Yesterday, it was revealed that Outlander was the new cover story for Entertainment Weekly. Good News! Or, at least it should have been. I found myself very conflicted. My first reaction to the picture of Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe’s steamy portrayal of Jamie and Claire was positive. They are very beautiful people and it is a very striking image. This was a cover of a national magazine and people who knew nothing about the books or the show would be seeing OUTLANDER! in the headline and then see that image…I began to feel uneasy.
I just happened to be getting ready for a meeting at work when the image popped up in my feed. With my sense of unease starting to work its way into a full blown feeling, I turned my Ipad screen toward a coworker who knew nothing about the show. “What do you think this TV show is about? ” I quizzed. It took her less than a second to answer. Hearing the word “sex” a crowd gathered. They all nodded their heads in agreement. No one, I repeat NO ONE asked what show it was or expressed any interest beyond looking at the picture.
I, however, made the mistake of looking beyond the picture. I looked at the head lines of the article. “Our favorite Kilty pleasure is back!” sigh…cheesy…”all the Time-Traveling, Bodice-Ripping scoop on the Season”...grrrr…again….by Lynette Rice…a woman…sigh… “What’s Next for Claire and Jamie Hint: He’s wearing pants 😦 … JHRC!!!!!! …sigh…AGAIN with bodice-ripping and kilts.
I took to Twitter to express my dismay.
I expected dissenting opinions.
but…others don’t and they certainly aren’t going to know much about the story from this cover. I tried to put a positive spin on the situation, as I am wont to do from time to time.
still…, an uneasy feeling persisted. I tried to sort through my thoughts and feelings. Was it about the sexy pics? Well, sort of. Let me try and explain. I LOVE the sex in the show and books. The idea that a married couple can be passionate and sexy and committed to each other? What’s not to like? And, the chemistry between those two actors is a joy to behold. But, here is the problem. The tease for the article entitled “Inside the wild, sexy world of Outlander” insinuates that sex is REALLY the ONLY thing the fans really care about.
So what makes the drama, which attracted more than five million multiplatform viewers per episode, such a kilty pleasure for fans? While the network and Moore would like to tout the show’s heady and historically accurate content, most fans point to the fantastic chemistry between Heughan and Balfe.
Most fans? Was there a poll I missed? I suspect that they went on social media and took their cues from the vocal minority that shout for more sex and romance between the two main characters and less about …well…pretty much anything else. I believe that there is an ocean of fans who aren’t as vocal, but who do want more. In fact, it’s the real reason they love the books and the series because it IS more.
I found it ironic that I posted my dismay on Twitter right after I had retweeted congratulations to Outlander for its Women’s Image Network WIN award wins and nominations for film and television. The nonprofit organization celebrates, “media and deserving individuals who promote gender parity to advance the value of women and girls.” Outlander was being recognized for its portrayal of women and its promotion of women as writers and directors. Think about that incongruence. So, I’m left with trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
WHAT I SUSPECT
- Based on the quote from the cover teaser, I’m going to give STARZ the benefit of a doubt…again and believe that this isn’t the promotion they were looking for. However, they are promoting the fact that the show made the cover. And, I’m curious, what is their plan? This doesn’t appear to be the kind of attention that will get the show taken seriously. Are their numbers so bad that they need an immediate fix instead of cultivating an audience that wants to see something more meaningful than other people’s junk?
- The magazine wants to sell magazines and sex sells
- There is something more insidious and more disturbing going on here.
If you were around back when the series was first filmed and then reviewed, you might remember the frustration fans experienced reading write-ups on the series by critics and entertainment journalists. It was truly a lesson on what the industry thought of a show they knew was being marketed to women. It was insulting to say the least. They questioned the show’s worth if men couldn’t be convinced to watch it (by the way they are, but that is beside the point). They stubbornly hung on to the idea that Outlander was a Harlequinesque bodiceripper that would only appeal to middle-age bored housewives. Here we are after a very successful first season that garnered critical praise and multiple awards including three Golden Globes nominations and we are still fighting the bodice-ripper image …why?
Romance authors lament the lack of seriousness given their chosen genre. I have nothing against Romances like all literary genre there are poor examples and good. I have enjoyed reading quite a few over the years. But, Outlander does not fit neatly into that genre. There is certainly a relationship at the core of the story, but unlike a Romance novel, Jamie and Claire’s love story doesn’t stay in the falling in love honeymoon phase. Thank The Lord. As some of us were discussing on Twitter, if they had, the stories would have held our interest for no longer than the time it took to read them. Instead, many of us re-read Diana Gabaldon’s books over and over and never seem to tire of what is revealed between those pages. Herself writes about what happens after people fall in love. She writes about the dynamics of enduring love, complicated relationships and the irony of life. This is what truly engages her readers. She gets deeper and that is what fans hope to see on the screen as well. Despite their differences, today I am struck by a similarity between Romance novels and Outlander. They both have an image problem because they are being marketed to women. Unfairly, that means they are deemed to be less worthy as a genre and film.
Previously, I’ve written about Hollywood’s issue with women and how it runs deeper than just parity in job opportunities and pay. It is how women are portrayed and …marketed to. Women and their value are held in low esteem. My guess is that the coverage of Outlander by EW is systemic of Hollywood’s continued issue with women. They know the show’s extremely large fan base is predominately women. So, what could women possibly be interested in? The “the show’s heady and historically accurate content” or the two main characters getting naked? I think we know which way EW answered that question. Did they watch Outlander fans’ support for the show and its stars and salivate at a chance to get a piece of that popularity pie and the money that goes with it? What they failed to understand is the love and loyalty for this show is based on a dream, a dream that a wonderful book would be shared in a visual format and the world would get to see Jamie and Claire’s story of adventure and survival and …enduring and committed love. Yesterday, many fans expressed the idea that if this attention gets us more seasons of Outlander then so be it. We all know that sex sells. It’s nothing new. On the surface this seems reasonable, but I’m getting that uneasy feeling again. I fear that this attention can put the show on a slippery slope that may lead to pressure to actually turn the show into what they think folks want.
Jamie and Claire have a very vibrant sex life and I’m enjoying the hell out of watching it! Quite frankly, I was relieved when I found out Starz was producing the show because I knew we would have a chance to see some of the best love scenes ever written (IMHO) come to life. The Wedding Episode was glorious. But, sex really isn’t what the show is about! It is a wonderful part of the show, but it isn’t the only thing worth watching the show for, but I’m afraid that is the impression this cover and tease are leaving. The magazine comes out Friday, so I guess we’ll see what they actually said, but I’m not very hopeful they moved away from the “chemistry” angle. I realize this is just one magazine and there will be more opportunities to sell Outlander to the masses, but I really hope this doesn’t become a trend. They will probably sell a lot of issues, some because of the titillating pictures, but I believe many will be sold because Outlander fans support Outlander and want it to succeed.
Here is the most ironic thing of all. I believe Outlander fans would have bought the magazines if they had decided to put a picture of Culloden Moor on the cover. But, I guess we’ll never know because they chose to market it to “women”.
P.S. Well, the article wasn’t too bad! It was certainly better than expected given the cover headlines. Just wanted to thank everyone for their respectful discourse. You certainly don’t have to agree with me, but I appreciate your respectfulness!
124 thoughts on “Selling Outlander to the masses…Or Selling Out?”
Excellent post. Getting at the tension between wanting the show to succeed economically, and using a least-common-denominator approach to get there.
The show has a great story, fabulous acting, and excellent fight/action scenes as well as sex.
TY! I like your least common denominator
In reading the comments, this one in particular, I was struck by the “least common denominator” mention. interestingly it was Jamie who, in Outlander, noted “perhaps I am pretentious in saying so, but I would like to think that I am not ‘many men,’ and that I dinner necessarily place my behavior at the lowest common denominator.”
So – as noted by someone else, we are in a conundrum, it was the show that turned me on to the books and I have now turned many of my friends (and their husbands) on to the show and the books – I feel privileged to watch this television unravel and commend and appreciate all those involved. For Starz and Sony, it is, however, a business and if Cait and Sam are okay with it…..
I would like to know how Cait and Sam feel about the photos and article. It’s great exposure(!) , but will it allow them to be regarded as serious actors? They deserve recognition for their acting and professionalism. It just so happens that they are a both gorgeous separately and together.
You write with such conviction, and I’m sure Herself would agree, that you express, beautifully what many of us are feeling! Way to go!!!
I am also very conflicted. When I first heard about the magazine and saw the cover I wanted to run right out and but the magazine. Luckily it didn’t come out until today and I When I first heard about this magazine issue and saw the cover picture I couldn’t wait to go out and buy it. Luckily It wasn’t available until today and I have had some time to think about it. I am not sure anymore that I want to buy this issue for the very reason you stated! I want to support Outlander but I also feel that the magazine is trying to turn the show into something it is not and that is, in one word; trivial!! By making it seem like it is all about sex they make the books and the show seem insignificant. I can’t get any of my kids to read the books because they think that it must be a “bodice ripping” romance novel of Mom is reading it, even though I never read romance novels! If a book has half naked people on the cover I don’t buy it…period!! Don’t get me wrong, I also love the sex between these married couples…Jamie and Claire and Bree and Roger. But there is so much more to the books that people just don’t often give them credit for and this magazine is just reinforcing the attitude that it is just about the sex. I think I will give this magazine a pass and hope it brings in more fans without turning them off when they find out what the books and show are really all about!
Chris, I agree with you 100 percent.
Beth, THANK YOU so much for posting this. I’ve been really uneasy and afraid that nobody would express the other side of the coin opinion – – and, once again, you’ve done it so well. I DO think that this cover and photo shoot will bring a lot of extra attention to our show/network – – but, I’m very afraid that it may not be the kind of attention that’s warranted for Herself’s many-volumed masterpieces. Diana has devoted so much of her life to these characters and their deeply embedded stories – and tirelessly fought to keep them from being generalized as “bodice-rippers”.
Thanks again – and so very happy to see someone writing this side of things.
As an added comment: In no way do I want to detract from the beauty of these pictures. They are as outstanding as the actors themselves, the Scottish landscape, the costumes, the production, etc., etc…..
You have written exactly my thoughts on seeing this cover, but then I’m an older British woman who came late to the Outlander party and I just can’t believe that all they are selling is sex. Yes there are sex scenes but I love it for the acting, the costumes and the Scottish scenery far more, but as you so astutely say ‘sex sells’ just such a shame but when I can get the magazine I will buy it and see if any of the editorial is above the level of trite but I don’t hold out much hope. This is why I normally don’t do Hollywood, just fed up with the attitude.
The article is titled Sex and Rugs and Rolling in the Hay. I wouldn’t get your hopes too high. 😉
Everything you said! And, I would add, the other problem I have with the EW layout is that it feels gratuitous in a way the show and books never do. These were not scenes from the show. There was no context. It was purely sex for sex’s sake (albeit in fancy surroundings!) because sex sells. As I told my husband last night, I feel very like an ant shaking its fist at the incoming tide because I definitely felt in the minority on SM. He’s watched most of the show with me, but he is still of the opinion that it’s “women’s TV” and he’s unsurprised by the “bodice ripper” moniker. He thinks it’s accurate (even when I point out that of 16 eps there are only 4 love scenes!). The EW spread will do nothing to allay that perception. Maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe in the scheme of things this isn’t tragic, but as the post-er above said, it definitely feels like it is stooping to the lowest common denominator. I’ve never placed myself in that demographic before and I refuse to now, so I guess I’ll just keep shaking my fist and hope that the tide goes back out!
Thanks, Beth. It’s entirely unclear what Starz wants the narrative strategy to be for this really excellent show. I love the “hot monogamy” angle and I also like that it’s just a piece of something much more complex. Having said that, I am tired of defending it as being ‘more than just Mommy Porn.” Maybe this is exactly how the network wants it marketed and maybe that’s easier for them.
I completely agree with you. Jamie and Claire’s story is about so much more than sex alone. And the sex is all EW is portraying. I’m disappointed that EW’s readers may never know that J and C’s story is so multi-faceted, so rich and that the great sex scenes are a result of their wonderful story.
Well said, Beth! I’m excited about the magazine, as I am all things Outlander, and look forward to getting a copy. However, some of the photos made me uncomfortable. Not because of the content, because they’re beautifully done, but because of the implications for non-readers and those who haven’t seen the show. To reduce Diana’s work and the TV show to a bodice-ripping romance is a travesty. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I hope they’re right.
Disappointed in “Scotland Now” as they used the word raunchy in describing the article about the EW cover. SN had been a huge backer of the series and the cast/crew. So I was a bit shocked to see this being as invested as I am in the show.
Once again you’ve hit the nail on the head and thoughtfully written what many of us are thinking as well. I, too, love the photos and was thrilled to see Outlander getting a cover and some attention that it so genuinely deserves. Why do we wonder, however, at the bodice ripper tag if all we see is near naked photos of the main characters? DG spins a great yarn over 8 books, very little of it sex, but you would never know that by the advertising. Maybe it’s similar to running for office (in this political year). Those running may have high ideals and a great vision for our country but in order to have the chance to realize that, they must first get elected and to get elected must pander to various groups. Perhaps to get Diana’s amazing story out there, we must have more seasons, and to get those seasons, attention must be drawn in this questionable but time honored way. There’s a line someplace where it goes too far and I think we’re juuuust about there.
The millions of us who re-re-re-re-read the books and re-re-re-re watch the shows know what a fully realized, many sided world Outlander is. If the gorgeous, sensuous shots bring it to the attention of newbies, Great! The bigger audience the better. Romance fiction readers (and anyone just curious) will see what a stunning world they’ve been missing. I know we in the Fan Clan feel protective of O.World and hate to see it treated dismissively. But the books and the shows stand on their own as works of art in every sense.
I agree, but I’m mostly concerned about marketing to women in general. Why is it always this?
That’s much bigger than this series and these photos. But marketing to women is not ALWAYS about sex. And, frankly, I expect more men will be interested in looking at a photo of Cait’s butt than women. If EW was truly thinking the way you suggest they are, why isn’t it Sam’s bare butt on the cover?
Your guess is as good as mine, but I suspect it might have something to do with how often we see naked men vs women in film in general
To “keep us in our place”, unfortunately. Reduce it to a bodice ripper and reduce us as women who are only interested in reading it for one thing. It’s archaic and screams of patriarchy.
Question…who approved these shots? I’m a bit sad that this promotion looks like it’s just promoting the sexual chemistry. As we all know it’s much more than that.
I asked myself the same thing:who aproved the photoshoot? It had to be supervised by starz, so if this racy pictures are being used it’s because they’re ok with it. I don’t like that they used such a revealing picture on the cover, looks more like a playboy issue,but I do like the production/quality of them. I hope it brings a good audience to the show,at least it would be worth the risk they’re taking with it. And thank you Beth for writing what many just think.
Great job of articulating how I felt, when all I could come up with was “something feels weird” about it.
I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, to me OL has been reduced to sex, sin and time travel. Not the enduring love story with a true depth of feeling emotion. S1 was bad enough but now it’s being sold as a bad Dallas Time Travel Soap…it is so much more with a true adaptation. Graham screamed through the first Poldark adaptation, the second airing again soon is a delight. It gives me hope that maybe a second time around another will get it right.
Beth, I had my moment of cringing as well, even though I do feel the photos are beautifully done. I feel we dedicated fans can appreciate the beauty of them appropriately from our knowledge of the Outlander world. Conversely, I do wonder about the perspective these photos and article titles will give those in the “outlands”. Thank you for expressing these concerns and the emphasis on the marketing to women issues so well.
No one I showed the cover to said ” wow! Gotta see what that show is about!”
I actually said “Holy Crap” when I saw it.
I agree with your take on this photo shoot, Beth, it’s dismaying to see “Outlander” promoted as a bodice-ripper. Starz has pretty much always gone this route–if you’ve ever attended an official “Outlander” event you no doubt have witnessed the gaggle of handsome young men in kilts that take to the streets to promote the show and shamelessly flirt with fans–who are usually willing to reciprocate. All in good fun, yes, but it does nothing to dispel the opinion of non-viewers that “Outlander” is for [insert humiliating adjective here] middle-aged women. I’m not suggesting that it’s our job as fans to correct the misperceptions of non-fans, but as you have expressed, it can be a little frustrating to hear/read this brilliant series dismissed as soft porn for “housewives”.
I haven’t seen anyone else express this, but–although yes, Sam & Cait are gorgeous as ever in this layout–I find the photos pretty cheesy and tacky. There’s one in which they’re both “smoldering” at the camera and all I could think was that Claire wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that, she would find it ridiculous. Your great juxtaposition of the photos above is a clear illustration of the point. None of this takes away from my thorough enjoyment of the books, of course, or the show itself, which is exquisite on all levels, and I will continue to watch it and love it as long as it lasts.
What I find interesting is in one of the videos with the article on the EW website, Cait says sex is only done in OL show when pertinent to the story. Yet here both her and Sam are in this graphic magazine shoot. Did they not have a say in the content of the photos because it says loud and clear that’s all the show is about with that cover shot.
Makes you wonder
Kate, Thanks for pointing out Cait’s comment about how sex is shown when pertinent. You would never believe that with those photos alongside. *sigh*
I agree with another person when she said that their faces looked a bit stiff . . . they certainly don’t have their usual “light” like most of their interviews and other photos. I also felt uneasy with the cover and headlines . . . seems to demean the whole Outlander story.
Yes, and the cover looked as if it was photoshopped, they didn’t have their normal beautiful glow. They looked stiff and artificial.
I noticed that as well.
They have always been very good at keeping the sex hot but not tawdry…then all of a sudden they get the cover of a magazine and it’s a bodice ripping (which Diana Gabaldon has ALWAYS fought against) kilty (gag) pleasure.
Yes, I have mixed feelings, too, but I’m hoping that those new viewers/readers who are drawn by the “sexy” will stay for the story of an enduring, amazing love. We saw that happen for Season 1. Maybe this EW issue will be a part of eventually drawing more readers into Diana Gabaldon’s amazing story! I’ve seen many posts on social media and elsewhere from people who became so intrigued by the TV series that they also bought the books and fell in love with the story. Let’s hope so!
I share the uneasy feeling you described. While the photos are beautiful, I don’t think they accurately portray what the show is about. And I know my husband will roll his eyes when I buy the magazine thinking that it’s all about shirtless Sam. Honestly I think the candid moments in the video are much sexier than the magazine pics. I’m hoping it’s all just EW wanting to sell magazines and, like you said, sex sells. Also keep in mind, the S2 trailer that Starz has been running is nothing like the magazine spread
Thank you Beth for your thoughtful comments. I am in complete agreement with you. This series (Book and TV) is so much more. Its a hard sell to some people. It doesn’t fit into any category out there. I will not rush out and purchase this issue of Entertainment Weekly (actually, I’ve never bought it anyway). Disappointed is putting it mildly. I adore the books and this feels like a sell out. There, I’ve given my 2 cents worth. Thank you again, Beth.
Once again, you have succinctly expressed my exact thoughts. My first thought was “Yay! A cover story!”. My next thoughts were “What!? Why?! Sends the wrong message!”. When talking about Outlander, I stress the beauty of the love story and the Scottish landscape, the historical accuracy and how much I have learned, the stunning costumes and amazing acting by all involved. Marketing it as a chick flick or bodice ripper is insulting and inaccurate. I can’t help but believe that explains why the actor’s accomplishments are not as awarded as I think they should be.
Insightful as always. Thank you, Beth.
Thank you thank you thank you! At first I was like, wow, and then all the headlines and then I saw the photos. I thought, my god they’re treating it like a cheap Harlequin romance. Bodice ripping? Ugh. Kilty pleasure? Argh. I even thought Sam’s & Cait’s faces looked blank – like “I can’t believe we have to do this.”
But yes, sex sells. But I’m not certain if there’s going to be as much in S2, so maybe new viewers will be disappointed? I’m sure there’s some sort of deal between Starz and EW. Promote and promote! Oh well, maybe this will guarantee S3.
Being a middle aged women myself, I was kinda shocked to see these racy pictures.I felt insulted by this magazines protrayal of Outlander. Did Diana or Ron Moore have any say about this cover?I am one of the fans that saw the series first but wanted to know more about this couple , Scottland, the history of the Highlanders.I totally agree with all that has been said and hope the perception they are putting out there will not ruin anything for the fans that have supported this story, some for over 20 years! I am reading “Drums of Autumn”now and will continue there story! I am looking forward to season two and reading all the books. Maybe Diana will have finished book nine by the time I get to it. thanks for hearing me out!
Read every word on your page. But I thought carefully (because you always make me do that!), and I will not buy the magazine. Because I HAVE seen the cover and I simply do not want to betray Outlander and reward EW for this salacious assault on my senses. But the millions who WILL buy the magazine because of the cover, will reward EW, and the only salavation will be if they also become Outlander readers and viewers. Then perhaps the quality of the books and series will shine through to millions more fans and ensure more years of the series.
What a conundrum. I honestly do not think I can endure any more Twitterish nonsense on this cover either. My positive take-away is that Sam and Cait still managed to show their professionalism and talents even in this situation. They remain two very rare human beings.
And as I’ve read somewhere, several times, “And that’s all about it.” Indeed.
I read the article and it was actually much better than the cover headlines would indicate. I think if a newbie reads the article it might offset some of the headlines and pique curiosity.
Appreciate the unique perspective and approach taken to the article and the cover. i admit to re-tweeting comments solely focussed on the look of the cover and other photos as they appear visually. We have to assume that all concerned knew what was going to happen when that cover hit the stands. How could they not?
I have seen comments on both Sam and Cait though more heavily focussed on Sam. Interestingly, I knew nothing about the books before I started watching the series. I am now reading the books, am a new fan and so far love everything about them (not only the sex). I am learning about a time in history and country about which I knew very little. The actors and writers and production staff deserve to be commended on their portrayal and work during the season and if it gets the show more fans then all the better.
P.S. I will not be buying the magazine either.
I agree that EW is very obviously pumping up the sex angle, and I also agree VERY MUCH with your point that anything that is seen as being ‘for women’ is consequently valued less.
What I have noticed since the TV series came out is that there is a great deal of angst around the expression of women’s sexuality as part of their response to the show. In particular, there seems to be a huge concern about how the fan community is going to be judged.
Culturally, expressing sexuality has been seen as being shameful for women, something that they will be punished for in some way. And the danger is real. Sexual violence and aggression against women is all around us and it’s awful. Tangent: and doesn’t our culture love to tell us about it. I am *so done* watching shows where a young beautiful woman gets killed so that someone can moodily investigate it.
Therefore we constantly are very careful about how we talk about it and sensitive to how it’s talked about. I think we’re actually long way from being able to freely express it as if it were a completely normal human thing to be doing and feeling and enjoying. And by ‘freely express’ I mean ‘without adverse consequences’. Which is a shame.
So if the concern is that everyone is going to think it’s a show for women who think it’s sexy *and they’re going to disparage us and the show for that*? Yeah, that will happen, because that’s the patriarchal swamp we live in.
But you know what? The patriachy can go fuck itself, because my show is on the cover of EW. Look at those two beautiful cinnamon rolls, and look at those incredible costumes, and honestly, the hair porn is amazing. Can’t wait til April.
😂👏🏻 Thanks for sharing your thoughts! One of the great things about having a blog is getting to “hear” other folks thoughts. I always gain perspective!
Bravo, Beth! A beautifully worded critique that acknowledges the need for Starz to market the show but also questions the approach used. Cait and Sam are a great looking couple, but these poses are cheesy and do nothing to reflect the great story told in _Dragonfly in Amber_. I know these photos got some attention, but they didn’t draw a great deal of it, and some of that notice was fairly negative. Do you suppose this strategy backfired in the end? I put this marketing strategy up there with selling “Claire’s ring” for a hefty price shortly after the wedding episode aired: a clumsy and poorly considered move that is tone deaf to the intelligence of the largely female audience for the show.
When my 32 yr old daughter, whom I have turned into an Outlander fan and is reading all the books now, too, sent me a link to this cover on Facebook, I thought, oh, cool, Sam and Cat will be next to the supermarket checkout lane, good publicity.
And, then, I thought, what possible scene from Outlander or Dragonfly could this have even been closely related to? But, I really couldn’t think of one.
As I read your article, I felt that twinge of something not right, too, more so with each paragraph. I’m not sure my twinge is the same as your twinge, but similar, perhaps.
Not that I like this example, but The Walking Dead may put out some sexy poses, but every knows it hardly all about sex at all. Is the best way to promote The show “How to get away with murder” by putting the lead actress on the cover of a magazine in a see through blouse? Not so much.
I’m sure you can come up with better examples or better ways to express this, but now I kind of see this cover as misleading the masses to see Oulander as mostly about sex. But instead, the many reason so many of us like it, men and women, is maybe least of all the sex and romance, but more so the history, culture, Scotland, the diversity of the characters, traditions and customs, seeing very strong female characters even in 18th century Scotland, the descriptions of tonics, herbs and medicinals as well well as anatomy and medical procedures, not to mention a pregnant woman continuing to work at a hospital as a surgeon, and later, Bree as an engineer! For me this series, even though it describes many instances of sexism in historical context, is virtually progressive showing women as strong willed and minds, intelligent, able to speak their minds and at the same time, teaching these notions to people around them. And, of course, Jamie is one cool customer about all this, which is why women of this day and age love him.
I hope it will open the minds of those reading the article so they may view the show and find out for themselves there’s more that meets the eye. I don’t ever remember in all my years telling 5 people to read the books or try out the show, and they did, and they got hooked, too – so… Maybe it will end up working out!
I agree with your every word. I, too, thought the picture was gorgeous, but was dismayed for the reasons you mention. This is the story of a marriage and a family with all the wonderful and awful things both can bring. The characters are endearing and unforgettable. It is hoped that others will find this out if they are drawn to the series by this article. I have spent much time trying to convince some of my friends that Jamie and Claire’s story is not just a bodice-ripper so, this really irks me to see it so depicted.
I do agree with everything in your post. I was intrigued at your statement regarding marketing to women and the majority of fans want this type of exploitation. To be honest, I think women often “shoot themselves in the foot’ by reacting to the visualization of sex in the manner of men. It seems that the only response on record is the male response. When women started vocalizing their appreciation of the visualization of sex, they used the time honored male model. You go on Twitter and you will see tweets that can, at times, be quite crude. I am all for the admiration of a beautiful male body, but do we have to show our appreciation of it in the same manner as men?
Starz and the production staff brought us Outlander closely to the way it was written. This is a giant step towards indicating what an overwhelmingly female audience wants. The photo shoot is a step backward. It will continue because it is the only selling model they know. We the viewing audience need to develop a new paradigm for marketing to women.
Oh God, I cried when I read your blog. I was so distraught when I saw the cover, the title, etc. I thought this show fought so long to be legit, and so different from the others, WE TOLD EVERYONE IT WAS DIFFERENT. What a step backwards. it was as if you were reading my mind, and the minds of thousands of others like us who were absolutely crucified for even suggesting that this cover wasn’t a good idea. We have spent so long telling people that this show is different, and then…Cait looks like she should be on the cover of Maxim’s. My greatest fear is as you said…that there are people who just want the sex, and the show will acquiesce to the demands and we will loose everything. Thank you for giving a voice to those of us who feel EXACTLY AS YOU DO, but don’t have the forum to voice that in public. Thank you for speaking for us. I know Diana loves your blog, I hope she reads it, and I am wondering about what she has thought about this. This cover certainly doesn’t do anything to promote that this is anything more than a night time soap opera, and I’m afraid that is what it will turn into. I’m so sorry. This breaks my heart.
STARZ can’t control much besides the original permission.
And of course, they gave permission, willingly, as EW gave the main cast and show EWwy awards and has generally supported the show!
The decision over what photo to use on the cover, the poses, etc.. is all EW. And the magazine caters to a general, but more critical audience than other pop culture mags.
And it’s the general audience that STARZ is after in the next month. Not us. We’re already a captive audience. This is make or break time. If they don’t lure people in somehow, someway, (SEX!)…
Sure, it makes us, the loyals, feel more like a FanDumb than Fandom, but if they don’t get the revenues up, what chance do we have of subsequent seasons?
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
(Lady Bracknell, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest)
Lady Bracknell! so funny you should quote her! Began teaching TIofBI today! “…losing two parents seems like carelessness” Thanks for adding your thought to the mix!
I’m sorry Beth, normally I love everything you write and agree with you. But not on this one. Yes the pictures are very sexy, but there are some others in this shoot too that are very nice as well. It is not all centered around just a few sexy photos. There is more to it than just the cover. There is also an article about Roger and Bree and and article on Diana in this issue. Yes, the cover will draw people in…but there is so much more to it. It will bring people who may never have watched the show…men who may never watched the show to watch it. The story will get them to stay. You and I know that it is a good story. Most every man who has started watching and/or reading has stayed. I for one want more viewers to the show. I want to ensure that the ratings go up. Doesn’t both me how they go about getting people to it. And from comments I have read in an Outlander group I am in most (90%) are of the same mind as I am with my comments. To include a man. If you’ve seen the videos for the photo shoot Sam and Cait have already commented to the fact that the sex coming in season 2 1) won’t be as much as season 1 and 2) is only shown when pertinent to the story line. We all know Ron’s thoughts on this anyways…he doesn’t do gratuitous sex. So, I don’t let a sexy photo shoot to draw in some viewers bother me. As I said there are a bunch more photos to that shoot that are not like the cover. If we want men watching…let’s draw them in. I want season 3 and beyond…anyone else?
Well, i guess i’m bound to run into disagreement from time to time. I’m happy you felt you could tell me you disagree. I guess I just don’t believe that ratings at any cost is okay. As you and the actors point out the sex in the show is never gratuitous and there won’t be as much in season 2, so why the focus? Because it will bring more men? There so much with that idea ! I agree the show is fantastic and will hook those that come sorry EW felt the need to do this on the cover because you are right the articles were pretty good!
You know I will always be very frank with you…..I understand everything that has been stated and am in agreement…..HOWEVER…..when it comes to “selling” a show, it is VERY difficult to appeal to the masses without confusing them. SEX SELLS and EW will ALWAYS put the most “visually stimulating” photo on the cover to get people to read. For example, the film “Love & Other Drugs” has very little sex & nudity, but THIS is how it was marketed —–> http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2010/galleries/ew/jake-gyllenhaal-4.jpg
It is simply the easiest way for people to open the damn thing when you have Kardashians and Teen Moms on the cover of the other magazines. “Outlander” is a beautiful piece of art, both on the page & screen, but Diana has made a complex and dramatic story that just happens to be REALLY hard to sound bite. How do you summarize it without sounding like a lunatic? LOL….I feel crazy thinking about it sometimes 🙂 That being said ******SPOILER*****STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T GONE THRU TO “The Fiery Cross” **** She also created an inordinate amount of drama and issues for these characters that can border on melodrama, and therefore make this show sound like a soap opera. I’m in love with these books, but it’s true…I have often mentioned that SOMETIMES it seems like she creates it for the sake of having dramatic tension and issues to overcome for the sake of reaction. Geneva, Leery, constantly bypassing Stephen Bonnet, misplaced blame, abuse of Roger w/o apology, etc. I really believe that the more this show is seen, the less people will do this “stuff”. There is an old adage that “there is no such thing as bad publicity”…..I SERIOUSLY hope this helps our viewership propel! (Frankly, I’m more mad that it’s 6 weeks out & they have the cover, so all momentum will die off by the premiere. Hopefully STARZ gives lots of free-viewing weekends!) One of the hardships as true fans will be dealing with this stuff…..I’m just glad we have each other!! ❤
aaaarrrrrggggghhhh! SEX SELLS! I agree that a sound bite for this would be difficult, but …..just doesn’t sit well with me.
Sex sells. Magazines, television, movies, cars, hamburgers, beer…you name it and somebody has figured out a way to sell it with a lovely round arse and a gracefully made man.
When I tell people that I only read eight books now, I tell them about the astonishingly well written characters and the way Scottish, English and American history comes to life under DG’s incomparable hand. Then I show them photos of Sam and Cat and say they’re starring in the tv adaptation.
The point is, I know why I’m passionate about the books and the show, but I’ve no idea what will be the key to bringing someone else into the OL fold. I may want them to share my reasons, but ultimately as long as they watch the show, I don’t care why.
I applaud the people who recognize the contribution OL is making to the library of strong women characters and to the ranks of women creating brilliant film and tv. Their numbers are growing.
I’m also fairly certain that Starz and EW assume most of their target audiences will take the sexy bait (sexy cover, sexy trailers, The Red Dress), but I think they appreciate the need to provide more substantial content if they expect those audiences to stick around longer than the few moments it takes to ogle some photos, standing in line at the market or to watch only Season 1, Ep. 7.
If not, well at least Claire’s on top in the EW cover photo.
It is rare for me to not agree with you, Beth, but I don’t agree here. I have a 2nd cousin who thinks 50 Shades of Gray is a good sex. I need to reel her into Outlander somehow, maybe this magazine is the way. My cousin is a hard working young women who has no real time to read, so maybe I can finally get her into the show at least. She is smart & could handle the other content but since she is in young, sex sells. I did kind of like the idea of seeing Outlander in the check out line, but I am not even found the magazine out there yet. I read the article online, and I agree that it is not all that great, but it might be ok for those who are not heavy readers. (You have to remember who EW’s audience is.) Outlander shows what a good marriage is & that it can include hot sex. Isn’t that what we want the hook-up generation to know? Also, I think we have to remember how far we have come. In the past, something like Outlander would never have been produced. Women were not thought of as an audience get except for day time soaps. And strong women portrayed in a positive light, forget it. So if we have to put up with a bit of nonsense to make some big strides, so be it.
I will have to say though that I liked the video of the photo shoot and the other photos better. I love watching Cait pose & getting Sam to react. There is such art in that shoot, from the actors, the photographers and staff, and the videographer. I am in total awe watching them work.
Thank for sharing. I guess I am just baffled that we have to stoop to the lowest common denominator. Why? People have to be tricked into watching?
Not so much tricked as lured. As in “Come for the gorgeous naked people, stay for the fabulous acting, storytelling and production values.” If you only have one shot at attracting new viewers, and that shot takes the form of a magazine cover, then you go with the image that will stop the most people in their tracks. The headlines are typical of EW. If this photo had been chosen for the cover of TIME magazine with the headline, “Too much explicit sex on TV?” THEN I would be insulted on behalf of the show. But given the target demographic, I think we have to shrug it off and realize that the show can’t be a beacon of female empowerment if it isn’t on tv. If this is good for ratings, then it’s good. And, again, Claire is on top in the photo. She is front and center in the photo of her coming up the steps in The Red Dress, and Caitriona’s name comes first in the photo credits.
Reblogged this on andreastam.
I though I was the only one out there that felt uneasy about it so your post was very reassuring for me! One word came to mind when I first saw this: Gratuitious.
The cover was provocative but some of the other photos were just soft porn. Sam and Cait are genetically beautiful people and their sexual chemistry is an easy target for financial gain for both the studio and the magazine. Diana’s story and the quality of the show is good enough to not have to stoop to sensationalizing the sexual component. And that’s what disappoints me the most.
Sam loves publicity and knows quite well how the PR machine works. He is clearly a master of seduction in front of a camera. But I thought Cait’s expressions were kind of telling in this photo shoot – she looked, well, uncomfortable. Did anyone else see that? Maybe she had some conflicting thoughts too – who knows.
Thanks for sharing what needed to be said, Beth!
I was disappointed as soon as I saw the cover. They took well written books, Superb acting, Gorgeous costumes, fabulous scenery, extremely well done episodes, and made it only about sex. I knew the fans would love it but I also wondered if those who knew nothing about Outlander would see it as a an advertisement for just another sex program. The sex in this story is about love and that does not come across in the cover.
Wow, what insightful and intelligent insight. If amazing and smart women like us keep watching, perhaps that will be enough. This is so complicated and a reflection of humanness. I tell people how much I love Outlander: the characters, the actors the story, the costumes, the sets and then I say, “Oh yeah, and there is the sex.” That seems to suddenly discredit the whole thing. But not with everyone. There is the look of horror on my face and audible gasps I make when watching the last episode, but I have watched it three times. I can’t really explain it. It feeds my soul.
The cover sorta did me in …it came across as soft porn. Although, I love everything about the show and the characters and their MATURE SEXY MARRIED love life…through that cover out to the world sorta, well, you said it best.
There’s another way to look at the cover picture. I don’t think the image is incongruous with female empowerment. If you look at the composition, she is on top, she has her hand on his face (which is a switch from the commonly seen act in film and television of the man holding the woman’s face in his hand), her face is confronting the camera directly, powerfully, while [Jamie] is looking at the camera but leaning in toward her. They are both in a state of undress rather than just she, which denotes a sense of equity. The image isn’t a scantily clad woman draped submissively toward a man, it’s a powerful woman enjoying her partnership and sexuality with her husband. And as we heard in the first episode, Claire’s character values sex and sexuality as a way to connect and communicate with the men in her life. Which is evidenced repeatedly in subsequent episodes. And though the headlines are attention grabs (which all headlines are) I feel like the cover image is an expression of many of the things we love about Claire and Jamie. Yes, sex sells, and I’m sure that went into the decision to choose this cover. But to reduce this image to just that one notion overlooks its depth and complexity. I’d like to see more portrayals of women unapologetically embracing and celebrating their sexuality.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really have no issues with the picture itself or the sexuality of the characters it represents. For me the issue truly was about the choice to use that image coupled with those headlines. One of your points was that image is an expression of many of the things we love about Jamie and Claire and I would agree. But, that was one of the points I was trying to make. You and I know Jamie & Claire and the story. Thanks again!
What good is a comment section if you weed out the comments and only post the ones you like?
I’ve only EVER deleted one post in the entire two years I’ve been writing the blog. If you want your opinions to be taken seriously, you should perhaps reconsider name-calling and insulting the person you are asking to give your thoughts a forum to be heard. Plenty of people have disagreed with my thoughts and conclusions, but all of them did so respectfully. It is a shame that you resorted to such angry rhetoric because I THINK you might have had some insight that I would have liked to share.
I love you. 🙂
Seriously. Thank you for this.
There was absolutely nothing personal directed to you in my response this morning. (I’m Joyce). If you took offense, it was likely only due to the very last comment & again it was more directed towards the fans who do kiss up to the OL staff and at the same time blame the magazine for the cover & content, when it clearly is the responsibility of Starz & OL Production to convey their pr to their audience correctly. I’m very sorry you took offense Beth, but you’re talking to a 65 yr old women who doesn’t pull punches & calls it like she sees it. If you reread my response now with clearer eyes, I think you will agree that it’s not aimed at you. I think it should be posted — maybe it will finally shine attention to where it’s warranted. Sorry for upsetting you.
Joyce – you ( and possibly others) don’t seem to understand how the media works. This was not paid advertising, it was an editorial spread produced by EW. As such, EW directed the shoot and did the interviews, wrote the article and selected all the photos. Starz would have pitched their ideas for a shoot and what they would hope the story would cover and of course made their stars and Diana available for interviews and photos, but the ultimate editorial is in the hands of the magazine. The cover shot and headlines are the main selling features on the newsstands. They have nothing to do with the show – at all. It’s about getting people to pick up that particular magazine from the newsstand. Hence the super-sexy cover. Diana herself thanked EW on FACEBOOK for the “amazing” cover. She understands that cover shots are completely unique things. If it had been Vanity Fair, shot by Annie Liebowitz, it still likely would have been all about sex. It’s just the way it is. It doesn’t cheapen the brand, it’s just a narrow focus because you get about 2 seconds to grab the attention of someone purchasing off a newsstand. Just my two cents.
Joyce, Thank you for this. If I can. I will look at it again. I’m not sure I can retrieve i
Sorry to burst your bubble but the show is NOT historically accurate. Ask any Scottish historian and wait for their answer.
That aside I would like to point out 2 things.
Diana Gabaldon talks about sex in the show all the time and in a very uneasy way (let’s put in that way). Once asked what she would like to see about Jaime character she answered “I’m dying to see his rape.” Can you see me cringing?
If you want to understand how Starz works do a little research about its previous shows. There were tons of sex in them. Some of them pretty gratuitous. Sex sells indeed.
And last but not least we are living in lazy and mediocre times. The audience (its majority) is just like the Kardashians. And the reflections of this is in journalism as well. Journalists go to Twitter asking fans for helping them interviewing celebrities. They should do their homework is not that hard but oh the laziness.
That’s what I think about this article it is lazy writing. Is it bad? It is bad because it is lazy.
I’m having a really hard time that people are having a really hard time with EW’s cover and certain aspects of the feature article. These are beautiful actors portraying wonderfully-written characters in an adaptation of a story that so many love dearly, to the point, in my opinion, of forgetting that Outlander on Starz is a fantastically artistic, but still a revenue-generating endeavor. We have the books. I love the books. But this adaptation does not belong to us, and we do not get to say how it’s portrayed, marketed, and depicted in the media.
Opinions about it are valuable and necessary, but I truly think you do a disservice to potentially new viewers by assuming that they will think “bodice ripper” when viewing the article. Is Outlander not a love story? To me, a major aspect of the tale is the portrayal of a loving marriage with the rarity of a very feisty and forward female character who is frequently in control of, well, everything. Others can come to that realization, too. We don’t have to lead them to it, or assume they won’t get it. It’s up to the individual to draw their own conclusions. Heck, they may watch it from beginning to end, and decide that, to them, it IS a bodice ripper. I know many readers who had that same reaction after reading the first novel, and went no further with the book series. Oh, well, I say.
Clearly, you love this series of books well enough to feel this protective of it. I myself have found great pleasure in watching the adaptation and all that surrounds it unfold into both the familiar, and to something unique and separate from the books. My own concept of the books remains with me. The rest is out of my hands.
You really said it, Beth!! I’m not a fusspot about the sex, I’m afraid as time goes on the show will be dumbed down to “what women want”!! For 20 years I didn’t read Outlander because I thought the books would be jumped up Harlequin romances. I am nearing the end of my 4th read of the series and novellas because they are so intensely layered and fulfilling in my love of characterization, history, Scottish culture, faith, languages, exquisite prose, relationships, perseverance, honor, you name it. Thank you for standing up for the vision of Outlander for those who love it beyond hormones.
LMMERRILLINDA—hi this is Joyce. Please understand you have no idea what I wrote because it was not posted by Beth. I will try to resend my reply again so that everyone can read it in entirety & then comment.
You both make some great points