Selling Outlander to the masses…Or Selling Out?


untitledYesterday, 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.


  1. 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?
  2. The magazine wants to sell magazines and sex sells
  3. 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?

  1. Joyce

    Here is my original reply that was not posted before:
    At some point you all NEED to recognize that the cover depicts what WAS or WAS NOT negotiated for it to depict by Starz & the OL Production team! That’s where the issue lies. It’s not, let’s blame EW for selling smut; the issue should be let’s blame Starz for not having the experience and/or fortitude to know how to negotiate with media outlets for proper pr coverage! To put it very simply: If I were the show runner or the Starz PR Exec, I’d be asking these media outlets this simple question, “If we agree to give you the season premiere cover story, how will you portray our show? Will you take directive from us, in that we are not interested in the “sex sells” approach, and focus the attention on the incredible but trying love story between an 18th century highly educated Laird who is just as much warrior as thinker, and his fearless, intelligent 20th century wife, whom he respects and treats as an equal-minded individual during an era when women were simply seen and admired solely for their beauty? That’s where this conversation should be focused! If this show were my baby, I certainly would be negotiating the conveyance of our desired image to any and all media outlets AND I’d be requesting at the very least editorial approval over all advertising & copy! Maybe it’s time to focus on what the true issue is with the OL production/management team…that they can budget $50 million for a season and have no money set aside for proper public relations, advertising, & image building of the show. (This next point IS NOT directed at any one individual, but rather made as a statement to those fans/bloggers all over sm that have built up a friendly & consistent communication (banter) with any & all of the OL staff/production team, for I believe that causes those individuals to have a skewed ability to constructively criticize the OL Production team & Starz—-somewhat akin to writing a book review for your best friends newly penned novel.) …..I think it’s much more important for bloggers & “fans” to set aside their friendships they’ve acquired with the OL team & not be afraid to call it like it is….that the EW Cover & story is completely the fault of Starz & the OL production team! That’s where the shows directive stems from. As to the comment about paid vs unpaid advertising….Do you think a show like Downton Abbey would have allowed EW to run a cover story with Edith & her lover Michael embraced in a love scene entitled, “This season heats up with The Lady’s Affair?” Or a cover with Mary in bed with her lover in a hotel rendezvous? No way would either of these examples ever happen….directives in pr/advertising must come from the network & production teams.

    • Karyn Donohue

      Once again I think Beth was right on with her EW piece and I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. Shame on Starz PR ~ what a missed opportunity to share with the masses the extraordinary story that is Outlander! After three Golden Globe nominations and all the accolades from season 1 I find it really hard to believe this was the best national coverage they could get (or would want). Could you imagine PEOPLE running a cover like that? As a huge advocate for the books and the show, I personally find it counterproductive to it’s legitimacy which I try to convey to my still skeptical friends and family. I also find it interesting that Caitriona never mentioned it in her Twitter or Instagram posts ~ it would seem she’s not in agreement with the strategy either. Let’s hope they redeem themselves with other media outlets leading up to April 9th!

    • Joyce, wasn’t sure how to reach you. This is in regards to the post you sent me about the “fan” issues. I would prefer not to use my forum to give this a platform and keep the debate going. I’m sure your intentions were good, but I would rather focus on the books and show on my blog. This is so ugly and I feel the best thing I can do is a keep place open that isn’t filled with the drama for the fans who aren’t and don’t want to be involved. Peace to you.

      • Diana

        Can I tell you how relieved I am to hear that!! It would be dragging so much ugly into such a nice place you’ve built.

  2. Joyce

    Beth why would you delete my comments yet again? I can not comprehend what could have possibly been so wrong with what I submitted that it could be considered as anything but an insightful perspective?

  3. Joyce

    Beth. I’m sorry. Please accept. Even though I have a strong opinion about this, I have to admit I’m not good at this internet / sm workings. I don’t even Twitter. I couldn’t find the reply before to show my friend and ask her opinion because she loves OL as well. Please forgive. I guess I didn’t look in the right area. Love to you….on Sadie Hawkins!

    • Candace Wishon

      This is for Joyce and for Jacki , for some reason my computer won’t let me reply to you both:)

      LOL, my apologies for the autospell, I don’t know why it corrected to Downing Street! If Sam doesn’t exude sex appeal from that SFA picture, I don’t know what more people want. Oh, Lord, the suit, the air of authority and control, his HAIR, the look on his face, the man’s man sense of respect, and self-esteem, and worth. You can feel the testosterone. My heart is thumping just thinking about that look in his eyes. And EVERYONE is completely dressed. Imagine that. I truly think that people have just been so dumbed down by having T**s & A** in their face for so long that they have forgotten that the mystery of what’s not seen is SOOOO intriguing. I can hardly stand to look at him, making me crazy. Cait is killing me with those long gorgeous legs, what I wouldn’t give to have a pair of gams like that, and that white dress? Da! SO classy, as oppossed to the cover of Maxim’s that was foisted upon us the other day. And I am NOT a prude, and Joyce’s comment about Downton Abbey and this really being a PR issue for Starz left me with my mouth hanging open, going THIS IS WONDERFUL WHY DOES NO ONE ELSE GET IT? It was a missed opportunity to show the world that Outlander is not a cheap Harlequin romance, and they missed it. Good luck recovering from that huge gaffe.


        Yes but not nearly enough eyes see a Saks Fifth Ave catalog. TV is a competitve business. In a better world, EW would have used a cover photo that better encompasses the assets of the show. In this world, that photo does the job. It stops people in their tracks and draws them in.

  4. Joyce

    Don’t Twitter myself, but do read all the others associated with the show. I do appreciate all the perspectives & I am hoping for the season 3 pick up announcement soon!!

    • Candace Wishon

      I put a reply for you in Jacki Lippman’s post, for some reason it wouldn’t let me post to you til now, and I names you there. It is only a few posts above this one. Your response had me reeling for a while. I loved it. I don’t Twitter either. I tried it for one week, and got SO TIRED of all the ads, and non-solicited tweets from celebrities, ads, etc., that I closed it.

  5. Helen Michaels

    Hi Beth! I do appreciate & respect your blog! I was just introduced to it this morning by my friend Joyce, and after reading all 90+ comments, I found it refreshing to have a place to come to that is both informative and sensible. I too like Joyce am in my 60s and have been familiar with the books since they came out. I’m an avid reader and I don’t have Starz, so I didn’t see the show as it aired live, but I did purchase the DVDs and watched all 16 episodes. I have to say I was blown away by the acting of the show leads, Sam & Caitriona. I also thought Tobias was incredible. I loved Graham & Gary too. But that EW cover is so, so off the mark from the actual show content. Don’t get me wrong, even at my age, I loved the “naughty bits” but if someone was to glance at the cover, I’d think the show was based on a tawdry romance novel. I think it devalues the real story of the show, which is the continuing political turmoil of 18th Century Scotland as seen through the eyes of a woman swept back in time and actually living through it. The cover’s raciness isn’t what really bothers me…it’s the lack of depth it conveys about the show. I feel sorry that the actors themselves had to even pose like that for any media outlet. And the questions they were asked….not one single question on their acting abilities/talents. I would have liked to read about what went through Sam’s mind when he shot the last two episodes? The tears that ran down his face….how did he actually get there? Was he thinking about what if this really had happened to him? I guess part of the problem is that the interests of the interviewers has taken precedence over the interest of the long time supporters of Diana’s books. Sorry to say it, but I think it has to do with a “younger” demographic (whether they are the interviewer or the pr team) vs our “more aged” portion of Diana’s audience that maybe have more life experience to be able to sort through the messages conveyed in her stories and realize their true underlying statements. Boy, I hope I don’t get crucified for saying that! The cover to me is so benign to the real depth of the story & with that said, I do agree with Joyce in that the marketing & promoting directives should be coming from Starz & OL and not left to chance by the media outlets. Thank you Beth for the time here.

    • Peigi

      great reply Helen! It was the first time I purchased EW, and it will be the last. Such drivel. Just have to consider the source, and hope that future features are in sources more worthy. Perhaps, it
      s a similar dilemma as to what genre OL is. It’s way more complex than the usual mass media, hence, not much choice of pr vehicles to do it justice.


        The EW article wasn’t aimed at fans of the show. It was aimed at potential viewers. There are so many choices for viewers, it takes making a big noise to grab attention. People will stop for this cover. They may even buy the magazine for it. In this case as in so many others, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Icky? Yes …but true.

  6. Candace Wishon

    Have you seen the Saks Fifth Ave. covers of Sam and Cait? Too bad we couldn’t have got something gorgeous like this. I also loved the comment posted by one of your responses who was talking about the lovers from Downing Street. That they’re classy, and would have never have been on a cover like this. I totally agree with your writer that said if you want to blame somebody, you need to blame Starz, because they do not know how to negotiate their PR correctly. That made a lot of sense to me. Honestly, I’m not sure Sam and Cait had a choice. You sign a contract, and basically they own you for that contract. Sad.


      I think Starz could learn A LOT from the PR dept behind Downton Abbey. Several great hour long BTS specials have aired over the years. Also could have reached out to some NY based talk shows for Sam Heughan’s April trip for NYC Tartan Week, which so nicely coincides with the season premiere. Curious lack of effort.

  7. Joyce

    Hi Candace, this is Joyce and thank you for your kind words regarding my comments referencing Downton Abbey. Beth, I am here again because I did see the handful of pictures released today from Saks Fifth Avenue and I’d love to hear your take on these. I think they are absolutely stunning and very classy. My daughter (who is all over the sm OL sites & directs me to a few) tells me she thinks it was Caitriona’s prior modeling contacts that secured this type of print media pr for the show. To me it would seem logical if true; obviously Caitriona had been a Top Model with international accreditation for many, many years, so it’s more than likely she could call in a few contacts. So my question Beth is, do you have any insight to add about the Saks shoot? It does seem to be above the mark from what we’ve seen the Starz pr team put out. I’d be very interested in knowing if this had to do with Cait’s contacts and initiative. And, if so, then the lady who was already at the top of my list, has just elevated herself even higher in my book! Thanks Beth

    • Just saw this. I thought about and came to the conclusion that there would be plenty of opportunities for Starz PR to show the different sides of Outlander, trailers, interviews, articles. I saw today that Diana expressed something similar. I still feel that the articles headlines were insulting and sexist, but it won’t be the last thing said about Outlander and I’ll certainly throw my support behind positive articles that respect women viewers.

  8. momentsintime

    I fell into the Outlander vortex in August ’14, for obvious reasons. Since then I have joined the coterie of passionate admirers who have been spellbound by the glorious fruits of Diana Gabaldon’s hard labor, brilliance, and bravery. My ardent consumption of both the physical products (no ‘trinkets’ but all books and dvd’s), and my desire to ‘keep up’ with the various discussions (my first real foray into social media… although I am more of a spectator than a contributor) have both delighted and surprised me. Up until this point, my life has not allowed me to venture out of the severely ‘practical’ {I know, it’s not a noun but I need it to be a noun right now}. Often, I’ve found Beth’s forum paralleling thoughts that have crossed my own mind. But this particular discussion was really a validation of my gut reaction to the EW cover. I couldn’t verbalize it but there was a definite sense of ‘something’s just not right here…something just feels awkward about this’. Like it or not, we must all realize that it is the entertainment INDUSTRY, after all. I guess it’s time we all got a grip on ourselves, but that’s easier said than done once you have established a relationship with Diana’s story and the characters who inhabit it. The character’s of Jamie and Claire have become inextricably enmeshed with the virtuosic actors who portrait them and many of us have been smitten by the beauty and steam created by the Heughan/Balfe pairing. I’m going to take a giant leap here and tell you my theory: perhaps it is the unrelenting theme embodied in every picture in the EW spread. It’s one dimensional, which is the complete antithesis of any of Diana’s characters. For my money, Jamie and Claire emit vibes of sexuality non-stop, BUT… they are productive, dynamic, creative and responsible people and you feel it demeans them to gratuitously feature just one aspect of their relationship. How DOES Diana get us so invested in her literary souls? She is a magician.

  9. Joyce

    I think DG is one of the most gifted authors I’ve had the pleasure of reading. With that said, I’m just not at all happy with her comments posted today regarding the EW cover. In a nutshell…that the discord we’ve expressed has been a boon to the publication of the very cover that displeases us! I’d’ve thought a deeper response would have been submitted by DG, but alas, I can also see clearly the position she’s been forced into. Obviously, she wants more than any of us, to have all the books depicted in the OL show…therefore, she needs to walk a thin tightrope as to how to handle her long-time faithful and their expressed dissension of the cover & story by EW. All I can say is that her gift of the written word must have temporarily been “out of order” while she penned that response, and I do think it has to do with the politics she’s become encapsulated within. Let’s agree to give her a pass on those comments posted with the knowledge that not only is she capable of surmising the situation much better; but that at times, it’s a no-win battle! What say you Beth?

      • No… Over the years she has proven herself to be consistent. I can’t imagine her bowing to pressure of any kind. She is just a realist with experience. Now did I like everything she had to say? Nope. There were a few things I think she didn’t get. The biggest for me which I believe is consistent with the point I was trying to make in the article was her”the kilt drops”comments. There were plenty of us voicing concern. She evidently didn’t see that. I’ve only read it once. I’ll give it some more study later. I did tweet about what I heard

      • lmmerrill

        Beth – DG’s comments can be very acidic and she doesn’t pull any punches. She sort of tries to pop the “aura” around her books as she reminds people that they are _her_ books. “Still, it _is_ my book, and this _is_ my page”. It’s one of the things I like best about her.

      • No doubt! You always know where you stand 😂 I’ve seen people get “Gabaldoned” it isn’t pretty. If I disagree with her I’m ALWAYS respectful! And, to tell the truth, I don’t disagree with her very often .

  10. Joyce

    My daughter directed me to the Outlander TV News website tonight. Under the caption dated February 29, 2016: Sam and Caitriona Go High Style For Saks, is a short blurb by the new OL pr site stating that both S&C are on the covers of the Saks Spring Magalog. What I find extremely noteworthy is the very last line which actually gives credit to the source who told OL TV News that Sam & Cait were on the covers of the Saks catalog. That source is: SamCaitLife, which I’ve been informed & have now visited the site, is a site run by avid OL fans. My daughter, whose known about the site for over a year, tells me that the gals are shippers of Sam & Cait, of the more subtle variety. I think that speaks volumes when an independent, fan-run site has to inform the Starz-run News site of Sam & Cait’s featured covers on the Saks catalog.

  11. Joyce

    Ok. I guess I’m at fault thinking that Outlander TV News is run by the show. Which now only enforces that the show’s announcements really only come from their Twitter acct — @Outlander_Starz. That’s even more disappointing because that acct has not even mentioned the Saks promo release. Way to go Starz! It just shows that they were likely not involved with that pictorial cover shoot & spread at all; leading back to my original supposition, that Caitriona secured the shoot through her vast fashion industry contacts! I love the photos and securing the cover of the Saks Spring catalog is big….so, where was Starz? Tall Ships?

  12. Joyce

    Hi Beth. Have you heard the rumblings regarding Starz hoping to be taken over/condensed with another network? I know these rumors have been circulating for a few years now, but I also just learned that the Starz stock price had a “bump up” on recent speculation of a buyout, and then swiftly a drastic drop down. Just wondering if you have any thoughts on the matter and if in fact you agree with my thoughts that this could be the reason why we have not gotten a season 3 announcement yet, and the completely irrational pr we’ve witnessed so far??

  13. Diana

    Still occasionally picking through your older posts Beth. I stumbled across this one and find it quite interesting towards the end of the season. I am very interested to see how many passionate and detailed responses it generated. I have not made it through most of the responses yet.

    When I saw the cover and the photos that would go with it on the preview, I too was taken aback. It all felt a wee bit “porny”. As you said, it felt uncomfortable. Not in a prudish way, but in a “what the heck are they trying to do here?” way. Sex does sell and so much was made of it by critics in the first season, I see how they maybe wanted to capitalize on that, but I don’t see how it was meant to bring in new viewers. As you mentioned your co-workers did not express a lot of interest after seeing the cover. It certainly stirred by the fandom and I’m sure sold a ton of magazines for them.

    Now as we move towards the end of season 2, if I was a new viewer to the series, enticed by that cover, I would feel let down. I would feel the old bait and switch had been pulled on me. Nothing about that photo spread sold an adventure and political intrigue war story. For returning viewers and book lovers that cover held out a promise that season 2 would be as steamy as season 1. With every episode the chorus of “where are all the loves scenes!!” grows louder.

    I like how the season has played out. For the most part I’m good with how the love story has played out, but it definitely has taken a back seat (possibly back of an articulated bus seat) to the adventure and drama. I find it interesting at the end of the season (almost) to look back at that cover and the story it was selling and compare it to the story that actually was told. It still makes me say “what the heck were they trying to do there?” It feels even cheaper now.

  14. Sooooo…this all leaves me with many questions, the main of them being “What is REALLY wanted here with this kind of PR? More fans for the Show ( money) ? or more purchasers of the Magazine (money). I agree with Beth and the Posts above 1000%…cheep tawdry and WAY over the top on sexual objectification !! I don’t care who “authorized it”, it’s a punch in the gut for real Women Fans !!

Leave a Reply to Candace Wishon Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s