The War On Shipping

Sometimes I feel bad when I realize I won’t have any cool war stories for my children like my father had, but I realize that I have participated in some wars myself.

Shipping Wars.

A shipping war is centered on the concept of a ‘ship’ (which is short for relationship) that is endorsed by a group of people in a certain fan group. For instance, in the popular Harry Potter fandom the majority of people ship Romione (Ron/Hermione).

Ships can either be canon (established in the official story) or non-canon (inferred or imagined from the story). An example of a non-canon ship is Harmony (Harry/Hermione), which was hinted through the series but never established and then officially sunk.

In the Internet universe, who or what you ship becomes instantly important, in fact, certain fan groups are built entirely around ships. Sometimes people get too attached to their favorite character and want to protect and defend their well-being. This can lead to fights about what ship is best and who should end up with whom in the Internet universe.

If you put aside the ridiculousness of being so invested in a fictional character’s life that it becomes your own life, shipping wars are extremely fun to watch from the outside (especially for a multi-shipper like myself). But even I couldn’t help get caught up with “The Great Korra Ship War of 2012.”

It all started in the spring of 2012. My friends and I were eagerly anticipating the start of “The Legend of Korra” which would be the continuation of the television show “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The show focuses on the tough and willful Korra, a 16-year-old water-bending female of the Northern Water Tribe. The show seemed set up to make a very strong political statement about societal discontent and political corruption. But then, everything changed when the Shippers attacked.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy romance as much as the next fangirl, but “The Legend of Korra” took it to a whole new level. In the second episode, Korra befriends the brother duo Mako and Borra who are semi-professional athletes in the city looking for the third member of their team. Korra joins them, creating a trio of awesome benders but also causing a serious love triangle between the brothers.

Korra instantly falls for the older, brooding Mako character, while Bolin falls for his age mate, the spirited Korra. As if this love triangle wasn’t bad enough, a fourth character was inserted into the show during the fourth episode, the beautiful Asami Sato. Mako falls for her and the two begin to date, much to Korra’s frustrations. This love rectangle, in my opinion, detracted from the show’s original message and lessoned its impact. The real fun came from the ship war online.

I have honestly never seen anything like it. Every time I opened my computer and logged onto the popular blogging website Tumblr, all I saw were Borra (Bolin/Korra) shippers railing against Makorra (Mako/Korra) shippers. I myself was sailing strong on the S.S. Borra, certain that they were perfect for each other.

But I didn’t like involving myself with the actual fights, I joined the crack-shippers instead who shipped silly things like Korra/Bathrooms. People would manipulate and edit stills or gifs from the shows, write up long rants about why a certain ship was bad, write fan fiction and draw fan art in support of their own ships.

All of this is mostly normal, but then things began to escalate. A certain group of bloggers decided it would be appropriate to begin attacking people for their beliefs, sending hate. Attacking a ship is one thing but for most people it crosses the line to say a person is morally evil because of something they support.

This is something I have found common on the Internet, though. Instead of ignoring something you find personally offensive or disagreeable, the Internet gives people the chance to voice their (sometimes radical) views on the certain topic or against the person specifically.

This massive ship war went on for weeks as the show continued to run. The best part about a ship war is the fans actually have no real control over what happens in the show. So you have a group of teenagers yelling at and belittling each other for literally no reason. Fans complaining about things they cannot control seems to be the norm in a fandom, but to let it ruin a show for you?

Well you must not have been a real fan to begin with.

Some wars never come to an end and you are just left with a sense of unease in a fandom. Luckily this fandom found a solution. One intelligent blogger decided to fight hate with love and she initiated a ‘Borra Week.’ For every day of a week they would focus on a different aspect of a single ship. The fandom began scheduling different ships and even stretched it to the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” fandom.

Giving each shipper a chance to show off their favorite fandom created a good sense of competition and kept the peace. And for anyone still mad about seeing a certain ship on their dash, well there’s always Tumblr.

Sara Naor is a third-year film and media studies major. She can be reached at snaor@uci.edu.