G-rated Johnlock fanart
Shipping is as old as fandom itself. But traditionally, fans never expected their particular pairing to “become canon” — that is, to officially happen on a show or in a storyline. In modern fandoms, however, fans of movies and TV shows often root for their ships to become canon the way sports fans root for their teams. If the football fans’ goal is to see their team win the Super Bowl, the shipper’s goal is to see their ship “win” by entering the narrative as an official storyline.
These shippers collectively form group narratives about their favorite ship. More and more, these group narratives are evolving into unshakable belief systems that usually take one of three increasingly common forms:
1) The belief that the ship in question is unquestionably going to become canon
Historically in fandom, liking a ship meant just that: You liked a ship. Anything more than that would get you a lot of side-eyeing. In the Harry Potter fandom, the advent of Ron and Hermione becoming a couple in the sixth book led to a very famous (and still ongoing) meltdown among Harry/Hermione shippers.
At the time — fandom in 2005 — their unwavering faith that Harry/Hermione would eventually become canon was widely seen by fandom at large as extreme, because shipping was typically viewed as something that existed outside of canon and generally had no particular relationship to the course of canon at all.
Today, expecting your ship to become canon is more or less the norm. But there are lots of complications with this line of thinking. Even if a ship does become canon, it might not become canon in a way that fans like — Buffy/Spike, anyone? And of course it might not be guaranteed to remain canon. Breakups happen, actors leave shows, and, as The 100 fans were brutally reminded earlier this spring, characters die.