"Shipping" in My Little Pony fanfictions is ...
Debate Rounds (4)
First round is for acceptance primarily, as well as minor discussions about the boundaries and terms of this debate, but if Pro wishes to write an argument or two down, I'm not going to stop them.
I'll let my opponent make an initial observation as to the definition of "shipping" but I reserve the right to challenge said definition in the second round.
Otherwise, good luck, have fun, and Love and Tolerate!
'Shipping', a term derived from the term 'relationship', often used within fandom circles to describe romantic interactions between certain characters that do not have a romantic relationship in the source material, or to romantic interactions between characters in general, such as 'original characters' (those created by fandom members) forming romantic bonds with other characters. ('Friendshipping' is the non-romantic variety, having characters become friends rather than being involved in a romantic relationship, when, again, this relationship is not present within the source material.) This is how I define 'shipping'.
In this particular instance, the subject is the My Little Pony fandom, specifically, the Friendship is Magic (or 'G4') portion of it. Something I take note of is the amount of shipping fanfiction stories within it, and using the browse feature (utilizing a 'romance' genre filter) of a website devoted to MLP:FiM fanfiction, 'fimfiction.net', I have determined the number of stories on the site containing this particular tag to be 9079. (This is with the mature filter of the site disabled, http://www.fimfiction.net...) The most recent story to be posted publically on the website, at the time of this writing, is numbered 67755. However, this number also counts deletions and stories not yet visible on the site, which do not show up using the 'browse' function, making the actual number likely higher, as more stories come out every day. Through simple math, it is easily found that the specific portion is 13.4% of all stories on the site, assuming the number I've named as total is correct; specific statistics are not readily available on the total number of stories on the site, as far as I've researched.
As for statistics on the particular proportions, this number is fairly high, and is not quite evenly-proportioned to the number of stories in other actual 'genres', as defined by the site (I leave out 'human', which merely indicates the presence of humans in the story, not a genre), of which there are ten, which are as follows: 'romance', 'tragedy', 'adventure', 'alternate universe', 'sad', 'slice of life', 'dark', 'comedy', 'random', and 'crossover'. However, any number of these tags can be used in defining a story's genres, and a story can potentially contain all of them. Shipfics are common, and more so than those of any other particular genre except for 'adventure', which is held as a tag by 11321 stories, or 16.7%. 'Comedy' comes in third, at 8678, 'dark' landing fourth, with 8278. I'll state again, the genres do stack, and are not mutually-exclusive whatsoever (though the mixing of 'comedy' and 'random' isn't proper, as the latter is a form of the other as defined by site rules).
So ends my initial statement.
I thank my opponent for agreeing to this debate.
Now, I'd like to make a brief outline of my points, although the majority of case will be spent in refutation of the points my opponent chooses to advance. Although I have some burden of proof, my opponent will be mainly "attacking" the established practice of shipping, so I shall do my best to "defend" it--which mainly involves refutation. My overarching theme is that "Shipping in and of itself is not detrimental to a story." I have but one other point (which I shall elaborate on below), as this sums up my position quite nicely.
My opponent has helpfully pointed out the statistics on shipping's presence in the fandom. I accept these statistics. What they mean, though, is that the fandom has a great interest in writing shipping and adventure stories. There is no problem inherent to shipping that is not present in any other genre. I challenge my opponent to prove, if he wishes to advocate against "shipping," that these types of stories have some demeaning characteristic or that they are inherently harmful in some way or another. If my opponent provides a problem that is present in other genres, or is not inherently harmful, then that argument is outside the bounds of his case, as it does not specifically address shipping.
My second argument is that shipping provides a means for the fandom to express their appreciation for MLP in the written medium, and that shipping stories are a means for learning to write prose, and in doing so, provide a "bridge," if you will, to other styles of writing.
"Shipping" or romance stories are a prevalent part of popular culture--it should be obvious that many works, from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the so-called "penny dreadfuls" of Victorian England to the romance novels of today, use romantic subplots to drive their stories.
This illustrates another interesting point--shipping is not exclusive to MLP. While it is outside the bounds of this debate to focus on the relative benefits of romance outside of MLP, it is important to note that many factors influence writing, from historical precedent to popular culture.
Now, to make a preliminary refutation of my opponent's case.
Let me reiterate: Shipping is not inherently problematic, no more so than other genres. I challenge my opponent to prove otherwise. Furthermore, there is no inherent flaw in repetition--if an idea works, it's more likely to get repeated. My opponent's point on this matter, therefore, can be attributed to my side as a reason why shipping is good--authors emulate good ideas. Finally, to address the second part of my opponent's case. Being "nonsensical" is not necessarily problematic, also.
A careful reader might note that IncoherentOrange mentioned "Random" as a story category. The definition of a "random" story is "[a] stor[y] that [is] rather incoherent ." Incoherent in this context is very similar to "nonsensical." Does my opponent mean to suggest that, if he successfully proves tha shipping stories are "nonsensical," there is an inherent flaw in that?
I await my opponent's response.
The statistics I have decided to point out are simply to inform, and little more. (I'll admit that I included them because I was bored and had nothing else to do.) Still, this leaves me with the burden of proving why I believe the practice of shipping to be two things: illogical and repetitive.
Interesting usage of my language to challenge my views on 'random' stories. On that subject, returning to my assertion that nonsensicality is not inherently problematic, I shall simply state that the very intention of stories classified as 'random' is to not make sense in some way, or to have events twist in unrealistic ways to provide entertainment. It is when such things come up in more serious tales that it strains the suspension of disbelief of a reader.
Speaking of which, 'citing suspension of disbelief' is a very much valid point to make in countering my points. I shall say, as a pre-emptive response, that my arguments are based on that it stretches my own too much for my liking.
Addressing another point you have made, the advancement of the skills of writing prose are inherent in many other types of story. For example, one with significant worldbuilding will challenge the writer to provide glimpses of said world without outright telling them what it is, just as a romance story will delve into the minds of the characters and their views on conflicts. Speaking of telling, many stories of this genre detail an unexplained and unbackstoried basis for one character falling for another, which begs the question of [i]'Why?'[/i] Of course, characters are tools for the author, and one can make characters to bear romantic attraction or feelings to another.
However, the usage of established characters with established relationships is where this presents logical problems. For example, there are two specific characters very often placed in relationships with others in this particular fandom; Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle. The latter is the source material's primary protagonist, while the former's mannerisms arguably lead people to assume that she is a bisexual, and thus, shall be paired with the other female members of the main cast very often, which includes all but one . Sometimes, they are formed into the same couple, popularly known as 'TwiDash'. In this particular example, the former is defined as a prideful, brash, competitive athlete, while the latter is a modest, (yet extremely powerful) intellectual.
There is, arguably, little to no specific evidence (there is a concept of a 'ship tease', which is, most often, playfully hinting in the source material that two characters have romantic interest in one another, but has the pairing never actually made 'canon', in which case it becomes a case of foreshadowing. Such an example is the case of Spike and Rarity, char of this very show, whose being shipped with one another makes more sense as there is confirmed attraction of the former to the other, while the other latter's position is dubious) to prove that these two are romantically compatible, but it's one of the most popular pairings in the entirety of fimfiction.net and Equestria Daily, sites that house fanfics surveyed in , (as is Rainbow Dash and just about any other major character. Again, see ). Then again, one can, with ease, state that love isn't a logical thing, and can happen to anyone, at anytime, regarding anyone else. Repetitivity doesn't mean bad, either, but is one of the reasons why I find such stories tiresome.
Of course, this leads to thought on whether fanfiction writers should bend or outright break established canon elements (the 'alternate universe' tag I mentioned in round one is specifically intended for this) to achieve the goal of the story. I can argue to the affirmative, as I picture the MLP universe as defined by the show as a template on which interpretations can be made and put into written form, or many other forms, such as music, art, or simply 'headcanon'. Now one can respond to this statement of mine saying, 'but doesn't that just make shipping another take on the universe?' and I shall concede that, but this does not mean that it makes more sense, nor does its repetitivity.
I hope you're enjoying this debate, IX, as I have been. How I do like a good one, which I do hope I can provide.
Much thanks to my opponent for clarifying his case. First, to make a few responses to my opponent's points, and then extend my case a little further.
My opponent's response to my point about "random" stories is entirely correct--nonsensicality is not inherently problematic. Nor is illogicality, by that same grain. Now, my opponent is attempting to avoid arguing that shipping is problematic while arguing that it is illogical.
In lieu of an entirely-not-vague resolution (which I'll definitely admit allows my opponent to simply prove that shipping is illogical and leave it at that, but that would smack too much of semantics and abuse. It's still valid, though.), I question why my opponent feels that illogicality is a necessarily bad quality to have. After all, the faq I cited earlier stated that "Random" fics are a subgenre of "Comedy" because--as my opponent has stated--they are incoherent or illogical. I must ask why my opponent chooses to argue that shipping is illogical, and what my opponent hopes to gain by proving this as a fact.
My opponent clarifies his case later on when he uses the word "tiresome." I believe that this puts us somewhat at an impasse--we've got Con (myself) advocating that shipping stories are just like any other, and we've got Pro arguing that shipping stories are repetitive, and thus don't make sense (to read? to write?).
The only way I feel that I contend this is to argue that writing, in and of itself, is a medium of human expression, and this is inherently good. That would imply that writing should be encouraged (and indeed it is, in that venerable institution we all hate so much--school) and therefore shipping in fanfictions, being a type of writing, should therefore be encouraged.
My opponent will not likely debate the validity of my first statement (that writing is good), himself being a writer, nor the second (that writing should be encouraged), but rather the third--that shipping as written should be encouraged.
However, if he wishes to debate the other points' validity, I have no issue with debating them.
Here is the main impasse--it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to quantitatively prove that certain types of writing should be advocated over another. That is, if I may use an analogy, the same issue facing educators in certain states in the United States, as they phase-in new curricula that features informational texts over novels.
However, there is one contention I can make--entertainment. As my opponent stated, the "purpose" of the "Random" subgenre was to provide entertainment in the form of illogicality. Can't shipping do the same?
Ach. I heartily apologize for making this resolution so horribly. . .vague, IncoherentOrange. However, I'm enjoying this, as well. I might suggest that this not be a debate to win, but merely a place to converse. Unfortunately, we appear to be on a debate website. What fun!
As IX knows, I've listed shipping as one of my dislikes. (My own user page, FiMFiction.net, biography segment.) It is just that; a dislike backed mostly by personal factors and my pragmatic form of reasoning. I had also listed there that I enjoy debates, though I had never planned on debating such a thing as this until he asked me to. Since he asked, I have agreed to do so, and here we are.
Now, IX makes the point of my indicating certain things without proving them 'problematic.' However, I have not argued that the illogicality of shipping stories makes them bad--artistic license is often excusable on an author's part if one really wants to tell a story--or is a problem in and of itself, I have simply argued that they are. This is what puts me off about them, along with the repetitivity of seeing the same pairing with the same story description that comes with the commonplace nature of this type of story.
Of course, if some is good, more is better, which can certainly apply here to those who enjoy such material. Personally, however, seeing this repetitivity is tiresome, and indicative of unoriginality, something I dislike. Ah, but my opponent has wisely pointed out that successful formulae are often replicated, because they work. This is completely true. As a writer, however, I believe that all authors should strive to keep their works from following these formulae as it stimulates the growth of literature as a whole, rather than feeding stagnation of it by writing another generic story, which, while it may help the author's want for expression, this expression often ends up very similar to another person's, creating repetitivity, which I personally find undesirable, though others--such as you, IX--are welcome to disagree.
Do not get me wrong, I do not mean that stories that closely follow other stories are bad; unique spins can be very interesting indeed. Such an example within this very fandom being The Conversion Bureau universe, in which the world portrayed in the TV show appears out of nowhere, as an island, on our Earth in a dystopian, cynical future. The ponies' lands exude a potent and rampantly-expanding magical aura that is lethal to humans--and only humans--because they're somehow more evil than the beings around them. So the ponies deduce that the only way of saving humanity is to cleanse them of their evil and turn them into ponies via the titular Conversion Bureaus.
Many stories, like the original, portray the little ponies of the show as morally supreme beings when compared to humans, while others portray them on around the same level as humanity, and deconstruct such things, making for a very different read, despite the premise being extremely similar to the original. However, with this example there are two vague 'sides,' if you will, those being ponies and humans. There is a demand for stories of both types, those portraying ponies as humanity's saviors, and those portraying humanity as able to prove the ponies' perceptions wrong or even, capable and willing to fight them off. This may not be true in the case of shipping stories, however.
After all, when one reads a shipping story, they expect the characters to fall in love and for this relationship to go through turbulence and conflict, for added excitement! This is the basic goal of a story such as this, the core concept, and the concept that draws the most attention, is simply the development of a romantic relationship between at least two characters. This is what the target audience expects of a story, and thus, they only extremely rarely, if at all, deviate in regards to the end result. The entire story is often based around this relationship, and while certain parts of the development of these relationships can take different amounts of prose, dialogue, and in-story time, be skipped altogether, interrupted by conflict, etc., the end result is almost always the same, and thus, the stories are predictable, which I find unappealing. That is my reasoning.
But one can very easily say, snidely, 'But isn't the hero winning a predictable outcome? Should we not have that happen either?' and to that, I say, there are many more things that one can do with a story in which a hero wins or a goal is attained. With a story with a goal or a hero, you can never know if the goal will be achieved or that the hero will win, and if they do, will it be a bittersweet ending, or a phyrric victory? Of course, one can do this with a romantic story just as easily, but it's far less common for stories such as that to be set in a setting in which the characters are in danger, or have something really important on the line, as the objective and premise is simply to put two characters together romantically. One or more parties in a relationship may meet their end at the climax or falling action of a tale, but in a pure romance story, this is often detrimental to any story's eventual intent: a happy ending. I'm not saying happy endings are bad, but where's the fun in reading the same story, with a few different twists and the same ending? In my humble opinion, not a whole lot. It's entertaining to many, as IX has, again, wisely stated, but it is not very much so, to me.
Again, not all stories end the same way and all that, but the thing is, most of them seem to. When this repetitivity is combined with unoriginality and illogicality, they present to me a genre that is not one I enjoy reading. So my own argument is entirely based upon the weakest proof one can have in a debate; a personal judgement, and little more.
To pick up the points I believe I have missed, I shall start on expression of one's creativity. Such is an excellent reason to start writing, and indeed, my very own first writing project was based upon an idea that I wanted to put my own spin on. I will say that authors should do this; once said first project is complete, one may be comfortable enough to write something that deviates from the formula.
I hope I'm not confusing; I have just finished saying that similar stories have little benefit to literature as a whole, and now I'm saying that it's a fine idea? You may say, 'Perhaps your name is warranted, IncoherentOrange!' but it's the learning that counts, the development of skills, that makes a successful writer, and success is often a gateway to happiness. There's no reason not to try a shipping story inspired by your favorite shipfic, but one should always try to deviate, to use one's imagination and not follow a cookie-cutter format, after all.
I could make an analogy that one usually finds a recipe for cake before deciding to make one up. In this way, writing fiction is like baking a cake. Once you've baked one, and put it out for people to see, you'll receive feedback and experience on how to, well, bake another cake. So I say that while I do not like, uh... cheesecake (which is a lie), people should still make cheesecake, but should try to avoid baking the same cheesecake as everyone else, as it gets tiresome after awhile, and this is even true if you do mix up your cheesecake recipe often; some people will just be sick of cheesecake, and think, 'another cheesecake? Ugh.'
So, I don't like all the cheesecakes because I don't like the consistent addition of an ingredient--shipping with character that logically wouldn't 'be shipped,' in this example--that other people like, such as pecans. What's one to do if all of the cheesecakes have pecans? Pick 'em off. You can't do that very well, however, if it's the featured ingredient. Stories too.
There ends my ramble, as I am running low on characters now. I await your response, IX!
First of all, as I begin my closing statement to this wonderful discussion--and I say this with complete honesty--it has been both an enlightening experience and a wonderfully fun experience debating discussing with you, IncoherentOrange. Congratulations are in order, both for your compelling discussion points and your--soon to be recognized across-the-board--engaging writing style.
Secondly, I'd like to stress one final time how this wasn't really intended as a debate about shipping's illogicality per se, as my opponent has pointed out, but merely as an exploratory discussion--albeit in a debate format--of shipping's relative merits and detractors.
And now, to get on with my final case:
Pro makes the very valid claim that shipping stories have one flaw apparent (or should I say, inherent?) in that their very premise is that of pairing two (or more) characters that would not have otherwise had a romantic relationship--to cite the common example, TwiDash (Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle). However despite the fact that poor authors may portray this relationship poorly--which would be outside the bounds of this discussion--shipping allows for deviations not in the end result (which is somewhat predictable in other styles of writing, for example "Tragedy" genre fictions) but in the actual application of the relationship.
Let me stress that once more, as it might otherwise get assimilated into that large paragraph: Shipping, while it may remove the end-result deviation that other genres have--or not--to satisfy the audience, allows for numerous portrayals of said relationship--from comedy to tragedy.
I realize that I cited audience appreciation for the first part of my sentence, while I completely disregarded it for the second, but let's take an example of an author who, through his unorthodox--or deviant, depending on how you characterize them--takes on several "ships" or character pairings have regularly granted him audience satisfaction. While this certainly isn't to say that this user, MallaJong (now known under the handle "MallaJong1" due to some extraneous issues), is representative in any way of FIMFiction.net's userbase, and this also isn't to say that examples should be the deciding factor in this debate, I feel that this user adequately shows that the concept of shipping--that of pairing two characters--can take on new, vibrant forms while still maintaining its tried-and-true structuring.
Now, this isn't to say that the stories themself hold any literary merit, but merely that they provide an interesting proof-of-concept that an audience like FIMFiction.net's holds in high regard unorthodox methods of writing within the shipping genre. For example, MallaJong's "Spike's. . ." series, in which he pairs Spike, Twilight Sparkle's draconian assistant, with an ever-increasing number of other characters in ways that have--for reasons that should be adequately described by citing an example title: "Spike's Dating Simulator"--been rarely, if at all done before, has received placement in the "Featured" box ("most popular stories" box) several times.
Of course, Pro could very well make the case that an audience's likes or dislikes are not measures of the inherent value of the genre, so I offer this contention:
Whether or not shipping is good in microcosm, it certainly allows another avenue for creativity in macrocosm. At the same time, it also detracts from creativity, as Pro has very rightly pointed out with his contentions, through seeming to--though this is more of a fault of the writers themselves--force a "cookie cutter" template upon writers of shipfics.
It appears that we are still at an impasse. While I shall never convince Pro (and indeed, I am liking the concept of shipping even less as this debate progresses) and may fail to convince the audience in the end, I feel that it is good to notice that shipping, for all its faults, has at least provided another potential avenue for creativity.
I thank IncoherentOrange in the utmost for agreeing to and conducting this debate/discussion with me, and I honestly could care less who wins. Not that "winning" means anything, of course.
Let me reiterate my thanks, and allow this system to purge our conversation from its "active" memory as soon as possible.
It is indeed a factor how the relationship is applied! I was going to mention this, but I ran out of characters. Indeed, it can be done well, and perhaps believably, by an author skilled enough to pull it off. As many have said, there are no bad concepts, just bad execution. So a shipfic can take many, many forms, and some of them have yet to be made common, and more yet have not even been written. Mallajong's success appears to benefit from his/her takes on the genre, and he's clearly creative in his ways and skilled in his writing. This proves the success of shipfics and this success aids their proliferation. They're most certainly benign and perhaps a good way to share thoughts and writing with peers that share interests, as is any other form of writing put up on display for a larger body, be it the public or a substantial group of people, as in a fandom.
Creative expression is important for people. It's a thing that's driven many things great and small into being. Writing, even something like fanfiction, is one of many outlets through which humans can express their creativity in their own way. As with drawing, there are countless ways to write, defined only by broad categories that often overlap. There is no one answer to the question, 'Is shipping bad?' as it is so subjective and the subject it entails so wide that there is no real answer to that, and so it falls to opinion. The truth of the matter may be that no genre is better or worse than another, but another truth is that it is so very subjective, and viewpoints so very individualized.
Perhaps you shall not convince me, nor shall I really convince you, but this has been an interesting discussion, one I must thank you for! Dear audience of this most unusual debate, I hope you have had some fun as well. Whoever made the better arguments should win, but winning isn't nearly as important as having fun, and since we're already having fun, we've both won in that respect, here. Thanks for the debate, IX. How I do love a good one.
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