Shipping — derived from the word “relationship”, is a general term for fans’ emotional and/or intellectual involvement with the ongoing development of romance in a work of fiction.
I was exploring some of the nooks and crannies of fan-generated fiction (fanfic) for the series Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Interesting. There is certainly a lot of shipping going on. A LOT. OF. SHIPPING. Think of a pairing (or more), and it’s out there. Some of it somewhat chaste, some…well, let’s just say “chaste” is not a word that would come close to describing it.
It’s not just in fanfic that you notice this. Travel around the various forums and you see a lot of discussion about various ‘ships. While I haven’t done a scientific study or anything, it seems clear that the most contentious pair is that of John and Cameron.
It’s completely logical of course. John Connor is a randy teenager, and Cameron is played by Summer Glau. (I mean seriously…) But it’s also opened up a sizable can of worms. John and Cameron are creating a facade of being brother/sister, so it’s a bit incestuous to begin with. Then there is that whole human/robot thing which attracts some and repulses others. Curious thing, that.
I can’t help looking back to the 1927 film, Metropolis. I mean, who can forget this classic scene:
We can go even further back into a variety of mythologies where animated beings are created from mundane materials, but I think our current thoughts of organic/machine relationships begins here. See, the scientist, Rotwang intended the robot to resemble Hel, a former lover who had left him. Rotwang was then cajoled to transform the robot into a different visage so as to use her wiles to incite and sow foment. So…lots of sexual overtones.
Most recently, we have the organic models of cylons from Battlestar Galactica — a/k/a “skin jobs”. As they are machines, how is their condition in regards to interacting with humans different than it is with Cameron? The primary difference I think is in the differences of the species. Cameron has a hyperalloy combat chassis. The skin jobs are so nearly indistinguishable from humans that some of them can actually produce offspring as a result of a coital pairing. So, while Cameron’s shell would make her fit right in with the skin jobs, she is in fact much more closely related to the “toasters”, or conventionally robotic cylons. Needless to say that there isn’t a lot of shipper fanfic about Kara getting it on with a toaster.
Therein rests the difficulties with the John/Cameron pairing.
Where do I stand on this? Honestly, I’d love for them to get closer but to keep hands off. I don’t think we need to revisit Barbarella‘s excessive machine or Sleeper‘s orgasmatron… for what some fanfic intends of Cameron is for her to be little more than a sex-bot.
The thing that is often missed, I think, is that it takes two to tango, and while I’m sure Cameron has the algorithms necessary to seduce, it would be with no more emotion than is available to a bargain-basement vibrator.
The true key to the John and Cameron relationship is trust, pure and simple. The ability to tell each other anything, knowing that they have each other’s backs… Whoa, that’s powerful stuff—in real life, too.
Once you get beyond the straight-forward sex fantasy, most of the shipping between these two characters has to come from the evolution of their trust. That’s the dance that they are doing. Right now, on the show, they are each awkwardly testing the beat and trying to groove into the moves of the other. They are many, many, many steps removed from the sort of intricate “Dancing With the Cyborgs” synergy that it’s implied Cameron had with future-John.
The other facet of the shipper’s wake concerns Cameron’s emotions. Generally speaking, the desire there is for Cameron to have an emotional epiphany which moves her from being a Pygmalion statue into becoming alive, for all intents and purposes. The agenda here, again, isn’t so much one of Cameron falling in love but of an exaltation of humanity being the pinnacle to which all sentient beings will strive to become.
For me, I like the idea of Cameron embracing the inner robot. Why should she aspire to be human? They aren’t better, from what she can see. Just different.
And what would be the point of her not only wanting to become human, but to be emotionally like us? What advantage does it convey? It’s not like there’s going to be a white picket fence in her future with a couple of Asimos running around the yard playing with their Aibo. Cameron is alone. What she can foster are relationship ties.
From what we’ve seen, this seems to be precisely what Cameron wants. Her relationship with John, the secret relationship she had with Eric (the library guy), and even the understanding she shared with the wordless Chola from the first season shows that Cameron can connect with people in a way that seems to matter to her in an outside-of-the-immediate-mission sort of way.
So, what about all that fanfic? Just because some of the subject matter isn’t what I’d choose to write doesn’t mean that there isn’t a useful place for it. Fanfic is a large part of fandom. It means that you have a show that arouses people’s passion. After all, people don’t tend to waste their imaginations on just any ol’ tv show.
It also has meaning because it lets writers write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, or indifferent…writers need their outlets. Though it’s difficult to get published and seemingly impossible to break into Hollywood (though at least one fanfic author of my acquaintance did just that BECAUSE of her fanfic), that doesn’t mean that those are the only places for writers to write and readers to find stuff that they’d like to experience. The online world has changed that paradigm quite significantly.
John and Cameron sucking face or bumping uglies or whatever the cool humans and cyborgs do these days? There does seem to be a lot of interest in that judging by the pages that have been written. As with other shipper fanfic, I’d just as soon have it remain out of the canon and linger instead in the netherworld of fandom. John and Cameron going all Gilmore Girls and talking in that rapid-fire screwball style…rather not go there either. I think there is a middle ground.
I guess this is just my plea to the creative PTB to leave my cyborg be. There has been very little about robots embracing their own existence without contaminating it with a desire to be human and do human things. It’s a little harder to write because it’s an alien way of thinking, but in the end I think it will be more rewarding for all concerned. So, I guess for me it’s: John and Cameron, Waiting for JD; B-O-N-D-I-N-G, T-A-L-K-I-N-G, but in no way K-I-S-S-I-N-G unless it is without “feelings” and solely to keep them from getting immediately killed…but you know, not even then.