“What are your thoughts on Arrow?” a friend of mine recently asked. Being an all-around geek and TV fanatic, I, of course, have a lot of thoughts on Arrow. But I told her the most important one: “I ship Olicity so hard it’s not even funny.”
“Um, what was that?” my friend asked, and I realized that I had just used Internet speak in everyday conversation. She was looking at me like I was crazy—and maybe she should have. From shipping to cute pet-names for fandoms, the Internet is a strange and singular place.
I first heard of shipping when I was in high school and developing a slightly unhealthy obsession with Liz and Max from the alien teen show, Roswell. (Yes, I was that girl.) I took to the Internet to find like-minded individuals and not only did I discover the joys of fan-fiction, I also found an entirely new language for my experience. Loving Roswell meant I was part of a fandom—a group of people who love and congregate around a specific canon of work.
Fandoms can come out of television, books or movies, but it’s more than simply liking something. I like Scandal, but I don’t scour Tumblr for new gifs, read fan-fiction late into the night, rewatch the episodes daily, attend cons or reach out to other fans. Which is what I did for Roswell, then Veronica Mars, and now Arrow.
“Shipping” comes from “relationship,” though the word can be used as both a noun or a verb. To “ship” something means you support a relationship between certain characters. I ship the couple of Oliver and Felicity on Arrow. Their ‘ship is called Olicity—a combo of their two names. The fans who ship Oliver with Laurel are called Laurivers. When I shipped Max and Liz, I was known as a Dreamer—as Max once called Liz his dreamgirl. Shippers of Michael and Maria, another couple on Roswell, were called Candies—since their initials were M&M.
See what I mean by cute?
Max and Liz were canon—meaning they actually happened on the show. But there are plenty of ‘ships that are non-canon (never actually happened), or slash (same sex male couples), or femslash (two women) or threesomes (um…pretty self explanatory).
The Arrow ‘ship of Oliver, Felicity, and Tommy is called the Smoaking Billionaires, after Felicity’s last name and the monetary status of the two men. On The 100, heroine Clarke and bad boy Bellamy are called Bellarke—but there’s also Clexa, Clarke and warrior Lexa. Once Upon a Time has Swan Queen (Regina Mills and Emma Swan) versus Captain Swan (Emma and Killian Jones aka Captain Hook.) Harry Potter is pretty famous for its non-canon slash ‘ships, like Drarry—Draco and Harry, or Puppies—Remus and Sirius. Lost? Just check out this Harry Potter fandom list to see how extensive shipping can get.
Since falling for Arrow, I’ve also learned that the fandom is a constantly boiling, messy stew, with Laurivers and Oliciters facing off daily. Based on the Green Arrow comics, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is supposed to end up with Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), the Black Canary. But due to a serious lack of chemistry between Amell and Cassidy, and the addition of a plucky blonde IT girl who was supposed to be a one-off guest character, the show has steered away from the expected pairing. Now the main couple is Oliver and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), angering Lauriver fans and delighting Oliciters.
For the record, I am firmly in the Olicity camp, endlessly charmed by the geeky girl genius who managed to snag the hottest guy around (I mean, have you SEEN Amell shirtless?). But on the whole, I try and stay away from fandom drama, though I understand where it’s coming from. When you love something as much as we do—even even if it’s a TV show (especially if it’s a TV show)—it’s impossible to separate your emotions from it.
Because drama or not, shipping and fandoms are all about love. Our love for these characters, their plots, the stories we read and write about them, our endless devotion to spoilers and fan-videos and fantasizing about the aspects of their lives we don’t get to see.
It’s not an obsession everyone understands—my parents, for example, who used to stare at me in bewilderment when I tried to explain why I needed to own the Roswell DVDs or I would die. But for those of us who get what it’s like to be a true fan, there’s no greater joy than being a part, however small, of what you love. So yes, I use the word “ship” in everyday conversation. And no, I’m not going to stop any time soon.
And if you’re just “jonesin’ for a fix” during the Arrow off-season, we’ve got some book ideas to tide you over.
Who do you ‘ship? Share in the comments!
Playing Fans: Negotiating Fandom and Media in the Digital Age by Paul Booth (University of Iowa Press; 2015)
A fresh new way of looking at fandoms, “from Fifty Shades of Grey to Veronica Mars, from Comic-Con to sitcom, from niche to Geek Chic” fans are quickly becoming the most important audience of the 21st century. Booth argues that fans are not gullible consumers manipulated by the media or rebels against it, but rather a sophisticated audience that borrows media techniques and are in turn copied by media industries. How to understand them and their important place in modern culture are at the heart of this penetrating book.