The Psychology Behind Shipping

"Shipping", a term used to describe fans’ desire to see two or more people engage in a relationship romantically or platonically, is a phenomenon in all media. There are many types of "ships", such as canon, cargo, or crack, that fans desire and actively engage with in the community. This engagement includes fan fiction and fan art. The "shipping" phenomenon can lead to conflicts within a fandom. This is the case with "ship wars", where fans actively argue, harass, and belittle other fans in a fandom over preferences in "ships".
The question is why do people engage so passionately with the notion of "ships?" What is the psychological basis for "shipping?" Why do people fight over which fictional relationship is "OTP" (one true pairing) and which is not? Is "shipping" more prevalent in a certain demographic and why?

  • "Why do people fight over which fictional relationship is "OTP" (one true pairing) and which is not?" An audience's desire for an OTP perhaps stems from the notion of a "soulmate." It is obviously more romantic to think that there is one person on Earth (and in some stories, in all the universe) that is uniquely suited to be with the protagonist. The existence of another person similarly suited to be with the protagonist threatens the notions of "true love" and "destiny," so said person must be removed. – Edwardss4 8 years ago
  • I think most of time shipping is caused by wish fulfillment on the part of the fan. For example, on the show Arrow, the Olicity pairing stemed from a mostly female fanbase projecting their desire for the unattainable, sexy Oliver by using the nerdy, awkward Felicity. – frannybello 8 years ago

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