With the figure of the “shipper” being mainstream and the involvement of writers and showrunners with the fans that invest in their shows, we have reached a situation where fans have no filter when it comes to demanding and asking from writers. The fourth wall has been broken and though the sometimes entitled and violent behavior from fans is unacceptable, it is unfortunate that the writers decide to fight back with regrettable affirmations such as the standard excuse for shippers: “this show is not about relationships.”
I have expressed before that I am a shipper, and I am not ashamed of it. I like romance, I like the idea of two people finding friendship and comfort on each other. I have, occassionally, enjoyed toxic relationships based on chemistry alone. I like the angst, I like the waiting, I like the finding other people to talk through the pain of your “OTP” not getting together. I like reading fanfiction. It’s one of my favorite parts of being invested on television.
Do I watch television only because of the romantic relationships? No. But do I find them a plus in shows I enjoy? Yes.
This blog post, however, is more than about romantic relationships. It’s about the insistence that human interaction is not a vital part of every single show we watch on television, when truly, it is entirely the reason why these shows exist.
Say you are a television writer. If you want to write a good, consistent show, whether it is a comedy or drama, you need a good premise and you need to build a believable world for the audience to accept within the realms of its genre. But a good premise doesn’t work without good characters. So you start with your protagonists: you want to create them as fully-fledged humans, with strengths and flaws. You give them a name, give them beliefs, morals, ethics (whether they are good or bad that does not count here) and then, you create the people surrounding them. You give those characters all those things you gave your protagonists as well, you throw them into the world you created…
…and then, they interact.
There is no more, there is no less. You cannot simply throw characters in a world and have them not establish relationships between them. Regardless of them being the focus or not, relationships are at the center of every single show on television, it doesn’t matter whether your intention is to have a show about survival of the human race (see: The 100) or a show about a group of misfits who find family in a community college (hey there, Community!). The relationships these characters establish are what motivates them, what makes them humans the audience can get invested in and all these relationships work at different levels: friends, enemies, frienemies, allies, lovers, family, acquaintances, etc.
Whether relationships are perceived romantically or not can be established through writing, by the writers themselves or by the audience, by taking context clues that indicate a romantic relationship between two characters could be possible or simply because two people look pretty together. Sometimes it is that simple.
Now, whether those romantic relationships will ever come to fruition or not, that is up to the writers, but it doesn’t give the audience less of a right to enjoy them. And while the audience is not entitled to demand from the writers to give them their favorite pairing and I disapprove of that quite strongly myself (even though I have been punched in the face by the constant teasing of many of my favorite pairings that never actually happen, hello there, Jeff and Annie!) to say “this show is not about relationships” is quite honestly, mind-blowing nonsense.
Dear TV writers, the world is about relationships. That is simply how the human being works, through its interactions with the world and with others, if you think your show is not about how the humans that exist in it interact with others, then write for one-dimensional cartoon animals that forget they know each other at the beginning of every episode.
Otherwise, I am sorry to say, your show is about relationships.
I am sorry you think it’s not.