I can’t remember the first time I read the term OTP on Fanfiction.net, my junior high and high school fan website of choice, but I do remember the first couple I thought of as a ship — Beast Boy and Raven from Teen Titans, which I’ve mentioned before was my first fandom — and the first couple I thought of as my one true pairing — Katara and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Anyone who’s into fan fiction is at least aware of shipping, but for the most die-hard fans, the OTP — the one true pairing — is where it’s at, especially for those (like us unfortunate Zutaras) who never see their OTP reach canon. And for many fans — especially fangirls — OTP can transform from something that’s fun to an entire lifestyle.
The OTP lifestyle is the premise of Rainbow Rowell’s young adult novel Fangirl, which follows eighteen-year-old Cath’s freshman year of college. Cath and her twin sister Wren are deeply involved in the Simon Snow fandom, and Cath is the author of a famous fan fiction called Carry On, Simon. But when she and Wren start college, Wren starts to pull away from the fandom, which makes Cath even more withdrawn from those around her.
For Cath, her OTP is the most important thing in her life — but like most of us fangirls, it’s not just that she cares about her OTP. Cath needs a safe place to escape.
Shipping is one of the ways that we escape whatever ails our daily lives into a place that’s better and more beautiful: true love. In junior high, I wanted to escape the deep-rooted feeling that I just didn’t belong anywhere. In high school, it was the pain of rejection, of heartbreak, of dissolving friendships that I was trying to hide from.
Fandom itself is often a safe place to hide from the things in life that scare us. But for many fellow geeks, canon relationships don’t always reflect the reality of what we experience in our own lives.
This February, we’ll spend a full month on looking at different aspects of shipping across fandoms. We’ll explore romances not quite like others out there; we’ll look at the impact of canon ships on representation overall. And of course, we’ll look at all sorts of couples this month.
Tell us about your first OTP and why you shipped them so hard in the comments section below. (Or, conversely, tell us about your current OTP, because why not?)
Feliza Casano is a fan of anime, manga, and every sort of book as well as editor in chief at Girls in Capes. She writes for all sections of the site, and she’s the one behind GiC’s Facebook and Twitter. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.