Shipping Real People is OK… As Long As There’s Boundaries


There are many ways to divide the different types of fandoms. One of them is by separating obsessing over something “real” or over something “fictional”. Some fandoms are based on TV shows, movies or books. Others are based on sport teams, rock bands or actors. The difference between one and the other is that the first one devotes itself to fictional stories and fictional characters and the second one is about real people and real events.

On The Daily Fandom, we haven’t talked much about this second type of fandoms because we are more focused on fictional stories. However, we are no strangers to belonging to those fandoms. I, for one, have been obsessed with singers, actors and even a basketball team over my life as a fangirl and I know that, sometimes, some common fandom practices can get somewhat controversial.

Being a fan of something that is real has its pros and cons. The pros would be the obvious fact that they are real and therefore you can get to meet your idols. You know that they’re out there and that they are not just a product of someone’s imagination. Cons would be that… they are real and therefore, there are boundaries. In this case, the problem comes when we consider that shipping is one of the main activities in fandom. Not one that we decide to engage on, but one that just happens, whether we want it or not. Most of the times it’s unavoidable. It’s almost like falling in love (many people say that shipping is falling in love with a relationship). The mechanics of shipping two people together don’t understand when it’s fictional and when it’s real life. But we do and we are responsible for our own actions and behaviour.


© Buzzfeed

Shipping real people is OK as long as “certain thoughts” (you know what I mean) stay in your head. And, sometimes, if the person says they don’t want to be shipped at all, EVERYTHING should just stay in your head. However, we know that in fandom, sometimes shipping takes the form of fanfiction and fanart. So what about showing NSFW fanart to your idol? Or asking embarrassing questions in cons? That’s when we have a problem in our hands.

Some celebrities would look at fanart and just laugh and praise the fan’s drawing skills (John Barrowman or even Misha Collins). But others might actually not be OK with it because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s something that they would rather not see or even think about. Let’s be honest, how would you feel if drawings of you having sex with a co-worker spread all over the Internet? Awkward, at least.

Sure, lack of privacy is something that most celebrities have to deal with. Famous people like actors have, in one way or another, accepted the fact that they are going to be in the public eye and therefore often be object of praise by fans. This is actually related to the right to privacy in Law. Speaking about my closest case, Spain, it is not the same to make public the images of the children of someone who has never shared their private life than, say, Brangelina’s kids. But the law says nothing about fanfiction (yet). So… are there laws or rules when it comes to writing real life people fanfiction? No. However, we should try to come up with ways of regulating the sharing of these works of art when they involve people who do not wish to be a part of it.

For example, it can depend on the nature of the work. If it is a fanfic on a basketball team and you are writing about their friendship and their experiences during a tournament, there should be no problems with that. But if you have them f*cking in the showers then… you better not mention it to the athletes because that’s a whole other thing. There’s also a difference between drawing fanart at home and just keeping it to yourself, than spreading it all over social media where there is a chance that your idol will come across it. It is a simple matter of respect and we owe it to them.

With shipping real life people also comes the popular term “tinhatting”:

“A fannish tinhat is a person who believes that their favorite celebrities are really a couple, forced by The Powers That Be to keep their relationship a secret. (Fanlore)

Tinhatting is often a topic of debate (and wank) in many fandoms. Fans who tinhat and create conspiracy theories on two actors actually having a secret relationship clash with those who prefer to see things as they appear to be: happily married to other people. Occam’s razor, right? Probably a lot of you will have a certain fandom in mind while reading this. It is OK to ship them, but not so much to deny reality and force your beliefs onto other people. And let’s not even talk about hating and harassing their actual wives (!). Again, it’s a matter of respect and common sense.


Listen to Gabriel

Shipping real people is indeed a very delicate subject because there are no official laws when it comes to RLF, or shipping as a whole. After all, it is supposed to be harmless. Shipping should spread love and respect, not hate.

What are your opinions on the matter? Let us know in the comments below!


About Author

24-year-old TV journalist. I especialize in fangirling over TV shows and anime. Currently fighting for fan studies to be recognized as a valid academic field.

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