Madam Puddifoot’s: A Call to End the Shipping Wars

by Seren Quirke

By now, any Harry Potter fan worth their salt belongs to one ship or another. A ship, for the few of you who may not know, is basically a coalition of fans who support one relationship. We all have our preferences. The most popular ships (generally written in fanfiction) are Ron and Hermione, Harry and Ginny, Harry and Hermione, Ginny and Draco, and Harry and Draco. Ships cover a variety of potential relationships, from the normal teenage love (R/Hr and H/Hr), the normally illegal couples (Hermione and Severus Snape), and the incredibly unlikely (Draco/Ginny). There are forays into other types of relationships, such as interspecies and/or interfamily relationships. I’ve even seen the Giant Squid and Hogwarts Castle. Fandom is a funny thing.

Shipping and the discussion of potential relationships can be a lot of fun. We can dissect the bonds between Ron and Hermione versus Harry and Hermione, speculate whether there’s more to Voldemort and Bellatrix’s relationship, or talk about the hilarity that might ensure if Flitwick and Filch ever got together. It can be serious, it can be fun, but overall, it’s good discussion fodder.

When I first forayed into the world of shipping, it was through fanfiction. For this reason, I was largely ignorant of the occasional heated discussions between rival ships. I knew that it might happen, but it would all be done in the name of good, clean fun. Everyone has a right to think whatever they want.

However, as of late, I’ve noticed that it’s gotten out of hand. I started getting into discussions about preferred ships, canon versus fanon ships, and things of that nature, and was surprised at the amount of animosity that was going back and forth between groups. Sometimes it was pro-ships versus anti-ships, sometimes it was between two ships that had one character in common (mostly R/Hr versus H/Hr). Some of the things that I’ve read would make a sailor blush; they were beyond rude and condescending. The shipping wars have got to end. I’d like to get into the futility of the shipping wars, for a moment.

Canon vs. Fanon Relationships

We all know the differences between canon and fanon. Canon is something that can be proved by the books; fanon is something that can’t be, but is often generally accepted by the fandom. Some examples of canon is that Harry looks just like his dad, except for his eyes; Luna can be seen with her wand behind her ear; and an eagle owl drops Draco’s packages off. Examples of fanon are that Ron’s eyes are blue; Regulus’ eyes are grey; or that Andromeda had black hair. Fanon is generally derived after some common sense; Regulus’ brother is Sirius, who had grey eyes, and Andromeda’s sister is Bella, who has black hair.

In terms of shipping, a canon relationship is established within the world. This may be one of the biggest sources of contention within the shipping community. A relationship is NOT canon until Jo announces, through the books, that two people are together. That means that canon relationships are limited to James and Lily Potter, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, Arthur and Molly Weasley…essentially, basically all the adult relationships. No matter how many times it may be hinted that they’re going to get together, Ron and Hermione are NOT a canon relationship. Neither is Harry and Hermione. Or Harry and Ginny. Or whatever your OTP (One True Pairing) is. Even if Harry and Hermione both confide in Ron that they’re madly in love with one another, unless they’re officially going out, they are not a canon relationship. You can’t bend the rules of canon. Just because you’re 100% sure doesn’t mean you’re right. Jo has the last word, not you.

The Matter of Personal Preference

No matter how many times you argue, if someone’s fully entrenched within their ship, you’re not going to make them give it up. Since shipping is only partially based on canon, few people are going to get all the ships they want. That doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy exploring the possibilites of a certain relationship. For example, Jo ruled out a Draco/Hermione pairing. Does that mean someone should stop shipping them? Of course not. Shipping comes mostly from personal preference; we may be partial to two characters, or may dislike a character and like another one, and thus choose to ship or not ship a certain way. Since it’s supposed to be fun, and not all-out war, what’s wrong with a little creative imagination?

You don’t have to like it, but if Mary Sue in Wisconsin likes the dynamics of a Harry/Draco pairing, then let her like it in peace, even if you’re Tiny Tim from Timbuktu who prefer Ron/Hermione. You wouldn’t want Mary Sue to bother you about your OTP, would you? If you feel a connection with Luna, you may think she’s perfectly suited for Harry. If you feel a connection with Ginny, you may feel she’s just right for Harry. We all see characters in a different way, because of our own personalities. I’m not a Ginny fan, and therefore, in my mind, she’s not right for Harry, whom I do like. I wouldn’t put them together, because it’s not right for me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to bash you because you prefer Harry/Ginny. It just means I’ll abstain from talking about Harry’s potential relationships unless I know you can be civil about it.

Jo writes the characters in a way that we often connect with them, and that also colours our perceptions. For example, I see a lot of myself in Hermione — from her bookishness and logic, straight down to the bushy hair — and I would never date someone like Ronald Weasley. Therefore, in my mind, Ron and Hermione don’t belong together. I’m not going to ignore what the author says, but I can ship anyway I please. I’m not writing the series; it’s just my opinion.

Canon vs. Fanon Shipping

Many people ship both canonly and fanonly. I ship Ron/Hermione and Harry/Luna canonly; I ship Harry/Hermione fanonly. This isn’t unusual. Some people support both R/Hr and H/Hr, under the pretext of “Well, better them than Severus Snape, right?” This is another source of conflict, because there are shipping purists who say that you can only ship one way, even if you ship one for canon (because you believe it will happen) and one fanon (because that’s the one you’d actually prefer.) It seems like a silly thing to argue about, and it is, but some people will be all over you like white on rice if you have the stones to openly admit it. That’s not fair to them. There’s nothing wrong with being intrigued or liking the idea of Harry going out with Ginny or Luna, or for Hermione to date either Ron or Snape. Especially for fanfiction writers, sometimes the most unlikely of pairings can be material for an especially spectacular story. And sometimes an idea that works for one couple (let’s say Harry and Hermione) doesn’t work for another (Ron and Hermione). Sometimes you just want a character to get with any one of a number of people, so long as it’s not someone outside of that group, so you ship that one character with all of them. So you may ship Harry/Ginny, Dean/Ginny, Seamus/Ginny, AND Neville/Ginny. That’s fine, so long as that’s what you want.

Essentially, it’s pointless to argue with someone about shipping preferences. Some people ship exclusively het; others like a healthy mix of het and slash, and still others prefer only slash. Some people are fond of the possibilites of pairings between minor characters, and nevermind the R/Hr vs. H/Hr debate. Most of us would be rather miffed if some random person came up to them and started railing on their shipping preferences, so why would you do it to someone else? It’s pointless. And some people are starting to get rather rude about it.

It’s all well and good to defend your personal choices; no one should expect less from you. However, it’s gotten to the point where members of one ship are deliberately baiting members of a rival ship in extremely rude ways, trying to instigate often vicious arguments between members. What does that do?

It alienates fans, for starters. When younger (12 and under) fans go and reread all the shipping wars, they get confused and back off. There are a number of people who have simply disappered from Web sites after being insulted by members of a rival ship in ways that can’t be described here. I know someone who gave up the Potterverse altogether because the fandom had gotten so rabid that he had gotten disgusted and left forever, not wanting to get involved with the whole mess.

It hurts feelings. If you’re having a civil debate, most people walk away with a refreshed feeling of a good conversation. But petty arguments of “ur soooo stoopid” and “u suk (R/Hr, H/Hr, H/G, HP/TR, ect) iz da best ship in da wold” generally only irritates the bejesus out of everyone. No one wants to have their intelligence insulted like that, and no one is going to bother with people who seem out for their blood. It’s rude, it’s degrading, and really annoying to read.

It only shows that the person is being close-minded about something. Again, you don’t have to like it, but everyone is free to ship in whatever direction they want, should they choose to ship at all. Again, that’s part of the magic and fun of being part of the Potterverse fandom; creativity pours from it, and it can be a great way to spend online, talking with others who think the same way you do. It’s fun to banter back and forth about the merits of two different ships, if you’re open-minded and pleasent about it. Getting rude and bellicose about it, however, ruins the magic.

So basically (sorry, I’m absolutely horrid with endings), take the time to be civil with both your fellow and rival shippers. Look into why they support their ships — you might be suprised at their reasoning and rationale. Have fun with it, and don’t take it too seriously. There are those of us who laugh at the mean shippers.