Notes on a Fandom: You Down with OTP?

Notes on a Fandom is a column dedicated to lesbian/bi fandom in its various incarnations. It also feature thoughts and comments from you, the fans. Follow @DanaPiccoli on Twitter and Tumblr to keep up with the latest topics and questions.

Love. Friendship. Passion. These are all things that fans look for in an OTP. For those who don’t know what an OTP is, in the world of fandom it means “One True Pairing.” More often than not, its these “true pairings” or the possibility of one that really speaks to the fans. Xena and Gabrielle, Naomi and Emily, Brittany and Santana. Couples like these are the heart of a show, the characters you want to read about in the epilogue because they lived happily ever after. Long after all the lies have been told, songs have been sung, worlds have been saved (again), these couples and their journeys are what fans remember most.

My first OTP, like many lesbian viewers I’d wager, was Willow and Tara. While I’d always casually watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it wasn’t until Willow and Tara fell organically, magically in love that I became a true fangirl.

“Can you just be kissing me now?”

The way their relationship was handled was pretty damn groundbreaking. It was the first time that I, as a young gay woman, felt truly represented on television. Seeing these characters deal with the same issues that regular, everyday gay girls like me did (minus the demons and apocalypses, of course) really helped me connect to the show as a whole. When Tara died, I felt the pain in a very real way. At the time, I was embarrassed that I felt so torn up about it, but looking back, I was a fangirl doing what fangirls do: Feeling. (By the way, still not over it.) So why do you think Willow and Tara stand the test of time? Why do we still care so damn much about them 13 years later?

Let’s look at a few more past and present television OTPs that resonate in the fangirl community.

Xena and Gabrielle, Xena: Warrior Princess

Ah, the ship that really put lesbian fanfics on the map. While for a majority of the show’s duration, the “are they or aren’t they” relationship between Xena and Gabby was purposely left ambiguous, fans took that subtext and ran with it. Sure, there were occasional dream sequence kisses, shared bath times, innuendos and lots of eye sexing, but it was the deep bond of love and friendship between the pair that solidified their place in fandom.

Turns out fans were on the right track. Hell, Lucy Lawless knew the true nature of the relationship. “Gay. Gay,” she said in an interview with Lesbian News in 2003. “Definitely.”

Oh yeah, I totes take baths with my friends. Scented candles much, ladies?

Spencer and Ashley, South of Nowhere

South of Nowhere was a teen show on The N network, with not one, but two queer lady leads. (For 2005 that was a lot of queer lady leads. Hell, for 2013 that’s a lot of queer lady leads.) Full of family drama and teenage angst, South of Nowhere gave viewers some truly likeable characters to root for, flaws and all. Spencer Carlin, new in town and positively adorable, and Ashley Davies, broody and badass, are drawn to each other right from the start. Against all odds and despite the occasional love triangle and parental interference, the girls always found their way back to one another. The chemistry between Spashley (best shipper name ever) was palpable, thanks to the delightful and charming actresses Mandy Musgrave and Gabrielle Christian. South of Nowhere was unfortunately cancelled way too soon after its third season. Luckily for fans, however, the cast and crew of SoN gave us a peek into Spashly’s happy future in the form of a webisode.


Naomi and Emily, Skins

“So be brave and want me back!” With that one line, Emily Fitch took the words right out of our mouths. Sometimes it takes everything you have, every ounce of courage to love and be loved, and that is what is so universally endearing about Naomily. Their relationship was messy and sweet, just like real young love. When they fell apart in Season 4, fans clutched their chests and prayed for reconciliation. They got it, in the form of one of the most heartfelt monologues ever delivered on television. Naomi Campbell revealed she’d loved Emily since she was twelve, and for that, fans will love Naomily for eternity. In 2013, Skins will be airing its final season, and it has been confirmed that Emily and Naomi are most definitely part of this last chapter. Will they end up happily ever after? You never know with Skins, but I’d be willing to bet my Girabaldi biscuits on it.

If you love Naomily’s story, check out my fan song, “Oilz and Stuff.”

Callie and Arizona, Grey’s Anatomy

Gay fans (and quite a few straight ones for that matter) of Grey’s Anatomy were surprised and delighted when Callie first fell for lady doctor Erica Hahn, but the relationship was short lived. We didn’t know that just around the bend would be the perky, but rather complex pediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins. She won our hearts when she skated through the halls on her Heelies and planted a big bold kiss on Callie in Joe’s Bar. This couple has been through breakups and makeups, car accidents, a bizarre musical episode, babies, weddings, plane crashes, serious injuries, yet have somehow managed to endure. This love and dedication has made them one of the OTPs we cherish most.

What’s next for these hot docs? Well according to the preview for the next episode on January 10th, sexy times. Sexy. Times.

Brittany and Santana, Glee

Brittana is the ship that fans of Glee helped create. Nice job, fangirls! You saw what you wanted and you asked for more. While it hasn’t always been perfect (OK, sometimes it’s been downright infuriating) at its heart, fans got a romance that really rang true. Best friends who fall in love. Have you ever fallen in love with your best friend? Of course you have, you’re a lesbian! Since the course of true Ryan Murphy never did run smooth, our cheerleaders are separated for now. Then again, so are Finchel and Klaine. Just remember they aren’t called OTPs for nothing. I have a feeling Brittana will be shaking pompoms and dueting again before the season is over. Hey, a fangirl has got to stay positive right?

See, sometimes an OTP can make a real difference in someone’s life!

Emily and Paige, Pretty Little Liars

I make no bones about it, I’m an unabashed Paily shipper. I also recognize that the relationship between Paige and Emily is not everyone’s cup of tea. I particularly feel for the Emaya shippers out there who never got to see their favorite couple have a happy ending. That’s the thing about Rosewood, though: it’s a real bitch. You never know when your love interest is going to get shot, run over, beaten with a hockey stick, blinded, kidnapped, or worst of all, betray you and your friends. (Damn you Toby!) Paige and Emily have had one hell of a journey, and it appears now that Emily is finally happy again, in large part because of Paige.

Paily shippers are not shy about their flailing.

Season 3B starts in just a few days, and fans should expect more development in the Paily relationship. I anticipate more awesome soft butch outfits for Paige and make out sessions at the Brew.

(There are a lot of really excellent Paily fanfics out there. Here are two of my favorites: “Seven for a Secret” by @TeriasMcKlay, and “As We Were” by @Shokoshik. What are your favorite Paily fanfics? Let me know in the comments.)

So, dear readers, who are your favorite OTPs? Why do they hold court in your fandom? Have you been sucked in to the world of Doccubus? Lost Girl Season 3 starts on January 6th on Showcase for Canadian viewers, and January 14th in the states on Syfy. Do you think Kate will return Betty’s love on Bomb Girls? Check out their new extended season starting January 2nd on Global for those in Canada, and on the Reelz Channel sometime later this winter.

It’s finally 2013, so here’s hoping for a year full of flails and swoons for all you fangirls out there. As always, flail on fangirl, flail on.

Biweekly, Notes on a Fandom will feature a different fandom-centric topic. Stay tuned to my Twitter (@danapiccoli) and Tumblr for updates. I’ll also be looking for your input to include in future columns. Tweet me your thoughts on what you’d like to see covered with the hashtag #notesfandom, and send me links to your Tumblr.