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Credit: Sony Pictures

How Venom's unspoken symbiote love story beat out the internet's most popular pairings

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Oct 19, 2018, 10:30 AM EDT

Loving the violent alien parasite that’s attached itself to your every cell might seem like a stretch to some, but not to Eddie Brock. Eddie loves his symbiote. Sure, sometimes their relationship is a complicated one — murder is a natural byproduct of a symbiote’s love, as Sony’s recently released Venom proves in spades — but it’s worth it. That’s what the statistics say. The statistics just happen to come from Tumblr, the internet’s favorite fandom-centric blogging site.

Every week, Tumblr’s Fandometrics team, headed by Senior Content Insights Manager Amanda Brennan, analyzes trends across the site’s 440 million or so blogs to determine what its users are obsessing about from moment to moment. What results is the weekly "Week in Review," which catalogs everything from the most popular movies to the most beloved K-Pop groups. And as of Monday, October 15, "Symbrock," the most popular ship name for the romantic pairing of Venom hero Eddie Brock and his chaotic hanger-on Venom, was the number-one most-talked-about ship on Tumblr.

Given the duo’s onscreen relationship, this news might come as a big surprise — or maybe it’s not surprising at all, if you look at it from the right angle.

"I knew this was coming, but not at this volume," Brennan told SYFY WIRE of her reaction to Symbrock taking the top spot. "And watching it unfold is fascinating."

Fandometrics’ stats take into account the number of original posts, likes, reblogs, and comments — basically every form of interaction that can take place on Tumblr. The site doesn’t release exact engagement numbers, but when it was all said and done, the Venom ship saw a 67 percent increase in engagement over the course of the week, knocking Klance (the breathtakingly popular pairing of Keith and Lance from Voltron: Legendary Defender) out of a 15-week streak in the No.1 spot. Mainstay ships such as Klance and Sheith (Shiro and Keith from Voltron) and Kiribaku (Kirishima Eijirou and Bakugou Katsuki from Boku No Hero Academia) fell in the wake of Symbrock’s sudden domination.

In addition, "Venom" was the most-talked-about topic on the site for the week, beating out lastingly popular Tumblr tags such as "Marvel" and October heavyweight "Halloween." "Symbrock" came in at No. 8, topping the likes of "Taylor Swift," "Doctor Who," and "Pokémon."

While it seems fair to assume Symbrock shippers existed before Venom in some form or another — as Eddie and the symbiote have been practically synonymous since they premiered together in a 1988 edition of Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man — Sony’s latest iteration is undoubtedly behind the surge. A lot of the sudden popularity, Brennan thinks, has something to do with how Venom portrays Venom.

"A coworker who is… super into comics told me on Monday morning when I was looking at the tag, trying to [figure out] what is going on, that the symbiote's dialogue is very casual in this movie compared to how he speaks in comics, which kind of makes it more approachable and easier to turn the symbiote into something cute," Brennan says. "I think I see this a lot with the approach to Deadpool, too. Deadpool's character has a very specific way of talking. These are superheroes, but they're people just like you. [There’s] just kind of an approachability that people can then be like, 'Oh, this symbiote is my son. I care about it so much.’ There's a lot of absurdity in there, too. 'Oh, this is a monster parasite, but he also loves tater tots!’"

Brennan also thinks the pairing will get more popular before the inevitable cool-down. On Tumblr, she says, hype is often less immediate; a movie or television show will premiere and the impending fandom percolates for a few days or even a couple of weeks before the eventual discourse, memes, and, of course, fan art kick in.

The fan art might be the most prominent — or at least the most memorable — of the hype. Just from a top-level view, Brennan has favorites.

"It's exploring this kind of absurdity of this thing that is, in the comics, very negative and trying to control you, but also it's kinda soft. Exploring the softness of the monster is kind of a big trope that I've seen," she says. "One of my favorites of those is: Someone asked the question, 'What do you think about the teeth of the symbiote?’ And they drew Eddie Brock brushing the symbiote's teeth. It's this exploration of monsterness while still being cute and soft.

"There's a lot of the trope of dark and light — Eddie Brock as a human and normal and then a lot of playfulness with that humanity versus monsterness and a lot of [Venom saying] 'You are mine’ and the symbiote taking care of Eddie. There's this post that's titled 'Romantic things to say to your boo,’ and the list includes 'I am Venom and you are mine.’"

The fan art Symbrock shippers are producing, Brennan says, says a lot about the "psyche of what people see in this monster. People are looking past 'It's a parasite’ into 'This symbiote chose Eddie Brock and has a connection to Eddie Brock.’ And that connection feels romantic."

So while Venom and Eddie might have their ups and downs on the big screen, at least they’ll always have their love story detailed in the hopelessly romantic depths of Tumblr.

Venom is now in theaters.