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.

‘The Space Between Us’ set report: What if a human was born on Mars?

Hypable visited the set and spoke to the film's stars.

12:00 pm EST, January 17, 2017

Could a human be born on a distant planet and later survive on earth?

It’s not only a premise that the upcoming science fiction tale The Space Between Us asks, but a real question and concern that people at NASA have considered as well.

Inspired by his son’s obsession with Mars, and the kernel of an idea from another writer he works with, film producer Richard Lewis picked up the phone and posed the question to members of NASA.

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Could a human be born on a distant planet and later survive on earth?

It’s not only a premise that the upcoming science fiction tale The Space Between Us asks, but a real question and concern that people at NASA have considered as well.

Inspired by his son’s obsession with Mars, and the kernel of an idea from another writer he works with, film producer Richard Lewis picked up the phone and posed the question to members of NASA.

He never would’ve guessed what was going to happen when he spoke to them.

“I called a group of NASA scientists and said, ‘So what would happen if an astronaut turned out to be pregnant on a flight to Mars?’ and there was just silence on the other end of the call. And they said, ‘Are you listening to our phone calls?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve never spoken to you in my life.’ And they said, ‘It’s going to happen, and we don’t know what to do.'”

That was when he teamed up with screenwriter Allan Loeb and started fleshing out an answer. “I thought, wow, that’s the beginning of an interesting story.” Lewis even worked with his father, a heart specialist, to examine how that muscle would develop differently on Mars, and aspects of this research became a big part of the story.

The Space Between Us is an interplanetary adventure following a human boy named Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) born on the distant red planet. His mother, an astronaut, only realized she was pregnant with Gardner after leaving on her mission to colonize Mars.

Once Gardner reaches his teenage years he becomes interested in leaving East Texas (yep, on Mars) and returning to the home of his species. Not only is he curious about Earth, but Gardner has also fallen for a girl named Tulsa who’s literally tens of millions of miles away in the state of Colorado. The two met online and can relate over their outsider perspectives.

There’s just one problem: Tulsa doesn’t realize that Gardner is literally living on Mars.

Hypable visited the Albuquerque, New Mexico set of The Space Between Us starring Butterfield, Robertson, and Gary Oldman in late October 2015. On the day we visited, Asa, Britt, and crew were at the tail end of their 37-day shooting schedule which took them through New Mexico, Las Vegas, and Malibu.

It was Day 31, and indoor and outdoor shoots were taking place at Highland High School located in the southeast quadrant of Albuquerque. Since it was a weekday, real classes were in session as Asa and Britt shot outdoor scenes.

The real students who walked by the production had mixed reactions. Some watched and Snapchatted the excitement, while others passed by as if a Hollywood production wasn’t filming right before their eyes. Later in the day, after the real students went home, production moved inside the school to shoot a scene where Gardner and Tulsa meet in person for the first time. It’s one of the more touching moments in the movie.

Earlier, Asa walked into our press tent carrying a drone in tow. He had recently purchased it to try and capture aerial footage for fun, and was learning how to operate it in between filming his scenes.

Both the aerial device and Gardner struggle to deal with Earth’s gravity.

When asked how he handles playing a character who has never been on Earth before, Asa describes it as a very unique experience. “It’s hard to put yourself in that kind of position because we [as humans] are so experienced in the world, and to completely strip all that back and be absolutely in awe at everything you see — a tree, a doorman — everything’s interesting,” he says.

space-between-us-asa-britt

Tulsa (Britt Robertson) experiences zero gravity with Gardner (Asa Butterfield).

Living on Mars your whole life doesn’t mean you’re missing hormones, so girls are also of interest in Gardner. On the relationship between his character and Tulsa, Asa tells us, “They both have this longing desire for being somewhere. Belonging somewhere. Tulsa’s been jumping around through various foster homes, she’s never really settled anywhere. Gardner spends his life on Mars. No one knows he exists. They’re kind of united by this experience.”

“He’s an alien, and she’s an alien, and this is the journey of the story,” Lewis tells us. “Watching these two characters connect, and the disconnects, the misunderstandings, and then ultimately they have a connection.”

Those good and bad connections were present in the scene we observed, which finds Gardner surprising Tulsa in her school hallway. As someone who is tough and reserved, Tulsa is understandably frustrated by Gardner’s sudden appearance. The two still haven’t communicated well with one another — Adorably, Tulsa is unaware that when he says he’s from “East Texas” he means the establishment on Mars.

With Gardner now on earth, the two begin to form a close bond as the Mars-born boy tries to discover his roots.

Co-starring in the movie is Gary Oldman, whose character originally organized the trip to Mars. He wasn’t on set the day we visited, but the actor has a very important role in the movie.

The Space Between Us opens in theaters February 3, 2017.

‘Rogue One’s’ best scene doesn’t involve the heroes

It's a nameless character who saves the day.

8:15 am EST, January 17, 2017

Among the many exceptional scenes in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, one of the most poignant ones doesn’t even involve any of the main heroes.

Rogue One  is full of memorable moments, some breathtaking, some endearing in the way we’ve come to expect from Star Wars, and all full of an epic sense of the lengths people will go to in the name of hope. It also stands out because of its representation, with a female main character and a diverse cast of supporting characters. But it’s the scene almost at the very end that makes its story truly unique.

It takes place after Jyn Erso and her band of rebels have already completed their mission, and the Death Star plans that they have given their lives to procure are being physically carried through the Profundity by a single individual, while the ship is under attack. Close at his heels is Darth Vader, finally revealed in all his lightsaber-wielding, terrifying glory, killing rebel soldiers left and right. The door jams in front of the man holding the plans, with only a slight gap left open – just enough for him to fit an arm through and frantically get the device to one of the fleeing rebels on the other side, knowing fully that this is the last action he’ll ever carry out.

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Among the many exceptional scenes in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, one of the most poignant ones doesn’t even involve any of the main heroes.

Rogue One  is full of memorable moments, some breathtaking, some endearing in the way we’ve come to expect from Star Wars, and all full of an epic sense of the lengths people will go to in the name of hope. It also stands out because of its representation, with a female main character and a diverse cast of supporting characters. But it’s the scene almost at the very end that makes its story truly unique.

It takes place after Jyn Erso and her band of rebels have already completed their mission, and the Death Star plans that they have given their lives to procure are being physically carried through the Profundity by a single individual, while the ship is under attack. Close at his heels is Darth Vader, finally revealed in all his lightsaber-wielding, terrifying glory, killing rebel soldiers left and right. The door jams in front of the man holding the plans, with only a slight gap left open – just enough for him to fit an arm through and frantically get the device to one of the fleeing rebels on the other side, knowing fully that this is the last action he’ll ever carry out.

This character has no name, and we know nothing about him beyond this scene. But faced by the most fearsome threat and terrible odds, he abandons fighting and uses his dying moments to get the plans across the doomed ship, and to Princess Leia.

It’s not common to see a scene like this one – scenes that convey the power of the collective action of many people across different areas – done so skillfully, especially in movies that are so character-driven.

In Star Wars, we’ve always focused on Luke and Leia and Han, and more recently on Rey, Finn and Poe. Although we knew that the Rebellion was the fruit of the efforts of many, we never had such a clear look into just how many lives were involved.

Rogue One the Rebellion

This final scene brings it all together, tying together the various storylines we know in an epic finale, and finally connecting them to Episode IV in a perfect mix of excitement and nostalgia. Without this character, driven by desperate hope rather than fear of his imminent death, Rogue One’s mission would not have ended successfully, Leia would have never received the plans… and none of the story we already know would have taken place.

For once, it was a character whose face we didn’t even see properly, dressed just like everyone else, fulfilling his own small role in a much bigger mission, who saved the day.

This ending, maybe even more meaningfully than the stories of the heroes we know and love, shows us the very essence of the Rebellion: a movement of dedication and sacrifice, full of people like the ones that died on Scarif, that put themselves between the plans and Vader, that drove the mission to success in their dying moments – and that stopped the race to save their own lives in favor of securing the mission’s objective.

We, as the audience, can find ourselves in the nameless rebel soldier and his sacrifice – a realistic and emotional portrayal of what makes any movement for change possible: the sacrifices of a vast number of people whose names and faces we may never know, whose stories may never be recorded, but whose lives were spent in search of a better future for the generations that follow.

What scene in ‘Rogue One’ impacted you the most?

Sherlock season 4, episode 3 is the last new material fans will see for a very long time. Was it a satisfying farewell to the series?

The Sherlock season 4 finale is a healthy mix of emotional highs and lows. But was it, as co-creators Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss describe, “television history?” No. It was not. It was not even the best episode of the Sherlock series.

However, it is what we have to left to unpack as we leave Holmes at Watson in 221B by the fire. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

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Sherlock season 4, episode 3 is the last new material fans will see for a very long time. Was it a satisfying farewell to the series?

The Sherlock season 4 finale is a healthy mix of emotional highs and lows. But was it, as co-creators Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss describe, “television history?” No. It was not. It was not even the best episode of the Sherlock series.

However, it is what we have to left to unpack as we leave Holmes at Watson in 221B by the fire. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

The final problem

The greatest flaw of Sherlock is when it gets stuck in its own heightened story telling. “The Final Problem” is the perfect example of retelling the past and not giving the audience any new information. It’s not hard to deduce. The episode does not suffer for this. Because it is not about the game at all.

Eurus’ game is well-crafted, brutal, and unforgiving. She is a master. The episode goes above and beyond to prove that over and over. Eurus wants to understand the complexity of human empathy. The only way she can do that is to cut the people open and see what makes their muscles move.

watson

The maze she crafts tests the resolve of Sherlock, Mycroft, and John. One great example of this is the use of Molly Hooper. It should be noted that Molly Hooper deserves so much better.

Using her love for Sherlock as a weapon, Molly Hooper’s life shatters with three words. Unfortunately, all of this is in service to unravel Sherlock with no resolution on her end.

As he smashes the coffin with his bare hands, John and Mycroft are there to reel him back in. They lend a hand to rebuild the walls that are falling down around him. That is until they literally fall at the doorstep of his childhood home.

The final problem is how do you deliver human connection to someone who does not know how to receive it? That desire to feel that her brothers appreciate her for more than her brain. If Eurus’ favorite person, Sherlock, could just take a moment to play her game, everything can end.

The test, it turns out, is for Sherlock to lean heavily on his capacity for emotional connection throwing logic out of the equation. He makes room for John, Mary, Molly, even Greg in his life. Can he find a way to make room for Eurus in spite of everything he just found out?

“You were always the grown up,” says Mrs. Holmes near the end of the episode. Sherlock takes the family into the next chapter of their life. One where music bridges the gap between them and the entire Holmes family can sit together without words getting in the way.

‘I’m a pirate’

The biggest twist, if you didn’t already work it out for yourself, comes when John discovers the bones of “Redbeard” in the well. They are not dog bones, but the bones of Sherlock’s best childhood friend, Victor.

But the best appearance is by far the inclusion of Mycroft’s Christmas gift — Jim Moriarty.

sherlock season 4 moriarty

Moriarty’s obsession with Holmes begins well before Eurus calls him in for a meeting. But did he succumb to being one of her agents? Probably. But Jim likely steered his own course to Sherlock. But the game… well, the game now reeks of Eurus.

Mycroft Holmes

The Holmes brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, have the most fascinating relationship on Sherlock. “The Final Problem” highlights the complexity of their past and the trajectory of their future.

The most moving scene in the entire episode arrives when Mycroft, John and Sherlock are contemplating the reality of what may be their final moments alive. Hearing that Sherlock appreciated a talent of his, one that is not based on their familial intellect, moves him to a smile. Well before Mycroft sacrifices himself for Sherlock’s partnership with John, he gets the validation that their relationship is full of mutual appreciation.

mycroft sherlock

The minds of the Holmes siblings may be capable of great feats, but no fortress is entirely secure.

Mycroft’s home at the start of the episode is infiltrated by the combination of Holmes and Watson. Later on, his mind’s security system fails. He is a strong, put together person. After years of arranging Sherlock’s safety behind the scenes, it’s time for Sherlock to step up and do the same.

Is there room for more?

Perhaps we will all meet again at Anemoi. In the credits letters it is typical for the editors to highlight certain letters. The final sequence produces just a single word — Anemoi, the meeting place of the four winds.

While the finale ties up loose ends, recreates the scars that affect the duo the most, it does feel more like a beginning than an ending.

Sherlock may or may not return.

Tags: bbc sherlock