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Hypable

It’s the black sheep of the fandom family. The distant, embarrassing cousin we don’t talk about at parties. Its name is slash shipping and guess what, it’s time to let it out of the closet and acknowledge its existence.

Something is happening in the Supernatural fandom right now. I won’t fault you for not having heard about it, because except for within select circles (read: Tumblr), no one is talking about it. Because it has to do with slash shipping.

I bet a lot of you just winced when you read those words.

Look, sometimes being a fan is hard. As I have explored in a previous column, society at large has decided that spending all your time watching episodes of Buffy and Star Trek ranks you lower in the social hierarchy than watching college basketball playoffs.

But we prevail and we persist, because we have it on good authority that being a geek is just about to get cool. (Right? That’s still happening? I’ll never give up hope.)

Sadly, fandom isn’t always the big happy family we pretend it is, and like any other subculture, there’s plenty of hating and trolling and flaming and shaming to go around for everyone, both online and off.

Shipping 101

Slash ship Kirk Spock Star Trek

For those not initiated, shipping is the shorthand term used to describe the act of wanting two (usually fictional) characters to get together romantically.

Contrary to popular belief, shipping did not start with Harry Potter and Twilight, but has been around practically since the beginning of literature itself.

Shipping is essentially the reason for the enduring popularity of classic love triangles like Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot (Arthurian legends), Darcy/Elizabeth/Wickham (Pride and Prejudice), Linton/Catherine/Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), and Rhett/Scarlett/Ashley (Gone With the Wind).

These stories would not work if the readers didn’t care about the romantic outcomes, and as we tend to identify with the main characters of the stories we read, their romantic choices in some cases come to equivocate whether or not we see their ending as a happy one. And we want them to have a happy ending, of course, because they’re us.

Nevertheless, being a shipper is still a tough label to carry, even in fandom circles where your general geekiness has already been accepted. Shippers are often viewed as sex-obsessed, immature, simpering girls who are unable to look past the pretty boys and girls to the “really important” subtext underneath.

It’s all subjective though, and ultimately, “mythology fans” are just as obsessive and geeky as shippers, only in a different way – and who’s to say you can’t be both? Kate’s choice turned out to be as important as the origin of the Smoke Monster, Lost fans, so let’s move on.

The “other” kind of shipping

Slash ship Xena Gabrielle

In this article, I want to talk about slash shipping, and the problematic assumption that it is somehow more shameful than “normal” shipping.

Note the problematic use of the word normal in this context.

“Slash shipping” is a label used to differentiate (for whatever reason it needs to be differentiated) the supporters of male/male or female/female relationships from those whose ships are of the male/female variety.

While of course used to describe the supporters of actual gay fictional relationships – like Kurt/Blaine (Glee) – most of the time, slash shippers read homosexual subtext into the interactions between supposedly straight characters.

See Kirk/Spock (Star Trek), Draco/Harry (Harry Potter), Xena/Gabrielle (Xena), Stiles/Derek (Teen Wolf), Emma/Regina (Once Upon a Time), and Merlin/Arthur (Merlin). Or the millions of other examples that spring to mind.

A common misconception is that the discomfort surrounding slash shipping has to do with homophobia. Sure, this is sometimes the case, but in my experience, the dislike of slash shippers by fandom at large has more to do with the perceived notion that slash shippers equate to 13-year-old girls writing smut fanfiction about what a man and a man (or woman and woman) do when they love each other.

And hey, I’m sure that happens. But no one likes a sweeping generalization. Especially when it causes a group of people to feel bullied, marginalized, and shamed.

Fandom’s dirty little secret

Slash ship Dean Castiel Destiel

What happened this weekend at the Supernatural convention in New Jersey brings up the question of where to draw the line – if a line needs to be drawn at all – between where it is acceptable to talk about slash shipping, and where it isn’t.

There is a wonderful in-depth article by Aja Romano at The Daily Dot which examines the events in great detail, and I highly recommend that you read it for intelligent analysis (but note that, like this on, it is a column article which will express the personal views of the writer).

To summarize what happened: a convention-goer went to the panel with the main stars (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) and began her question: “I love your character becoming more comfortable with himself this season. I’m bisexual and I’ve noticed some possible subtext–”

That was as far as she got before she was cut off, both by the audience groaning and booing, and by the stars’ bodyguard, who stepped in to remove her from the microphone stand. Supposedly because they were assuming she was about to ask a question about “Destiel,” the relationship between Ackles’ character Dean and the angel Castiel (although it later turned out that she actually wasn’t).

A lot of the discussion (to put it nicely) happening on Tumblr right now is talking about whether or not Ackles’ reaction (saying, “Don’t ruin it for everybody now,” though we can’t conclude whether he said it to the girl or the crowd, and therefore shouldn’t make assumptions) was homophobic, but in an article about slash shipping, that is neither here nor there. Ackles’ opinion is irrelevant – or, at least, it should be. Right?

After all, romantic subtext is just one area – and arguably a prevalent one – of Supernatural canon, and while some fans seem to believe that the banning of all shipping questions at conventions (a rumour which later proved false) makes sense, I want to take a moment and ask: why?

Don’t ask, don’t tell

Slash ship Emma Regina Once

What is so horrible about slash shipping, and asking the actors about it? Why should asking Ackles about whether Dean might possibly have feelings for Castiel be more taboo than asking him about Dean/Lisa, or whether he thinks Dean should die at the end of the series, or what his favourite moment filming season 8 was?

For those who claim that they’ve been asked about slash shipping a million times and that it just makes everyone uncomfortable: this might be the case, sure, but these guys do like 20 conventions a year. Do you really think that there is one single question which you could possibly ask them which they haven’t had to answer at least a dozen times before?

The difference seems to be that some fans believe it is harassment to force the actors to confront the possibility that their characters might be homosexual.

I’ll just leave that statement right there.

Of course, no one wants to see the actors harassed. No one wants to see hysterical fans desperately throwing themselves at the cast, demanding that they acknowledge the deep love between X and Y character and/or themselves, because actors are people too and should be treated with respect.

But in this writer’s personal opinion, there’s a difference between harassing, and asking the creators of these characters you love and identify with to acknowledge you and your interpretation – whether that interpretation is about a character’s love of a brother, a friend, or a potential lover of either gender.

Do the actors have to agree with it? No, of course not. They’re actors, they are there to act. They go to conventions to feed the fandom, to make fans feel like they have a personal connection with the show, to give loyal viewers a chance to get up close with the stars and go home with happy memories and memorabilia (for a price).

I’m sure each actor has to deal with a number of questions that make them internally roll their eyes and think, Not this crap again. These fans are crazy! I’m sure a lot of topics make them embarrassed or uncomfortable.

So singling out slash shipping (or shipping in general), when there is so much more that might be awkward for the actors to be confronted with? That is problematic. Whether you’re an actor, a creator, or a fan, I have to question the logic that “slash shipping is cool as long as we don’t talk about it.” Don’t ask, don’t tell? Really, fandom?

Bringing slash shipping out of the closet

Slash ship Merlin Arthur Merthur

This is a debate we should be having. This is something we should be talking about. Especially now, today, when fandom is beginning to become more mainstream and fans are taking their online obsessions out into this elusive place called “the real world” we’ve heard so much about.

Whether or not you believe that slash shipping should be acknowledged or kept hidden like a dirty little secret, that’s your prerogative, but I personally would like to know why.

In my experience, people shout the loudest and they fight the hardest when they have something to fight for. Before jumping to the conclusion that slashers are delusional and militant, think about why they lash out so strongly.

Sometimes, yes, it’s all about the smut and NC-17 fanfiction. But sometimes, it’s not about the ship at all, but about what that relationship stands for. Acceptance by the writers that homosexual relationships are worth writing about and exploring. Acknowledgment that the love the shippers see is real, that the type of love they see is real.

We all know that shipping can get crazy, but can’t fandom in general get crazy? Can’t the world get crazy? Hell, football fans have riots, people die. This doesn’t happen in online fan communities.

But sometimes, people get hurt. Sometimes, a girl is booed off the stage for announcing that she is bisexual – for daring to bring the topic of Dean’s sexuality up in front of the stars.

And whether or not the audience members were booing her or the question, the conclusion we can draw from this is clear: slash shipping isn’t something we’re supposed to be talking about. But maybe we should be.

  • http://twitter.com/Shaftsword Shaft Almasy

    Supernatural is guilty of wanting to have its cake and eat it too with the obvious subtext between Dean and Castiel and then getting funny about it at conventions especially as according to the article the questions were pre-screened. I don’t think it is fair to suggest that the attendee was booed of for being bisexual I would like to think more of them than that. The thing about shippers is that they can be a fairly militant bunch and if you disagree all too often it breaks down into flame wars and cries of homphobe.

    • hpboy13

      EXACTLY!! I was scratching my head during most of this article, because in my experience it’s always been the stark-crazy militant slash shippers that are up in arms when someone dares disagree with their (usually fanon) ship. If you disagree with Swan Queen, you automatically hate gay people and fairytales and puppies; if you disagree with Klaine, you are officially the antiChrist. I’m sure there are plenty of sensible people who enjoy Swan Queen or Klaine without it becoming a matter of life and death, but this is a case of a VERY loud minority.

      • http://hypable.com Selina

        There’s always two sides to a story, and this is that other side. Sure, slash shippers are sometimes intense and terrifying. But as far as I can tell, this is a very vocal minority. There are many others, who only want their interpretations of the text accepted, but who are mocked and scorned and treated just as the faction you described.

        • http://twitter.com/Shaftsword Shaft Almasy

          Ask Andrew about the time in the UK a fan cornered him and started going into oodles of detail about her slash fiction story featuring him and a fellow MuggleCaster at the time it was equal parts hilarious and excruciatingly embarrassing.

      • http://twitter.com/Tygridia Tygridia

        In fact, the Klaine fandom is especially scary. I have suffered myself some bullying on the Internet just for saying that those two characters are not good for each other.

    • http://twitter.com/originalgrissel Kristie Torres

      Not only are the writers/producers of Supernatural guilty of what many fans would refer to as “queer baiting” regarding the subtext that often is practically text regarding Dean & Castiel, but they are also guilty of perpetrating a double standard in the show when it comes to m/m vs f/f relationships. They mock fans that view the Dean/Castiel relationship as a potentially romantic one and do their best to dismiss their viewpoints, but they take every opportunity to throw girl on girl action into the show. There’s a pervasive attitude in the writing that M/M relationships are to be used as comic relief, but F/F relationships are to be used as titillation for what they see as a predominantly young, male audience.

    • http://twitter.com/Crimson_Vipera Katarzyna Ch.

      I’m sorry to say, but they did start to boo her out as soon as the words “I’m bisexual” passed her lips. Even if we assume they thought her question would be about shipping, it still doesn’t give them the right to act this way.

  • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

    Just as a tangential question here, when did it become acceptable to use the
    word “queer”? I feel like I’m ancient going “back when I was in my 20′s” but I’d never use the word “queer” any more than I’d use fag or dyke. I would have only ever used gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transsexual, etc. to describe someone’s sexual
    orientation. To me saying “queer” like saying nigger.

    Obviously there’s been a shift in culture where “queer” is now being used freely. Can someone explain to me the nuances because on another thread people were discussing whether something was queer or gay friendly like they were two different things. Honestly I’m just really confused, and looking for information so I don’t offend anyone.

    • http://twitter.com/Shaftsword Shaft Almasy

      Probably a geographical thing as I can see in the US how widely people of all races use the N word while here in the UK it is nowhere near as common.

    • Lindsey

      I’m not part of the lgbt community, but my understanding is that “queer” is an umbrella term for everything outside of heterosexuality. It just means “not heteronormative.” Obviously the term has been used as an insult, but it has been reclaimed by the lgbt community. I think queer-friendly and gay-friendly are two different things just because queer encompasses more than just being gay. Idk, hope that helps.

    • rusty

      From what I’ve seen, “queer” seems to be considered more encompassing i.e. including transexuals and bisexuals compared to “gay”, which denotes only sexual attraction to people with the same biological sex.

  • Ashley Benneli

    While I highly disagree with the fans booing the girl off the stage (I don’t believe it was necessary in the least), I just feel like fans should try to hold back “slash shipping” when addressing the actors and showrunners.

    I’ve never heard of slash shipping myself, I’ve heard of shipping, which I thought already included gay/lesbian/bisexual relationships, but fans trying to inject their opinions and ships into the actual show seems like they’re reaching too far. I’ve been to a panel before, and some fans are often persistent to a point in which it turns rude and awkward for the actors. That’s probably why they’re screening more of the questions.

    If the showrunners wanted to include a relationship between two characters, they would explore that within the show. They certainly don’t need us to tell them what to do, although I don’t think it’s completely out of the question to ask them if that’s where they’re going. But doesn’t that kind of defeat the shows purpose? Don’t we want to be surprised when watching our favorite shows?

    There’s a point where we have to let the actors and showrunners just do their jobs and we sit back and enjoy the show. I think it’s time for us to just enjoy ourselves and not try to guide our fandoms in the direction we want them to go, but let them go in the direction that the writers/directors intended for them to go. If we believe in them enough to handle the shows we love, then hopefully they’ll end up satisfying the majority of fans. But it’s impossible to please everyone, as we all know.

  • Lindsey

    I think there are some fandoms where slash is accepted. Go look for fanfiction for Merlin, Criminal Minds, Harry Potter, Sherlock and over half of what you find is some kind of slash. In some of these cases the actors have addressed it. Martin Freeman has admitted to googling “Johnlock” stuff and seeing what fans post online, and it actually seems like he supports it or at least doesn’t mind. Look at Doctor Who, John Barrowman and David Tennant kissed at ComicCon to the crowd’s laughter and applause.

    I’ve always been a “shipper” and never saw any shame in it. It’s just good fun. It doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the canon of the show or the other details of the show. Personally, I hate when shows have too much drama and become too soap-opera-y, but why watch at all if you aren’t going to think about it and analyze the characters and imagine where the plot could go?

    • http://www.facebook.com/clare.markley Clare Matvey Markley

      I’ve watched how deftly Benedict Cumberbatch, and Martin Freeman have recently handled questions about this recently. Another actor who gets these questions a lot and who handles them with class & humor is Tom Felton. What people seem to forget (and these actors seem to REMEMBER) is that their fans are their FANS– they are essentially the consumer of the work that they do.

      Watching the amount of time and effort that the actors affiliated with “Star Trek Into Darkness” are putting into promotion and press junkets for the movie, wouldn’t it be rather stupid and silly to do something to offend and cause fans to NOT want to watch their films? When all they have to do is continue to be accepting and mature? (I suppose this pre-supposes that the actor/actress is mature enough to be able to handle the discussion and isn’t seriously homophobic… but in today’s climate, really… most people can handle this discussion because it isn’t an assumption that *they* are gay, right? Seriously, it isn’t an insult.)

      All of the three men I mentioned are consummate professionals & seem to take the fanfiction and art as part and parcel of what just ‘comes with the job’… Benedict has said he finds it flattering and seems slightly flummoxed by it all, but has never discouraged it. Martin appears to find it amusing. Even Martin’s significant other, Amanda Abbington has discussed fanfiction in a positive way with fans.

      All this says to me is that these people accept that their fans like their work and want to somehow express their enjoyment and love of that… I do think we should always be respectful of the actors’ personal lives, of course. And, we should be respectful in how we ask questions about things like this. But that is how I would treat ANY person, not just a person I looked up to because they happened to be a talented actor. (Honestly, if I met one of them I don’t know if I could stutter out a sentence… lol)

  • sculder-in-the-tardis

    One of the amazing things about fandom is attention to detail, and analysis. Whether that means theories about characterization, about het or slash subtext, we’re really missing something if we don’t keep looking at ourselves and analysing our own reactions. I would agree with the author that we need to think and talk about things that cause such rifts in fandom.

  • Marie

    I think slash shipping is some of the greatest shipping around. It’s more fun to look for those subtext (since it’s usually subtext) than to just notice the more obvious, in-canon stuff. Also, if you’re actually part of the gay community, it can be nice to maybe stretch the true a little to find representation for you in a world that still has significantly less LGBT representation than heterosexual representation.

    However, slash shipping can get scary when certain fans stretch the shipping from shipping the characters, and into shipping the actors. I know Darren Criss and Chris Colfer have actually been tweeted some really weird stuff/fan creations about “CrissColfer” (the very delusional ship about both of them being in a relationship). I know that real-person shipping is a whole different category, but it still freaks me out since that’s clearly based on the ship on the TV show.

    I guess I think slash-shipping is fine, and isn’t necessarily something to be ashamed of, but I think shipping and general can sometimes overpower the bigger message of the work (depending on the genre), and that can get annoying.

  • of_nightingales

    I have no more problem with slash shipping than I do with regular shipping. Especially with Supernatural at it’s 90% male cast (no one will ever understand how much I love Sam/Castiel, but I digress).

    My only problem with voicing questions at con is that people don’t have tact. They ask leading questions that are supposed to end with someone replying, “Dean and Cas are in love with each other. They’ll be boyfriends in Season 9.”

    The thing is, it’s hard to be tactful about slash. It’s always been the taboo subject, and so while people are getting more comfortable talking about it now, everyone asking questions seems to forget that you still need to be tactful when asking about it.

    I would absolutely love to hear Jensen talk about Dean’s sexuality. Especially if you put all shipping aside. No Cas, no Sam, no whatever else you ship. Just Dean. Fandom has made me give up the hope of that ever happening.

    Slash fans are seen as a fandom within a fandom. The subfandom includes a very vocal and idiotic minority who ask obnoxious questions or bring fanart to cons or attempt to fic rec actors. The idea of “don’t ruin it for everyone” is kind of invalid at this point. It’s already BEEN ruined by the tactless, vocal minority. The minority that only likes the ship because apparently guy-on-guy is hot or something, not because they actually care about the characters.

    Slash shippers have a bad rap, but like anything with that stupid vocal minority (that somehow keeps getting the microphone), it’s going to be nigh-impossible to change the way everyone views us.

    Was it kind of rude for that fan to get cut off in asking her question? Yup. Was it totally unreasonable considering everyone’s past stupidity? Not really.

    //end disjointed rambling

  • SkyAero

    Having no problem with slash shipping.

    Am gay myself, so that’s kind of the only thing i do ;)

  • http://blackrapture.tumblr.com/ thegoodshipdestiel

    I’m not as active on tumblr these days, so I actually had no idea about what happened at the con. But I think that this is a great article and you are so right, Selina. You make great points in an intelligent way and I hope that people don’t just skim over this because the word “slash” is in the title. I would highly recommend people check out how Misha Collins handles Destiel – like a gentleman and scholar!

    • Shimeren
      • http://blackrapture.tumblr.com/ thegoodshipdestiel

        Great clip! I love this man!

      • http://twitter.com/DarkAng4 Alex

        People should also check out that statement he made behind close doors. He’s getting tired of it too but don’t want to piss his side off.

  • http://twitter.com/CamillaENes Camilla Nes

    I find it strange that this happened at a Supernatural convnetions, since from what I hear they have been known to intentionally add subtext into the Destiel friendship in the show? I haven’t watched past season 5, but from what I remember there were several instances where they made fairly ambiguous jokes.

    I think shipping itself can and often does get out of hand within fandom, but I don’t see a reason why slash ships should get a worse reputation than male/female ships. It seems like a double standard for there to be no problem answering questions about hetero ships while shying away from same sex ships. If one is okay, then the other should be, in my oppinion. As long as they are fictional ships the actors should be able to speak to it objectively either way.

    • SPNInsider

      The problem with Supernatural conventions and the subject of shipping begin and end with Jensen Ackles. The other actors on the show don’t seem to mind these questions, it’s Ackles who has banned the subject from even being mentioned at conventions. He is so uncomfortable with the subject that he even applied to become an Executive Producer in his last contract negotiation in an attempt to get creative control over the show so he could eradicate any and all subtext regarding Dean and Castiel whatsoever. This would have included Misha Collins losing his job entirely, as he wanted Castiel written off the show. If he had gotten his way he would have had more input over the characterization of Dean to the point to where he could be the manliest men of men and shifting all of the subtext onto Sam and have him be the butt of all the queer jokes from now on. The main reason why Collins is back in a starring role next season is due to fan support, which really bothers Ackles because the majority of Collins’ fanbase are Destiel shippers. Collins himself realizes this and encourages convention goers to bring up Destiel because he knows how much it bothers Ackles. It’s become a major point of contention on the set of that show now with Ackles becoming less and less of a team player and being mostly out for himself at the expense of his two costars.

      • bela516

        You keep repeatedly saying the same exact thing over ad nauseum but to me it sounds like you are making crap up from thin air. Cite your sources or stop bad mouthing Jensen.

  • congoer

    Misha Collins was asked a similar question the previous day (Are Dean and Cas in love) and his answer was fantastic. I look forward to seeing the video of that response because it was really wonderful.

    • SPNInsider

      The thing about Misha Collins that most people don’t realize is that he relishes the chance to answer Destiel questions at conventions because it makes Jensen Ackles so uncomfortable. It’s a common misconception that the two actors are close friends outside the show. They play it up to the fans at conventions because it’s their job to act as if everything is perfectly fine between them but that couldn’t be further from the actual truth. Basically the fact of the matter is that Jensen detests the subject of shipping so vehemently that he went behind Jared Padalecki’s back in their most recent contract negotiations and applied for an Executive Producer’s role. This was not only so he could make more money than him, but also so he could obtain creative control over the show and its characters. If he had gotten his way he would have had Castiel written off the show permanently to remove any and all subtext between Dean and Castiel. Collins would have been out of a job and he’s well aware of this fact. He’s also well aware that the reason he’s back in a starring role next season is due to fan support, which really bothers Ackles as Collins’ fanbase largely supports Destiel.

  • J

    I think it’s a great idea to discuss slash or any kind of shipping openly. It also helps to be honest. The linked article in the post is extremely slanted, with many assumptions that can be taken issue with. The young lady in question has written her own point of view at http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/njwank and requested the over the top finger pointing to be labelled njwank because so much of it is.

    There’s a lot of history and context around Destiel and Wincest questions at cons. The questions have always been allowed to be asked and have been.

    There are two issues I see with the history of asking ship questions at Spn cons.

    1) The questions have often been asked in a specifically and often explicitly sexual way, inappropriate for a public forum. Some actors are less embarrassed than others, but no one enjoys being sexually objectified this way. While there may be some audience members who tense up at the thought of discussing slash shipping at all, there’s also members who tense up because of inappropriate questions in the past that made everyone but the asker uncomfortable. Fans have not only recced their own explicit fanfic, they show explicit manips and make explicit comments.

    2) The questions are often really about validating a ship, not listening to the actor’s answer. There’s only one right answer the actor can give. Misha Collin’s panel the day before actually illustrated this aspect very well. At a previous con, Collins, who has always been very open to discussing slash shipping, gave an answer to a question which didn’t validate the ship the way the asker wanted. In response, various members of that subfandom used social media to label Collins a queer baiter and other negative terms.

    When he was asked at the latest con his opinion on the ship, he said he couldn’t give an answer that wouldn’t make some faction really unhappy, so people could read into the relationship as they wanted, but he wouldn’t validate anything one way or another. He also mentioned being labelled a queer baiter, which he felt was a very inaccurate portrayal of his values.

    I think actors feel very trapped about answering questions about non-canon ships because the likelihood they will not satisfy the asker is high and the consequence is being called homophobic or a queer baiter on the internet. To make this discourse really free, everyone needs to accept difference, including shippers. If an actor doesn’t validate your ship, that is not an acceptable reason to label someone a homophobe.

    The last point I’ll make is that many shippers are by nature fanatical. Occasionally, shipping can become obsessive. The actors in Supernatural have had horrible tweets made to their wives and about their children by people who cannot distinguish between real life and fanfic. They have had their private lives dug into in service of real person slash that is not acknowledged as fictional. They have reason to be gunshy about shipping. That applies to all kinds of shipping, not just slash. It just happens on Supernatural, the obsessive shipping is slash shipping.

    None of what I wrote means I condone booing someone for the type of question the young lady made. The actors are big boys and are capable of handling their questions and Jensen has already in the past given his opinion of Dean and Cas without fanfare. But the exasperation some fans feel with shipping questions is not based on being homophobic. It’s based on some fans feeling slash questions do not have to consider anyone but themselves.

    • Marie

      Yeah. I suppose the moral of the story is shippers need to remember that these are fictional characters, played by real actors who just want to live their lives. And that if your ship doesn’t happen in canon, it’s not the end of the world. That’s what fanfiction is for, after all! It’s certainly not worth bombarding real people (actors, writers, creators, etc.)

  • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

    I think when it comes to shipping you can ship whatever you want. If someone prefers to read slash or het fic it doesn’t intrinsically mean anything other than it’s a preference. It’s when people are on a mission to correct the universe from their supposedly deluded thinking about anything except their OTP that’s to me crossing a line.

    My preference tends to be towards het and slash canon ships and het fanon, but that doesn’t mean I begrudge anyone slash fanon. So, you’ll find me reading Jack/Ianto and Rose/10 in canon and Daryl/Carol and Mal/ Inara in fanon. That doesn’t mean I want to stop people writing Daryl/Rick, Mal/Jayne, or Kaylee/Zoe.

    To me, it gets annoying when someone tries to shove their ship down your throat or calls you whatever insult because you don’t really see their ship (Ie: you see deep friendship and they see romance). So for example, in Torchwood I can totally see Jack/Ianto Jack/Gwen, Gwen/Rhys but I don’t see Jack/Rhys or Gwen/Tosh. Now this doesn’t mean that I’m only pro-canon ships, or anti-femslash, or anti-slash, it just means those ships just don’t work for me personally, but if you want to claim it as your OTP go for it. It makes me crazy when people take a leap in logic that you are “homophobic, misogynistic, etc.”based upon that.

    I will say the times when shipping becomes creepy to me on a personal level is when it’s real person fic (regardless of slash or not). It squicks me out especially when people analyze every move people make and think it’s all hidden messages. I mean psycho-stalker much? I also find incest and rape fic repulsive. Not saying people can’t write it, but that’s my personal reaction to it.

  • Glaciusx

    Wow….I wouldn’t have expected that kind of reaction. At least she was brave enough to say what she said. Slash shipping rocks and if people don’t like it, that’s their problem.

    • J

      There’s misinformation in that account as well. The person who posted that Creation was banning shipping questions has clarified Creation never announced that or to her knowledge is going to. Jensen did not ban any questions. The Creation organizer simply told her Creation pre-approves questions and will continue to. She didn’t make that clear in her first post. A lot of people’s reactions on every side of this was based on misinformation.

      • SPNInsider

        Check again. Jensen has banned all shipping questions from conventions. He’s so vehemently against shipping that he tried to obtain an Executive Producer’s role on Supernatural in his last contract negotiations in order to get creative control over the characters on the show. This would have included writing Castiel out of the show altogether, thus removing any and all subtext. It’s gotten to the point to where Misha and Jared purposely prank him with graphic fanart and slashfiction on the set because he’s trying to run the show the way he wants it, even at their expense.

  • nina

    Would have loved to see some sources/actual quotes of discussions. You’re just adding to the noise

  • nina

    It shouldn’t be brought up at conventions to the actors because irrelevant and off topic. I’m not saying homosexualy/bisexuality being represented in mainstream is irrelevant but that’s not what Supernatural is about.

    It doesn’t matter what kind of subtext people interpret, it’s just plain and simple not what the show is about and given its potentially controversial nature is not an appropriate subject at a convention for the show.

    • http://hypable.com Selina

      See, this is where we disagree. Not because of slash shipping, but because to be honest, I think 90% of questions asked at conventions are embarrassing and uncomfortable. And labelling slash specifically as being THE taboo topic? That bothers me. No matter how intense some of the shippers are.

    • http://twitter.com/Tygridia Tygridia

      If that possible subtext involves a question of characterisation it really matters and it is a valid question. For what I’ve read, the girl wasn’t even going to ask about Destiel, she was going to ask about Dean’s sexuality, because there have been some hints this seasons pointing that it might be fluid; and that’s ok.

  • hpspnlover1

    For me, I think asking slash questions is akin to asking for a kiss/hug/birthday wish at a convention. It’s just fantasy fulfillment. What is really going on is that people don’t like fantasy fulfillment question, no matter how they’re disguised.

    I think there is a huge difference between a slash question and a lgbtq one. From my understanding, the girl was trying to ask a lgbtq one related to the growth of character’s sexuality beyond just straight. However, she got mistaken for asking a slash one. And that’s the slash fandom’s fault.

    I am an avid slash fan. I read slash fanfiction everyday and wrote a couple of papers on the subject in college. I’m really interested in slash fiction and how popular it is among women who are usually heterosexual. I, too,get excited when someone asks a slash question at conventions. But, I recognize that this is because a fantasy of mine is being fulfilled, and while its nice to have a fantasy recognized, I really do understand why people who don’t share in that fantasy would get annoyed.

    I am surprised that Supernatural got fed up just because they’ve always seemed amused by slash fiction. To me, the reaction described signals that we’ve really gone too far and that the actors’ and fans’ boundaries have been crossed. We need to fix that instead of feeling entitled to certain treatment. Supernatural has always sought to appreciate its fans and I am not convinced that they meant to offend anyone.

    Also, I’m a little upset that people have compared this reaction against slash to a reaction against the lgbtq community. It is unfortunate that the girl got booed and harrassed and mistaken for a die-hard slasher but she certainly shouldn’t feel like she was booed for being her. And if she’s reading this, I’m really sorry that happened. You don’t deserve that treatment. But it was obviously a reaction to slash, and while slash does focus on homosexual relationships it is definitely not a symbol or representation of the lgbtq community. Someone who doesn’t want to hear about Destiel, would probably still want to discuss Dean’s sexuality. And its a shame that those legitimate questions get stigmatized because people want clump them in with slash.

    • http://hypable.com Selina

      This is such a brilliant comment, thank you for sharing your insight into this issue. I see you have a lot of experience with it, probably more than me – I appreciate shipping more as a social phenomenon, and I’m always interested in how it’s dealt with offline (hence this article).

      I do want to say that while your wish fulfillment argument is very valid, I don’t think that’s all there is to it. While writing for this site, I’ve come across several groups of shippers who have targeted me because they believed I had an agenda against their ship (very uncomfortable experiences). But when I looked into it, it was about so much more than just the ship. This is about a group of people who are desperate for validation, and they have come to see the on-screen relationship between two particular same-sex characters as the symbol of everything good in the world: acceptance, acknowledgement, love. Some of these shippers are queer themselves, some aren’t, but they still share those hopes and values.

      When I fail to acknowledge their ship, I thus fail to acknowledge THEM. And hey, I just write for a website. Imagine their joy at having an actual member of the cast and crew stand up for them (not their ship, THEM) and say “I see your interpretation. I accept it. Your point of view – way of life – is valid to me.” I think THAT is the wish-fulfillment. And I really can’t fault that.

      So many times I see slash shippers share their desperate hopes that “maybe…one day…ONE of our ships will be canon.” Because that’s all they want. Not ALL of them, I’m sure some just want Jensen Ackles to talk about sex, and that’s awkward. But we can never generalize too much, that’s unfair to everyone involved. There are a lot of slash shippers, and I believe it’s the majority, who believe that the day a mainstream television show takes two characters (that weren’t written into the story for the sole purpose of being gay) and acknowledges that they can fall in love with someone from the same gender, society will be a huge step closer to full acceptance of homosexuality. And I have to say, I agree with them. And I understand why they are impatient waiting for that day to come.

      • J

        Quote: “This is about a group of people who are desperate for validation, and
        they have come to see the on-screen relationship between two particular
        same-sex characters as the symbol of everything good in the world:
        acceptance, acknowledgement, love”

        I would hope, though, you would also see that putting the validation of your life on to an actor in how he plays a role is a very unfair expectation of him. Jensen Ackles is the one creating the character along with the writers, not the fans. We can read into the show from our personal experience, but that’s not the same thing as insisting on a certain reading with the actors.

        None of the actors have refused to acknowledge people ship Dean/Cas. The issue is these questions are often designed to get the actors to validate the ship as canon, which is different, and the potential for backlash when they don’t is large and hurtful. Misha Collins has always been comfortable discussing Destiel from his perspective and acknowledging others, but he was very hurt when he got labelled as a queer baiter by parts of the slash fandom when his answer at a previous con didn’t satisfy the asker. This con he was much more circumspect and basically told the audience his answer is that people are free to interpret the relationship in their way, but he won’t give any specific answer. He’s backing away from the conversation because he no longer feels safe.

        • http://hypable.com Selina

          Oh absolutely! As I stated in the article, the actors have nothing to do with this. They’re just doing their job. I know first hand how it feels to incur the wrath of a group of intense shippers, and I can’t even imagine how the actors must feel. My only point is that I think there’s a deeper reason this group of fans feel the need to keep asking the same questions, as cringe-worthy as those questions might be (not because of their subject matter but because romance questions, as has been pointed out, can get super creepy).

          (And I still maintain that most con questions are awkward, and that non-slashers can be as creepy as slashers. So slash topics aren’t really better or worse than anything else.)

          • J

            I agree totally there are many cringe worthy questions at cons (-:. No argument there at all! The only way certain slash questions are more awkward is that there is more potential for anger if the answer doesn’t meet expectations.

            The last fandom blow up, though, was about a young girl’s innocent but poorly stated question about a fan group called “I Blame Jared Padalecki.” The fandom response to her was ridiculously over the top and occasionally cruel. We do need to look at ourselves as critically as we do the public figures we love.

            I also agree that some fans would love to see Destiel happen because they want to see a loving and non-stereotypical representation of a gay or bisexual relationship. I just think the response to the answer should be examined as much as the response to the question. Fans don’t get to dictate the story because good art is not made that way.They are free to interpret the story.

          • http://hypable.com Selina

            100% agree with everything you said. :) And you’re right about the anger. Definitely a lot of that in the shipping community (for one reason or another), and I really didn’t write this article to fight the slash shippers’ fight for them. I just think it’s unfair to call out slashers specifically, when there’s so much wank and negativity in fandom in general. It really isn’t this happy one big family place we like to think it is!

            I love being able to discuss this topic, though. I realise I’m coming at it from the perspective of an outsider looking in – I’m not involved with slash culture, and I’ve only ever been to one SPN convention (terribly awkward experience, which may have coloured my opinion on this whole issue, too) – but a lot of people on this site will be in a similar position to me, so I felt like it was an important POV to put out there. It’s so interesting to read everyone’s very varied opinions, and I love how well thought out most people’s points are.

      • hpspnlover1

        Thanks for the reply and I’m really happy you wrote this article. I am definitely not an expert on slash and I totally agree that the social phenomenon of slash is way too complex to be generalized.

        I also agree with your point about wish fulfillment. It is a way for fans to ask to be validated. My point is that wish fulfillment is always an attempt to be validated, whether it takes the form of a slash shipping question or an attempt to get a hug. In both cases, what you are really asking is for your idol to see you.

        I think asking a question to validate your way of life is different from your point of view. When you ask something akin to ” are dean and cas secretly in love? because I see all this homoerotic subtext” you really are trying to validate your point of view, and are in essence pushing your ship. And that’s problematic, whether or not your ship is slash or not, because everyone wants to have their point of view validated but no one wants to come to a convention and hear about everybody else’s point of view being validated. I mean having a fantasy and wish is fine but you have to be aware of other people and the fact they spent like $400 to be there and don’t want to hear about your fantasy.

        On the other hand, asking something like “I’m bisexual and I saw that Dean wasn’t his typical masculine male self and I was wondering if that’s a sign of him being less than straight and was that intentional” is fair game because its placing your personal need of validation in a context more relevant to the community at large. And that’s something people should like to hear. Because the answer to that question could be more that the typical, you are free to your interpretation. It might be that Jensen plays Dean straight but is getting more in touch with what he thinks of as a more feminine/emotional side. It could be that Jensen has always thought of Dean as less than straight. It could be a lot of things and it leads the actor to answering in way that brings insight to the character rather than just validation of one person’s point of view (or a group as it may be). Its something that everyone can join in and enjoy. And that’s why I feel bad about what happened because in the race to validate slash shipping these sort of questions are getting ignored or producing angry reactions. And I don’t think its largely Jensen’s or fandom’s fault (I mean they’re reaction was a little over the top but misunderstood), but the few noisy slashers who felt the need to continuously push their agenda.

        This is not to say shipping isn’t important. Shipping is amazing! What people do in the name of shipping astounds me (for example, the Sterek charity, bigbangs with donations to charity, etc). But there is a time and a place for it, and that’s usually not at the Q&A of a convention. And I honestly think that when a show starts putting in homoerotic subtext you can think of that as a validation for slash shipping. It may not be canon but it is the show’s cast and crews way of saying “I see you and you’re great.”

        And society is changing. Lgbtq relationships are becoming more common. A show like Supernatural probably won’t change a character from straight to gay but they have added a lesbian character (Charlie played by Felicia Day who I absolutely adore!). So I do think they get your point that people want to be seen and they’re trying to do that. But we have to be understanding and appreciative. We’re not the only ones who watch this show.

    • http://twitter.com/DarkAng4 Alex

      No she already admitted it was a slash/shipping Q. She said she wanted to ask it cause it was important to some fans. I agree it has gone far these Q come up more than show Q in that’s a problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alysia.dugan Alysia Dugan

    I’m surprised to see that people consider this the “black sheep” of shipping. Maybe it’s because I’ve only ever shipped slash pairings, but I always thought it was a much bigger and more accepted thing. I mean, just look at the BattleShip thing Hypable does – the majority of the ships are slash. I guess I just find it mind boggling that people don’t talk about it…

  • Becca

    I am a regular reader of slash fan fiction, whether its Dean/Castiel or Stiles/Derek, but I try not to get too involved in the actual fandom world. I think what some people, granted a minority, need to realise is that these actors, are playing characters. I get that some people may like to believe that Dean and Cas are in love, and hope that they might get together at some point, but when this carries over into real life, then a line needs to be drawn. Fair enough, ship Dean/Cas, but when people start real life shipping, eg. CrissColfer, Jensen/Jared, that’s when it gets too far.
    About this incident, in particular, I think the crowd should have given the girl more of a chance, especially knowing that the questions were screened before hand. Also, if someone actually wants to ask a question about sexuality that doesn’t involve Destiel, etc, they might want to start of by saying so, from now on.

  • http://twitter.com/tiptoe39 tiptoe39

    I commend you for this article. I’ve been looking at the issues through my own column on SpoilerTV.com for a few months now, but there hasn’t been a lot of positive feedback.

    There’s still a huge segment of the fan population, and even the shipping population, that sees “outing” shipping as violating their private, safe space to explore areas of creativity and sexuality that they don’t have elsewhere. I have a lot of sympathy for that position, but I tend to come down on your side — right now it’s not acceptable, and right now talking about it at cons accomplishes nothing. But that’s not necessarily how things should be.

    I think articles like this are a good way to start the conversation that will some day end up with our having the ability to include sexuality in the areas of character development we’re allowed to discuss in public. We need to be talking about this in public spaces, intelligently and thoughtfully, and you’ve done that here. Thank you for that.

    If you’re interested in another take on the conversation, please check out “Fans and Fantasy” at SpoilerTV.com.

    Thanks again!

    • http://hypable.com Selina

      Hey, thanks so much for your comment! I’ll definitely be checking our your column. Fun fact: I used to write weekly episode recaps of Supernatural for SpoilerTV. Small world. :)

      I’m also glad to see you bring up that particular side, because it’s something I couldn’t bring up (I had to stop somewhere!), but it’s a very valid standpoint – as all the different standpoints in this issue are. Yes, some shippers don’t WANT to be “outed.” But to me, that tells me they’re embarrassed, that they somehow feel their interpretations of the characters aren’t as valid as the heteronormative ones. And that makes me sad.

      All I tried to do with this article was, as you say, start a conversation. And I’m glad to see others trying to do the same.

  • rosa

    Great article! I agree with everything you said. <3

  • Emily

    Bravo.
    Shipping, especially slash shipping, is a huge part of the fan world, but is rarely spoken of outside of select circles (yes, Tumblr). For all that “geeks”, “fans”, and “afficianados” speak of all inclusive community of those who enjoy the unabashed nerd-gasm of fandom, slash is often ignored or looked down upon.
    Thank you for writing about it and bringing this topic, with its nuances and shades of grey, to light. As a bisexual woman who has been shipping characters for years (some of them even, gasp, gay!) and appreciates it for much more than the gratuitous smut (though that has its own time and place), I am happy to see this conversation broken down for all to see.. and even outside of fanfiction. Whodathunkit.

  • http://www.katepawsonstuder.com/ Kate Pawson Studer

    Well put, Selina (as always). We members of “the collective fandom” (any fandom really) like to consider ourselves to be intelligent and insightful people and yet, we can be so closed minded. It doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Loving something the ways true fans love their should result in us embracing all forms of fangirling/fanboying–and appreciating every attempt to explore and analyse the content, be it slashy in nature or not.

  • Fox

    This is a fascinating article and a well-meaning one but while I agree with its purpose, I also confess to feeling pretty bewildered by it. *IS* slash fandom some shadowy shameful subculture occasionally breaking out embarrassingly from the fandom attic? Or a well established part of the fandom world? How is it that the Hypable shipping poll focussed almost entirely on slash ships? How is it that MOST polls online (which is where fandoms are largely based) include slash pairings, which usually win? Why is it that producers of cult TV shows actively include homoerotic subtext (and sometimes even admit it) to encourage slash fandom in the sure knowledge that getting a slash movement going is a ticket to online traffic and attention (Merlin, Sherlock, Teen Wolf etc)?

    On the other hand I do agree entirely that fandom is not the lovely, fluffy, rainbow- strewn landscape we like to think it is, in fact it shows all too often the unfortunate underbelly of human behaviour. I recognise too the shocked horror you mention about slash, because Ive also seen it all over various fandoms. And while you and others here seem to suggest slash fans are aggressive, Ive seen few people more outraged and vicious than M/F shippers in reaction to slash in their fandoms. I’d also point out that some of the most aggressive and intrusive RPSers who harass actors and their other halves, are fans of M/F pairs.

    The one thing I think I would definitely take issue with is the easy rejection of the term homophobia as ‘hysterical’. I entirely agree that “I dont see Dean and Castiel as lovers” is not homophobia or queer baiting or anything else other than a genuine opinion. But, ‘its disgusting/ delusional /obnoxious/going too far/spoiling it for everyone else to suggest, in a question to the actors, that Dean and Castiel may be in love’, IS, IMO. Would it be disgusting, delusional, obnoxious or spoiling it for everyone else to suggest Dean might have a yen for one of the female characters? What about fans of shows based around male and female characters who’re not lovers but ostensibly friends? X Files? Elementary? Doctor Who? Bones or Castle (before they got together)? Was/is it offensive to the actors to ask about those ‘fanatical/hysterical’ ships? Were fans booed off the stage for that? Why was it ok to ask about Dean’s sexuality but ‘shipping a slash pairing’ was going too far? Lets be totally honest here – it’s because, in the view of the people taking umbrage, it would be embarrassing or offensive to talk about homosexual romance with the actor playing a character potentially involved. And that would be because…?

    Yeah. Exactly.

    I wonder how long it’ll be before Cult TV producers actually dare to openly write mainstream romance relationships for same-sex leading/heroic characters (that aren’t stereotyped). I cant say I’m holding my breath.

    Thanks for the article though Selina. It’s a fascinating subject and I applaud you for tackling it.

    • http://hypable.com Selina

      Thanks for that brilliant comment! About your first point: what I was getting at (maybe not as eloquently as I should have) is that while slash shipping is all very well and good ONLINE, it’s not something that’s talked about/taken seriously OFFLINE. It’s that attitude of “what happens on the internet stays on the internet,” and while that’s great in terms of fandom in general whipping itself into a frenzy (which doesn’t translate well to real life, and we should be able to differentiate), I think when it comes to slash shipping, the connotations that it’s not acceptable to discuss the possibility of m/m or f/f pairings publicly become problematic.

      Does that make sense? I’m pretty sure we’re arguing the same point (you just said it better :)). Other than that, I absolutely agree with everything you said. And sadly, your last point is probably accurate, but I’m ready with pom-poms and applause for the first network/show that dares to take the leap.

      • Fox

        Ah I see. :) I must admit that I tend to think that fandom now – certainly fandom around TV shows – is conducted pretty much *entirely* on the internet and the fans who go to cons are simply ones who’re invested enough to manage to unglue themselves from their keyboards to engage in their hobby/obsession in real life too. By which I mean I don’t personally think there IS an offline fandom separate to the online one for most TV shows though I could certainly be wrong…? The people asking questions at cons are the same people who obsess in forums and message boards and tumblr?

        It does make a sort of sense that people who barely tolerate slash online though, would then behave as if slash fans were seriously out of line and indeed frightening the horses if they mentioned same-sex shipping at cons. I would repeat though that, in my own personal opinion, provided no one is shoving NC-17 material or suggestions (heterosexual or homosexual) at actors or producers, then cries of ‘outrage’ and ‘disgust’ and ‘embarrassment’ and ‘not here’ surrounding the shipping of same-sex characters is extremely questionable, unless those cries are also genuinely and equally directed at non-realised M/F shipping.

        I think though that yeah we are kind of arguing the same point, though I disagree I said it better! :) And Ive got my pom poms poised too. :p As it is though it seems the US networks and indeed the industry as a whole, seem to think a huge socially-significant leap forward in the acceptance of same sex relationships in mainstream TV is The New Normal. So, hmmm… maybe our pom poms are going to spend a few more years, maybe even decades, unwaved.

  • PotionWillow207

    I don’t have a problem with slash shipping, per say. I have a problem with ships, whether slash or heterosexual, that are nothing but a fan’s wishful thinking with absolutely no basis in the original story. One example of this from the slash side is Will/Jem in the Infernal Devices series. People went nuts about that one even when Cassie Clare made it clear both in the books and in interviews that there was nothing remotely romantic between those two characters, although they are very VERY close. This one made me mad because people seemed to assume that it isn’t possible to have a close relationship without being it being sexual. So not true.

    The Harry/Hermione ship in HP is a heterosexual example of the exact same problem. There was nothing in the canon to suggest they were more than friends and Jo eventually confirmed that there was nothing romantic there. People just couldn’t believe that they could just be friends because they were so close.

  • http://twitter.com/itwasatrickpie Lindsay

    I do think the black sheepness of slash shipping is a hangover from societal homophobia. The irony is, the black sheepness only adds piquance to the practise, and as same sex pairings become less remarkable, the sweet tang of furtiveness will be lost and I will have to graduate to snape-giant squid fanfic to get my kicks :-)

  • http://twitter.com/Merina2 Merina

    Interesting article! Very well-written and thought out. Great job, as always, Selina :)

    I have to say…I feel like the girl being booed offstage didn’t have anything to do with the fact that she was bisexual, but more to do with the fact that she had come onstage to ask a question about the show, and instead talked about herself and her sexuality and her ships and her subtext that she had noticed for her OTP…I think people are going to sigh and roll their eyes at /anyone/ who does that, for any ship, slash or not! She has the freedom to say what she likes, of course…but I can understand the audience’s frustration.

    Am I the only person who always gets lynched by mobs of slash shippers when I say that generally speaking, I don’t ship slash? I just seem to always inevitably lean towards straight ships – and get mercilessly attacked for ‘ignoring blatant subtext!’ and ‘just shipping something because it’s canon!’ and even ‘homophobia!’ – which is not the case at all! It’s just my personal shipping preferences, and I frequently find myself wishing the slash shippers could respect that…

    In conclusion: whilst I see this article’s side of the argument, I think that it’s important to remember /both/ sides – there are some incredibly aggressive shippers of both straight and slash ships, and we all need to just calm the heck down and let everyone ship what they want. We’re all fans here, squealing over fictional characters…that should be enough to bond us together, right? :)

  • musical crocodile

    While homophobia and “ew, they ship two guys/two girls together, they’re perverts” or “two guys/two girls can’t be anything other than friends, shippers are stupid for thinking otherwise” are alive and well even online, I don’t really see the point in asking creators about shipping (in general, not just about slash). What kind of answers exactly do shippers expect from creators? If there’re official pairings and they don’t ship those, then it’s all there in the text. The creators won’t change their romantic outcomes just because someone disagrees with them (yes, the writing can be awful, the characters have no chemistry etc but they’re still what canonically happens), and they won’t say anything other than “this is our intent”. If there isn’t any explicitly confirmed pairing in the show, then it’s equal opportunities. In general, shippers won’t change their opinions anyway, so honestly all the talks only serve as fuel in shipping wars online.

    This is not to say that slash fans baiting with one hand and upholding heteronormativity with the other hand doesn’t exist and shouldn’t be openly challenged. However, the most militant slash shipper isn’t necessarily a person who can capably discuss queer portrayal and representation.

  • http://twitter.com/aka_MissJones Miss L. Jones

    For me personally the “problem” with slash shipping is that it ignores the most beautiful of all relationships: friendship. Sometimes it feels like the only kind of bond two people can have that truly matters is romantic.
    Why must Arthur and Merlin be in love? Can’t we appreciate the truly beautiful friendship that blossomed between them despite different social status?
    It’s the same with Supernatural. Why must Dean lust for Castiel? Their relationship is so beautiful and unique without a romantic attraction From season 1 Dean has been the hero with no friends. Sam of cause is Dean’s friend but he is first and foremost family. Castiel is Dean’s first real friend and their story could be so powerful og magically without the slash. A human and a angel in a true friendship. Same with Star Trek: Spock and Kirk can mean the world to each other without the sex.

    You can have love without romance. You can have intimacy without sex.

    I fully support that we should talk about shipping. No matter what gender there are being shipped! But then we should also allow for the actors to say: “No, I don’t think my character is gay and until the writers tell me different I’ll play him straight” Somehow I don’t see that going down very well in any fandom.

    • musicalcroc

      Then my rebuff is that why would be fans “read into it too much” when it’s shipping two male or two female characters but not when it’s (non-canon) female-male? Why is the friendship argument almost invariably brought up against slash shippers but seldom het shippers? Why is it that when a male and a female character are together, they’re assumed to be love interests but when it’s male-male or female-female, they’re just friends as default?

      I don’t deny that fandom can sometimes be crazy about romantic relationship to the exclusion of other relationships in life or that all some shippers care about is “omg they’re hot together”, but it’s double standard to criticise only slash shippers for this. Otherwise, I agree with you that actors should be allowed their own opinions too.

  • http://twitter.com/Shereile Veronica

    Thank you for this article. Truly grateful to read about more people combating social stigma, because I honestly don’t even think there should be something called “slash” shipping as opposed to just shipping. the shame and don’t ask don’t tell policy even within the fandom, especially SPN, is quite unbearable at times, especially for fellow queer fans, who also want to openly talk about a characters sexuality. The character also serves as a mirror and icon figure for yourself, as it happens in my case with Dean Winchester. A character I can identify with.

  • http://twitter.com/Shereile Veronica

    I’m gonna go a bit into more detail here, because I’ve read through the comment section as a whole and I disagree on a couple of things. Mainly the wish fulfillment and fantasy part.

    I’m gonna talk about SPN mainly.

    Let’s not pretend SPN does not purposefully place subtext into the scenes with Dean (whether it’s with Cas, or with Aaron or just seeing two guys kiss like in 6×05). It’s not other characters who are placed into these situations on purpose, but mainly Dean -often done in a context to make the audience laugh at his reaction- which is quite hurtful to me.

    As I said on my own blog, SPN is guilty of queerbaiting and calling the actors or producers out on it is relevant, as long as it’s done in a respectful way.

    Here is my post on queerbaiting.

    1) two same-sex characters have unplanned but very clear chemistry on the show (mostly gay baiting between two dudes, erasure of other peoples’ sexualities is a huge issue)

    2) which translates to people seeing them as more than friends

    3) when this chemistry is tangible in a way that supports romantic interpretations and the script puts in stuff that supports this, then people will believe even more that these two could actually turn into a canon relationship (just compare the script and lines between m/m and then imagine a f/m relationship with the same lines-everyone would instantly say there is romantic love)

    4) which means fans get their hopes up

    5) then the cis-het showrunners and writers see how popular this relationship is and they are like AAWW SHIT NOO MAAN

    6) but they face a problem. their characters were always intended to be shown in a cis-het gaze. because everything that is not heterosexual poses a “threat” to the poor mainstream media in which heterosexuality is normalized and in which everything queer does not fit into their vision of the show (society and media supports this vision)

    7) so they play up the queer interpretation of fans, but put it in joke context (as in not taken seriously), because they know that fans like it

    this means

    a) ass jokes

    b) boyfriend jokes

    c) touching jokes

    d) basically all jokes that play up into the intimacy of these two characters

    8) fans get excited, start grinning, because “hey yo, other characters see it too)

    9) except they forget that these things are put into a joke context, which then makes the entire interpretation a joke. the hetero characters in the show are uncomfortable with these situations and their discomfort is the joke

    10) because how dare other people see them as not hetero? this is a joke *makes frowny face*

    11) and the creators of the show think they are oh so clever and are giving fans what they want except…

    12) they aren’t giving them anything. because even if that relationship is portrayed seriously, words like “friend” invalidate the non-het interpretation and the show continues to have these two characters eyesexing each other, occasionally putting them in scenes in which fans can interpret them as being queer, or going for a m/m relationship

    13) but the jokes are still there, and the characters never progress in their relationship. we don’t get an “I love you”, we don’t get a kiss, we don’t get hands touching, knees brushing, we don’t get the progress that is needed on tv shows to portray these characters as being interested in each other in a serious way

    14) on top of that the hetero normalizing is constantly reinforced by giving one or both of the characters a female protagonist to interact with so as to create sexual tension and the subsequent release of it. this becomes TEXT. Their interest in each other is made explicit with words and also actions (kiss for example)

    15) the hetero dudes (who are intended to be hetero by the writers) still don’t get that kind of text between each other. they don’t get to express their romantic interest, or sexual interest or both.

    16) what they are left with are jokes at the expense of queer interpretations or situations in which they continue gazing at each other or whatever other nonsense the writers come up with

    17) these two dudes have UST, but that UST never gets its necessary payoff on the show, a payoff that is romantic and clear in nature that every single fan sees it

    18) we also face the trouble that m/m is not perceived as romantic, while f/m almost always is. bromance vs romance so to speak. this is our heteronormative society, which means that on television you need clear textto actually get representation.

    19) queerbaiting is when we as fans get material to make queer interpretations (often in joke context (which is double insulting to queer fans, but sometimes serious relationship development that would be seen as love between m/f instantly)

    20 but that payoff never comes. it’s all just one big no homo. the validation never happens. after the show ends, one showrunner might step up and say “hey, they were totes in love”. But that isn’t representation or validation either, because the audience has never seen the culmination point, the payoff. all it has seen are two cis-het dudes who are put into situations in which they are seen as more, but no one took it seriously and in the end they were still seen as friends and also said to each other that they are friends. ergo no romance. queerbaiting

    21) and the final and most important point. the fans that see themselves in these characters, queer fans who want representation and characters they identify with…. those fans are thrown under the bus and their sexuality is turned into one big joke.

    22) what the writers are basically saying is: your sexuality will not get validation. not on our show. we are just using those fans that give us necessary promotion etc. we just make fun of you, because it’s your fault that you see these characters as potentially queer, when they never intended to be queer. we are not that kind of show. look somewhere else.

    23) and thus queer fans are further pushed into the background and other fans in the fandom laugh at them or support the normalizing/ queer fetishism/ queerbaiting.

    • Jhera35

      This is, I believe, the best dead on critique of the queerbaiting in SPN that I’ve read in some time.

      I’m fed up with the subtext as well — especially after the Benny and Dean arc in S8.

      When Benny was introduced, I thought the show would be comparing him to Sam and there would be fallout about Dean having any type of friend other than Sam (first) and another brother figure (second).

      But, then the show writers didn’t just compare him to Sam. They compared him to Amelia.

      After that, and seeing how losing Benny was hurting Dean in comparison to Sam losing Amelia, I found myself thinking:

      Well, maybe the writers aren’t queerbating. Maybe we’re finally getting to see the “real” Dean that the show has been hinting at in the subtext for 7 seasons who is either unaware of his attraction to men or repressed.

      I finally thought that my own theories about the character had been validated. That the writers were finally addressing the fact that Dean brags a little too much about his sexual conquests and protests loudly a bit too much about the fact that he’s tired of people thinking he’s gay….

      …and yet, his actions and the scene editing and story lines don’t always match his words.

      Then, of course, the writers decided to play the “Benny’s like a brother but we’re going to compare it to losing a lover” card.

      The subtext needs to stop. You can have grown men love one another as friends without the homosexual subtext.

      Either Benny was only like a brother to Dean or he was like a lover to Dean. You can’t have the characters say “brother” every episode and then have these huge scenes where the loss is compared to losing a lover and the men act like they’re teens breaking up after their first love. Obviously, the writers have done the same with Castiel and Dean as well.

      And actors who blatantly toy with slash fans in DVD extras deserve whatever happens to them question-wise at fan conventions. They don’t want slash, then they shouldn’t queerbait.

      The writers need to stop. Pick a fandom and stick with it. It’s too much and it’s disgusting that they’re doing this to some of the show’s fans.

  • http://twitter.com/Crimson_Vipera Katarzyna Ch.

    Generally, I agree with everything that is written here. I just want to correct one thing, that I think is important: Cliff did not come out to remove the girl from the microphone. Her own account of how nice and supportive he was to her aside, it is NOT HIS JOB to remove people from the microphone. Screening the questions and removing fans that don’t behave is the convention staff’s work, Cliff is there to protect J2. And that’s why he came out when the booing started – because he thought he might have to step in between the booing, angry crowd and the boys. Because THAT is his job.

    What I find interesting is that everyone is assuming that the question, were it a shipping one, would be a Dean/Castiel question. Cas’ name was never mentioned, Misha was not on stage, there IS a big (“the authors noticed and talked about it” big) group of fans shipping Wincest, not to even mention the myriad smaller groups of shippers, yet everybody and their grandma assume it would have been a Destiel question. Food for thought.

    CV

    • SPNInsider

      They assume this because the actors themselves have been feeding off of the ship in one way or another for quite some time. It’s no secret that Jensen Ackles finds these questions disturbing, which is why he’s gone to such great lengths to have all questions screened beforehand. He is legitimately creeped right the hell out by shipping questions and also at the fan reaction to them whether in favor or against. Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins aren’t bothered in the least, though. They do however know how badly it bothers Jensen and often egg these situations on to watch him squirm. It’s gotten to the point to where it’s an on set problem within the show. Jensen is so vehemently against shipping that he was trying to become an Executive Producer on the show, which would have given him the creative control to stop the show from implying subtext between Dean and Castiel. This would have meant having Castiel permanently written off the show for good and Misha completely out of a job. He also screwed Jared over in contract negotiations by applying for Executive Producer. In the past they have always asked for the same salary and perks. This time Jensen asked for way more than Jared got and used his budding movie career as leverage. What we’re witnessing here is a cast that is less than unified these days to the point of sabotage. Collins and Padalecki still get along just fine, but Ackles’ ego and homophobic paranoia are causing drama on that set which is spilling out to the cons.

      • Katarzyna Ch.

        Could you tell me where You’ve got this information so that I can go and read it and see the source before I start a conversation?

        Thanks in advance.

        CV

  • Anna

    Thanks for the great article

  • Daisy

    Just the fact that it makes people “uncomfortable” is borderline homophobic; it means that homosexuality is being regarded and accepted differently than heterosexuality.
    I say this, not because I am bisexual or gay myself, but because those who are should be represented when it comes to battling major social issues such as these.
    I, myself, am I straight girl who comes from a family that ever-so-slightly frowns upon homosexuality. I am trying to change this by talking about slash with my family and friends, as I would with a het couple. I openly ship both straight and gay couples on TV, and, I shamelessly admit, am a big destiel fan.
    But, I would like to point out that shipping slash DOES NOT mean you are a fetishist. It could just mean that you like how two characters could be as a couple, or are keying into the romantic subtext of the show. I mean, come on, if castiel was female, he (or she) would be the main love interest for Dean on the show, and their romance would probably become canon.
    Now, I don’t want to go on and repeat the whole “I have a dream” speech, but I really do hope someday to live in a world where homosexuality is approached with the same acceptance support as heterosexuality.

    You can see my tumblr at fangirlranting.tumblr.com and message me your thoughts!

  • SPNInsider

    It’s a well known fact on the Supernatural set that Jensen Ackles is extremely uncomfortable with slashfiction pairings, so much so that he actually applied to become an Executive Producer in his most recent contract negotiations so that he would have enough creative control over the series to put an end to any and all subtext that would point to it for good. If he had gotten his way, not only would Misha Collins be out of a job, Jared Padalecki’s Sam and his role within the show would become ambiguous as well.

    Up until these most recent contract negotiations, Ackles and Padalecki had an agreement with one another that they would fight to ensure that both actors were paid equally. Then Hollywood came to court Ackles for movie roles and he used this as leverage with the network for a higher pay scale. This was done without Padalecki’s knowledge and when he found out about it, needless to say he was very hurt by Ackles’ backbiting.

    Ackles has also gone as far as to ban any and all discussion of slashfiction pairings at conventions, which Collins has ignored and even encourages convention goers to talk about anyway because he knows how much it bothers Ackles. Collins is very aware of the fact that Castiel would have been written off the show entirely if Ackles had his way and that the entire reason he is back in a starring role next season is due to fan support. This bothers the crap out of Ackles, too. Collins’ fanbase is a very sore subject with him, mostly due to the fact that the majority of them are Destiel shippers, which he hates. Collins and Padalecki have also been known to prank Ackles by hanging graphic fanart in his trailer and sneaking raunchy slashfiction in with his scripts because they know how much it bothers him.

    For the most part the cast on the show get along famously with the exception of Ackles, whose ego has grown considerably in the past few years with his consideration from major studios for high profile film roles. This of course has been knocked down a peg or two since his dream role was recently given to another actor, but it’s definitely driven a wedge between himself and his fellow costars.

  • GrandEclectus

    What??? I thought slash was out of the closet back in the late ’70s with the endless, New York phone book size fanzines of Kirk/Spock locked in tender mind-meld embrace. Slashers have to stop acting like they’re the closeted underdogs. Pul-lease! If you even BREATH that you don’t care for it, you garner a barrage of accusations of homophobia…which is NOT the case for me.

    What bugs me about slash isn’t the sexual relationships, but rather in mangling the characters to the point that it’s clear to me that the slashers aren’t so much fans of the show, but of their own fantasies about the show. The characters behave like women, and the so-called “relationship” becomes the focal point. Canon is a supporting character.

    It’s annoying that slashers INSIST that their view is what is REALLY there, what the writers intend. They submit endless proof that the longing glances in Supernatural “mean” that the writers are supporters of “Destiel” or “Wincest” or whatever. Sheesh, just switch to Torchwood.

    See Skyfall to get your gay on. Now, Bond is bisexual. Enjoy!

    So, now that Bond is officially, and in NO uncertain terms bisexual, how are the slashers the forgotten, un-talked about, elephant in the room. They TRUMPET constantly, even pestering the actors about it.

    If anything, slash is OLD. So, please, stop acting all put out if three of us in the fandom say we’re not into it!

    69 comments! LOL

  • Faust

    (Sorry in advance, I am not an english speaker) As I read your article, I was very shocked to learn of this girl’s story. And how slash shipping is not yet accepted in the fandom community. I was looking forward to go to an SPN convention seeing that Misha, Jared and the other were pretty much open minded, but now it feels like it is not so safe to be a fangirl there. I think that slash shippers are all kind of people, queer and not, wanting only NC-17 act, wanting recognition or simply fantasizing about a random couple because we’ve been fed with subtext for a long time. Of course, some are going too far by insulting actors of “queerbaiting” or being “homophobic” (seriously, shippers ? Misha and homophobic clearly don’t go together) and maybe the slash community should learn to be a bit more, uh, tactful towards actors and people who do not ship m/m. I admit myself being sometimes overly enthusiastic and my M/F shippers friends being like “Oh god she is crazy. And a bit frightening”. Make them clearly understand that it IS okay if it is not canon. It is okay if an actor says ” I don’t think there will be anything more between us”. That we KNOW that even if Dean kiss Castiel, that does not mean that Jensen and Misha are gay – no offense to RLS of course.-. And maybe stop bringing fanfiction and fanart -especially the NC17 ones- to conventions. It is not something everybody is used to.

    But there is subtext here, you want to joke around with it, fine, you want to have the shippers in your pocket, why not. But you have to be prepared for the questions that will rise after. Cake is not free.

    So, staying in the “closet”, silent black sheep of the fandom ? No way. We have the right, and we should, stand for our ships. In all respect of course. We should be able to ask questions, and talk about it freely without being looked down to. And when an actor just assume it is okay to interrupt someone because her question might disturb him, and the crowd start booing, we should be able to stand up and say shut up. I don’t understand, even if it had been a Destiel/WIncest question, in what it is different than a Castiel/Meg or “when dean will get a girlfriend” question. Because those questions are asked too, like a thousand time and most of them are probably “never gonna happen” kind of answer. If Jensen Ackles felt uneasy with the question, he could have just said nicely : “You are free to understand it the way you want” or “Hum, I don’t feel confortable with talking about Dean’s sexuality”.

    I admit slash shippers are very vocal, and I also admit that the fandom has right to be disagreeing with our ships. That is normal. But we should be able to treat each other with respect. Including the actors and the directors. Personally I don’t mind if they use subtext, they give material to my fantasy, but they should really accept that there will be questions/expectations and that they have to be fairly at ease with dealing with shippers. (With great power comes great responsibility…)

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