Not Just an OTP: Shipping in the Arrowverse and Beyond

Shipping, for the most part, is fun. It happens in every show we watch, because love is an emotion that we all feel or hope to feel. Who doesn’t want to feel all warm and squishy inside when we’re watching TV? It’s entertaining, it keeps us on the edge of our seats, and it gives us something light to root for when any manner of other things are happening on the screen. It’s one of the reasons soap operas last so long, why rom-coms still exist despite being a storm of clichés, and why every young adult novel seems to have at least two love triangles in it.

Let’s face it, most of us is wearing an invisible one of these around our necks

But anyone who’s been in fandom will tell you that sometimes it can get a little ugly, ranging from attacks on each other within fandom to attacks on actors and creators on the outside of it. What they might not tell you, however, is that shipping reveals very interesting things about society – if you know where to look, that is. Sometimes, fandom is defined as a kind of haven where everyone leaves their prejudices in the “real world” and comes together to enjoy something. But that doesn’t always happenAnd if you pay attention to shipping patterns, you’ll start to see why.

This article was originally a private rant about some of the troubling shipping patterns I noticed while watching the Arrowverse shows, which got me thinking about where I’d seen them before. That evolved into an article on TVTropes, a website that explores and discusses common tropes in works of art, comparing whether Olicity and Snowbarry, the two “alternative” ships to the canon ones on their respective shows, were truly copies of each other, as lots of people like to think. After some encouragement, I decided to expand and publish it because of the patterns I’ve noticed in other fandoms, as well as what those patterns say about society. As such, this article will lay out the background of each character and ship, the patterns I’ve noticed, whether Olicity and Snowbarry share these similarities, where I’ve seen it in other fandoms, and what that means about society. With regard to the old article, this one will have more research (…if you can call studying TV show reviews, Twitter feeds, and Tumblr pages research), deeper analysis that includes race and gender, and will be much, much longer. Because of this length, it will be laid out in several parts. (For example, the original article was 18,000 words, whereas the sections of this article that correspond to the “An Ugly Truth” section will be at least 15,000 words and will be split into at least five sections).

Disclaimer #1: I will do my level best not to unnecessarily bash ships. I don’t care about what you ship as long as you’re not being a horrible person. That said, I’m exploring shipping patterns that are troubling, and one ship in particular is extremely problematic, so I cannot guarantee that you won’t read something you don’t like. The article is about the larger patterns rather than the ships themselves, but there are many ships that show these patterns.

Disclaimer #2: This is an opinion piece. This is not about trying to dictate other people’s opinions, it’s about patterns and tropes that may reveal things about society. If I say something that doesn’t apply to you, please don’t explain to me how it doesn’t, because clearly, I am not talking to you.

Disclaimer #3: Leading on from that, I am going to state certain things as facts. For example, the narrative presented Laurel as a fairly intelligent person given where she worked and the fact that she was a lawyer. If you think she was idiot, that’s fine, but I’m trying to go with what the show was trying to present. I don’t need a paragraph explaining all the ways in which Laurel Lance is an idiot.

Disclaimer #4: I’m going to explore why people started shipping Olicity and Snowbarry, so it’s primarily going to be about those two ships. I won’t really talk about why people shipped Lauriver and Westallen, since the shows themselves were supposed to be giving the reasons for that.

Disclaimer #5: All comments will be screened by our moderators. We welcome (and love!) discussion, but we don’t tolerate hate.

Disclaimer #6: I talk about racism, sexism, and misogyny. I talk about the elitism and entitlement of male nerd fandom. I talk about the presence and weaponization of white femininity. I talk about racial hierarchies within fandom. I talk about misogynoir. I talk about police brutality. I talk about Taylor Swift, Maria Sharapova, and Miley Cyrus. If any of these topics offend you in any way, do not read this. For those of you who are already offended and are rushing to the comment section to complain about how much of a SJW/snowflake/feminazi/nasty woman/bleeding heart liberal I am, at the very least, pick a section of the article at random and complain about that so you can at least pretend that you’ve read it. For everyone else – let’s get to it!

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