Zuko or whatever.
 
STFU, fandom.
 
Conclusion:
 
Shipping leads people to be very mean at totally awesome characters. Moderation and extremism are relative. By the standards of Doctor/Romana shippers, most of whom are pretty laid back, I’m more towards the extremist end, but in the more batshit ships (Doctor/Rose, Doctor/Master, Zutara), I’d be considered a voice of moderation and reason, probably.

Comments

( 117 comments — Leave a comment )
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trufflehog
Dec. 9th, 2007 06:40 am (UTC)
wow. that was LONG. i skipped over the dr. who bits, but only because i'm not a fan and have no idea what you're talking about.
as for avatar...word.

people need to chill out over mai.
involved with zuko or not i think she's a pretty damn interesting character. i won't lie, i liked it better when she was hanging out with ty lee because then we got to see just how different the two were. when she's with zuko she cannot help but be overshadowed by him because he's such a prominent character...so she fades out a little bit you know? still, i'm glad you mentioned her questionable loyalities...i'm very excited to see if and who she chooses to side with in the end :]
melengro
Dec. 9th, 2007 06:44 am (UTC)
I think it's bound to be the Gaang, but only because she never struck me as particularly enthusiastic about serving the Fire Nation in the first place.
lalachoy
Dec. 9th, 2007 06:58 am (UTC)
I love how in shipping wars, people pull the ugly card. Which is horribly shallow and vain and the people who say these things would go batshit if it ever happened to them. I really wish somebody would say to them in real life about their boyfriend or girlfriend "You can't be with them, you're too ugly." Then I wish I could be there and say "Yeah, your relationship fails for this reason."

I never thought Mai was ugly. Different looking? Definitely. But not in an ugly way.
(Deleted comment)
paperclipchains
Dec. 9th, 2007 10:23 am (UTC)
, cos I didn't know you could ship drawings. :D

Yes, you can. Dear Lord, you can.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - melengro - Dec. 9th, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
dragon_faere
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:27 am (UTC)
*sighs* Poor Martha, poor Mai. I often find myself pitying the women of bashing, since I notice the hate doesn't extend to the males as much, especially in A:tla fandom.

Recall in "The Beach" Mai gave us some insight to her character. She had to control her emotions and act properly - it was her duty to help her father's career, her family's social status. Being in the upper social classes is a good thing, but I wouldn't go as far as to call her damaged though.

And for fandom's sake, I prefer married couples over anything else. They've got that level of commitment and an established connection that teenage!ships sometimes lack. And maturity always helps. /spork
daisyrainwater
Dec. 9th, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
OMG, your icon.

May I swipe it?
(no subject) - dragon_faere - Dec. 9th, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
taraliveson
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:30 am (UTC)
There is a community somewhere called "he loves them all" which seems to have a high dose of sanity that I respect ("all" meaning all the companions). Personally, I want to see an episode of "The Five Companions" solving a problem entirely without the Doctor, and we might just be headed there at the end of series 4 (so we'll see just how badly that can scar the fandom for life LOL!)

IMHO The biggest problem in the Doctor Who universe is the average fan's lack of ability to separate the character from the actress. Many times rosefen don't just hate "Martha", they hate *Freema* which is uncool in the extreme. I can't imagine anime having that problem (although I've seen hate for the American voice actors when an anime is imported and translated).

Fortunately, in the end the people who actually write for these shows tend to ignore us entirely. The largest doctor who forum has like 10,000 members, maybe 10% of those are active, and then like 6 million in the UK watch the show. So the online fanatics are really a minority.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - melengro - Dec. 9th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
myxsecretxside
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:31 am (UTC)
I'm a fan to both who and avatar so i read both sections. I happen to like Rose/Doctor. Heck, I even enjoyed season 28/2. I do like Doctor/Romana too. My loyalties just happen to go with Rose since I'm a new fan. And I'm Katara/Aang. (THough Zutara is a guilty pleasure. it's like Hermione/Draco. XD)

Anyways. Though our ships our different, I wholeheartedly agree on the piece on the crazyness of fandom. *shakes head* Shipping wars can be downright hostile and idiotic. -_-
tez_na_nox
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:36 am (UTC)
I'll admit, I'm a Zutara girl and I do hate Mai. But not because she is with Zuko or because she is "ugly" because I don't think she is ugly at all. I just hate her character. The only time I liked her was during "The Beach" when there was some raw emotion coming from her, which we almost never get to see. I just don't like those types of characters.

Aang/Katara, for some reason, I just don't like how she is so mother like to him. Yeah they look cute together and bring out good qualities in each other, but she still dotes on him more than really necessary. They are still my 2nd ship though. (yeah, I admit it...I swing both ways on Katara shipping).

BTW, for Zutara, you forgot about that one scene during "Cross Roads of Destiny" where Katara touches Zuko's face and thinks about healing him with the spirit water.
paperclipchains
Dec. 9th, 2007 10:21 am (UTC)
That's not evidence. Katara has touched pretty much every other character.
(no subject) - melengro - Dec. 9th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
purple_bug
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
I did try to read the Avatar bit, but I didn't get much of it cos I'm not a fan... And the bits in black made me squint to read them. Your background is dark :o)

But I really laughed at that Rosefen 'City of Death' dress rehearsal thing. They really think like that, it's quite scary. I once came across someone comparing them because they were both blonde and there was handporn. I despair at the people who can watch CoD and come away with nothing more than Rose-comparisons.
I was unaware until today that the term 'batchipper' is derived from Rosefen. I thought it was just a typo that had made its way into common usage, but yeah, the chips thing makes sense :o)
And I take it the typos in the anti-Martha sentiments are left in from this forum place? A place I shall never go to for I value my sanity? :oD

Oh, and since I have only got to Gallifrey 3.2, I go "Panacea, safe house, what? Nope, not listening, lalalala" cos I have no clue what that could mean right now. Well, I have an inkling, but I don't want to!

Edit: Oh, and thanks so very much for putting Avril Lavigne in my head - just what I needed for my long and boring day at work.

Edited at 2007-12-09 07:42 am (UTC)
melengro
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
The black wasn't intentional; it happens sometimes when you copy-and-paste a long Word document. Highlight it and you'll be fine.
fatchickengirl
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)
Love this! I totally expect to see Romana turn up either in the specials (and shake up the return of a certain Ms Tyler)or even pop in Torchwood! (I've often wondered if she was stuck in the void trying to get back to her people...).

I'm a girl so I'm supposed to dislike girl companions or at least some of them, I don't. I loved sarah-jane as a child the first 'capable' one (well I was 3/4 when she entered) then Leela all aggression and then Romana - I liked both Tamm's haughtyness and Wards quirkyness both worked. And yes I loved Rose and prefer Martha with 10!!!
taraliveson
Dec. 9th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
Why are we supposed to dislike girl companions? We should identify with them and their experience. The reason why fans like Martha is that she's a character to look up to. I loved Romana before new Who. My theory is that Romana escaped to e-space from the Time War since she obviously knows now how to get back and forth ;-)

I can't wait for her to come back too. If RTD won't do it, then the next person in charge just might.

ps. Martha had the best first reaction to the TARDIS "your spaceship is made of WOOD" LOL!
(no subject) - fatchickengirl - Dec. 9th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - melengro - Dec. 9th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
garpu
Dec. 9th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC)
I agree with you...some of the Doctor Who fandoms are whack. I used to hang out at OG, but people were too intense for me. I'm just as nuts about the show, but at the end of the day, it means nothing to me personally if the Doctor gets some or not or with who. ;)
goatsfoot
Dec. 9th, 2007 08:37 am (UTC)
:( I find myself going on OG/DWF for a while and then having to run away. That site contains way too many people who need to occasionally come up for air so they can actually enjoy their fandom again.
(no subject) - garpu - Dec. 9th, 2007 08:44 am (UTC) - Expand
bubbles83
Dec. 9th, 2007 08:10 am (UTC)
I WILL CUT ANYONE WHO CALLS ROMANA OR MARTHA UGLY! *cough* I don't know where that came from.

One of the worst things(IMO) is that batshittery on one side tends to bring it out on the other. I like to consider myself a fairly level-headed, but when people start talking badly about Martha, I end up going down to their level.

I really think that people on all sides need to chill out and live and let live, but I also don't think that is going to happen.

Plus, if it wasn't for wank, what would I do with my time?
sweetpea_grubb
Dec. 9th, 2007 08:51 am (UTC)
Ugh, thank you!

I don't know anything about Dr. Who but I'm a huge Avatar fan. You're very good at putting it in short words.

I think the whole Zutara thing is similar to the Mary-Sue concept in fan fiction. A female fan falls in lust with a male character and wants to see herself being somehow attached to him so she'll pair him up with the character that she most identifies with (Katara in this situation) even if there's little or no canon evidence that they're interested in each other. And if she can't find a character to identify with she'll either change a female character to suit her purposes or create a new one. This OC is almost always a Mary-Sue which the author makes up to be how she'd like to see herself.

Since very few people can identify with Mai they usually end up being jealous of her and bashing on her if they're a Zuko "fan".

A lot of people argue that Katara is a canon-Sue but she's got at least one very big difference from a true Mary-Sue. She grows as a character. She has major faults and goes through trials and hard times. She realizes and admits she's wrong on several occasions.

Ironically enough, a lot of the people that call Katara a canon-Sue are those that support Zutara. Coincidence? I think not!

Of course, I think we're all a little guilty of pulling a Zutara. In the Harry Potter universe I've always identified with Hermione and I always imagined her and Harry together because I sort of have a little crush on him. Though, I have to say in my defense that there was plenty evidence in favor of Harry/Hermione, whether it was intentional or not. But I still think that Hermione and Ron are a cute couple and I love Ginny to death, even if I'm a little bitter about the whole matter.

Meh, such is life.
melengro
Dec. 9th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
I think that Harry/Ginny was poorly written, actually, as she really wasn't given any plot function other than to be his love interest (unlike Katara, who is a healer and a badass waterbender, or Romana, who psychoanalyses the crap out of the Doctor). I could see a lot more potential in Harry/Luna.
(no subject) - pikabot - Dec. 9th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - melengro - Dec. 13th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
sunnytyler001
Dec. 9th, 2007 09:53 am (UTC)
Well, I'm not a Master/Doctor fan... but ignoring the amazing chemistry between John Simm and David Tennant would be denial too!
As for Martha and Rose, I agree, they're very different...
One is perfect, academic, smart, beautiful but the Doctor doens't see her...
While the other one does mistakes all the time, wears too much make up, never passed her A level and is very much ... human... but the Doctor loves her...whether he says it or not!
C'est la vie! And it so beautiful to see that so well told in a TV show... this is so true!
Yes, maybe The Doctor should fall for a girl like Martha... in a perfect world, maybe he would... but in stead, he's still thinking about Rose and how much they were TOGETHER...
Series one was about how much the Doctor loved Rose (I'm not the one who says that, it was Steven Moffat)
Series Two about how adorable and crazy they were together
And series three was about how sad the Doctor is without Rose.
I guess Rose is his Loïs Lane while the Master is his Lex Luthor...
I really don't know about Romana... yes, Mary Tamm and Lala Ward were both lovely... But as I said, if beauty can help, this is not enough... and not always linked...
But this is true, Tom Baker and Lala were in love at the time so maybe so were the Doctor and Romana...
However, I don't think we'll see Fred before a long time in New who...
Who knows... maybe in series 5 or 6? With the return of gallifrey/the Time Lords?... And Rose dead/gone for ever... (snif)...
We'll have to wait and see...
dancesontrains
Dec. 9th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing you don't know about the Season Four spoilers, then?
(no subject) - sunnytyler001 - Dec. 9th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dancesontrains - Dec. 9th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaresu - Dec. 9th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunnytyler001 - Dec. 9th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaresu - Dec. 9th, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunnytyler001 - Dec. 9th, 2007 08:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amaresu - Dec. 10th, 2007 01:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - melengro - Dec. 9th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sunnytyler001 - Dec. 9th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
ginnystar
Dec. 9th, 2007 09:54 am (UTC)
Whilst I do love Rose/Doctor, I really can't understand why people don't love Martha (who's pretty, courageous and frankly, yes more intelligent than Rose is). And on that note, why people can't accept that the Doctor has had companions before (in the sense that you pointed out, what with subtle hints of flirting or whatnot, I wouldn't know, having not seen any old Who if you don't count the film w/8th Doc) either. D:

I also ship Zutara, but to be honest I see it as so much more of a fandom pair. Like, I enjoy reading fic and the theories and shit but in the end I can see Aang/Katara happening. It's sorta obvious. Dunno about Mai/Zuko though, what with him turning his back on everything he's worked years to get and planning to help the guy who'll bring down his father and all.

Yeah, anyways. ILU. This essay-thing? BEAUTIFUL.
sunnytyler001
Dec. 9th, 2007 02:12 pm (UTC)
"Martha (who's pretty, courageous and frankly, yes more intelligent than Rose is). "

That's exactly why... Miss Jones is just too perfect... She doesn't feel real... while Rose does!
paperclipchains
Dec. 9th, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)
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