Sophie (alias_sqbr) wrote,

The strange appeal of hateshipping

I’ve had a soft spot for enemyships and hateships for as long as I can remember. Since a lot of people who don’t enjoy such ships seem to find the idea bizarre I thought it would be interesting to poke at why I like them. I’d be curious to hear if other people like them for similar or different reasons.

This is way more stream of consciousness than you might think from all the headings, and is very much why I like these ships. I've given lots of examples so that hopefully you can find something to check out whatever your preferences for fandoms and fanworks.

Note: This post contains references to violence and abusive relationships, and many of the fanworks linked are quite violent indeed, including sexual violence and gore.

What is a ship?

First off: when I say that I "ship" a pairing, this doesn’t necessarily mean that I think they are actually each other’s ideal partner, or that I think such relationships are a good idea in real life, or that I want to see them living happily ever after if I even think that’s possible. It just means that I enjoy seeing or imagining them together. It does usually mean a pairing, unless you have something like A (hate) B (love) C (love) A. But we’ll get to Homestuck later :)

I’ve blurred together sexual and romantic attraction since I prefer a ship to have both. Also, these aren’t the only types of relationship I ship, I just have a soft spot for them.

As for what I mean by "hateship", well, I’m going to go through the types I like. I might try thinking about the sorts I don’t like but that’s harder to pin down. Suggestions for any I’ve missed are welcome!

Poking at my psychology and the general appeal of these ships

(Feel free to skip this if you’re not interested in the contents of my brain :))

I grew up your typical anxious nerd girl with few friends and a fear of conflict, and despite being much happier now still have this deep fear that if I’m not nice and friendly and conflict avoidant with everyone they will yell at me and hate me forever. The most toxic relationships in my life have generally involved a lot of passive aggressive guilt trips about me ~hurting people’s feelings~ by not psychically figuring out what the person wants and doing it with a smile. So for me the idea of a relationship where the more I tell someone that they’re wrong the more they like me is deeply appealing. There’s also the appeal of someone seeing you at your absolute worst, having as bad an opinion of you as it possible to have, and still liking you. The only way from there is up! I can see why it doesn’t always work that way for people with different life experiences.

Also: I like UST, and someone being your enemy or otherwise All Wrong gives a nice reason to be all "I want to…but I mustn’t!"

There’s also the added dirtybadwrong aspect: beyond the usual "Sex is bad" messages most people grew up with I have Issues with sex and touching that mean that I often find it hard to relate to characters who are totally 100% happy and unconflicted about sexual behaviour or desire. Add some very good reasons to feel negative about the other person, and touching them in particular, and the situation becomes more engaging (I also have a spot spot for interspecies relationships, I think for similar reasons. Other people are confusing and kind of gross and yet somehow appealing…)

I’m…rather less sure why I associate love and emotional pain. But I do! So I enjoy a fictional relationship which combines the two. Angry or angsty breakup songs have always been my favourite type of love song, even when I was a starry-eyed lovelorn teenager. (I liked them even more once I’d had an actual breakup to be angry and angsty about)

"Rivalry" relationships

By this, I don’t actually mean rivals, but the (somewhat confusingly named) romance/friendship dynamic set up in the game Dragon Age 2. Your two options for a strong relationship with a character are to get lots of "approval" points, by agreeing with them or saying things they like, or lots of "rivalry" points by disagreeing with them and saying things they don’t like. But in either case you are genuinely a good and supportive friend, it’s just that a "rival" relationships are about challenging them to become a better person. (At least this is the theory, the dialogue doesn’t always pan out that way)

I loved this dynamic. One of the things I find really frustrating about a lot of these interactive games is that I feel like I have to be insincerely compliant to get characters to like or date my PC, and that takes the fun out of it.

A lot of people see the Dragon Age rivalry relationships as abusive. I agree that if you play to get every single possible rivalry point you have to treat the companion pretty badly, but it’s definitely possible to get 100% rivalry with most of the companions while mainly just being a bit acerbic and criticising them for genuinely bad choices (not so much with Varric, I’ve heard that rivalling him requires extreme douchebaggery). I must admit, I selectively ignore dialogue that actively contradicts my developing headcanon, but I have to do that with friendmances too. Also, once you have their rivalry score at 100 you can say whatever you like, so I tend to see the relationships as starting off more argumentative but then settling into something more supportive where both parties are comfortable arguing with each other when conflicts arise but mostly get along pretty well. Ok, except for Anders, but that’s tragic and messed up however you play it, the rivalmance let me play up the tragedy as they both made each other increasingly miserable. With Merrill I prefer the rivalry friendship to the rivalry romance, the jump from angry ranting to self hatred to soppy romance was too jarring for me, but I haven’t managed to get into the friendship romance either.

Blood Magic (fic, Fenris/f!Hawke, Dragon Age) was my attempt to capture the rivalmance dynamic.

A non Dragon Age example is Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth and Darcy don’t get along at first, but eventually help each other grow as people and find happiness together. I find that more interesting and satisfying to read about than a relationship like Bingley and Jane, where they get along perfectly from the start but are torn apart by external circumstances. (Note: In real life I’d rather get along with my partner from the start. Real life is different to fiction!)

Crowley/Aziraphale from Good Omens is an example of a rivalry friendship that is often shipped.

Anyway, I think these sorts of relationships are the fluffier end of what hateshipping can be, and are what a hateship will probably need to turn into to have a happy ending.

We used to be friends

This is possibly my favourite hateship trope: two people who are like mirror images of each other, drawn to each other because of their similarities to become really good friends, only to be torn apart by those same similarities into becoming sworn enemies. It’s basically a rivalmance gone bad.

The appeal here is the yearning mixed with resentment, everything they loved about the other person turned into everything they hate. The difficult thing with these ships for me is that I usually don’t want to see a happy ending, if they get over their differences then it loses the appeal. And the appeal of any sexy makeouts etc is less the fact that it’s sexy and more the fact that it’s weird and awkward and conflicted. This dynamic doesn’t get reflected much in fic or art so I tend to just enjoy vids that capture the aspects I like from canon.

Some examples:
Alone and Colder (vid, Buffy/Faith, Buffy the Vampire slayer)
Bad Romance (vid, Azula/Mai/Ty Lee from Avatar the Last Airbender)
Two Clark/Lex (Smallville, Superman in general) vids by sisabet: Bad Romance is more the sexy resentment, Without you I’m nothing more the yearning.
The naming of things by Aria (fic, Doctor/Master, Doctor Who)
Tell us about Terezi/Vriska by SkepticArcher (fanart, Terezi/Vriska, Homestuck)
Rolling in the Deep by arefadedaway (vid, Charles/Eric, Xmen)
Disarm by xandra-ptv (vid, Willow/Giles, Buffy) is a nice example of a rare friend to enemy to friend arc. But again, what appeals to me is that they recognise the worst of themselves in each other and care about each other anyway (and this is enough to make me get over my teacher/student squick, at least for the length of the vid :))

Foe Yay

Any time two people are enemies and yet are attracted to each other despite themselves. For this to appeal to me they have to genuinely be enemies, not just on opposite sides (I’m not a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet, for example, or anything resulting from silly misunderstandings) They have genuine, irreconcilable differences but also have genuine things in common.

This includes the dynamic above, but also people who have been enemies from the start. Hero/Villain pairings are also a subtrope. That can lead to hilarious crack, with intense hatred juxtaposed with soppy romantic behaviour. It can also lead to a darker, less affectionate version of the "we used to be friends" dynamic. But regardless, for me the heart of these relationships is the fact that that despite the superficial differences, deep down these people are the same on a fundamental level, and are drawn inexorably to each other. Nobody else can make them feel the same, whether that feeling is hatred or joy. See: Kate Beaton’s Nemesis comics. Kim and Shego from Kim Possible have a great dynamic in canon but I don't seem to have any fanworks saved for the pairing.

I have a major soft spot for symmetry:
Nouveau Labyrinth poster (art, Jareth/Sarah, Labyrinth)
Chess Players (art, Crowley/Aziraphale, Good Omens) These two are very much an enemyship, but not a hateship :)
The Ecstasy of the Rose by Mercurie (fic, Anna/Ruby, Supernatural) An Angel and a Demon meet in reverse in a closed time loop.

Relatively fluffy and romantic:
4ever by jarrow (vid, Amy/Lucy, DEBS)
Always Belong to You (art, Calypso/Davy Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean)

Dark and nasty:
The Last Hearing Of Gamzee Makara by schellibie and urbanAnchorite (Terezi/Gamzee, Homestuck)
Tainted Love by Mazza (vid, Spike/Buffy)
Complications By Isagel (fic, Sylar/Mohinder, Heroes)

Complicated and messy:
Sex and Other Vices, Love and Other Drugs by Serindrana (fic, Anders/f!Hawke, Dragon Age 2)
Life of Leisure by Greensilver (Logan/Veronica, Veronica Mars)

If You Hated It, Then You Should Have Put a Ring on It (fic, Snowman/Slick, Homestuck)
What goes around by wistful-fever (vid, Mohinder/Sylar, Heroes)
Sylinder the Sitcom, episode 1 by hobbit_eyes (fic, Mohinder/Sylar, Heroes)

A kiss with a fist

I want to say something about the presence of violence in a lot of these works, but I’m not sure how to articulate it. I think a lot of the time it’s metaphorical, a physical manifestation of the emotional intensity and pain people experience in relationships.

Notice the use of explosions in Matches to Paper Dolls by talitha78 (vid, Michael/Fiona, Burn Notice), or the symbolism of the polar bears in Icebound Stream by sisabet (vid, Fraser/Victoria, Due South).

Kismesis (Homestuck)

I bounced off Homestuck the first time I started reading it, and it was only when I was introduced to the concept of kismesis that I decided to give it another go (though as it turns out, the main things I enjoy about it are different again) Basically there is an alien species with four different kinds of romance, one of which is based on hate. They have complicated relationships with each other and the human characters (who don’t really get the whole hateshipping thing) which gets even more complicated in fanworks (Here is an incredibly outdated shipping chart. My OT4 is Dave <3 Terezi <3- Vriska <> John) Fanworks portray kismesissitude as anything from barely controlled homicidal hatred to adorable pigtail pulling.

This is the picture that sold me: interspecies hate date by FauxMonstur (fanart, John/Karkat).
Kismessitude Does Not Raise Your Prankster's Gambit by vikki
(fic, John/Karkat) is a cute exploration of John trying to return Karkat’s canonical kismessitude (In the end I ship them more as regular boyfriends though)

Here’s a couple of works that didn’t fit into any of the categories above:
What’s this then Neophyte by SkepticArcher (fanart, Redglare/Mindfang, Homestuck)
Mechromancy by Lexxie (fanart, Equius/Aradia, Homestuck)
Rubbish kismessissitudes by pentacletherapy Adorable meta.

Gender and power dynamics

One of the types of hateship that gets the most crap for being abusive/problematic is unbalanced het like powerful male villain/defenceless heroine. I personally tend to prefer ships with a roughly equal power dynamic, so I’m not usually into these sorts of ships myself, but I assume that the people who enjoy them are as aware of the fact that this is Not Actually A Good Thing as I am about my own ships.

What I tend to prefer is unbalanced/abusive het hateships where the woman admits her attraction to the male character and then rejects him anyway (possibly by killing him) Labyrinth is a perfect example of this, Redglare/Mindfang from Homestuck is one of the few femslash ships I ship this way, A Variety of Interests: Law by Ember Keelty (fic, Redglare/Mindfang, Homestuck) captures the dynamic very succinctly. See also One Last Time by dualbunny (vid, Buffy/Spike, Buffy)

The webcomic Girls Next Door does a good job of balancing liking such a couple with wanting the woman to have agency, with a cracky "yes this would never really work but let’s enjoy it anyway" meta approach to both Jareth/Sarah from Labyrinth and Christine/Phantom from Phantom in the Opera.

A common gendered dynamic that I do enjoy is male hero/female villain. These tend to end tragically, often with the death of the woman, and on an intellectual level that bothers me but done right I eat it up like candy. One of my first OTPs was Batman/Catwoman from Batman Returns and for example I love Bang Bang by gigglemonster (vid, Luther/Alice, Luther) despite being unfamiliar with the show.

Gen hateshipping

In the same way that there are gen versions of most fluffy romance tropes (bromances and so forth) there are also gen versions of a lot of hateshipping tropes, eg two characters who hate each other but are also drawn to each other really strongly, just not in a sexual or romantic way. Such relationships in canon often spawn a lot of shippiness in fans (See Buffy/Faith, Professor X/Magneto etc) but they do show up in fanworks too. Some Measure Of Control (Notes From A Doomed Timeline) by aeromachia (fic, Rose&Jack, Homestuck) is a very effective story of a traumatised girl full of violence bonding with the villain she’s supposed to be fighting. And of course there’s all those complex sibling or parent/child relationships where they end up on opposite sides (not that people don't ship them too...). Heavenly (vid, Avatar the Last Airbender) captures Zuko’s complicated loyalties and relationships with Aang and his family. Another (sometimes) barrier to shipping is species, such as in Portal, though people manage somehow. I quite like you win (art, GlaDOS&Chell, Portal).

Final thoughts

Looking at all these works, if one partner is the "hero" then they are pretty much never left abandoned by the "villain": either the villain is redeemed, or they die (often in a redeeming way with an emphasis on the tragedy), or the hero leaves. In canons where there’s a mutual split, or the hero dies, fanworks seem to focus on the villain’s feelings of abandonment and resentment and regret. I guess stories of (relatively) nice people getting angry about being abandoned by jerks aren’t very emotionally satisfying! (Icebound Stream is about a nice person feeling sad about a breakup, afaict, but that’s about as close as any of these seem to get)

Here are some AO3 tags you might want to check out: Enemy Lovers, Rival Relationship, Foe Yay, Kismesis, kismessitude</a> (Afaict none of these cover quite the same set of fic)

Two fanmixes, you may enjoy the hateshippy songs even if you're not familiar with the characters/canon:
Just As Horrible As Me (fanmix, Terezi/Vriska, Homestuck)
Rivalmances - We eat your heart (Dragon Age 2, all rivalmances) You'll have to join the community to see it

Foe Yay at TV tropes has further examples and discussion.

So, fellow hateshippers, what have I missed? What are some of your favourite pairings and fanworks? Any other points of view or questions?

This entry was originally posted at There are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: dragon age, fanart, fanfic, fanvids, homestuck, links, meta, multifandom, recs, thoughts

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