Fandoms for popular TV shows and video games just can’t help themselves when it comes to “shipping” two characters who may otherwise be incompatible with each other. The practice of fantasizing about characters who would otherwise be friends or siblings into romantic relationships is commonplace in geek culture.
Sometimes, these relationships cause controversy when creators refuse to pander to the fans by making otherwise straight characters gay or lesbian.
The popular superhero TV series, Supergirl, is at the center of such a controversy. Over the weekend, the show’s cast talked about the relationship between the show’s main character, Kara Danvers, and a new character named Lena Luthor (Lex Luthor’s sister).
Katie McGrath, who plays Lena Luthor, said in the extended interview that neither she nor the show’s star Melissa Benoist, expected to be “shipped” as a couple, but added that it was up to fans to have their own take-aways of the show.
Actor Jeremy Jordan had other plans, and sang a song about how Kara and Lena are only friends and nothing more to riff on the “Supercorp” relationship. “They’re only friends! They’re not gonna get together! They’re only friends!”
Fans of the show who enjoy the idea of Supercorp were offended by his performance, calling it “gross” and “unnecessary.” On Supergirl, Kara has been romantically involved with several male characters and is undeniably heterosexual.
Feminist vertical The Mary Sue took their offense at Jordan’s joke to the next level, claiming that his decision to make light of the “relationship” displays a “fundamental misunderstanding of why shipping is so important to LGBTQIA fans.”
Writing for the site, Vivian Kane says that representation of such minorities is “severely lacking on television” and that it’s important for fans to be able to dream up queer relationships between otherwise heterosexual characters to make up for it.
“And the very last thing those fans need is to be laughed at by someone on the show,” she says.
It’s an argument falls flat when one considers the fact that Supergirl is by and large one of the most progressive TV shows currently on TV, alongside Wynonna Earp and Orphan Black.
Throughout the series, Kara’s adoptive sister Alex Danvers has been involved with another main character on the show, Maggie Sawyer. The show’s positive depiction of a lesbian couple, especially in a genre that usually tiptoes around the topic of sexuality, earned it a GLAAD nomination.
Responding to the backlash, Jeremy Jordan took to Instagram to state that there was nothing homophobic about his song, which was not intended as a putdown of the LGBTQ community. In his message, the actor also called out a “select few people” for trying to “find hidden meanings in silly jokes.”
“Yes, fight for what you believe with all your heart, but understand that we are all human. And we all deserve respect,” wrote Jordan. “That being said, I know now that I made some of you feel pretty shitty, and I’m really sorry for that. I think you can guess you’ve succeeded in making me feel the same. The difference, however, is mine is unintentional. So enough with the hate. Let us live our lives with love (and humor). We are all super.”
His message caused his detractors to double down, prompting him to make a second apology, in which he wishes he could “go back in time” to redo the whole segment with MTV with a promise to do better next time.
Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter.