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.

When the news broke about X-Men: Supernova being adapted for film, the reactions were as predictable as they were extreme: “Yay!” from the fanboys and “Oy vey” from the general populace. And strange as it feels to me, I align with the casual moviegoers, despite being the guy who went to see the last two X-movies dressed as Mystique and Cyclops.

A quick word about my X-geek credentials: I’m not a comic book reader, but was obsessed with all the TV shows, and transferred that obsession to the film franchise. And I don’t hate The Last Stand as much as you want me to; I just thought it was meh.

I think rehashing the Dark Phoenix storyline is a bad idea both financially and creatively. Financially, it wouldn’t go over well with casual moviegoers. Anyone who knows enough to be excited about a Dark Phoenix movie would go see it anyway, and everyone else will wonder why they should bother seeing a story they just saw 12 years earlier. There’s a reason Amazing Spiderman made less than two-thirds the gross of the original Spiderman, despite 3D and a decade of inflation — why bother paying to see a film when you can just stream the last incarnation?

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When the news broke about X-Men: Supernova being adapted for film, the reactions were as predictable as they were extreme: “Yay!” from the fanboys and “Oy vey” from the general populace. And strange as it feels to me, I align with the casual moviegoers, despite being the guy who went to see the last two X-movies dressed as Mystique and Cyclops.

A quick word about my X-geek credentials: I’m not a comic book reader, but was obsessed with all the TV shows, and transferred that obsession to the film franchise. And I don’t hate The Last Stand as much as you want me to; I just thought it was meh.

I think rehashing the Dark Phoenix storyline is a bad idea both financially and creatively. Financially, it wouldn’t go over well with casual moviegoers. Anyone who knows enough to be excited about a Dark Phoenix movie would go see it anyway, and everyone else will wonder why they should bother seeing a story they just saw 12 years earlier. There’s a reason Amazing Spiderman made less than two-thirds the gross of the original Spiderman, despite 3D and a decade of inflation — why bother paying to see a film when you can just stream the last incarnation?

Creatively, I want to see the film franchise take on a new story, instead of trying to do an old one better. Sony finally figured that out: no one wants to pay to see Peter Parker watch Uncle Ben get killed yet again, so just move on. Even from watching the cartoons and reading Wikipedia, I know that X-Men has some fantastic storylines to explore: Genosha, Legacy Virus, or House of M. When the films have given the fans a cinematic incarnation of an exciting new story, the results have been overwhelmingly positive: consider Days of Future Past, or the excitement for Old Man Logan.

Even if they redo Dark Phoenix, what are the odds it’ll be that much better? Sophie Turner is not a markedly better actress than Famke Janssen. It would be at the same studio, produced by a lot of the same people who did The Last Stand and Apocalypse. It may be time to just write off the Dark Phoenix saga as a lost cause for the film franchise. Fans will always have the original comics to return to, and two animated incarnations of it (‘90s X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men).

It’s the same way I feel about the Harry Potter franchise: I wish we could get decent movie adaptations of the books, but I’m much more excited for new stories in Fantastic Beasts, and happy to ignore the movies in favor of rereading the books. Films are not the be-all-end-all creative expression of a story.

Of course, I’ll still go see X-Men: Supernova when it comes out, but I really hope the next X-Men film gives me something to be excited about. I am familiar with going in to see films and thinking, “God, I hope they don’t eff it up again.” That’s how I felt for the latter Harry Potter movies. I’d be happy if they did a film centered on Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, because I thought she was one of the few highlights of X-Men Apocalypse, but I truly hope they just leave the Dark Phoenix storyline well enough alone.

Do you want to see a retread of Dark Phoenix, or are you over it?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunner Jed Whedon discusses those killer twists and writing fanfiction in the aftermath of the spring finale.

Jed Whedon wrote and directed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, the episode that brought the current LMD storyline to an ostensible close. “Self Control” also completely changed the game for the rest of the season, sending Daisy into the ‘upside down’ of the world of the Framework to rescue the rest of the team.

But the Framework is a world where resolved regrets have appalling consequences — and that world is run by the likes of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Whedon offered up his thoughts on upcoming themes, that crazy return, and the life and death stakes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunner Jed Whedon discusses those killer twists and writing fanfiction in the aftermath of the spring finale.

Jed Whedon wrote and directed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, the episode that brought the current LMD storyline to an ostensible close. “Self Control” also completely changed the game for the rest of the season, sending Daisy into the ‘upside down’ of the world of the Framework to rescue the rest of the team.

But the Framework is a world where resolved regrets have appalling consequences — and that world is run by the likes of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Whedon offered up his thoughts on upcoming themes, that crazy return, and the life and death stakes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra.

First, what’s it like being an evil genius, destroyer of fandoms?

Oh well, you know! I get a lot of love-hate tweets at me.

When did you first have the idea to go into this alternate timeline, and basically write fanfiction of your own story?

You know, we end every year with talking about what next year will be. So last year, we had a lot of different things on our plate that we wanted to get into the season, and I think you can see we packed a lot in. But there’s sort of three big ideas — Ghost Rider, LMDs, and some sort of alt-world where we could, as you say, write some fanfiction for our characters and explore new things.

You know, I think this is our eighty-first episode that just aired, and that’s a lot of stories. So it’s refreshing for everybody, in production, action, and writers, to flip the script for a little while and get to sort of shake it out and use a new muscle.

So that’s something we talked about doing, and then figuring out how to do it, and how to make all those stories sort of become one thing was the real puzzle. And that’s where the Darkhold came in, and the idea that, finding a way that the Darkhold could sort of get us new tech, and the tech could get us to Alt-World. And so it was sort of a year in the making, and then it’s just a question of, what do we want to do in there? What kind of fun do we want to have?

Speaking of that, can you clarify the parameters of the Framework? Is it really an ideal world, as Aida and Radcliffe seem to think?

Yeah, I think that Radcliffe and Aida set out to duplicate the world, and with some of the info that Aida got from the Darkhold, they were able to do that. Now, the one change that they made was they plugged I think five people into it and repaired one regret for each of them, and that seems to have had a little bit of a ripple effect. We’ll get to learn more about the nature of that reality, but they were setting out to make our world. And it just seems when you change something, there’s a little bit of a butterfly effect.

So putting Jemma aside, who is decidedly her own case as she is apparently dead, which character’s new life do you think will be most surprising to fans?

Well, that’s a little bit of a wait and see question. But one thing I can say is that the themes we’re exploring are sort of, are you different if you’re in a different situation? Or are you inherently the same person? Obviously, we see May standing without much fear in a Hydra building, seemingly like she’s on top of the world. And so the question is, is she still her? Or have her new experiences changed her enough to be someone else?

Those are some of the themes that we’re going to explore. And you’ll get to see how each person is different and sort of judge for yourself who is the most different. But those are some of the themes we wanted to dig into. Is there a true you, or are you made up of your regrets — and what happens if you take those away?

And in terms of Jemma, you were very careful to obscure the date of her death on the tombstone. Is there any significance to that, or a mystery we should be keeping an eye out for?

In general in the Marvel Universe, dates are avoided. Because so much is connected… and I think that if you really asked, they would say that since the first Iron Man movie, like, two months has passed, or something insane! [laughs] You know, I think that we try to avoid them in general, but also it’s just so that you don’t know what’s happening, and we don’t have to answer all those questions, or stick super strictly to the exact timeline of when things would have occurred, so that we can have a little more wiggle room in terms of what stories we tell.

But yeah, we don’t know if it happened 20 years ago, or recently. We don’t know because we put a little flower over that!

But there’s a chance that we’ll see Jemma again?

There is a chance! And I’ll just say that we love Elizabeth [Henstridge] too much to have her go out off camera.

Okay, cool! So in terms of Ward, you definitely know how to keep the fandom churning! Is there a possibility that he will show up beyond the alternate universe, or is his role strictly in imaginary land?

Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But right now, there’s only five people in the Framework who actually have bodies in our world. [Ward] is a simulation, but he’s a simulation of exactly who he was. As Yo-Yo says, how do you populate a whole world? And Daisy very conveniently answers, “With the Darkhold.” It’s sort of our catch-all/fix-all solve this year, the Darkhold. It gave them this ability to sort of duplicate our world, so he is Grant Ward as we knew him.

Now, the world is different around him, and so whether or not he reacted the same to the changes in the world, we’ll see. But Grant Ward never enters the picture and makes things run smoother!

That’s for sure. So if you were to boil down what we can expect from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra, what would you say?

Nightmares and dreams coming true.

…Oh boy.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×16, “What If…” will air on Tuesday, April 4 at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

Instagram has launched a new feature which’ll decrease the amount of stress you may feel when creating a post.

Sometimes you want to share multiple pictures or videos from one experience, but you may want to avoid clogging your friends’ feeds with multiple posts in a row. Or, you just can’t decide which photo you want to share to brag about your night.

One solution has been to stick multiple images into a single frame — a trick that became so popular, Instagram made their own app for it called Layouts. But stress no more! On February 22, Instagram released a new feature which lets you upload multiple photos to a single post.

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Instagram has launched a new feature which’ll decrease the amount of stress you may feel when creating a post.

Sometimes you want to share multiple pictures or videos from one experience, but you may want to avoid clogging your friends’ feeds with multiple posts in a row. Or, you just can’t decide which photo you want to share to brag about your night.

One solution has been to stick multiple images into a single frame — a trick that became so popular, Instagram made their own app for it called Layouts. But stress no more! On February 22, Instagram released a new feature which lets you upload multiple photos to a single post.

Multi-image Instagram posts are limited to the square format and only use one caption, but each image can receive their own filter. To view all the images, your followers swipe left or right. Up to 10 images can be placed in a single post.

In a way, the new feature lets you create a Snapchat or Instagram-like story that lives forever. It’s a welcome addition — previously only available to advertisers — and should streamline each user’s feed.

Now it’s Snapchat’s turn to copy off of Insta. Is it only a matter of time until Snap lets you permanently keep photos, videos, and stories accessible to the public in some sort of profile?

Tags: Instagram