Pony Thought of the Day: Subtext, Shipping, and Space

One of my favorite things about Friendship Is Magic is the near-total lack of romantic relationships. There are very few canonical pairs, and except for Shining Armor and Cadance, they’re all far in the background–pretty much just the Cakes and the Mane Six’s parents.

There are two things I like about this. One is purely personal: I’m sick of romantic subplots getting shoved into everything, and glad to see something that doesn’t have them for once. The other is more for others’ sake: it creates a space into which viewers so inclined can insert interpretations of the characters’ sexuality and romantic behavior that might not be supported by the text.

It makes shipping easier, in other words.

Now, I personally am not a big fan of shipping; as I said, I’m sick of romantic subplots, so I’m not going to make up my own. That said, shipping does serve a useful function in that it allows people whose sexual interests might be underrepresented or even taboo to find something for themselves in mass media. For example, there is no way in hell Lyra/Bon-Bon could be depicted as a canonical pairing in a children’s show in 2013; Western culture has come a long way in combating its rampant homophobia in the past few years, but nonetheless the mere depiction of a same-sex couple is still considered more risque than a heterosexual couple.

By not having much in the way of onscreen romance, the show allows everything from my own “all ponies are entirely asexual, but a small percentage are romantic asexuals” to “everypony is having off-camera lesbian orgies multiple times a day.” So I can happily watch knowing that I’ll never be contradicted by the show, but so can someone who ships Big Mac/Cranky Doodle or Fluttershy/Crysalis or Angel/Spike. (Do people ship that last one? If so, is it called BuffyShipping or VampireShipping or something like that? Because that’d amuse me greatly. Still wouldn’t touch those fics with a ten-foot pole, though.)

0 thoughts on “Pony Thought of the Day: Subtext, Shipping, and Space

  1. I'm sure that there's Angel/Spike shipping somewhere, but the nicknames kinda all spring from names that sound good together. AppleDash, TwiLestia, FlutterPie, etc. Angel and Spike don't have names that work like that, but I'm sure there's a Buffy parody story that ships them somewhere.

    Ever seen fanfics labelled 'friend-shipping'? It's just a silly name for stories of characters becoming friends, but while the label isn't used much there certainly are thousands of fics that contain characters becoming friends. It's mostly impossible to tell, but I would argue that friend-shipping is at least as prevalent in this fandom as romantic shipping.\\

    There is maybe one problem facing the show's neutrality towards romantic relationships. I can't imagine the characters of Luna and Rarity spending any significant amount of time together without them at least becoming close friends. Well, maybe it's just me, but ten minutes on screen together and I think even some of the kids would start seeing stuff that's not on screen.

  2. It seems clear that romantic relationships are fairly common in Ponyville/Equestria. Why else would there be a well-established holiday – Hearts and Hooves Day – were they not?

    I share your opinion about canonically shipping any of the Mane 6. Avoiding such entanglements gives the characters far more room to define and be who they are rather than being defined at least partially in terms of a relationship. They are all characters I truly like and want to know more about.

    It seems to me that while ponies find it nice to have a special somepony they do not sit and fret if they do not have a partner as long a they have networks of close friends.

    Relationships are far better relegated to fan works and the headcanons of individual fans. Mine definitely includes Lyra/Bon Bon as a couple though I am less sold on Vinyl/Octavia. There is too much of Felix and Oscar polar opposition in that pairing to make it work in my head. Best marefriends, that I could see, but not a relationship.

  3. Luna and Rarity? Sorry, don't see it.

    I've never seen “friend-shipping” as a term, but yeah, I've seen lots of stories with characters becoming friends. I like that it's common; one of the things that sometimes annoys me about fandoms with lots of shipping is that they tend to imply that the only possible emotional bond two people can ever have is romantic or sexual; all other emotions, from friendship to familial love to outright hatred, get transformed into Teh Sexy Tiemz.

    But that's just me.

  4. Yeah, I know, Hearts and Hooves Day makes my preferred interpretation almost entirely untenable. That's why you'll only ever see the claim in Pony Thoughts of the Day, not actual articles; I know perfectly well I can't defend it.

    Lyra/Bon-Bon is canon in the Lunaverse, so I write it there. Otherwise, I continue with my standard policy of assuming all characters are asexual and all relationships are friendships until I get textual evidence to the contrary. 😉

  5. Speaking of the Lunaverse, as a contributor (Whiteeyes on FiMFiction) to the shared universe, I was wondering if you were planing on covering it next fan works month, or at least the origin Boast Busted.

  6. I'm trying to make up my mind about how to deal with it.

    On the one hand, I really like it and would love to do it. On the other, I'm a contributor myself, which makes writing about it a little odd. If I do do it, it would probably just be “Boast Busted.”

  7. Longest Day, Longest Night would also probably be a good one to cover, and there should probably be a paragraph or so dedicated to the shared universe I spawned. Something like that is very rare to see outside a professional environment with a shared setting, and even then the standard policy is “hands off each others characters”. Exceptions do exist but are extremely rare. Finding a shared universe in a nonprofessional setting is rarer, in a fandom rarer still. One where they are in continuity with each other? Never heard of that before. Definitely something worth analyzing.

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