Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, the protagonists of FX’s The Americans, are very good spies. But they aren’t super spies. We’re reminded of this at the start of Wednesday’s Season Two premiere. Elizabeth leaves the cabin where she’s been convalescing for months after a botched intelligence operation. Philip’s attempt to send an intimidating message back to Afghani freedom fighters turns bad, and he’s forced to kill two more people than he’d wanted to—including an innocent teenager.
Spying, see, is hard. This is something that pop culture’s depictions of the trade often forget. Yes, James Bond faces tough challenges, but he wins out with the help of superhuman tech, suaveness, and athletic ability. His only real threats are guys with lasers and metal jaws and control of all the world’s computer systems. In other words, he and the threats he faces aren’t real.
Lately, TV has been making covert agents seem a smidge realer than Bond. But that still doesn’t mean they’re relatable. Huck on Scandal is a savant; he’s also a traumatized, unstable sadist. Carrie on Homeland is a savant; she’s also a bipolar, unstable crusader. This makes sense. Part of the appeal of spies is that they’re a different class of person—invisibly affecting the world, but fundamentally not of the world.
On The Americans, though, spies seem just like most people.
Read more. [Image: FX]
My linguistics textbook is talking about the formation of the words “shipping” and “shippers”. I kid you not.
Our fandom, filling lexical gaps, making sociolinguistic history. Is anyone else tearing up a little?
"…To take another example, if you participate on a posting board dedicated to a popular television show, say The X-Files, you might have expressed on the board (a foreclipping, by the way) your desire that someday Mulder and Scully would become romantically involved, would have a relationship. In that case, you would be a Mulder/Scully shipper. Shipper is an innovative clipping from relationshipper. Note that the root of the word is relationship, not relation or shipper. As it turns out, your hopes for Mulder and Scully were at least partially realized. And shipper is an excellent example of a word formed to fill a lexical gap. Can you think of any other word that expresses the concept ‘one who hopes that two people (actual or fictional) will develop a romantic relationship’?”
Something I find interesting about this is that, if I’m reading right, shipper came first, which would make both the noun and verb versions of ship back formations. Intuitively, just looking at usage, you’d expect that the verb came first- “I ship them, therefore I’m a shipper”- but instead it was the reverse. And it makes sense, because in the X-Files fandom, the major distinction wasn’t between ships, but between interpretations of THE ship. Shipper referred to people who wanted Mulder and Scully to get together, distinct from noromos who didn’t, and fans who were into other pairings either didn’t have names for themselves or used labels that didn’t make it into fandom vernacular- as, indeed, shipper wouldn’t have if it hadn’t acquired a much broader meaning- the one provided by the text. Now, if you say you’re a shipper, the natural response is “what do you ship?” The verb ship is almost always transitive, a usage that would have made no sense in the original context because there was only one possible direct object -the good ship MSR.
*wipes small tear*
Linguistic things! FYI Carrie!