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?
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.
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.