'Shipping' is not something new in 2019 since it has been around for years. However, before I make my point, I will try to give a specific definition of the term shipping. Shipping refers to the act of enjoying a relationship shared by two (or more) people. Shipping could be for platonic friends when we actually find someone’s friendship cute, or it could be used for couples when we think two people’s romantic relationship is adorable. In K-pop, it is common for fans to ship idols together, either with idols from other groups or with idols from within their own groups. There are many famous ships, some of the most popular including Vkook (V and Jungkook from BTS), Chanbaek (Chanyeol and Baekhyun from EXO), Moonsun (Moonbyul and Solar from MAMAMOO). While some fans ship them as just friends, others see the relationship shared by some idols as something that is more than platonic. In this article, I want to start a discussion on why people ship idols, whether it should be okay and why shipping can actually end up becoming toxic in certain fandoms.
To start off, I would like to look into the reasons behind why people ship K-pop idols together. As mentioned, people ‘ship’ idols together simply because they find the relationship that idols have with one another cute. And while some people may read their relationship as friends, other fans might feel that there is more than what meets the eye. The reason why people find a strong need or want to ‘ship’ people, in general, could stem from all of our innate want for love and want to be loved. The reason why we like to ‘ship’ people together is that we see the relationship shared by two idols as something desirable and something that we also crave and want to emulate in our own lives. So in my personal opinion, I do not think that there is anything wrong to actually ‘ship’ people together, be it in a platonic or romantic way as there is nothing wrong with finding a relationship shared by two people cute.
With this being said, although I don’t see there being anything wrong with shipping two idols together, I do feel that there are limits to what should be regarded as acceptable or not. I believe that fans should be able to ship idols with whoever they like, as long as they do not impose and force their beliefs onto the idols themselves. An example of this would be when a shipper of Xiumin and former member Luhan of EXO actually confronted Xiumin at the airport and questioned him on whether Luhan was good in bed since she thought they were together. In this situation, Luhan was reportedly very upset with the fan’s question, which only he understood since it was quickly asked in Chinese. As an EXO fan, I think that it is just plain rude to ask a member that. While I find it okay to ship whichever members you like together, crudely asking members about it or confronting them about it is definitely not okay, especially when the members are directly affected by the beliefs that you impose on them.
Moving on to my next point, another harmful and toxic culture that is created because of shipping would be when fans actually fight because of the difference in ships. There are often fights on whether a ship is ‘real’ or not. Some fans ship members within a group, while others ship idols across groups and due to disagreements in which ‘ship’ is more ‘real’, there are often arguments that break out. In this, both groups of fans are to blame, because it takes two hands to clap. While there is nothing wrong shipping idols together, it is wrong to attack people just because they don’t believe in the same ship as you, especially when the attacks become very personal. I personally think that everyone should have the right to ship whoever they want, as long as they are respectful about it.
To add on, there is one more aspect of shipping culture that I do not understand and feel the need to comment on. While there are often disagreements between straight ships and LGBT ships, arguments often break out when people try to make points about who is being a bad fan for shipping whichever particular ship. I have often seen shippers of straight ships argue about how it isn’t right to assume the sexuality of their idols, and that is the reason why LGBT ships should not be shipped. However, I would just like to point out that when the argument of it not being right to assuming our idol’s sexuality is thrown out, neither side of the fandom is right. This is because when fans ship their idols with other straight idols, they are also technically assuming their idols’ sexuality, assuming that they are straight. This in turns contradicts their own argument. By saying it is wrong to assume that an Idol might be a part of the LGBT community, it shows these people see that there is being a problem being LGBT. I don’t think it is right that the people who are shipping their idols with other idols think that it is okay as long as the other idols are the opposite gender while they attack people who ship their idols with other idols of the same sex because it frankly just shows how homophobic these people are.
Lastly, there are also fans who don’t ship their idols with anyone and the reason why they don’t could be because they are fans of the idol’s music rather than them as people, or they don’t care that much of their personal lives/ feel like their personal lives should not be speculated on. While some of these fans are very chill about their idols’ dating lives and what goes on in the fandom, we have some on the extreme opposite end. I have seen some fans who trash other fans who ship their idols with other people, going as far as to write lengthy, personal rude hate comments and threats to fans that ship their idols with other people. While I can understand the want of some fans to have their idol’s personal life respected, I feel that there is a better way to handle such situations, rather than to scold and insult other fans for shipping their idols with other people. Idols, at the end of the day, are celebrities who we as fans, feel a form of parasocial interaction and a fake connection to. It is because of this connection that we feel towards them that we can’t help but speculate about what they do when the cameras are not on them. I feel that as long as fans do not take their shipping speculations further than just appreciation posts of their favorite ship on social media or thoughts that they share with their friends, it is alright for them to ship whoever they want. These wars that are started by fans on either side of the shipping fandom actually promote a very toxic culture where people trash and hate on one another just because of their personal beliefs on who their favorite idols should end up with. I think as long as the Idols themselves are not personally affected by these ‘ships’, there should not be a need to start any fan wars because of this.
To put it short, as a fan, should it be acceptable to ship idols? In my own opinion, yes, love should always be celebrated, whether it is love between friends in a friendship or between a couple in a relationship. However, we should all realize that the way we interpret a relationship might differ from the way another person interprets a relationship and we should learn how to respect that. I think it is okay to run a blog supporting your favorite ship, look at memes about it, read fanfiction about it. However, we just have to keep in mind that this, at the end of the day, is a part of our idol’s private and personal lives and while we can speculate and fantasize, it should never come to a point when we place our beliefs on them and force it upon them or on other people. As long as fans all learn to respect their idols’ personal space and respect one another’s opinions, shipping will not be a negative or toxic thing. In conclusion, shipping is actually a celebration of love, so perhaps we should carry that celebration into the way we treat one another in the fandom and respect one another regardless of what we ship and don’t ship.