Shipping Wars: OTPs, NoTPs, and Everything In Between
Tell me if you’ve ever had this thought while reading a book or watching a TV show/movie:
“These two characters are PERFECT for each other! They need to be together and fall in love and live happily ever after RIGHT NOW.”
Sound familiar? If so, congratulations, you are a shipper!
Don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing.
First, a little history: Shipping has a long and glorious tradition dating back to the golden days of Star Trek: The Original Series when a contingent of diehard fans decided Kirk and Spock would make a great couple. The word “ship” comes from “relationship,” and you can ship characters that are together already or characters that you want to be together, whether it agrees with the canon (the official story being produced by the creators) or not. It’s actually a pretty common thing in fandom to ship same-sex characters who are canonically portrayed as straight, like the Kirk/Spock example from before (this is more commonly called slash in fandom circles, a.k.a. Tumblr).
There are a few different kinds of pairings. At the tippy top of the shipping hierarchy, we have what you would call your One True Pairing, or OTP. Something about these characters makes you feel like they go together like filet mignon and a stylish Cabernet. This is the couple you ship above all others, your absolute favorites, the ones that make you feel ALL of the feels.
And don’t worry, it is absolutely allowed to have more than one OTP. Personally, I have a different OTP for every single thing I read or watch, from Cress/Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer to Zoe/Wash from Firefly. (Sometimes I like to pretend Serenity didn’t happen because it makes my life hurt less.)
Other OTP honorable mentions: Daine/Numair from The Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce, Shaw/Root from Person of Interest, Monroe/Rosalee from Grimm, and Tibby/Brian from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares.
But then what if you have two characters who you feel go together about as well as questionably dated milk and a gas station taquito? This is what we call a NoTP. Your NoTP is the exact opposite of your OTP. You do NOT, under any circumstances, want these characters to get together. EVER.
There could be different reasons for this. You could just absolutely hate one of the characters, so you don’t want your hero/heroine to end up with him/her. For me, this would be Alina/The Darkling from The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I mean, he’s basically an immortal mass murderer who wants to enslave Alina and her power. Sure, he’s “charismatic” and “misunderstood,” I get it, but then again so is “Hannibal Lecter.” (And besides, I adore Mal and always wanted him and Alina to end up together in the end.)
Or, you could be totally fine with the character, but you think someone else is much better. For instance, I liked Peeta just fine in The Hunger Games, but you will NEVER convince me that Katniss shouldn’t have chosen Gale instead. Nope, never.
Or you could absolutely love both of the characters, but you don’t want a romance mucking up their awesome friendship. Perfect example for me: Ichabod and Abbie from Sleepy Hollow. Those two are absolutely GLORIOUS as partners/besties. If they ever fell in love, or worse fell out of it and got all angsty and mopey, it would ruin their whole dynamic. So please, just no.
Now, how about plutonic pairings? Can you just love two characters together as friends and not want them to necessarily have a romantic relationship? Indeed you can! Meet the BroTP.
Basically, when your BroTP is on the screen or page, everything is better. They’re fun, maybe they’re a bit sassy (the best ones always are), and everything just feels right in the world when they’re together. And best of all, they’re just friends, or sometimes siblings and such. You don’t have to worry about them pining for each other – at least not in a romantic way – but their relationship is just as powerful as any romantic one.
For my own BroTPs, it doesn’t get much better than Merry and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings. They bring so much heart to the books, they always have each others’ backs, and it only got better when they cast these two adorable knuckleheads in the movies:
If you didn’t suffer some major feels when Merry and Pippin got separated, you may be a little dead inside.
Other BroTP honorable mentions: Harry/Ron from those-books-that-absolutely-no-one-has-read-right?, Paige/Tessa/Morgan/Kayleigh from The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, Sherlock/Watson from any version of Sherlock Holmes whether books, TV or movies, and literally the entire cast of Supernatural.
And finally, we have a little thing that I like to call the MehTP.
You might be saying, “OK, Em, now you’re just making stuff up.” Well, yes. Yes, I am.
A MehTP is what I call a pairing that I just do not care about, “Meh” referring to that noise everyone makes when they shrug with indifference. Maybe it’s because it’s a pairing of two characters who I don’t have strong feelings for. Or maybe I really like those characters separately, but I just don’t really care if they end up together. They fall in love? Aces. They don’t fall in love? Also aces.
I may have to duck from the shoes and soggy tomatoes about to come flying my way, but Oliver/Felicity from Arrow is my quintessential MehTP at the moment. I’m really sorry because I love them both dearly – Felicity is my spirit animal and Ollie is my precious – but I’m honestly super ambivalent when it comes to them romantically. I guess I just don’t feel like Ollicity adds to the emotional stakes of the show, or maybe it’s because they work so well together as allies that a romance angle feels like overkill. Either way, I want them both to end up happy and with someone they love, but whether it’s with each other is a moot point for me. I am neither rooting for it nor against it.
Other MehTP honorable mentions: Nick/Jess from New Girl.
Shipping things is just fun. It makes us feel more invested in the characters and their journey, romantic or otherwise. And the more unlikely a pairing, the more thrilling it is if it ever becomes canon and basically breaks the internet. (Korrasami for LIFE!)
Now let’s hear from you, Swooners! What are some your favorite pairings? One, two, three, four, I declare a ship war (in the comments section)!