The Bear: The Vitriolic Response to SydCarmy ‘Shipping is Getting Weird


There’s no series too big or too small to fall victim to a legion of fans who are interested enough in the character dynamics to consider how that dynamic can evolve.

Shipping culture is so deeply embedded in a fandom experience that it should be taken with a grain of salt because it is inevitable.

It’s simply another avenue in which some fans enjoy the content they’re provided with.

As we know, content takes many forms, ranging from fanfiction to fan cast videos and endless discourse unpacking all facets of a series.

Related: The Bear Cast: Where Have We Seen Them Before?

It’s becoming less outlandish to surmise that very few series have elicited such a biting, aggressive, and brash approach to the very existence of a ‘ship quite like The Bear.

And here’s the thing: no one can argue that there are moments in which a small section of vocal shippers for any series can’t be bordering on obnoxious about imposing their viewpoints on the fandom at large, the cast, and the series itself.

Worse yet, it can be an issue if a series takes a fandom’s sentiment too much into account when creating and producing content for it.

But the particular nature of the dynamic between Carmy Berzatto and Sydney Adamu has been at the tip of tongues and on the outskirts of every conversation about The Bear.

It’s nothing new. The prominence of “shipping” and the particular usage of the term is 30 years old.

It’s been ingrained in the fabric of the television show consumption experience since fans rallied for Mulder and Scully to be together on The X-Files.

The notion of longing for TV characters, particularly leads, to take a romantic turn has been mulling around well before that.

Decades-long soap operas have made their bread and butter off it for longer than many of us have been alive.

Related: The Bear Season 3 Ending Explained: The Restaurant Review Is In

The discourse surrounding Carmy and Sydney specifically would lead one to believe that the very concept of shipping is somehow a new development in fandom that should be met with a level of disdain, contempt, and condescension.

It has surpassed a simple “I don’t interpret it that way or agree” and right into, “This is absolutely wrong, and a stain on the series to imply in the first place.”

The level of vitriol from the top down, whether it’s from those behind or in the show or critics and the fandom at large, is so prominent that it’s jarring.

In fact, the demeanor towards anyone who entertains the idea of why they find these two characters a decent potential pairing is ironically on par with The Bear Season 3’s greatest criticism: it’s become pretentious.

Far be it for me to wade into these waters, as typically, when it comes to shipping, I hover around indifference more often than not, Sydcarmy included in that sentiment.

But even as someone who doesn’t jump aboard ships often, it’s become unfathomable and frankly offputting how belligerent many have come across regarding this particular dynamic.

It’s exposed something far more insidious: a particular elitism that The Bear has shifted into onscreen and off.

The idea seems to be that this arthouse, Emmy-award-winning series that has skyrocketed to prestige is somehow “above” things like this and that the very concept of “shipping” attached to the show is beneath it.

But no show is above a devoted and passionate audience who loves the content and characters enough to be invested and inspired to get creative.

The critically acclaimed Game of Thrones fueled so much shipping that it sparked compelling discourse about their nature based on what pairings factions of fandom attached themselves to.

While Ted and Rebecca were two characters who sparked avid shippers for Ted Lasso, the series wasn’t so prestigious that it could be exempt from such things with those characters and beyond.

Related: The Case For the Short-Running Series: Why The Bear Should End With Season 4

We’d be foolish to pretend Roman and Gerri weren’t a topic of conversation and many fan edits and fan cams during Succession‘s run. Why? Because shipping comes with the territory, no matter what.

Most series, from the esteemed to the trashy fun, can accept this for what it is with little to no expectations.

And there certainly isn’t this desire to alienate or squash down a faction of fandom for choosing to interpret the series and its characters differently than what’s intended.

If we can accept that all art is about interpretation, then what is with this newfound haughty approach to putting shippers or simply those who read something differently into a scene or arc in their place?

In addition to the inherent elitism that seems to simmer beneath the surface, not of the sentiment but of its sheer staunch aggressiveness, is the inherent way of looking down on an element of enjoying a series that can predominantly appeal to women.

The desire to invalidate and look down upon a subsection of the fandom experience that could remotely be geared toward women is always frustrating.

Or the cynical approach to even the utterance of romance, even though it’s a massively successful genre as if it’s somehow inferior in any and all ways.

One of the leading reasons many argue against the idea of a romantic Carmy/Sydney dynamic is because The Bear “isn’t that type of show,” which seems puzzling.

The implication is that romance in any and all forms has no place in a prestigious series or that it can only exist in a series in which it’s the central factor.

Related: The Bear’s Claire Problem: Why Is She So Hated?

It’s hard to digest that romance simply shouldn’t exist in any capacity in the series when so much of season two was spent introducing the polarizing Claire, and the Claire and Carmy romance was a central component of Carmy’s depression and many events of the third season.

The same season has sparked favorable conversations about Richie and Jess and potentially introduced something with Sydney and Will Poulter‘s fan-favorite pastry chef, Luca.

So, which is it?

Clearly, even The Bear understands that romance is a part of life, maybe not with every character but with some of them. The call to sanitize that element out of the series wouldn’t even feel authentic.

Hell, if we were really going for an authentic experience in this series regarding sex and romance, the freezer and pantry would be used for more than just storing food or taking moments to gather one’s thoughts.

Any person who has ever worked in a restaurant can tell you that.

What’s become more puzzling is the insistence that people showing interest in a dynamic that we all knowingly have accepted will likely never be canon will somehow cheapen and degrade the series.

It’s sold as some affront to “Platonic Love,” as if the series doesn’t actively showcase platonic love among many characters in every single installment.

If not for the discourse that the Carmy/Sydney dynamic has elicited over the years, one could easily conclude that the relationship is carefully and deliberately crafted to be transcendent and wonderfully ambiguous in a way that invites viewers to interpret it as they deem fit.

However, the ongoing need to paint some viewers as “delusional” for seeing something potentially romantic between the two has become increasingly odd given the nature of the scenes, which are often at the center of discussion.

It’s true that intimate relationships between men and women without a romantic component aren’t often at the center of a series, but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t prevalent.

Related: The Bear Season 2 Episodes Ranked: The Best and Worst of The Sophomore Season

We’ve seen Don and Peggy on Mad Men, and as platonic as it was, it’d be foolish to believe that it was somehow exempt from shipping, even within the series, characters tried to make sense of it.

Characters like Harvey and Jessica on the recently popular Suits had a compelling mentor/mentee, love/hate relationship, and deep bond that had a flirty vibe yet was platonic, which still prompted shippers.

As for The Bear, it always felt like Carmy and Sydney’s dynamic was as intentionally chaotic and genre-bending as some of the dishes or the series itself.

We get shades of the mentor/mentee angle that has always been intriguing.

They’re both far too insular to come across as traditional best friends, but an element of that, along with their occasionally baring their souls to each other, makes them as close to best friends as either of them could probably get.

They’re antagonistic enough and vulnerable enough to feel familial or like siblings.

There have been way too many parallels in the series with them playing around with the purest concept of soulmate ideology.

Given the many different ways that people can interpret this relationship, it’s not surprising that some fans have also chosen a romantic interpretation.

It doesn’t help that, despite the proclamations that some aren’t watching the series “the right way,” with the many techniques The Bear plays around, it has pulled from the romance genre.

Whether the intention was to borrow from them to foster and sell platonic intimacy or to subvert it altogether, anyone familiar with or enjoying the genre could recognize those elements and respond to them.

Related: What Losers In Love Can Learn from These Successful TV Couples

That makes the condescending assessment that some shippers lack the media literacy to interpret things properly particularly galling and ironic.

One of the most notable moments of the series, specifically season two, was how Sydney, representing work, the passion for cooking, and the future, pulled Carmy out of a panic attack when his girlfriend got lumped into the stress and trauma of the past and his family.

It’s a textbook maneuver utilized in both romantic comedies and romantic dramas onscreen and in text.

Similarly, the infamous table-fixing scene is a purely beautiful display of intimacy and vulnerability between two people.

Of course, it’s easy to view it as a touching platonic connection between friends as it was likely intended; it wasn’t a stretch to understand why some could interpret it otherwise as well, though.

From the lighting and angles to the vulnerability of the dialogue and how in sync the two were, perhaps the Indie-arthouse approach The Bear takes with its directing and cinematography doesn’t always help its cause because it was a moment ripe for multiple interpretations.

The series has subtly gone out of its way to showcase how Sydney has become an anchor for Carmy, which, no, isn’t a distinctively romantic thing, but also, yes, people perceiving it as such isn’t exactly foreign either.

Even in the current season, at least one moment of her presence grounds him and pulled him out of his head amid a panic attack.

The two are uniquely bonded, and the series emphasizes the importance of the dynamic for each of them, namely Carmy.

It’s not nearly as outlandish as many would like to make it seem, but some viewers may interpret that as romantic.

Related: Why We’re Rooting Against Jane and Gregory on Abbott Elementary

The characters are frequently set up as parallel, two sides of the same coin, yin and yang for one another, deceptively similar while strategically different in a way that balances out.

Their relationship, typically at its core, is built upon mutual respect, vulnerability, and shared interest.

It’s at least some groundwork for a worthwhile pairing with room to grow; yes, I imagine even still when most of us just want poor Sydney to run for the hills because she deserves so much better.

Anyone with a basic understanding of a friends-to-lovers trope could see some possible similarities.

Just as many who fundamentally enjoy the enemies-to-lovers trope have taken a similar liking to the less popular but still prevalent SydRichie pairing, that doesn’t get half the backlash.

It’s impossible to micromanage and control how someone interprets and enjoys a piece of media.

One cannot control consumption and how viewers approach it, and they shouldn’t.

The constant browbeating of a section of fandom for viewing as they do seems counterproductive, condescending, and unnecessary.

On top of that, it’s virtually pointless.

Whether this pairing evolves into something romantic or not will never change how people respond to it in different forms.

It seems rather foolish to judge some viewers for how they choose to enjoy the natural chemistry of the show’s leads.

Related: 19 Characters Whose Chemistry Could Set off Fireworks

And it’s increasingly becoming insensitive to dismiss why people are drawn to it in the way that they are while ignoring many factors that likely contribute to its popularity in the first place.

The language used when immediately dismissing why some fans are drawn to this pairing and why it’s important to them is very tricky.

The animosity at the mere suggestion of a romantic angle is so vastly disproportionate to the reality that it’s officially become alarming.

Unfortunately, the lack of nuance in response to this particular ship has also sparked familiar discussions about race, gender, and fandom.

It was hearkening to the extreme adverse reactions to some fandom audaciously shipping its leads to some of this issue’s more problematic showcasing, from Sleepy Hollow and The Vampire Diaries to the early days of The Flash and The Walking Dead.

The actual opposition to this dynamic becoming romantic isn’t so much the issue.

It seems passionate shippers to issue with how aggressively it’s shut down and some of the flimsy reasons utilized to do so.

After all, if it’s not your jam, there’s certainly nothing wrong with it. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with rooting for it, either.

Unfortunately, a long history of sidelining WOC, stripping them of desirability, romance, and love while making them the face of platonic love, sidekick, and faux sibling makes this particular ‘ship and the sentiment behind shipping it far more nuanced than it’s given credit for.

Understandably, it also makes the blowback toward it a point of contention.

But in the end, it boils down to just letting people enjoy things.

Related: Suits, White Collar, Burn Notice: Why We Still Yearn for “Blue Sky” Shows

Live and let live, cousins. The Bear is far too involved and stressful to be so fixated on this issue.

Besides, the superior ship of all ships is clearly all of The Bear characters with therapy!

You can stream all three seasons of The Bear on Hulu!

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on X.

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