top of page

What is the Public's Obsession with Shipping Celebrity Couples?

Charting the love course, one ship at a time.

Have you ever watched a show or a movie and thought the leads must be dating because they have such great chemistry on and off-screen? Obsessions with celebrity couples are nothing new. Whether it's Kylie Jenner or Timothee Chalamet, Selena Gomez and Zayn Malik, or a YouTube video titled "Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds cute couple moments," there's always an admired famous couple to follow.

What is the Public's Obsession with Shipping Celebrities? Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively Art. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively Couple. Celebrity Couple.

Many people find comfort in the escapism that a celebrity fixation provides. I don't think it's a stretch to say that everyone has wished to be famous at some point. I know I have. Following famous people with whom we identify makes sense. On the other hand, the obsession with celebrity love lives promotes unrealistic, wishful thinking.

To "ship," as seen on countless fan-created Tumblr pages, is to express your enthusiastic support for someone else's relationship or the desire to see two usually fictional or famous people in a relationship with each other. Despite a visible absence of study on the topic, much of why we ship actual individuals together is due to "parasocial relationships." The term, coined in 1956, can explain the unambiguous bonds we tend to form with celebrities even though they are entirely unaware of our existence. Parasocial relationships develop as a result of repeated exposure to a particular star. People get to know this celebrity/character through constant 'interactions' with them. And, yes, it is perfectly normal. People are not genetically programmed to distinguish between real and fake people. We know cognitively that these relationships aren't genuine but feel natural.

It's an obsession: keeping up with the drama surrounding your favorite celebrities, learning about their romantic history and who they might be dating next. After all, many people believe that stars exist to entertain. However, only the celebrities know whether or not they are dating. Without access to the celebrities' inner thoughts, some fans turn to tarot cards or energy reading for answers.

Because these (albeit one-sided) relationships feel so real, fans often feel obligated to get involved in their love lives, just as they would with their friends. How often have you wished to introduce a friend to someone who might be a good match for them? It occurs frequently. Shipping celebrities together, according to Derrick, works similarly. "In the same way that you might want your best friend to date or marry this person who appears to be perfect for them (or maybe because you know your friend wants to date or marry that person), you might also want a particular celebrity to date or marry this person who appears to be perfect for them (or that they appear to be attracted to). Perhaps shipping reflects a desire for a brief moment of control in a chaotic world. Children frequently retreat to the wide-open spaces of their imagination in response to their inherent powerlessness. They make their dolls kiss (or fight) to gain control in the real world. Fans may not be the creators of the fictional worlds they enjoy inhabiting. Still, when they ship, they can briefly take the wheel in the most exhilarating ways, imagining and defending relationships that demonstrate their control of a constructed universe and their true feelings about how love ought to exist in that world, if not in their own.

There have been numerous instances where fandoms have gone into a frenzy after learning even the most remote possibility of their favorite couple dating. Anyone who enjoys Marvel will recognize Tom and Zendaya. Fans began shipping the two before they met because all of the previous actors who played Spiderman and MJ ended up dating in real life. Some might even say their relationship was "meant to be." Even if many people deny it, they still follow the Kardashians, as evidenced by the debates over whether Kim deserves Kanye or Pete Davidson or how Kylie Jenner and Timothee Chalamet are the most unlikely couple. If you're a K-drama fan, you've probably heard of the BinJin shippers. This fandom wishes actor Hyun Bin and actress Son Ye Jin could be together after falling in love with their characters' love story in the hit Korean drama Crash Landing on You.

Even when couples are together only to promote their work, fans still grasp at straws to fit their romantic fantasies. People are so desperate for the stars they love to be happy that they disregard when a couple is a public relations stunt to keep their hopes alive that this time is truly different.

Celebrity romances appear picture-perfect and full of mush on and off the screen. We only see the glitz and glamour presented to the public; we are unaware of the conflicts, pain, and heartbreaks our idols face behind the scenes. People are too obsessed with celebrities, in my opinion. Whether over-romanticizing a friendship, obsessing over couples from the distant past, or obsessing over fabricated relationships, it all boils down to one thing: we don't know these people! It's adorable to see young love blossom or old flames rekindle, but we all need to take a moment to breathe, put the phone down, and focus on our lives rather than constantly wondering if famous people's ships will sail.

What is the public's obsession with shipping celebrities? What is the public's obsession with shipping celebrities? What is the public's obsession with shipping celebrities? What is the public's obsession with shipping celebrities? What is the public's obsession with shipping celebrities?