last01standing: ([SGA] Sheppard)
[personal profile] last01standing

In terms of characters on television who can be read as ace, as far as I can see we’ve got Sherlock Holmes (despite all the Moffat nonsense), Sheldon Cooper (where it’s played as a joke), and John Sheppard. Of these three, Sheppard’s the only example I really like.

[That’s a whole other issue involving asexuality and dehumanization and it’s something I’m going to tackle not so much by talking about it, but by writing asexual characters into my fiction. It is worth noting, but not the point of what turned into a massive essay. Onwards!]

The matter of John Sheppard:

Over five years of Stargate Atlantis, the dashing action hero had zero serious romantic relationships. Most of the other main characters (I’m talking everyone outside of Zelenka, Ford, and Lorne) had a romantic plotline arc. You got your McKay with Katie Brown and Keller, Ronon and Awesome Kickboxing Gatetech, Teyla and Kanaan, Weir and Simon. Hell even Beckett and Cadman. Romance is never a central part of SGA, not like finding your family is, but it’s also not ignored.

Which brings us to the man himself. John Sheppard defies the usual trope and turns out to be less dashing spacehero and more dorky flyboy who failed so hard at being on Earth he got to Pegasus and came out the other side. He meets Teyla, kickass alien warrior princess, in episode one. He’s well on his way to charming her into helping the expedition when the wraith culling turns the Teyla’s settlement into refuges. By the time she joins Sheppard’s team, most viewers probably had the same guess about where this would go.

Instead, what follows over the next few episodes is Sheppard constantly professing trust in Teyla, getting his ass kicked by Teyla in stick fights, trying to explain Earth or Pegasus customs to Teyla as she makes WTF faces at him… and a complete and utter lack of romantic overtures from either side. They’re completely and utterly comfortable with each other. They trust each other, but they’re friends, they’re family, not love interests. It’s a trend that continues through the series, but it gets made pretty explicit in Conversion where a bugged up Sheppard kisses her and then proceeds to make a face and say ‘I’m not sure what just happened here.’ Seriously, you can’t tell me this face is turned on:


Later when he apologies he says references what he did as ‘out of character.’ Teyla, because she is awesome personified tells him to give it no further thought. They both end the episode looking insanely relieved.


Then they go back to being family and never mention it again.

Sheppard also reacts weirdly to Teyla’s pregnancy, but I tend to read this as less jealousy and more ‘if you leave my team you’re breaking up my family. Please don’t.’ Plus he’s awfully pleased when he gets to cuddle with Teyla’s kid.


My first run through the series, I kept side-eyeing Sheppard-Weir as a thing that could possibly happen. They wind up sticking up for each other a lot. But there’s also this whole thing where they are clearly pleased to see each other, but never seem to touch. Sheppard sprawls on everything but put a person beside him and he goes all uptight. Unless he’s holding in entrails, he’s mostly trying not to touch people. Weir’s no real exception, but the ship does get a nod in canon.

Of course, the Sheppard/Weir kiss happens when they are possessed by the alien versions of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And it should be noted that when Weir suggests Sheppard let the husband of the creature possessing her into his body so they can say goodbye, it’s not something Sheppard looks up for:


And that’s the end of Sheppard’s romances with recurring characters. Full stop. One kiss when turning into a bug. One kiss while possessed. Mentions of an ex-wife that ‘didn’t work out.’ We get the feeling that Nancy Sheppard wanted more from John that he could actually give. There's more disappointment and exasperation in their interactions than dislike. The implication is that Sheppard would rather be flying than romancing. Or shooting things. Or playing videogames with McKay.

We’ve also got a few guest stars on screen. There’s Chaya, the ancient who had the most notable on screen attempt at romance. As far as I can tell it was glowy and spiritual. Which I’m like 90% sure is not how this usually goes:

Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 2.02.41 PM

The rest of them are all in a little bunch in mid-season two, pretty damn close to the time I was slotting Sheppard as ace in my mind. They’re all a little…off. It’s like the writers all of a sudden realized they forgot a trope and tried to shove it all back in. It didn’t exactly work out.

We have people like the wraith worshipper in ‘The Hive’ who try to curl up next to Sheppard for warmth and to whom Sheppard makes this face:

Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 3.53.02 PM

Then there’s the stuck in a time dilation filed lady, Teer. And honestly, for all the jokey pseudo flirting, Sheppard looks pretty uncomfortable for the entire scene:

Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 4.25.40 PM

We also got the The Tower that had someone literally have to unclothe for Sheppard for him to get a hint:

SHEPPARD: Oh, wow! I ... I never see this coming!

For me, the exchange at the end of this episode kind of sums up Sheppard and romance:

SHEPPARD: We got the drones, we got a few Jumpers; I even got the girl.
WEIR: You got the girl?!
SHEPPARD: Well, I mean I could have got the girl. I turned her down.

The show may play it off as ‘didn’t want to ascend’ or ‘you only want me for my gene’ or ‘wraith worshippers don’t really do it for me,’ but it mostly boils down to Sheppard could have had got the girl. But he didn’t really want her.

For canon, that’s pretty much all we see from possible love interests. Sheppard’s the passive party in pretty much every instance and the one time he instigates, he’s bugged up and not exactly himself. It’s also pretty interesting to note that these all this happens before the end of season two. I swear the writers just sort of threw up their hands and declared him unromancable.

We’re left with a pilot who looks pretty at ease most of the time, but then makes faces when someone hits on him or just ignores it and carries on his merry way. Sheppard is someone who, at the end of the series walks out onto a pier full of couples, settles himself in the middle and seems pretty damn okay with how his life has turned out.

And I really love him for it.

I know McKay/Sheppard seems to be the fanon pairing with a chaser of Sheppard/Ronon. I guess if you take into account Sheppard’s hair and the fact that he’s mostly oblivious to the onscreen female come-ons, I can almost buy it. Except, not really.

Looking at Sheppard and McKay, you’ve got a bromance that’s born of (proximity and Stockholm Syndrome a little) geeking out and saving each other’s life. I love these two, I really do, but the fundamental thing I see them having in common when the series started is that they were lonely as fuck growing up. They make up for it on Atlantis by being gigantic twelve-year-olds together. Sheppard teases McKay about his girlfriend while they play videogames and McKay mocks him for being ‘Kirk’ even though they both know there’s not much to that.

As for Ronon, well it’s mostly just affectionately beating each other to a pulp. Seriously, it’s distressingly close to how me and brother treated each other when we were kids. As far as I’m concerned Sheppard’s the dorky kid brother Ronon had culled never had.

And we’re back to that old theme again: family. The whole show is like this and a lot of it is the influence of what the main character thinks is important. It’s pretty much impossible to say romance is something Sheppard ranks high on his list.

So, I add up the romantic overtures we do see, the team that feels like family, the please don’t touch me body language, the obliviousness and just about everything else that makes up Sheppard and I come up the inescapable headcanon:

Sheppard doesn’t have any romances across SGA because Sheppard didn’t want any.

I really can’t express how awesome that is. The other ace characters in media, Sheldon Cooper and Sherlock Holmes feel really alien. Like disinterest is just something else to set them apart from society. But in SGA, Sheppard’s our point of view character. He’s the one we’re supposed to relate to, supposed to root for. He’s flawed, he’s brave, he makes mistakes, he has friends, he has family. He’s the sort of person you might actually meet on the street one day.

His lack of romance is never mentioned as weird. Characters in the main cast don’t hit on him. They don’t try to set him up. They just let him be Sheppard. Because I think they get it.

And that’s huge.

[I welcome additions, rebuttals, whatever. It is on tumblr as well, but I still like LJ better for that crazy thing called ‘dialogue.’ Anon if you like. I’ve been craving SGA meta since I finished my first go around (and immediately started my second). I’m getting the idea that Sheppard’s one of those characters that everyone sees a little differently. And that’s cool.]
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