In my last post, I briefly mentioned my soft spot for the losing side of a love triangle. I also mentioned that this was not the case for Final Fantasy VII. Then I remembered an old post that I made on my Live Journal account back when I used the thing, and thought 'I could update that, and post it here! Who would know?'
And then I told you that, so now you all know I'm lazy, but I doubt that you're surprised.
Anyway, the post concerned the numerous 'shipping wars' that spring up in fandoms, particularly in the fanfiction aspect. An interesting minefield to navigate, I've been fortunate to only receive a few (poorly spelled) scathing reviews concerning my choices of pairing. Others... are not so lucky.
Shipping and the Snobbery, Snapping and Snarling Therein
I only really became familiar with the concept of shipping a couple of months after I started writing fanfiction. Even then, it was only after I joined the Genesis Awards that I learned exactly what it was. Now, thankfully GA is fairly neutral territory when it comes to shipping, but elsewhere, be prepared to be virtually mauled for even daring to suggest that X is in love with Y, or Y with Z, or even Z with X.
I. The 'You Don't Like It, You Suck' Problem
As I have mentioned, I'm secretly a bit of a squishy romantic type, and as a result, I do lean towards writing romances rather a lot. These days, they don't tend to be quite as mushy as they used to be (cos I can actually write emotions now), but still romances nevertheless. My favourite pairing to write has always been Tifa and Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the victorious childhood friend relationship, I don't know, I just really liked those two together. However, I was aware that not everyone might want to read that, so I politely put a note in the summary saying what the pairing was. Then, I received this review:
cloti sucks y cant people know that!
This was my first realisation that some fans, and in my experience, quite a lot VII fans, can be rather irrational about the pairings they support. The Cloud/Tifa/Aerith argument seems to me, at times, to be completely blown out of all proportion, and this attitude towards pairings seems to transcend into other fandoms also. Of course, I'm not saying the problem originated with VII; it's just the most prominent example I know of. In any case, I have my own reasons for supporting the Cloud/Tifa pairing, and I'm quite happy for someone to disagree with them as long as they're at least polite about it, unlike 'CLORITH' up there (yes, they named themselves after the portmaneu name of the rival couple, just to let me know how much they hated my pairing choice)
Another, much bigger example which I'm sure a lot of the older GA members would dearly love to forget is the lovely incident that led to us losing half of the admin staff back on our old board. Over a pairing row. About characters in a video game. Of course, it wasn't quite as simple as that, but a lot of it was caused by people who got so defensive over fictional characters and fictional relationships that they thought that it was perfectly acceptable to be extremely rude about it to everyone and anyone who so much as hinted at disagreeing with them. There's nothing wrong with a good debate, but I do not see the need to verbally abuse someone for not liking the same pairing as you do, and especially without any good justification for doing so.
There are numerous other examples of this problem, and I received a similar review to the one above for a Kingdom Hearts story I wrote, since apparently it was not acceptable for me to pair Sora with Kairi because 'she doesn't deserve him; she's always taking him away from Riku' This also leads us into the next problem.
II. The 'True Love' Problem
Now, going back to VII again, Cloud's feelings were initially left completely ambiguous and open to interpretation, unlike, say, Zidane and Garnet from IX or Tidus and Yuna from X. Square Enix only recently released material finally stating that Cloud and Tifa are the canon pairing of the VII compilation (along with Zack and Aerith). Of course, canon relationships mean nothing in fanfiction if you don't want them to, which isn't always a bad thing. However, this is one of the issues that just plain baffles me. Sometimes, pairings seem to come from nowhere, based on nothing, and yet they have an entire fanbase ready to defend it to the death, as it were, because it's totally true love and don't you dare say it isn't.
Now, for me, this includes many yaoi pairings, especially Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts based ones, and I'm not about to tell anyone that they shouldn't enjoy them, but they do not make the least bit of sense to me. From what I can identify, these seem to be the main causes for support of these pairings:
1. The Main Protagonist and the Main Antagonist (Cloud/Sephiroth etc.)
2. The Best Friends/The Bromantics (Roxas/Axel etc.)
3.The Hero and the Rival (Sora/Riku etc.)
4. TheTwo Hot Guys who Totally Looked At Each Other That One Time (any number of random pairings that make your head hurt)
There are probably others, but those are the ones I have seen the most often. And they don't just apply to yaoi either; heterosexual or yuri pairings often fall under these headings as well, with their own variations thrown in. Now, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with supporting them, and I do know many yaoi fans who I get along with absolutely fine (you know who you are). In fact, this really all boils right back down to the whole 'you don't like it, you suck' thing. Some fans get snooty about it, and proceed to give you a swift tongue lashing about why you are wrong. This brings us on to...
III. The 'My Canon is Better than your Canon' Problem
This is the argument that nightmares are made of. I touched on it a couple of times already, but this is the big one and so it gets its own special section all to itself.
Anyway, this one comes up damn near everytime shipping gets mentioned. But of course it does; shipping is built on personal fanon. Where I see Cloud and Tifa as a canon pairing because a) I know that relationships based on friendships can work and b) Aerith is out of the running because she's a teensy bit dead (and I don't like her, but that's a whole other bag o' gerbils) and c) Square Enix have finally said so, other people think that they would be awful together, and Tifa doesn't deserve Cloud anyway, what were you thinking? (and other, much more reasonable arguments). In any case, pairings, and character interpretations by extension, are pretty much all subject to personal canon; 'fanon' in more casual terms. However, that's not where the problem really is.
The problem is that some people aren't content with fanon; they want their pairing proven, and will support it with whatever piece of evidence they can get from the subject matter, no matter how flimsy or insignificant. Now, the only real experience I have with this comes from FFVII, although I have seen it in Kingdom Hearts also. Anyway, since the FFVII Ultimania was published (and I have never read it by the way), it seems that there's even more of a scramble to grab what they can get. Cloud/Tifa fans jump on the 'Under the Highwind' scene and the cut 'Chocobo Stable' scene while Cloud/Aerith fans continually bring up the fact that Tifa 'lied to Cloud' and various other things (I'm not as familiar with this side of the argument). And then the yaoi fans jump in with the fact that Cloud is obviously just not interested in women. Or they just go another way altogether and say that the Ultimania/Compilation/whatever just doesn't count because it wasn't there to begin with shut up (again, there are more rational arguments).
I find it confusing, and all a bit silly. It's useful to have things you can interpret as support for a chosen pairing, yes. It's handy for fic writing if nothing else, but where is this idea that one must use all evidence possible to support one pairing and shoot down any opposing party? I can only really repeat my sentiment that they are fictional characters. There is no need to get so bloody worked up.