04/26/2004

Stupid Cute OTP, or, Why I hate to love Sam and Jack.

I've made no secret of the fact that until Stargate, I never really shipped for any pairing of characters. In fact, I was pretty scornful of the concept altogether. It's usually handled poorly (either in the resolution or lack thereof), it's so often a huge cliché, it doesn't always add anything to the plot or the story unless it's being used as a plot device, and eight times out of ten, it ends up turning into a soap opera. Not to mention those shows where the female character ends up a two-dimensional caricature of herself to further the romance.

And yet, here I am, filled with squee for a pairing that would normally make me leap to change the channel. It's horribly cliché, what with the smart girl/smartass guy dynamic, the superior/subordinate relationship, and the endless, angsty UST tension. It's been used as a plot device, it's not necessary to the interaction of the characters... But damn it all if I don't find myself adoring Sam and Jack, and gleefully looking for every hint of subtext between them. I don't know if it's the chemistry I see between the actors bleeding through the characters, the fact that I really like both characters individually, or the fact that the ship on Stargate is better written than on almost any other TV show I've seen, or what. But despite my innate curmudgeonly-ness toward television romances, I want these two to have the happy ending.

So yes, I ship for Jack and Sam. But lately I've come to the conclusion that shipping for them doesn't make me a shipper.

I think part of the problem is that I have a different definition of ship than most people seem to. To me, stating a liking of a pairing of characters doesn't automatically imply that I ship for them. To me, shipping is an "active" endeavor. I can like a pairing of characters without actively having any desire to see them together, on screen or with an implication that it could happen off screen. So while I think Sam and Barrett are squee-worthy, that doesn't mean I want to see them in a relationship. I can like Sam with Pete for the purposes of the story and not think he is "the guy" for Sam, nor think that they're perfect for each other and want them to end up together.

On a related note, just because I ship a pairing doesn't automatically mean that I think the pairing has to be together now or end up together. I have no problems thinking of and proposing all the ways and reasons that they may not work out as a romantic pairing, while still hoping that they do. Because, for me, it's not so much about the ship as it is about the individual characters and all their relationships.

Which leads me to the big reason I hate ship. From my experience in ship fandom, ship far too often ends up only about the relationship, and either forgets or ignores the individual characters involved in it. I've made this argument in regard to Sam and the events of "Chimera," but the same could be said for an episode like "100 Days," as a number of shippers hate the episode primarily because Jack is with someone who isn't Sam, and vilify Laira because she dared to make a move on Jack. And the issues of not liking Sam and Pete based on Pete's behavior aside (because I do consider this a separate issue), I saw much the same reaction to "Chimera."

And to be bluntly honest, I find the demonizing of secondary characters like Laira and Pete (including the name calling and mockery based on physical characteristics), as well as the inability to separate Sam and Jack from the ship absolutely baffling. Especially in the case of Sam and Jack, where there is no confirmed committed relationship between them (and no, while I do think they love each other, I do not agree that the relationship they have now is in any way equivalent to a committed romantic relationship. But that's a whole 'nother rant).

Certainly I want to at least see some hint that Jack and Sam get a shot at a happy ending, but it won't ruin my enjoyment of the show as a whole if I don't get that. In a show like Stargate, where it's only one small piece of a complicated set of character relationships, which are in turn only one aspect of the show (though granted, the best one) making it any more blatant would detract from the whole web of character dynamics on the show (which are all handled rather subtly for the most part). A hint of romance is fine, but really, if you watch a show like Stargate just for the ship, then I think you're bound to be disappointed.

In conclusion, I'm... not sure I actually have a point. Maybe it's because I get irritated with the insinuation that there is only one way to ship, or because I just ship for this one pairing, or because my definition of ship is so broad that it really isn't much of a definition at all, or that I'd rather see the ship as just one small part of a whole suite of character interactions, or because, for me, the ship isn't what I want out of the show. But while I ship Sam and Jack, I'm quite content with not being a shipper.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go write about Sam getting into Jack's pants.

back