Queerly Not Straight: Why Queer Non-Canon Ships Are So Popular

In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx/WOC community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! 

From SwanQueen to Supercorp, queer non-canon ships are power houses that shows didn’t plan for but somehow ended up getting anyway. In this week’s Queerly Not Straight we’re going to dive into why these non-canon ships happen, why they have such powerful followings, and what creators behind the scenes of said TV shows can learn from such movements. And just a friendly reminder that any past writings on Fangirlish about Supergirl or Once Upon A Time have nothing to do with what we’re talking about here. Also, I used to watch both shows, but peaced out a long time from each show, for different reasons.

So, let’s get things rolling!

Queer non-canon ships. All it takes is one glorious moment that leaves queer viewers wanting to see these two characters together in a romantic sense. And contrary to popular belief, this shipping of two people doesn’t come out of nowhere and it’s not fans being delusional. The spark is there. Plus, if we’re being honest with ourselves, if the queer non-canon ship was a heterosexual couple, most shows would’ve gone for that ship. Yes, you read that right. I admit that if SwanQueen and Supercorp were relationships between a man and a woman, it would’ve turned romantic.

That right there is key to understanding why queer non-canon ships are so important, prevelant, and strong AF when they rise up on shows like Supergirl and Once Upon A Time. Queer people relate to the characters they see on screen. They see themselves in their favs story, their struggles, and their joys. And when viewers see their favorite characters, that they relate to, meeting someone who evokes strong feelings in them, they don’t automatically go, “Oh these two can be friends.” Leading queer lives themselves, they go towards the train of thought that, “This has possibility. This has spark. This has something I’d see myself being attracted to.”

And like clockwork, the more you tell someone not to do something or like something, the more they want it. That’s especially true for these queer non-canon ships. If someone comes at you, telling you that the connection you are seeing is not there, it stings. You don’t want to feel wronged or like you’re a hapless fool for seeing the connection between these two characters. You feel these queer emotions and don’t live under the guise of heteronormative rose colored glasses. And the more people tell them that the ship isn’t real, the more you dig in your heels because you can see the queer possibilities in this show and you will fight tooth and nail to not have your experiences ignored. 

This is why Supercorp and SwanQueen are so powerful and important. People connect to them. They see themselves in Kara and Lena. They see themselves in Emma and Regina. And ignoring the fact that they are Wonderbread white couples, they mean something to the queer community. They are validation. They are acknowledgement. They are someone finally saying, “Yes, you matter and these sparks you feel are real.” So when people tell these shippers that they are wrong or when a hetero ships comes along that disrupts their queer fantasy, shit gets real and shit gets crazy. And that’s not to say that Supercorp or SwanQueen are crazy or out there. This is me saying that it’s passion and a need to be seen that drives fans to extremes as they hold onto their validation and self worth in connection to this pairing they love.

In all honesty, the rise of queer non-canon ships like the ones you see with SwanQueen and Supercorp, they’re not going to go away or fade into the night when their shows are over. They remain; in fanfiction, fanart, and in the hearts of those who continue to believe in their ship. What needs to happen, what needs to change, is the kind of stories we tell. If viewers see the potential between SwanQueen and Supercorp and they’re not even canon, imagine what viewers will be like if they are given the queer ships of their dreams while having their experiences and identities acknowledged?

That’s why Wayhaught from Wynonna Earp is such a smash hit and why so many people flock to couples like Anissa & Grace on Black Lightning and Kat and Adena from The Bold Type. These queer relationships haven’t and will not be brushed off as just two women being friends even if the queer writing is all over the wall and in the way these two “straight” characters look at each other; I’m talking about you Supercorp. (And this is coming from someone who never shipped Supercorp when I watched Supergirl, but am totally capable as a queer woman myself in acknowledging that the spark is there for Kara and Lena.)

Basically, and the whole point of this look at non-canon couples: we’re power houses. We as queer people are bank. We are that money, that untapped fountain of viewers that studios, executives, and writers need to acknowledge and cater to. Because we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re barely surviving off the backs of queer non-canon couples and the handful that are ACTUALLY declared as LGBTQ+. We’re consumers ready and willing to see more of ourselves on screen. Now it’s up to the powers that be to listen, create, and give us the queer couples we’ve wanted for so long.

And then maybe, one day in the future, we won’t have to settle for queer non-canon couples because our lives as LGBTQ+ people will be talked about, shared, and shown on TV for the important and beautiful journey’s they truly are. 

Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday (AND THURSDAYS FOR PRIDE MONTH) with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)

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