Monday Roundtable: The Ships We’d Still Go Down With

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a group of queer women and nonbinary people can often, as a community and as individuals, trace some part of their gay coming into themselves and out into the world to a favorite ship (canon or not) that made them say, in the words of Willow Rosenberg, “Hello, gay now.” Even years or decades later, regardless of how much objectively better television has been produced, we carry them in our hearts. Here are ours; tell us yours?

(Before you head to the comments section with shock and outrage, you should know that this roundtable was written before Killing Eve aired.)


Heather Hogan, Senior Editor: Helen and Nikki, Bad Girls

This was a hard choice for me! I made a spreadsheet! It came down to three couples! But if I’m being really real with myself it’s Governing Governor Helen Stewart and Larkhall inmate Nikki Wade — and I know that sounds kinda gross and definitely illegal but it’s not like the show ignored those complicated dynamics. Helen was tortured, okay, and she didn’t even kiss Nikki on the mouth at all until she wasn’t her jailer anymore! (And then I guess again at a different time when she kind of was still her jailer but then Nikki broke out of prison in a blonde wig and went to Helen’s house and Helen was like “…the fuck!” and she almost called the cops but then instead she whispered “Nicola…” and they totally did it.) (But then Nikki did go back to jail.) So there was the power imbalance and the personality difference and also Helen kept trying to be straight and Nikki was for sure Chaotic Neutral and Helen was for sure Lawful Good, but at the end of the day Nikki got out of jail and Helen chased her down and said, “Thomas is gorgeous, and he’s everything you would want in a man — but I want a woman.” And oooooh they smooched in the middle of the day in the middle of the street for a very long time. Also I’ve read somewhere between one million and two million Helen/Nikki fan fics and they are all so good.

Riese, Editor-in-Chief: Shane and Jenny, The L Word

I don’t know that I need to describe this at any greater length than I already did on April 1st, 2018, the best day of my life, when we trolled the entire internet by turning Autostraddle into a Shenny fansite and I wrote my first-ever fan-fic about my #1 ship, Shane and Jenny. But in sum: I truly believe that the most authentic versions of the characters of Shane and Jenny were MTB, and I believe that Season 6 was blasphemy and ruined so many things including that particular pairing. I think that they are uniquely capable of taking care of one another and helping the other deal with mental health issues and also accept each other for who they are and work with it instead of against it and I think also they would’ve had very hot sex. Okay the end.

Rachel, Managing Editor: Faith and Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I didn’t think I had “a ship,” but I was casually rewatching the graduation arc of Buffy recently, as one does, and when I got to the Buffy/Faith showdown I thought I was gonna need a goddamn fainting couch. I suddenly viscerally understood why people make entire blogs and 34-tweet threads about their favorite ships in fandom, because I had the urge to call people I haven’t talked to since high school and walk them through a powerpoint of why Faith and Buffy are meant to be together and anyone who disagrees is probably a war criminal. They understand each other in ways no one else ever will! Faith will never take any of Buffy’s self-centered shit the way all her friends do; Buffy knows enough about what Faith has been through and why she is the way she is that she can give Faith the genuine love and validation she so desperately wants and needs. Also it’s very hot when they’re trying to stab each other! What more can you ask for in a relationship.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer: Kalinda and Alicia, The Good Wife

If you whisper “Kalinda and Alicia were endgame” three times in a row, you will conjure me out of thin air. Go ahead, try it. I believe in the (doomed) love story of Kalinda and Alicia so passionately that I accidentally made my girlfriend believe that they were in a canon sexual relationship before she watched The Good Wife. She was disappointed to learn the truth, and I don’t blame her! I have seen The Good Wife from start to finish at least four times now and I am still shocked every time that they do not kiss ever. Look, I’m going to go ahead and out myself here and say that I enjoy a lot of trash ships in my life. I’ve been known to dabble in some Doctor Mechanic here, some SuperCat there (and by dabble, I mean stay up all night on fanfic benders on multiple occasions). If a show has a trash ship, I probably ship it. There is now a canon wlw ship at the heart of Riverdale, and yet I’m out here still asking strangers if they’d like to hear the good word of Betty/Cheryl. But Kalinda and Alicia, noncanon as they may be, are not trash! This ship is pure and it is good. And the only thing that really undercuts it (aside from their OBVIOUS ATTRACTION TO ONE ANOTHER remaining entirely subtextual) is the weird behind the scenes drama between Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi that made them literally not want to be in the same room as one another, which tbh, made me ship the characters even more? As hot as some of the women Kalinda made out with on the show were, none had the complex yet natural chemistry that Alicia has with her. NONE!

Carrie, Staff Writer: Spencer and Ashley, South of Nowhere

I was good and gay and out by the time South of Nowhere appeared on our screens, and therefore prepared to laugh my way through the first season’s attempts at relating to me. But damn it, dear reader, if Spencer and Ashley didn’t get me right in the heart anyway. Like many a cult teen favorite, SON kinda went off the from Season 2 and onward — but that first season still does it for me! It was ahead of its time, I think, in how it depicted Spencer’s more “traditional” coming out versus Ashley’s queerer sexuality (though they never used that word). It was also my first proper introduction to fandom and TV recaps and fanfic and the whole bit, though more as an observer than a creator.

True story: a couple years after SON went off the air, my college’s summer research program paid me (!) to do a study about the show’s impact on its LGBTQ+ viewership as illustrated by its online communities. Yes, I got funding to watch South of Nowhere and read message boards all summer. Liberal arts school! (It was legitimately a great project, not gonna lie.)

Abeni, Staff Writer: Harry and literally anyone else besides Ginny, Harry Potter series

OK, so I’ll admit I was a Harry/Hermione shipper when the series was coming out (I used to go to the bookstore and get the books at the midnight release, sometimes with costumes, so I was pretty into it) but I realized that their sibling-type relationship made more sense, and Ron and Hermione made sense, and looking back it was hinted throughout, and I think I they’re fun and cute together. But Harry and Ginny? I was completely floored when that plot point came out. It seemed shoe-horned in at the last minute and yeah, there were like, a couple hints, but what? It seemed really strange to me. Like, getting together with your best friend’s much-younger sister? By the last book weren’t they like, 18 and 14 or something? I haven’t read in a while, and maybe it’s not as problematic as I remember it, but still. Harry could have been with anyone else!

He could have been with that Quidditch captain girl, Angelina Johnson (who I just Googled and she married George? What?) I remember her getting very little “page-time,” but she was a boss. When I was a teen, I wanted him to be with Cho, but that kinda fell apart for obvious reasons. Or, wouldn’t it have been really interesting and poetic if Harry ended up with Neville?

My ship though is Luna Lovegood. She was smart, unconcerned with what people thought of her, brave, radical politically if I remember correctly, cute and sweet and quirky and charming. She was used to being an outsider, to having people have prejudgments about her, and didn’t think of Harry as “the boy who lived” or whoever but just as a dude. She treated him like a regular guy (unlike Ginny, who was like, crushing for a while and idolized him). And her mother died when she was young, and she and Harry have a moment after Sirius dies where they connect over this. I really feel like they get each other and Luna’s personality allows Harry to just be himself around her. Harry x Luna forever.

Natalie, Staff Writer: Annalise and Eve, How to Get Away With Murder

Well, that answer was pretty predictable wasn’t it? In posts, in the comments and on social media… my love for Annalise and Eve is a thing that anyone who knows anything about my pop culture diet knows about me. I won’t bore you by repeating it all again.

That said, I was wrong about one thing with regard to Annalise and Eve: through the first three seasons of How to Get Away With Murder, I never thought it possible for Annalise and Eve to end up together in the end… not because of Vanessa, the woman who whisks Eve away to the west coast, but because Annalise never saw herself as someone worthy of Eve’s love. HTGAWM never struck me as kind of show that’d allow Annalise to experience the kind of personal growth needed to overcome her traumas so I never really imagined them becoming more. But, then season four happened and, despite having the worst counselor ever and still having those stupid students around causing unending consternation, Annalise Keating came out the other side better… perhaps the healthiest we’ve ever seen her.

So go get your girl, Annalise Keating. Celebrate the love you now know you deserve… for me.

Alexis, Staff Writer: Kelly and Yorkie, Black Mirror: San Junipero

My friends, I still wanna get lost in San Junipero. I’m all about let me find you in ever possible universe so we can be together type love. The way Kelly looks at Yorkie like she hung the moon and stars, when Yorkie answers: “Oh. So many things.” to Kelly’s “What would you like to do that you’ve never done?” The idea that you can escape a hellish world to live in your heaven? It’s not perfect but it’s here and someone loves you and you love them and isn’t that miracle enough to call it paradise? Like, “Can you just… make this easy for me?” COME ON. Love being totally “fucking inconvenient”? Admitting you’re scared but doing it anyways? I could write books on this one episode and I still don’t think it’d be enough.

Valerie Anne, Staff Writer: NO, I WON’T PICK AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME

HOW DARE. I have been obsessed with TV my ENTIRE LIFE and have been shipping since long before I knew the term. I have a long list of ships that shaped me, from non-canon ships like Buffy and Faith to canon ships like Spashley from South of Nowhere. Cosima and Delphine changed the path of my career entirely, in the best way possible. Waverly Earp and Nicole Haught have brought me new friends I consider family. My heart will never be fully healed from what Eleanor and Max put me through on Black Sails. I can’t listen to Ellie Goulding’s Atlantis without wailing to the stars about Myka and HG. In fact, I have a whole “Fandom” folder in my Spotify for ship-related playlists and they all make me Emotional. I’ve cried just listening to Chyler Leigh TALK ABOUT Sanvers. I’ve written cross-fandom femslash fanfiction (#Fabrastings) I’ve shipped problematic ships (Quinn and Santana, Arizona and Dr. Peyton) and the obvious ships (Brittana, Calzona – I have layers). I’ve shipped ships long after I should have stopped shipping them (Emaya, #MAYALIVES), and long before they even started (Avalance). I ship ships I know will never happen (Emily and JJ, Criminal Minds) and ships I foolishly believe still could (Skimmons, Agents of Shield). I ship new ships (Petra and JR) and old ships (Willow and Tara) with similar vigor, and I even still hold ships on short-lived shows dear to me (Lucy and Mina, Dracula, RIP). Hell, every once in a while, I even ship STRAIGHT PEOPLE. (I can’t think of an example right now but I’m sure it’s true.) I’ve found a way to mention over a dozen ships in this one paragraph alone and I haven’t even BEGUN to scratch the surface of the fictional characters I have been emotionally invested in. I am basically a pirate at this point, I’ve been on so many ships, and I refuse — REFUSE — to pick one. Sorry.

Reneice Charles, Staff Writer: Janelle Monáe and Tessa Thompson

I know this is a TV thing but I don’t watch enough to participate that way so I’m extending the branch to music and going with the only ship there is imo, Janelle and Tessa. I feel like this is self explanatory. If not, Carmen made a whole damn entire timeline of their relationship where you can find all the receipts you need to realize that this is the best ship.

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88 Comments

        • Just the one year. She started Hogwarts at the beginning of Chamber of Secrets, and was quickly manipulated by Diary Riddle to open the chamber.

          I agree that, especially in the movies, their relatio ship is bland to the extreme. I also can’t help thinking how sad it is that Ginny barely got to grow up, marrying a guy she fancied aged 10. I know its romantic for some people, but think of all the directions her life could have gone!

          • I read a lot of Ginny/Hermione fanfiction (it was my first foray into queer fanfiction) when I was a preteen, which I appreciated for the experience (and all the queer fic it led me to) but I don’t really ship it now.
            I have to say I 100% ship Harry and Ginny (with a little bit of creative license exploring all the stuff JK didn’t) but I still love Luna/Ginny and Harry/Neville or Harry/Draco in an alternative universe

  1. Swan Queen. It will always be Swan Queen. I first came to AfterEllen looking for people to talk to Swan Queen about, and I made to the jump to Autostraddle from there. I went through phases of being mad at Adam and Eddie about how they were too cowardly to put them together, and forgiving them because they had an 800lb mouse on their back. With all of the other ships on that show (Beauty & the Beast, Sleeping Warrior, Ariel & Belle, Mulan & Belle ((Belle, your milkshake brings all the girls to the yard)), Ruby Slippers, Dragon Queen, Fairy Queen, etc…), it will always come back to Swan Queen.

    • SWAN QUEEN I mean really. I actually quit watching Once Upon A Time after all they went to the trouble of getting rid of both male partners, showed that Emma would basically sacrifice her soul to Regina and that Regina was the only person she really trusted to do what Emma wanted and not what they thought was best for Emma but would actually end up ruining her life AGAIN (looking at you, Snow and Charming!) not to mention that they’re already raising a kid together but NOPE let’s go to the land of the dead to get that dumb dude back and that was when I gave up on that show. But I will never give up on that ship.

    • YES! Ugh that dumb, dumb show squandered so many great relationships and plot points. But Emma and Regina have all the chemistry. I’m a believer.

      The main reason I can’t quit Swan Queen is the fanfic though. There’s always some amazing new WiP coming out or someone on tumblr links to some older stuff I haven’t read. I’ll never get tired of some good writing peeling back the layers of that relationship.

    • 100% Swan Queen. Helen and Nikki from Bad Girls are my first, coming out, life changing pair, Shoot might be my canon fave if I ignore season five, but Swan Queen are my OTP who I will always love.

      I also am angry at OUAT and Adam and Eddy for not making them canon, although if they did they’d have probably done it really badly.

  2. Well, I’m old and this is gonna show big time because I had time to see some classic ships: Cagney & Lacey, Xena & Gabrielle, Nikki & Nora (come on, we built this one with a never-aired pilot that was leaked), the number of ships I had from Star Trek: Voyager is amazing.

    But my very first ship was Juliet & Diana from V, the original version. Come on, the subtext and tension there was awesome. And then, V: The Series, gave me my first love triangle because I couldn’t skip Lydia.

  3. Honestly I have so many ships it’s basically a flotilla but here’s a few that I absolutely will go down with that haven’t been mentioned:
    Korrasami (Legend of Korra)
    Parker/Hardison/Eliot OT3 (Leverage)
    Steve/Bucky (Marvel)

    Also I could not disagree more about Ron/Hermione but that is a rant for another time.

  4. Inara and Yo/Saff/Bridg from Firefly. They had maybe a total of 60 seconds screen time together, but Christina Hendricks’s character was def. my root, and “You don’t try to play a player” fucking slayed me.

  5. Ruth and Idgie have my heart, forever and always (though it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I actually got the subtext).

    Xena and Gabrielle were probably my first ship where I understood exactly what I wanted from the two characters. About a year after I started watching Xena I watched Twelfth Night, so Viola and Olivia were my “Yep, I’m totally gay” ship.

    The ship I’d go down with is, I’m sorry to say, SwanQueen. So much wasted potential.

  6. I finally got to start watching Wynonna Earp and I just finished S1E9 and I really really wish Valerie Ann could come over and gush about it with me.

    I almost stopped watching about 2min in when I got the whole demon premise and was like Ugh, I don’t know that I need demons in my life right now. Now 2 days later I’ve binged 9 episodes and am pretty much obsessed.

    • Yess!! When the Year in the Life thing came out I was so pissed because Paris is supposed to become a power lesbian and no one will ever convince me otherwise. Paris and Rory were supposed to take over the goddamn world and have a lot of hot sex while doing it.
      The fact that ASP could not see this is, frankly, rude.

      • the way they wrote Paris in that was so so wrong for her character and such a waste of a brilliant actress. I loved the original series but don’t think I even finished the second episode of that mess.

  7. oh, kalinda and alicia. hg and mika. such missed opportunities.

    my forever loves: swan queen, korrasami, root x shaw, xena/gabrielle, and the perfect triangle: cartinelli, steggy, and stucky.

    and probably ouat writers x eternal hellfire.

  8. Faberry, forever and ever. I’m still heartbroken that my first ship to be canonized was Clexa, but at least The 100 has dealt with the aftermath relatively well. But Faberry still makes me tear at my shirt and wail at the sky because of how betrayed I feel.

  9. I’ve been rewatching Buffy season 4 in anticipation for Buffering and Willow and Tara remain too too perfect! I identify so closely to Willow and Tara is 100% my type.
    Also, this is a less common opinion, I know, but I really loved Sholly? Shane and Molly were so cute and nervous around each other and it was far from perfect but also pretty hot.

  10. Rizzoli and Isles.

    Cosima and our favorite Slyterhin, Delphine.

    And I know this isn’t TV, but I absolutely LIVE for Ali Krieger/Ashlyn Harris goss. Krashlyn forever!

  11. Mine is Naomi and Emily, ohhh my sweet baby teenage queer heart. I have not seen series 4 or Skins Fire and I will never ever watch it, because in my mind Naomily walked off together from that weird school dance and into their happily ever after. Series 3 was a thing right around the time that I was coming out as queer, and my birth name is Emily, so holy hell that series was important to me. Don’t @ me with any series 4 / Fire garbage, because they are still together and riding bikes through the woods FOREVER thank you very much

  12. Just this last week I was thinking how deeply and lasting some couples impacted me.
    Faith and Buffy: I can’t believe it took me what? Twenty years to finally find people who were on the same page about them? I was ready to yell about them from the roof!
    Bering&Wells: Somehow Atlantis keeps ending up on my Spotify mix tapes and boy,does it hurt every time. So good, so true, so real. Bering&Wells:The real Deal.
    Shoot:They had a Shoot appreciation week on Twitter, and I can’t believe what we got out of a throwaway comment and on screen chemistry.If you follow the magic, you get magic. They clicked and burned and if I ever get married,then I want 4AlarmFire inscribed in my wedding ring, no else.
    Clexa: The ff is almost better than the show at this point.
    Speaking of: SwanQueen.
    The ship and phenomenon that completely outwinged a progressively crappy show. Because if you DON’T follow the magic, you get bullshit. Horse manure. What a giant waste.
    Speaking of: Supercorp: Follow the magic, before you fuck up your show due to valiantly enforced mandatory heterosexuality. Learn from other networks’ mistakes! Not even the straights like the straight couples on that show!

    I don’t know what the deal is. Put a femmy butch in boots or button ups on the screen, pair her with a power femme, have them have mad chemistry and swear friendship forever or common motherhood and all of a sudden they have to bring in a cavalry of dicks to avoid gay disaster.
    Which is unavoidable, fyi.

  13. In retrospect, it was probably Angela and Rayanne from My So-Called Life. Rayanne was just SO COOL, and I wanted so much to have a super cool friend like Rayanne.

    Buffy/Faith also holds a special place in my heart, as does Willow/Tara.

    But I have to give a shout out to Marissa & Alex from The O.C. for getting me into fandom in a way I hadn’t been before. I was very much out by the time they came around, but they helped me discover TV recaps and LJ communities. Same with Santana/Brittany (and Santana/Quinn and Santana/Rachel), only that time it was tumblr fandom and AO3.

    • Oh boy YES all of these ships are great and you hit the nail on the head in your description. I love antagonists who secretly tenderly understand each other more than anyone else in the world, also!!

  14. i don’t think i’m ever gonna be over faberry. i’ve tried, and even found other ships in which to get emotionally overinvested, but every once in a while i find myself looking through my old bookmarks and rereading fics and, like a hot but toxic ex-girlfriend, they just keep pulling me back in.

    also shout out to buffy/faith and marissa/alex from the oc for introducing me to fandom and teaching me how to be gay when i was 12 and figuring out that i liked girls.

  15. Honestly the biggest ship I’ve ever had was Wolfstar. But that was primarily because of running jokes about how the personalities of everyone in our school friend group corresponded to one of the Marauders, and I was considered to be Remus, and had a crush on the girl who was considered to be Sirius.

    Without that parallel I’m unsure how much I would’ve liked the ship.

  16. I love this post a lot because a) yes forever to Kalinda and Alicia, b) I love Spencer and Ashley because South of Nowhere was the first gay show I ever watched, and c) omg I was constantly shipping Emily and JJ on Criminal Minds and Valerie you have 100% validated this for me so thank you.

  17. Oh boy oh boy oh boy do I have a lot of feelings about this. All of your choices are perfect, even the ones I don’t ~get~ (Heather, I have never even watched a second of that show and I went on a wild emotional ride reading your description). I could talk for forever and a day, most especially, about Kalinda/Alicia and Buffy/Faith. In fact, Valerie, I was kind of offended that you referred to Buffy/Faith as a non-canonical ship because, rude, it’s totally at least thisclose-to-being-canonical. They did so many fanfiction tropes before they were even tropes. The body swap!!!!!!

    Phew gotta go lie down.

  18. Always glad to see Heather keeping the Nikki/Helen torch burning!!!

    They’re my Ultimate Couple too, though I only first watched Bad Girls three years ago. But they completely took over my heart and no other fictional couple comes close. I have to say I wasn’t expecting that from a show that started airing in 1999 (?!?). Incredible.

  19. This post is great! Ships are great! And I kind of can’t believe the one thing I’m stopping here to comment about (rather than waxing eloquent about Gwen/Morgana from the show Merlin, my most angry-making deep otp) is a sort of defense of Harry/Ginny (whom I have exactly 0 feelings about, neither positive nor negative), but it’s gnawing at me, so: they were literally a year apart? Ginny starts as a first year at Hogwarts in Chamber of Secrets, when Harry’s in second year. So yeah, all sorts of reasons why you may or may not like Harry/Ginny, but I can’t say I see them as having a problematic age difference.

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