_debbiechan_ (_debbiechan_) wrote in bleachness,

The Nature of Love in Shipping and in Bleach

Woah Mama. Look at that subject heading. You know what's coming.

I once compared the neurological state of being in love to being "in shipping" on a friend's LJ and got told I needed a break from fandom for the sake of my mental health. That suggestion may be valid but I still insist that one day fanthropologists will discover that the same areas of the brain involved with sexual competition for a mate are involved with shipwars. How else does one explain the feverish emotional investment and "all's fair in love or war" tactics of forum shippers? Even those who claim not to engage in ship debates because they've got better things to do will often post impassioned essays belittling the competition's reasoning. There's little room for logic, but my nerdy little heart always goes a-flutter when when my law-school buds sinta1 andmetaphore_art discuss "intial and supplementary romantic relationships" and disjunctive syllogisms, respectively, and as someone who probably naively believes that all discussions about religion and politics don't have to end up with countries being invaded (too much time spent in loud, bickering shouting Jewish symposium of a family that throws barbs not missiles), I always hoped people could have stirring, civil discussions about their ships in their favorite fandoms.

Sometimes it happens. I've seen it happen here in bleachness . I've also heard that the community has run off anyone who doesn't burn incense at the shrine of IchiRuki. It's funny, but I got into Bleach ship debates not because of my love for IchiRuki (I have a deeper love for other Bleach ships, most of whom don't stand a rat's ass chance of becoming canon--I started debating IchiRuki even when I was sorta "meh" on the ship and not writing fic about it) but because of my love of arguing. Yep, I'm the girl who taught rhetorical writing who married the guy who taught formal logic and I'm just as likely to get off on a lively ship debate as I am on a manga panel of a shirtless Kenpachi. Am I saying you shippers can't enjoy your ships the way you want without my imposing my rationale on your fun? I've been called things worse than a Meanie for treading on other peoples' ideas of Bleach and told to just shut up.

I won't.

It's a week without a manga chapter and many fangirls, myself included, are getting tetchy. In between the chores of a Real Life, I'm irresistably drawn to forum bickering and while I have the strength to not comment on the What's Up With All This Orihime Hate?" thread at AnimeSuki, I have to read every little bit of it.

I sneak into fanclubs too. I admit it. It's a perverse hobby. I love to read about what people think Grimmjow's children by Orihime should be named or who would be the flowergirl if Gin married Aizen. I read lots of fanclubs. My heart belongs to three--the UlquiHime, the RenIshi, and the IshiHime--but I'm ALL in there reading about how fans hypothesize Urahara would get past that trick of Nemu's poison vagina so she and Uryuu could have Shinigami/human babies. There are even a few people in the IchiOri fandom that engage me with their logical constructs (even if they don't come out to debate) and I was once called "sick" by an IchiOri fan for traversing in their waters and likened unto "a nazi visiting a synagogue." Yeah, I called her on Godwin's Law but to my shame, I actually wanted to defend my natural curiosity at the time. I didn't.

I don't suppose I will now--I'll just admit to have the curiosity of a barnyard of cats--and point out the fact that many fanclub posters write posts with the precise intent that their posts will be read by "competing" shippers. The posts are often not even thinly veiled attacks at particular fandom members, sarcastic indictments of whole groups of shippers (always prefaced with "I know not ALL IchiRuki shippers are this way but....") and every now and then there's an argument that appears fairly reasonable and tempts me, baits me, waves at me with its little sexy tentacles to challenge it.

Here's the one I can't resist: It's probably one of my fave contradictions in their thought process. Orihime at 16 says she's in love with Ichigo, she's called immature. Ichigo is said to be in love with Rukia at 16 and he's called mature. There's a disconnect here...

Is the fallacy in this statement only immediately obvious to me or does the statement really seem to make sense?

16-year-olds either are or aren't mature, this statement presumes. The inference is a global statement--either all 16 year olds are mature or they aren't, and to distinguish differences among them is to misunderstand the strict nature of 16-year olds.

Fallacies like that one leap out at me all the time but that one inspired this post because besides just wanting to CORRECT it like the snooty logic teacher I am (I graded papers for the hubby when he was ill this semester so I'm ALL THAT now!), I started to think about other implications of the statement.

And those go to Orihime's character. Yes, a lot of people say "Orihime at sixteen is too young to be in love." There's a fallacy in that thinking too. That statement makes the same global presumption about the nature of 16-year-olds as the original statement I just called out. But what are most fans really observing about Orihime? Orihime's immaturity or that the nature of her love itself is immature?

I've made the point before that Orihime's love for Ichigo starts off as a joke--it's obviously a girlish crush, and Orihime imagines her beloved in princely attire, muses "Is this what a man's back looks like in battle?" when she sees Ichigo fight for the first time, and for all intents and purposes, she's got what is a recognizable teenage crush founded on very little interpersonal interaction and a lot of wishful hopes and hormones. The crush would not be so evident were in not in contrast to the deep bond and friendship being formed by Rukia and Ichigo during the course of the manga, a bond Orihime envies (you'll hear argument about this up and down from IchiOri shippers but Orihime clearly states more than once that she is "jealous"--there's no getting around that) and one that seems to be the basis of a more "mature" love.

So is Ichigo, at sixteen, more mature than Orihime? Probably not. Teenage boys are notoriously clueless and socially unevolved in various ways compared to their female counterparts, but it does appear that whatever Ichigo is shown to feel for Rukia is more mature, more fully developed and grounded in reality than Orihime's love for Ichigo.

That's not to say that Orihime's love for Ichigo is still a joke. It's not. Chapter 237 put her love confession adorably in the midst of her musing about going to eat ice cream and wanting to become an astronaut so its girlishness was still plain, but the force of the sentiment was beautifully touching.  Kubo -sensei meant it to be.

Some of my homegirls made the point well in part three of Feminism in Bleach here in this community when they noted that Kubo never trivializes Orihime's feelings; we are led to sympathize with them and feel for her.

Orihime’s strength lies with her loved ones – she relies on them for support, and tries to support them with whatever she can offer. Ichigo in particular is a source of inspiration and strength for her. By that same token, however, her focus on Ichigo is so absolute it can be detrimental to her attention for details (i.e. forgetting that Nel needs to be healed until Ichigo asks her to heal her, neglecting to raise a shield until reminded). However, it is never implied by Kubo Tite that it is wrong for her to be in love, nor does he trivialize her feelings in any way. He does not imply through Bleach that women are necessarily made weaker for being in love. Orihime, Byakuya, Hitsugaya, Hinamori, Soi Fon and Renji all lose their senses to an extent because of the people they love (be it platonically, filially or romantically).

So what about all those people who believe Orihime loves Ichigo with all her heart? They are a shipping minority compared to IchiRuki but still a sizable fandom community (especially in the English-speaking Bleach fandom from what I can tell) and although I've snarked before about there only being five left in the fandom, I don't want to say that these people are wrong. Orihime may indeed love Ichigo with all her heart. But that love itself isn't mature or developed.

Orihime's character is in flux right now--like all those who play an important part in a shounen story, she's been on the verge of a power-upgrade for a couple years.  She's due to realize her extent of her powers and to use them efficiently (Her shooting Tsubaki is a given--it's just a matter of when--the girl is 5/6ths Healer and Protector but she's also 1/6th slicing dicing attacking fairy)  Those fans who say "but why would Kubo give Orihime these intense feelings if he's not going to DO something with them in the Bleach story?" are perfectly right to ask that; if I know my Kubo, he's not going to let Orihime's emotional development fall by the wayside.

Her feelings have to change.  Her love has to mature (It showed signs of that when she feared then cheered Ichigo during the Grimmjow battle and then recently in chapter 317 when she mused that "it's impossible to feel exactly the same as someone else"--these moments showing an emotionally maturing Orihime) and with that maturity MAY come an acceptance of its earlier girlish ideals not being reciprocated by its source-object.

Or Ichigo may fall in love with Orihime.

As most of you know, I have serious doubts for various reasons about the latter ever happening, but let me state for the record that Orihime's love for Ichigo, the way I see it, is immature.  It used to be a pure love in the sense that it was unsullied by experience (and genuine conversation) with her beloved but after Hueco Mundo, one really can't say that anymore--Orihime's coming of age story has had her take some of the cruelest knocks in Bleach. Something's got to give. And next time she's challenged with the ugly face of Reality, there won't be a little Arrancar around to talk her out of her fear and give her a pep talk. Orihime will have face Reality on her own.

Kubo tends to dole out the girly drama in tiny doses--I'd really expected more of an emotional stage for Hinamori when she appeared recently but he just showed her making the baby step of coming out to fight even when Aizen was the enemy. I expect that we'll see something, SOMETHING of Orihime's long-anticipated character development in the coming weeks.

Please, Shishou.

If you deny us, the shippers are going to kill one another. Well, there may be carnage either way, but what I'm rooting for in the coming weeks is NOT the sinking of the IchiOri ship but the strengthening of Inoue Orihime's character and some resolution to her issues. Yes, I want to see Ichigo's true feelings for her. No, I don't think he's secretly in love with her.

Like I said elsewhere, I will eat my green-striped hat and adopt an IchiOri shipper and take her out for ice-cream if I'm wrong. I just want to have more answers SOON.

Gotta wake up the husband to make him go to work.  Classes start in a week. He's got stuff to prepare and resumes to send out. He's going to laugh at me when I tell him I've been calling logical fallacies in shipwars again.

Tags: orihime, shipping
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