Why We Ship (And I Don’t Mean UPS)
March 16, 2012 by Maureen McCarty, HRC Associate Director of Digital Media
If you’ve ever watched a television show or movie and asked yourself, “If only they would get together,” then you’ve probably shipped.
Shipping, best defined as the act of taking fictional characters out of context and building relationships that did not previously exist, is gaining an ever-growing audience online as the LGBT community continues to search for visibility in media.
A viewer’s desire to identify with a fictional character drives shipping, according to Elisa Kresigner, a video remix artist who has created many shipping videos.
Through video mashups, or remixes, the avid online community is helping to create a more positive portrayal of LGBT representation in mainstream media.
Probably one of the most notorious ships came from the LGBT community’s call for visibility on the hit television show “Glee.” For two seasons, there was a groundswell of shippers calling on the show’s co-creator Ryan Murphy to pair the characters Brittany and Santana. Fans pulled clips of sideway glances and dialogue out of context to create video mashups and thus “Brittana” was born.
After Ellen Managing Editor Trish Bendix credits shippers for Brittana blooming into an actual relationship between the characters. The cyclical relationship between blogs and television has actually helped to not only grow LGBT representation, but also improve otherwise stereotypical portrayals, according to Bendix.
Though LGBT representation in mainstream media has grown, such portrayals remain constrained by perceived normativity. Shippers allow the online community to break free of such constraints and recreate a narrative that more genuinely reflects the LGBT community.
As we continue to fight for full equality, the virtual realm remains an outlet for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to connect and assert their identity.