By Chris Fitzner
These days, what is a fandom without at least one ship? In Once Upon A Time many of us are familiar with the terms Snowing, Swan Queen and Rumbelle. But where did 'shipping' begin and for that matter, what the heck is a ship?
For those of you envisioning a multi-sailed tall ship bobbing in a beautiful blue harbour, I hate to break it to you but that is not the droid you are looking for. According to Wikipedia, so you know it must be true, in fandom, 'ship' is a word derived from 'relationship' and the belief that two characters, real or not, will be in a romantic relationship. In recent pop culture, Twilight comes to mind with the rabid fans on both Teams Edward and Jacob. It became mainstream enough for official merchandise and features in entertainment news. But that's not where it started.
The act of 'shipping' pre-dates the term and is thought to have begun in the 1990s with the television hit The X-files. The ship of agents Scully and Mulder was as hot as anything I could compare it to now. Rolling Stone magazine capped it off, in my mind, in 1995 with the couple featured on the cover, lying in each other's embrace with only the bed linens for company.
Relationshipper to r'shipper and finally to 'ship'. The people involved in shipping are often incredibly passionate about their chosen couple. Harry Potter, Twilight; who cares about which 'team' you were on? But a lot of people did and they even bought the t-shirt.
The Once fandom is no different and fans are passionate about their ships, sometimes even at the expense of the show as a whole; no matter what the writers do, there is never enough of a certain couple to satisfy the ship fans.
In fandom, there are ‘canon’ ships and ‘non-canon’ ships. Canon is a term that describes ‘official’ and remaining true to the original work. Snow White and Prince Charming would be a good example of a popular canon ship; Regina and Daniel (Stable Queen) is another very popular ship even though half of that couple is dead.
Non-canon ships promote a pairing usually not found in the original work. Among the most popular ships on Once Upon A Time is a non-canon ship: Emma and Regina, better known to their fans as “Swan Queen”. This pairing seems to dominate the fandom. Non-canon ships aren’t uncommon but I’ve never seen such organization among its shippers anywhere else. Whether it’s supporting their couple on Twitter or in various fan polls, the Swan Queen shippers come out in force.
But Emma and Regina are enemies, I hear some of you say. How does envisioning a relationship between them work exactly? Regina has tried to discredit, get rid of and sometimes kill Emma every chance she had and spent years trying to kill Emma’s parents. Emma spent most, if not all, of the first season trying to put one over on Regina so that she could show the town how rotten their mayor really was. How could the Savior love the Evil Queen after all of that?
According to the handful of fans that responded to my non-scientific survey, most of them loved the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parrilla. From square one their mutual dislike smoldered and smoked across our screens. And who doesn’t love a good forbidden romance with tragic and wounded characters; perhaps Emma and Regina could save each other?
Yanked from the pages of French fairy tales and the coloured cels of Disney’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, Rumbelle, the ship of Rumplestiltskin and Belle, was born in February 2011 when ‘Skin Deep’ (season 1 episode 12) splashed across our screens. Showing a softer side of the black hearted Dark One when Belle managed to worm her way under his skin to find the lonely and vulnerable man underneath, and a slew of fan fell in love.
They sometimes seem more ‘real’ than your average fairy tale couple; they have fights, they make up and sometimes they eat hamburgers which I’ve yet to see in any other fairy tale. Some shippers are fans of redemption storylines and see Belle as a way for Rumplestiltskin to find his way back to the good that is deep in his soul. And sometimes it’s for a deeply personal reason, as one fan responded, that the couple reminded her of herself and her own love, who had a bad reputation but she saw the good in him and helped to change him for the better. Rumbelle is a difficult relationship, made more difficult by pesky little things like kidnapping and dark curses but fans still clamor for the rare sweet moments between the two.
It wouldn’t be a ship fest here if I didn’t bow down and pay some homage to the ship of Snow White and Prince Charming, popularly known as Snowing. This canon ship is really a no-brainer, it’s built into the original fairy tale and the show opens with their wedding. Snow and Charming work as a team, playing to each other’s strengths to cover any weaknesses and they are loyal to family and one another. Charming gets a lot of mileage out of “I will always find you” and looking into those baby blues, I believe that he willalways find his true love no matter where she may be.
So whether you ship Swan Queen or Snowing or the whole phenomenon of shipping leaves you utterly clueless, the most important thing to remember is that shipping and fandom is all in good fun.
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Explore the Arthurian legend surrounding Lancelot, take a trip into the woods to discover the mythology behind Red Riding Hood or learn more about a modern day hero called Snow White. Origins provides unique insights and perspectives from talented writers into the characters we know and love, going far beyond the boundaries of Storybrooke.