There are some constants within the world of fandom -- detailed theories, epic homemade tributes, and a lot of shipping. Fans have campaigned for certain characters to develop a romance for decades, and it's safe to say that the Internet has helped that flourish even more. The social networking platform Tumblr has chronicled the numbers behind the most popular ships, as part of their official Fandometrics listings. In addition to chronicling the most popular ships for a certain week, Tumblr has made headlines for publishing the top ships of the year -- and they're already looking ahead to the future. Amanda Brennan, Tumblr's Trend Expert and Meme Librarian, recently unveiled what she predicts to be the top seven ships of 2020.
- Tarlos - T.K. Strand & Carlos Reyes (9-1-1: Lone Star)
- Harlivy - Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy (The DC universe)
- SamBucky - Sam Wilson & Bucky Barnes (The Falcon and The Winter Soldier)
- Wayhaught - Waverly Earp & Nicole Haught (Wynonna Earp)
- Wondertrev - Diana Prince & Steve Trevor (Wonder Woman 1984)
- Sonny x Pete - Sonny de la Vega & Graffiti Pete (In The Heights)
- V x Johnny - V & Johnny Silverhand (Cyberpunk 2077)
To help prepare you for the next ten months of shipping, we chatted with Brennan via email about her predictions and how each ship could impact Tumblr itself. Along the way, we chatted about the significance of shipping, Tumblr's LGBTQ+ positivity, and how exactly one becomes a "meme librarian".
ComicBook.com: So to start things off, I have to ask exactly how you got into this job, because the idea of being a "meme librarian" sounds absolutely incredible.
Amanda Brennan: A lot of serendipity! My first semester of graduate school at Rutgers, the library and information sciences program began to offer a social media track. I've always been obsessed with internet culture and fandom, so I focused on it and did work on online communities. My capstone project was on how people tag on Tumblr in 2010. After graduating with my MLIS, I spent a few years at Know Your Meme working on memes and fandoms before starting at Tumblr in 2013. In the past six years, I've been focused on how people talk and engage with each other on the platform, whether it be through tags, memes, inside fandoms or viral posts. It's really fun.prevnext
How It Works
For those who might not be aware of how it works, could you break down how you get your data for the weekly and annual ship lists?
We analyze tens of thousands of tags and the way people engage with them: original posts, reblogs, searches and likes. From there we do some proprietary weighting and normalizing to account for certain actions showing more affinity for a tag and the size of the ecosystem. All of that results in a Trend Score for each tag that they are then ranked by.
In a broader sense, I was wondering if you could dive into your process of how these seven predictions were made, and why you think each ship has the potential to be popular?
My team and I looked at our upcoming editorial calendar and evaluated what had the biggest shipping potential. From there, I used institutional and historical knowledge to forecast what will land with our community. A lot of it is just from seeing patterns of how the Tumblr hive mind reacts to entertainment media.prevnext
Several of the ships on your list are tied to upcoming media, between Wonder Woman 1984, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, In the Heights, and Cyberpunk 2077. Why do you think these four properties, in particular, are going to ignite a lot of shipping?
For Wonder Woman 1984 and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, people have already started participating in these ships from what's out there already. Wondertrev was on the Fandometrics ships lists twice around the first movie's release and there's a ship for pretty much any two people involved in the Avengers.
When it comes to In The Heights, the musical already has a big following. When the film comes out, people are really going to connect with the story that so many people have only listened to a recording of. We've seen traces of this ship already on platform with some adorable fanart so I can only anticipate more to follow.
When it comes to Cyberpunk, from what we already know about the game, it feels like a world people can really dive into and experience. Games like that tend to draw in a lot of shipping activity from our community.prevnext
I love the fact that nearly all of the ships on your list - and a lot of the ships on the official rankings for last year - are M/M or F/F. Obviously, Tumblr is known for being an incredibly LGBTQ+ positive platform, but I was wondering how you see that quantified from your role on the site?
It's a trend I personally have noticed in fandom since I was a teenager and one I professionally have studied throughout my career. We did a historical look at ships on Tumblr since 2013 and have seen this pattern year over year. I think what makes these ships rise to the top is that there's less of these pairings in canon and people want to see that representation. The characters are often written with some chemistry and fans just want to explore those relationships in whatever way makes them happy. As someone who is a really active shipper and just loves love in general, sometimes I see two characters interact and just like to explore the idea of their relationship blossoming into something more.
On top of that in recent years there have been some incredible canon pairings (Wayhaught is my personal fave) that people are happy to see and want to dive into more through fic, art, memes, everything.prevnext
Why Shipping Matters
As someone who has spent a decade on Tumblr and many more years as part of Internet culture as a whole, I know fandom and shipping is an incredibly integral part of all of that. If there are any skeptics reading this piece and wondering why shipping is such a big deal, what would you say to them?
I've done a lot of presentations about shipping and I like to start by asking the room to think about a tv show or film they really enjoy. Then to think about a relationship on that show and how it made them feel. Everyone usually has a positive response to some element of it - I've heard from people thinking about The Bachelor, Ross and Rachel from Friends, Chidi and Eleanor from The Good Place. That warm fuzzy feeling you get when you think of the way William Jackson Harper looks at Kristen Bell while reading "There is no answer, but Eleanor is the answer"? Maybe you're not writing fanfic or consuming art, but you're feeling that feeling. That's why people dive into shipping. To fill their lives with the love of love. Mainstream culture does it all the time with celebs and on tv, they just don't always use the word to describe it.prevnext
Are there any ships that didn't make it onto your prediction list, but that you're still keeping an eye on for the remainder of 2020?
A lot of big properties came to a close last year, so what I'm most excited about in 2020 is seeing what springs out of new properties that haven't come out yet!
With this job, I would assume that you have to be enveloped in a lot of popular culture. But what, in particular, are you nerding out about right now?
I binged the entire season of Roswell, New Mexico last month and cannot wait for it to come back! I also just read the entire Wicked + Divine graphic novel series and loved it so much.
On a similar note, what memes are you particularly fond of at the moment?