Fandom. What starts it? What defines it? What causes it to thrive, to grow, to take on a life of its own? And why, oh why, did it spawn the morass of insanity known to us as ‘shippers?
“‘Shipper” is the generic term for a group of people that support a certain pairing of characters, you’ve got your Jen/Pacey ‘shippers, Liz/Max, Scully/Mulder, Buffy/Angel, Krycek/Skinner….yes, you read that correctly, Krycek and Skinner. Sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g. But that is slash, and that comes later. First we must deal with what we in the fandomverse call “conventional relationships.” Conventional Relationships are those condoned and propagated by the series, whether or not they make any sense, as in the case of Joanie loving Chachi. More recent examples would be Buffy and her champion of necrophilia, Angel, Mulder and his favorite nay-sayer Scully, and Max and his dreamgirl Liz. Each of these relationships have spawned a voracious following of women, sprinkled with a few obligatory men here and there, who champion the cause of seeing their favorite couple get some. And this, folks, is where it gets really scary.
It’s not all scary. Not ALL of it. ‘Shippers come in varying degrees of ‘shipperness. You have those on the lower end of the scary fandom spectrum. They may find themselves drawn to a certain pairing and enjoy it, but don’t really do anything about it. They don’t worry about whether or not Max and Liz will kiss for the third time ever. They don’t stay up at night wondering if Scully is pregnant with Mulder’s love child, and, if so, how it could be bloody possible? They do not dub Chris Carter “the devil” and they do not write to production offices, asking the producers to please explain what form of crack they are on. They enjoy the show. Joanie loves Chachi. Aw, how nice. End of story. And they move along.
Then there are those in the middle. They are known, at times, to sit up once in awhile late at night and wonder about the logistics of Mulder and Scully having a child, or why Joanie would fall for anyone as dorky as Chachi. And about the crack certain people, who we shall not name but will simply refer to as “el diablo,” were on when they decided 15 minutes before a scene was filmed to suddenly make a certain redhead pregnant. But I digress, that is neither here nor there. What is here and there, is that these people are slightly, and I say this oh-so-sparingly (for I, yes I, fall into this group of people. And no, I’m not going to tell you for who. Stop it. Don’t ask. Forget it, I’ve already confessed my love for *NSYNC, I’m not going lower), SLIGHTLY affected by what happens to their favorite couple. They may get misty-eyed. At times. Not ALL the time. Just sometimes. No, never. I take that back. Never.
Posting boards are scrolled, bearing such well-thought out topics as “Liz’s importance to the alien mythology, part 300” and “Satan, may I have my soul back?” (an XF thread, for those wondering.), but this ‘shipper rarely posts. They are content to sit back and watch the reactions of others. And no matter how much time we, I mean they, spend scrolling and no matter how it affects them, or their jobs, we take comfort in the fact that we are not hardcore ‘shippers, in any way, shape or form. For hardcore ‘shippers belong in a galaxy all to themselves.
Hardcore ‘shippers, who may or may not be compared to religious zealots at times, are drawn to a couple for what may or may not pass for a logical reason, and are drawn to them strongly. I do not use this word lightly. They live, breathe and dream their favorite couple. In some cases, oaths are sworn to uphold their specific ‘shipper way of life. Friendships are made and broken over the couple. It is not just nice that Joannie loves Chachi, it is MEANT TO BE. It is destiny. They are soul mates. Any suggestion insinuating otherwise or any attempt to divide the couple borders on heresy, and is treated as such. And nothing, I mean NOTHING, not God nor TV executives nor actors with clout over the storylines, have the right to stand in the way. Because, if they do, they will be sorry.
But let’s get back to our Joanie and our Chachi. Say you love their simple story of boy meets girl. You are, in fact, fairly rabid about them. You have been known, at times, to write rather threatening notes to the producers, demanding they get Joanie and Chachi together pronto, or else. Now, pretend that Joanie is a brain, and that she gets off on science, and pretend that Chachi is an alien/human hybrid who has a penchant for the dramatic monotone. Let’s also pretend that instead of meeting because Chachi was the Fonz’s cousin, let’s pretend they met when he healed Joanie from a bullet wound, making your crazy heart melt. And, for fun, let’s call them Max and Liz and put them in a show called Roswell. And voila! There you have it! You’re a dreamgirl!
See, see how easy it is to slip into the abyss? Yes, it is easy. But please, slip with care. For it is scary in that there abyss. At times, it borders on terrifying. Sometimes amusing. But it is always, ALWAYS illogical. And that is why I love them so. Who, you ask? The dreamgirls–the scourge of Fan Forum, Jason Katims and quite possibly the seven seas. The lovers of all things Max and Liz. Both the embodiment of all my fears and my saviors. My yin and my yang. My insanity and my…
Well, not sanity, per se. But they keep me grounded in their inability to ground themselves. And that is very much appreciated. And while I hold this deep-seated admiration for the dreamgirls for all they have done for me, others are not so kind. Some regard them with fear, others annoyance. Why? Well, perhaps it is the way they attack moderators at Fan Forum for being biased towards other ‘shipper groups when they are chastised for erratic behavior. Contrary to popular dreamgirl belief, posting the fax number to the Roswell production offices so you and thousands of other dreamgirls can flood them with Max and Liz 4 eva faxes is not considered cricket. On this planet, or the next. Ask Douglas Adams, I think he’d agree.
Or maybe it was their campaign of sending in strawberry applesauce (StrawBEHRy APPLEBYsauce) packets to the producers, to show their support and not-so-subtly remind the producers that the two belong together, two great tastes that taste great together. Or something like that, I don’t know, I’m not on the motto-writing bandwagon. It certainly can’t be the pages upon pages of heartfelt posts, detailing how Max and Liz have taught them never to settle, that there is a perfect someone out there for them, and that they won’t rest until they have found the one that can look into their eyes the way Max looks at Liz. And think they’re pretty. Perhaps it’s the endless threads of posts where they detail, in great length, the nights they stay up crying over the heartache our two non-existent lovers go through. Have I mentioned this is over non-existent lovers? Who aren’t even actually lovers? And who don’t exist? I mentioned that? Okay then. Just wanted to be clear. Let’s have a look at something even more scary than all this…
WE BELIEVE that the Max and Liz relationship is at the center of Roswell‘s romantic mythic core. Thus, it is impossible to replace without sabotaging the very essence of Roswell.
WE BELIEVE that Katim’s writing staff has carefully nurtured our faith in Max and Liz’s relationship in over 16 episodes of plot development. They do not intend to throw this away now.
WE BELIEVE that Katim’s writers have cast Max and Liz into the role of soul mates and have convinced us of this association. Thus, it is not accidental (or simply wishful thinking) that we hold their relationship in such high regard.
WE BELIEVE that Grandma Claudia’s warning (that if it’s not complicated it’s probably not a soul mate) is intended to warn us that Max and Liz will face difficulties as they seek to explore and develop their love.
WE BELIEVE that the character Tess is one such obstacle.
WE BELIEVE that Tess will function to help us explore (not destroy) Max and Liz’s relationship.
WE BELIEVE that the Tess incident, in the long run, will bring Max and Liz closer NOT permanently drive a wedge between them.
WE BELIEVE that love untested is not as strong and sure as love challenged and affirmed. Therefore, we accept the necessity of Max and Liz to face and conquer this newest obstacle.
WE BELIEVE that Max and Liz are soul mates and represent the highest of romantic ideals – and that the writers, intending us to believe this, will not destroy their own creation.
WE BELIEVE that dreamgirls/guys can rest secure in their faith that Max and Liz will do more than survive – they will grow in the love and admiration for each other we’ve all come to cherish and respect.
Oops, cult? Did I say cult? Well, let’s just see what Webster’s has to say about that:
Main Entry: cult
1 : formal religious veneration : Worship
2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
Main Entry: Dreamgirl cult
Any of various Max/Liz groups, characterized by the belief that happiness comes through Max and Liz (in the form of love or smoochies or longing glances) and can be obtained through ritual harassment of the WB offices.
Nooooo…yeah, I said cult.
Now, before y’all get up in arms over the word ‘cult’, rest assured, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, the word has been tainted in recent times by overuse and generalization, but not all cults are evil or bastions of brainwashing and paranoia. Yes, the dreamgirls believe that anyone with a separate viewpoint is WRONG and out to get them, but that doesn’t make them any different than any other fanatical group of fan gurls gone bad. They can just be a little more….extreme than most.
Extreme? What constitutes “extreme” in my warped universe? Well, contacting a firm that hires the extras for Roswell, telling them that you are a talent agency and bringing your personal business secretary in on the ruse in case you are checked up on….all in the hopes of getting a part of a future script because you are so desperate for any news about Max and Liz, not once, but TWICE….that pretty much constitutes “extreme” in my book. I could be wrong, and I’d be happy to consult Webster for you, but I’m thinking he’d pretty much agree with me.
Not extreme enough, you say? You think, hmmmm…I could possibly do that in a fit of whimsy, eh? Well, would you post, on a public, well-trafficked message board, Jason Katims’ home phone number and address out of spite? To be fair, not all dreamgirls were involved in this, and quite a few were truly shocked by the boundary crossed by one of their own, but I think it is worth mentioning, it illustrates just how far this phenomenon called the dreamgirls has gone. The Dreamgirls Definitive Dictionary I can handle. It’s amusing, and it has saved me countless times at work from insane boredom. I can’t say I see where the couple in question inspires such fanaticism (shut up, Amy), they have got to be one of the most boring couples on tv (shut up, Amy), but you have got to admire the handiwork. The dedication. The pure psychosis of it all. But when it comes to posting someone’s personal information, without his or her knowledge, in the eye of the storm, that’s when it’s intervention time. I encourage you, all who know a dreamgirl, to round ’em up. Tell them you care. And smack some sense into them. There’s a world out there, gurlies, that does not revolve around the monotone and the stare, go find it.