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What to Do When Your Favorite ‘Ship Isn’t the Fandom Darling

It happens to the best of us.

cap and falcon

It happens to the best fans. One day, you fall into a new fandom. It’s love at first page, episode, or scene. And suddenly, there it is! Your dream ship. These two characters couldn’t be more perfect for each other, right? The longing looks, the subtext, the chemistry…clearly this should be the endgame. Maybe you’re lucky, and it is! Or maybe you’re not so lucky, but hey, there’s always fanfiction.

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You take to your social media platform of choice, ready to spread the good word about your new OTP. But something’s wrong. Everyone else ships your favorite character and someone else. Your dream ship is relegated to under 100 fics on AO3 and a few edits in the tags. Everything else is about that one other ship, which might be fine but the obsession everyone else has with it is setting your teeth on edge. Congratulations, you’re in the Unpopular Opinion corner.

It’s like when you fall for Spock and Bones as the perfect bickering boyfriends after binging a lot of Star Trek, but of course Kirk and Spock are That OTP so you’re really in a corner. Or being a devoted Kataang shipper while the majority of the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom dug Zutara. Or you want Rey to bounce back from The Last Jedi by falling for Rose Tico or Jess Pava.

The bigger the fandom, the more likely there will be some ships that fall to the wayside. Marvel has a few HUGE ships that tend to dominate the conversation; those fans who are more into the smaller pairings, such as Bucky/Nat or Steve/Sam, will have to contend with fewer fanworks about their favorite ship. This isn’t the end of the world, but it can be frustrating when you read every single fic in the tag and then have to go back and read that one squicky fic you skipped over due to the typos in the summary.

Ship wars can also ensue when two large ships are competing for the title of fandom favorite. Take the Harry Potter fandom, which had ship wars so legendary that people are still passing around the fandom wank links. Harry/Hermione and Ron/Hermione shippers were vicious when it came to who would win Hermione’s hand, and once the embers finally cooled, JK Rowling stoked them back into a fire by saying she regretted having Hermione end up with Ron. It’s been years, and now you tell us? Friendships were broken during those LiveJournal battles! It was an epic on par with The Lord of the Rings!

So what do you do when your OTP isn’t the one that launched a thousand fics? First off, find your people. Unless you’re in a fandom of eight people and a shoelace, there has to be someone else out there who likes your weird ship. The internet is a vast, somewhat frightening place. Someone out there has to have the same taste as you. You’ll have someone to send sad headcanons to, or to swap gifs of your favorite canon interactions (or to complain about the lack of interactions because your faves might never have actually met). Fandom is all about community, and if you’ve got a community, you won’t feel as isolated from the rest of the crowd.

Creating your own fanworks can also be a great way to get those feels out. You’ve got the perfect fic idea, so mainline a bunch of coffee and stay up all night writing that story; I speak from experience when I say that that will lead to the best fics. Practice makes perfect, so play with Photoshop until you’ve got the perfect dreamy edit featuring lyrics from that one song that was definitely written about the couple in question. Create the fandom, and others will surely come.

It’s possible to build your own little community around that one weird ship you’ve got. And while that one Big Name Couple might always annoy you to the point of blacklisting or muting the name on Tumblr or Twitter, fandom can still be fun. It all comes down to the folks you surround yourself with. A community that doesn’t engage in toxic behavior and instead celebrates—or makes some good points in calling out—the media it focuses on is a positive one to be in. Just don’t be that person who starts ship wars and you should be golden. No one likes the person who starts ship wars.

Take it from a perennial small ship shipper — you don’t need to be a big name fan or ship the biggest ship around to have fun. Just don’t be a toxic jerk and find your own crowd, and you’ll be set. Also if you’re reading this and you ship any of the same weird pairings I do, please shoot me a message because I can literally talk for hours. Especially about Spock/Bones or Steve/Sam.

(image: Marvel)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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