Why that damn EW cover still bothers me…a look at Outlander’s image

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As happens so many times when I sit down to write, the coincidences just keep piling on and I am left trying to make sense of it all.  It started with my pique at Outlander being left off of the Emmy voters radar and then was fueled by some Tweets about reasons for watching or not watching the show, articles that continue to play up the “bodice ripper” label, and the devaluing of women…always the devaluing of women.  I’m not sure I have answers, but I definitely have some concerns and frustrations.

What I’ve been thinking

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Let me start by saying, I understand that there is a lot of good television out there right now and that is a good thing.  In my opinion, cable TV has broken out of the box of standard TV fare and opened up a world of edgy and varied programs that appeal to once marginalized audiences and interests.  Obviously, the market will support their efforts because the ratings and money seems to be flowing in cable TV’s direction.  I understand the competition for awards is complicated by the sheer amount of good TV to watch, but I cannot believe that the performances on Outlander were not worthy of awards.  How anyone could not be moved by the episode “Faith’ and the shows’ treatment of such heartbreaking material is beyond me.

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I can only conclude that they didn’t watch it or that the speculation that Emmy voters tend to give votes for their impression of an entire series over individual performances is true. 

…academy rules insist that voters use tunnel vision when casting their ballots. They are told to base their judgments solely on the handful of episodes that actors, writers and producers submit for consideration. Just as jurors are only supposed to make their decisions without taking events outside the courtroom into account, Emmy voters are supposed to disregard knowledge of a series as a whole….

Nonetheless, Mr. Klein said, “I can’t say that a fondness for the series itself isn’t a factor.”

Ms. Cummings echoed that perspective. “That’s something you’re not supposed to do,” she admitted. “You’re supposed to just vote on specific episodes. But if you’re familiar with it, and you know the work on it is consistent, it’s hard not to think of the entire series itself.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/arts/television/emmy-voters-talk-about-sizing-up-the-nominees.html?_r=0

And, if they tend to vote for series that have a good reputation then Outlander is screwed because I think it has an image problem.  I believe the series is not taken seriously and I think it all has to do with our society’s value of women…

What I think about what others are thinking

So, I’ve been feeling a bit more than bemused by Outlander being ignored by the Emmy voters (even though I know lots of great shows never get awards), but trying to reassure myself that it is just a matter of time because there is a lot of story to tell and more people are jumping on the Outlander bandwagon than just book readers. Lately, I’ve been seeing re tweets of actors, producers, and generally famous people who have gone on record to say they finally watched the show and just wanted to let folks know how great it is!  These tweets are usually couched in a tone of surprise.

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I’m tickled to death that these folks found the series enjoyable.  I love the show and find myself sporting a smug grin when I read of another famous convert because we’ve been telling folks this is a great story all along.  However, upon reflection, I think what we book fans turned series fans have actually been doing is defending the series.  Which brings me back to one of my original points. People are surprised to find they like Outlander and fans feel the need to defend the show because it has an image problem.

Here is just one example that lends some validity to my claim that the perception of Outlander is other than what I believe the show is actually about. I was perusing my Twitter feed when I came across a re tweet of what I presumed to be another celebrity endorsement of the show.

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Neil calls himself an adopted Scot and is a journalist, novelist, radio broadcaster, film-maker and an Editor for the Sunday Herald (busy guy) and professed lover of Horror films. Originally, I skimmed over this re tweet, but then did a double take.  It didn’t seem as positive on second glance and so, I delved a bit further.image

Hmmmm…….

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Now, I’m intrigued and ventured to interact with these folks, but first I had to Google Mills and Boon…yep, as I suspected it’s the UK version of Harlequin…

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Hmmmm….and the “Fifty Shades of Tartan”?…

 

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Admiring my restraint aren’t you?  The key words in this scenario are “Mills and Boon”,  “Fifty Shades of Tartan” and marketing.  The perception that the show is Harlequin style women’s porn “guff” persists.  Here are just a few of the articles I found when I Googled Outlander, bodice ripper, and kilt.

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/06/spanking_on_outlander_the_outrage_and_the_turn_on_of_the_bodice_ripper_tradition/

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2014/07/starz-outlander-more-than-a-bodice-ripper

http://decider.com/2015/03/28/10-sexy-bodice-rippers/

http://time.com/3089580/outlander-recap-episode-1/

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-37467296

The label is consistently and extensively used and a lot of these articles are defending the show too! Why?

Why I think people think what they think

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Mr. Mackay isn’t the first person to be surprised at the show’s actual content.  I’m thinking of a particular TV critic who was angry the show had serious themes because that wasn’t what she was “led” to believe the show was about! Neil said he got his ideas about the show from marketing and talking about marketing always brings me back to that EW cover.  Last season, this campaign aimed to bring new viewers to the fold and take advantage of a huge and enthusiastic fan-base to sell magazines by playing up the sex and romance in the show. Because, …what else could women possibly be interested in?  If you finished watching season 2 you know just how ironic the hoopla over this cover was.

If this was the marketing Mr. Mackay and Ms. Kane saw for the show then  I’m pretty sure the jump to Boon and Mills and “Fifty Shades of Tartan” wasn’t too strenuous a leap.  I remember when I first saw trailers and teases for the show begin to appear on my TV.  In my excitement, I failed to notice what my husband did, “They are selling sex”.  I took a look with new eyes and found it hard to deny there was a focus on flesh and romance in these clips.

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The were selling sex and the perception that this show is only about sex persists because there has been little done to counteract this impression.  This marketing choice coupled with the persistent referral to the show as a “bodice ripper’ is obviously making an impression.

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So, despite being brave enough to sink money into a program with a female protagonist and KNOWING that the plot was certainly more than a formulaic Harlequin romance ( I don’t have a thing against romances and will explain) Starz chose to use/allow these tired marketing ploys based on gender stereotypes despite research showing that their use may even turn women and (Emmy voters) away from viewing the show.

Megan Walsh, in an article for Romper, wondered if there wasn’t a  connection to the shows perceived image and the lack of attention the show was given by voters.

It could also be that Outlander is considered a genre show with a focus on romance and time travel that has had some people (stupidly) dismissing it as nothing more than a chick show (as if that’s a bad thing to be)….

Is it all to do with the network it comes from? Or could it be that the show has such an intensely female point of view that it has alienated the voters? If that’s the reason, it’s a dumb one, and it’s also even more proof that Outlander should be earning heaps of awards.   https://www.romper.com/p/why-didnt-outlander-get-emmy-nomination-it-deserves-the-accolades-14308I

I agree.  If the reason the show is considered less worthy is because it is something women would be interested in, a “chick show”,  then it’s a dumb and …insulting reason.

Why I’m concerned and frustrated

Maybe it’s this election and all of the subtle and not so subtle focus on toxic patriarchy , Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright telling me I have to vote for Hillary because she is a woman or they’ll wish me to hell, people criticizing Hillary for her laugh, her smile, her pantsuits and Donald Trump evidently getting a pass from his supporters for continually disrespecting women, that has caused me to look a little deeper at the issues of how women are valued and what it means to be a feminist.

I’m sure you are wondering what the hell does the election and feminism have to do with Outlander and where in the hell am I going with this?

I hope somewhere that makes sense.

Why should how Outlander is marketed and the perceived value of “Chick Flicks” or “Chick Lit” matter in the big scheme of stuff that matters? Because, how women are portrayed impacts our beliefs about women and their place in the world. I happen to feel that Hollywood has some ethical obligation to portray women as real people and not caricatures.

…a Strong Female Character. There are plenty of them in movies. But think of what comes to mind as traits for a woman being badass: loud, assertive, rides a motorcycle, maybe really good at martial arts. And yes that woman does sound badass. But we pretty much never explore the idea of strong female characters that save the world by being feminine, empathetic, and caring.  https://medium.com/@sailorhg/coding-like-a-girl-595b90791cce#.azsjq079h

I’m frustrated because I think Outlander does an excellent job of portraying women as real thinking feeling human beings. Outlander’s main character Claire is a principled and kind woman worthy of admiration. Claire is a badass who moves through the world “being feminine, empathetic, and caring” and sexually confident.

Let me say again, I have nothing against romance novels or romantic movies.  Like most things in life there are good and poor examples.  I’ve watched and read my share over the years. There is nothing wrong in the themes women enjoy watching or reading.  But, for some reason, a film or book with female-centric themes or romance makes them less worthy of critical acclaim and worth and this sends a message to the world about the worth of women.

Sex in the television costume drama is suspicious because it explicitly appeals to women (largely straight women, but 2002’s Tipping the Velvet and last year’sLife in Squares are rare exceptions) and is seen as bringing often high-brow source material too close to the lowbrow romance novel. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/arts/television/emmy-voters-talk-about-sizing-up-the-nominees.html?_r=1

While I certainly don’t agree with the article quoted above’s assertion that Outlander is to be counted among the low brow because the show is ,”laser focused as it is on the muscled male body”, I did agree that”Outlander, which has been praised for its “handling of on-screen sex,” had to prove itself a serious drama and not simply a “sexual fantasy.” and that when talking about costume dramas it has ” always been a problem with the genre—female fandom is seen to threaten its seriousness”.

Why can’t women be all things? Why must I apologize for liking movies that feature relationships and nurturing?  Why must female characters be skewed male to be considered worthy of any value?  Why do books and films written by males get more critical acclaim even when he is writing about the same themes as women writers?  Why can’t a woman character reflect who women where at the time she inhabits without it being considered an attack on feminist advancement and women’s identity? Why can’t a woman like sex?

Literary critics and establishments have long believed that bodice rippers were …

…manufactured to engage the lurid fantasies of frustrated housewives. Often, their authors suffer public disdain, viewed as the sordid peddlers of a mysterious and unfortunate contraband – female desire…

and not very feminist and yet, …

…The very contradiction at the heart of romance fiction is a lesson: within feminism lies the permission, even the imperative, to enjoy, even if the fantasies you enjoy are not very feminist. https://aeon.co/essays/can-you-enjoy-romance-fiction-and-be-a-feminist

One of the most frustrating things for me when it comes to the perceived identity of Outlander as a “bodice ripper” is  that those folks who aren’t tuning in because they believe it is just women’s “guff” are missing out on a show that is progressive in it’s story-telling and portrayal of women when compared to most women characters on film.

Outlander’s women talk about things other than men

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Over twenty years ago,  Alison Bechdel  penned a cartoon about two women discussing going to the movies.  One woman told the other she had three rules for attending movies;

  1. It had to have at least two women
  2. they had to talk to each other
  3. about something other than men

This cartoon has famously resulted in the “Bechdel test” for how women are portrayed in film and has become a standard by which feminist critics judge TV, movies, books.  An article on fivethirtyeight.com looked at Hollywood’s portrayal of women and cites research that found in, ” 1,794 movies released from 1970 to 2013, we found that only half had at least one scene in which women talked to each other about something other than a man.” http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-dollar-and-cents-case-against-hollywoods-exclusion-of-women/

Outlander  meets the Bechdel test and then some. What those who dismiss Outlander as unworthy of their time are missing are women who are strong characters who deal with the big issues in life that we all deal with love, loss, finding purpose, making tough choices, living with the consequences, and forgiveness. Mr. Mackay was a bit startled by some of the themes the show wasn’t afraid to tackle.  Let me reassure him that the show takes its time showing the aftermath  of such trauma and allows the characters to work through it.  They are telling more than a formulaic love story. It is well acted, directed and produced, a virtual feast for the eyes and ears. I shouldn’t have to defend this show or apologize for enjoying it even IF it is considered a “chick” show because it’s themes are not less important than a show featuring a male protagonist.

I’m sure you have heard that Lionsgate has purchased Starz and Outlander was a big part of that pitch.  I’m not under the impression that Hollywood is not in the business of making money, but I believe that some of the long held beliefs about marketing films about and for women need to be challenged.  Statistics show that women make 80% of the purchasing decisions in America and that they are becoming more discriminating. There is no money to be lost and a lot of money to be gained if Lionsgate gets it right.  I’m hoping that PR for season 3 of Outlander will look a lot different than the stereotypical pandering of last seasons’ EW spread.  Outlander is genre bending which may contribute to the confusion over its identity, but it deserves a better more honestly reflective image than “Fifty Shades of Tartan”.

P.S.  My Friend @Janeanned thinks I’m psychic because this was just posted on Twitter.

http://www.ew.com/article/2016/09/29/outlander-season-3-sam-heughan-cover

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Haven’t read the article yet of course, but loving the headlines and pic so far! 

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66 thoughts on “Why that damn EW cover still bothers me…a look at Outlander’s image

  1. Everything about this is wonderful. I hate having to explain over and over and over (and over and over and over) again that Outlander is more than what people think it is. It’s more than sex. That women can be powerful AND pretty-strong AND sensitive. I keep hoping the marketing will change, but sadly I’m not holding my breath for it. :-/

  2. Holly R-W

    So no one won with that cover! It only perpetuated the myth and reduced total numbers of new viewers. They got a 2 season order anyway.

    But I could care less about TV awards and many great shows get shut out anyway- like the Americans.

    And there is a plethora of new shows. There will be up to 500 scripted shows by the time Outlander S3 airs. So doing simple arithmetic, Outlander’s odds are LOW. The Emmy’s have to change the categories around. Until that happens….

    • sassysassenach

      Really no one won with that cover? It reduced the total numbers? The first Ep of Season 2 got twice the amount of viewers than Season 1. When was Outlander ever on the cover of a mainstream magazine before that EW cover? I think that cover helped gain more viewers along with the online buzz and word of mouth. Of course Outlander is more than just sex but to say that the cover detracted viewership isn’t accurate. In some cases it hurt other potential viewers from watching but overall it helped.

  3. Yvonne

    Amen. I’m not a prude but that EW cover bothered me for the reasons you addressed in this piece. Outlander is so much more than sex and it deserves a better marketing campaign.

  4. Jennifer McManus

    “Why can’t women be all things? Why must I apologize for liking movies that feature relationships and nurturing? Why must female characters be skewed male to be considered worthy of any value. Why do books and films written by males get more critical acclaim even when he is writing about the same themes as women writers? Why can’t a woman character reflect who women where at the time she inhabits without it being considered an attack on feminist advancement and women’s identity? Why can’t a woman like sex?”

    Yes, and yes, and yes, again! I am so grateful to you for putting this into words so strongly and clearly. Thank you.

  5. What many fans are doing on social media isn’t helping. I got so tired of Tweets and FB posts demanding more sex or people would stop watching the show! Social media IS monitored – and that sort of feeling does not help the show get a better image or reputation. Yes, the relationship between Claire and Jamie is important – but sex is just one aspect of their life.

    The pictures on that cover were amazing! The definitely got reaction, but I wished then and still do that they had gone for something other than ‘sex’ to sell the magazine and show.

  6. Patricia Hare

    Right on as usual Beth! Take a deep breath and go get a glass of wine.
    Seems that Our mothers, ourselves and I will bet, our daughters will still have to keep reminding society, Hollywood, media writers and others of out strengths as women. Sad to say that award voters are probably stuck in an antiquated and maybe a tad bit corrupt system. We just have to keep reminding them of our intelligence and economic power. Plus, we, as viewers have to stop posting that the only thing we see is sex and male biceps.
    I am so not a “chick”, ” your honey”, “sweetie” or any other demeaning label you want to define me or my friends by. How about you?

    • Susan Harman

      So agree with you Pat. I’m no one’s ‘chickie baby’. I once worked with an elderly physician who used to tell me to have my girl call his girl. I didn’t have a girl and, if I did, she would be a woman.
      I married late in life and didn’t expect to ‘find someone’. One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband was because he told me (later) that he was attracted to women who were strong, independent, had a career and a life, an equal partner. He saw that in me, even when I sometimes doubted. He was already retired and we used to joke that he was ‘the wind beneath my wings’. He routinely told me he was proud of the way I handled some difficulty or accomplished some goal, and was happy to see me bask in any glow that came my way. We were a team, through job challenges for me and a long, debilitating illness for him.
      Sorry to get so sentimental, but he was my Jamie and I miss him.

  7. GGW

    High-fives all around! That dreaded EW layout. I think we shared a few convos regarding our thoughts when it came out! As much as I whole-heartedly endorse your position and particulars on this, the one piece that continues to baffle me is the considerable amount of fallout on social media regarding the lack of sex in S2! Many were frothing at the mouth at the supposed lack of “intimacy”. While I can say that if they were basing their expectations of the season on the EW cover and other articles perpetuating the bodice-ripper myth, then they were right to feel they’d been led down the garden path. That validates your position even more! People develop expectations from marketing. Full stop. I’ve never felt that Starz marketed Outlander to its best advantage and I’d like viewers to choose it for its depth, but I’m learning that not everyone thinks like I do. Based on so much of what I saw on SM, it seemed like what many viewers REALLY wanted was Outlander Lite; the bodice ripping, kilt dropper that I would soon grow bored by. So, Starz was seduced by the trope and marketed Outlander accordingly and people continue to perceive it as less than serious drama because it caters to the romance market which is somehow “less than”. And we wonder why the show doesn’t get the “serious” attention it deserves. It is an interesting microcosm of the archetypal gender bias in this country and unlikely to be easily solved even IF Starz took a different marketing direction. Really thought provoking.
    Thanks, Beth!

  8. Your thoughts are, as always, well-considered and insightful. I put off reading Outlander for years because I thought it was a romance novel, which I considered not worth my precious reading time (young and stupid). I am happy to say that I revised my opinion of romance novels long before I finally picked up Outlander, looking for a great story regardless of the perceived genre. Now I am completely and totally obsessed. Is the story romantic? Yes. Do I love a good love story? Yes. Is Diana Gabaldon one of the finest writers I have ever had the privilege to read, bar none? Absolutely. As a writer, I read her books with pen in hand, underlining her beautiful turns of phrase and the powerful expressions of emotion that inspire me to great joy or unfathomable grief. Whether you like her stories or not, she is a not-to-be-missed master of the language.

    Now I find myself in that unenviable position of being pigeon-holed as a romance writer. A friend who started to read my book only because she was my friend has told me several times that she was afraid it would be a bodice ripper, when it is not like that at all. It is not a long complicated epic like Outlander, but it is a story of growth and redemption which includes a love story. Still and all, those who haven’t read it make a face when I tell them it is a romance. They are snobs as I was, unable to see beyond their own preconceived notions. There are bodice-rippers out there, and they have a huge audience, and I envy them their sales figures. But that is only part of the story.

    This is more long-winded than I intended, but what you wrote really hit home. Outlander is amazing: the books are amazing, the show is amazing, and the performers are amazing. I would put the books up against anything else I have ever read, and the show against anything else I have ever seen, and without question it would win every time. I’m not sure what it will take for it to get the formal recognition it deserves; I just hope that the legions of adoring fans are enough to inspire the cast and crew to keep doing what they are doing.

  9. Jenny P.

    In one of the Outlandish books, Diana Gabaldon writes about how hard it was to get the original Outlander book out of the romance section of the one of the bookstore chains. Nothing worked until she finally convinced one of the store chain executives to actually read it. Then, it was quickly moved to the Fiction/Drama section and sales increased exponentially. Hopefully, Starz will learn and market Outlander as the incredible action drama that it is.

  10. Janice Angelini

    Once again you voice so many things I have been thinking. We who read the books enjoyed history of the life in the 18th century, including passionate and romantic MARRIED love scenes with (gasp) naked bodies. People from that time were honest about sex and its importance in life. There is so much more depth of character with everyones lives and the daily life portrayed in each scene. I don’t want to go to Netflix or Amazon to look at pathetic psychopaths or criminal acts in every episode which is considered “real”. The shallow characters will never be “real” to me nor the stiff portrayal of phony and illicit sex in most of the winning shows. The hunger to read about substantial characters and the robust descriptions of locales and the interaction of characters is obvious by the success of DG’s books. I love them. I am embarrassed and sad for the women who comment about “knee porn” and go beserk at seeing the male anatomy and make vulgar comments about a man’s chest or what’s under his kilt.

  11. S. A. Young

    As usual, I love the voice you give to my feelings. Brava. I bekive the show does have an image problem. Even those who respect my opinions, and ask for them when it comes to pop culture are surprised that I sing the praises of this show (particularly as I’m known to have a low tolerance for “chick flicks” , which I admit to being guilty of dismissing as unworthy of my time and attention – it’s a sweeping generalization, I know, but talk to me about dreck like “Mother’s Day” or “What to Expect” and I stand by my opinions). Because of assumptions I might have shared, if I didn’t know better, I find myself not only defending the show, but bribing people to give it a shot. Of course, once they do…

  12. Kris

    I cannot bear to think that I read “romance” novels; the Outlander books are historic fiction. By promoting the series to my male friends as such, most have watched it and enjoyed it tremendously. I will be honest: Sam & Catriona are such beautiful people that they have become part of my fantasy and how could you resist using those gorgeous pictures to try to grab some new viewers? I love your piece but I am still so thrilled at the production quality of the series, it is a price I can pay to see it renewed for 2 more books!

  13. Great column Beth, I really didn’t like the EW cover but as we know PR people think sex sells. Just like those fluff articles about Sam and Cait we have seen in the past. Society has been slowly changing but not fast enough for most of us. In the 80’s I remember pin up pictures from the newspaper in the print shop at work. Considering most of the people coming into the print office were women it wasn’t appropriate but it took a long time before everyone felt it wasn’t appropriate including the guys in the print shop.

    I think the difficulty comes when people try to buttonhole Outlander. History, science fiction, romance, it has it all. I hunt 2nd hand stores for the hard cover copies of the books and I never know what section I will find them in.

    Also as you said there are more great shows on tv than ever before so it will be difficult to break into the main stream awards. I am sure it is disappointing to everyone involved in the show since they have to be competitive and tough to be in show business.

    I am hoping that with season 3 the marketing will change and the people who vote for these awards will see that it has been renewed for 2 seasons and take this as a sign that it is worth looking at. Personally, I don’t see how the voters have the time to view all the submissions. If they are working themselves they are putting in long days and any spare time is precious.

  14. Mable

    I get your point but that EW issue sold out…quickly. I didn’t even get a copy and I went to 5 stores in my city looking for it. I would also venture to say that “The Wedding” ep is the most watched/viewed episodes of the whole show. The bottom line is that the fans want sex. While that cover was a bit over the top it was an amalgamation of what fans were looking for in the show and Starz knew it. While you point to the “bodice-ripper” articles there are so many more that championed the show for what it is- a strong female-led romantic adventure. Remember that Diana’s inspiration for the book was a man in a kilt. Starz made sure the marketing didn’t stray too far from that. And when you’ve got a man as gorgeous as Sam Heughan to promote you use it to get attention, and he got it. He got it because Starz knew their audience would skew female, they had a hot leading man that could act and a female lead that would inspire. In the beginning maybe Stars wasn’t promoting the show to be an award contender but it is and its up to them now find how to do that properly. So let them call it a bodice-ripper. We all know its more than that and it will be recognized accordingly in due time, dinna fash lass.

    • sheila

      I agree with your thoughts except when you said that the reason The Wedding is the most watched episode is because “the fans want sex”. I know that I, and my friends who are also devotees of the books and the series, love The Wedding because it shows the beautiful progression of the love that grows between these two wonderful people who we care about and know that they care about each other. The sex is secondary. It’s the emotion of this episode. For me it’s especially the vulnerability and insecurity we see in Jamie. It’s the conflict with her moral compass that is happening for Claire. It’s not the two naked bodies going at it. It’s the discovery between these two intelligent, rational, caring people during this one night. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful to watch. If I wanted to just watch naked people having sex I would rent a porn film.

  15. Connie

    It’s a long slow slog, but more and more people are discovering Outlander, often by accident, and becoming huge fans of the books and the series. If each new fan will tell two friends, they can then tell two of their friends, and so on and so on and so on. Maybe by the time Season 3 premieres, the quality of the show will be more of an emphasis than the sex, which is just a part of the great story. Good job, Beth!

  16. If Starz was smart (cough) they would flip these misperceptions into a marketing strategy. Hint at the sex and lust but challenge non-viewers to see why it continues to receive critical acclaim. Run the quotes that you’ve shown here. I think the industry is overly cautious due to the heavy emphasis on Benjamin$ stockholders, intense competition and for some, appeal to potential buyers (cough, cough) so they fall back on the tried and true formula – sex. The only problem is the formula has become less relevant. And really, there are plenty of bottom feeders out there who do the sex angle better, faster and much cheaper.
    Thanks for a well written and thoughtful analysis, Beth; and for letting me piggyback on your thoughts !!

  17. Angela Davis

    Like you, I hated the way season 2 was marketed, I kept screaming in my head that it wasn’t just about sex, how much more complex the story is than seeing 2 beautiful naked people together, but as you say marketing people in Hollywood believe that sex sells. I really think the series has lost fans because they didn’t see enough naked flesh, but like you I don’t believe this is what it’s about and hope that the next series is marketed in a completely different way, as in my opinion that EW cover demeaned the actors and their brilliant acting skills and reduced them to eye candy, which is not what I wanted to watch. I thank goodness that I can watch British TV & films which treat women & female actors in a very different way to Hollywood. Here we have series where women do talk about things other than men and sex on screen, where women are portrayed as being strong, intelligent and independent, for which I’m very grateful. I rarely watch Hollywood or US programmes, they are stuck in a time warp and American women need to rise up and kick them where it hurts – in the pocket

  18. Sarah Peters

    Beth,

    As always, I appreciate your thoughts and the time you put into your posts. This one, in particular, is well-researched and your passion for the subject shines through. I just have a few random thoughts.

    1. To me, the Emmy Awards are corrupt and out of touch, more of a self-congratulatory affair for the Hollywood elite. I think the Gold Globe and SAG Awards are much more reflective of viewership, and I look forward to seeing how Outlander fares in the coming months.

    2. I was one of the voices that argued for more sex, not based on expectations raised by the EW article, but because DG wrote the strong physical relationship into her books for a reason. In DIA, Jamie was well on his way to recovery whereas, in the show, the recovery took up a large part of Season 2. As a result, sex scenes were diminished and I felt that Jamie often seemed emasculated, especially when Claire was given many of the scenes that belonged to him in the books.

    3. I don’t watch “Game of Thrones,” but their wins seem to contradict the “bodice rippers don’t win awards” argument to some extent. Do you think that sex within a loving relationship is discounted, but gratuitous, often violent sex is rewarded? I’m genuinely curious about this one.

    Thanks again for the thought-provoking post.

    Sarah

      • Holly R-W

        The devil’s in the details, here. Apples to apples.

        Outlander was nominated for only up to Ep 7., GOT put up their “Battle of the Bastards” penultimate ep. against all others, to compete.

        But this was no real competition. It’s like Usain Bolt against all others. Really, no contest. Run, don’t walk, to watch it. It. Is. Stunning. (lots of ripping, just not bodices) But an amazing cinematic feat- and on television!

        And I say that with all due respect to my favourite overall show, Outlander, and with my favourite overall episode Prestonpans (not up for consideration until 2017 Emmy’s).

        And yes, the Emmy’s are out of touch- they need to expand categories with the plethora of new shows. And perhaps not have <$1 mill/ep. shows competing with $6 mill/ep shows.

      • TES

        Beth…I commented to Sarah…but somehow it did not post the 1st time..

        I agree with your thoughts Sarah! IMO, if they would stick to the basis of the story, as it was written, which is the story of Jamie&Claire and their adventures they would have a real winner! This is not a story about a female heroine/feminist, it is Jamie&Claire’s story as told by Claire. It is not a bodice ripper, as many Scottish publications lately have billed it. Book Claire is a very strong, opinionated, caring, compassionate, loving woman who never felt the need to emasculate a man in order to boost herself or prove a point. As a matter of fact, Claire loved men! The healing of Jamie as it was written in the book was so beautiful and really showed the bond and love between the two characters. In S2 this was lost in translation. S2 for Claire felt like a “get back to Frank fest” which was not appealing to most of us, let alone the critics. And, interestingly enough, not by Claire herself, as she admits at the end of Ep. 207 Faith telling Jamie, it was her fault that she asked the impossible of him, and put Frank above Jamie and their unborn child. The “jump the shark” episode is another debacle & no good reason can be given for the diversion from the written story-line, which by the way fitted perfectly with Jamie marrying her later. While I am a book lover, I realize that some changes are necessary for adaptation, and welcome them. I enjoyed the build up of other characters & story-lines. However, some character traits and story-lines would be best served if they played out as they were written; there is nothing difficult about that & there is so much source material to pick & choose from. Claire’s character should remain as DG wrote her, because it is our beautiful Claire that got lost in S2. Also, I don’t remember anyone seriously promoting and pushing the incredible acting of Sam who certainly deserved an Emmy for S1, Episode 115 & 116. Is it because they were pushing the show as a “feminist” show and the male lead character didn’t fit into that mold? Finally, I do watch GOT and it is full of sex & violence, and the women are portrayed as very strong characters, but despite that fact it is not what sells that show and they have many Emmy’s to prove that point……..I am hoping that S3 gets back to basics and what made this show loved by all; the story JAMIE & CLAIRE and their adventures with Lord John, Ian and many others. As I said, this is just my opinion……😊

    • Therese Seay

      Thanks Beth, for once again sparking a dialog between us fans on this page!

      I agree with your thoughts Sarah! IMO, if they would stick to the basis of the story, as it was written, which is the story of Jamie & Claire and their adventures they would have a real winner! This is not a story about a female heroine/feminist, it is Jamie&Claire’s story as told by Claire. It is not a bodice ripper, as many Scottish publications lately have billed it, nor a show about sex. Book Claire is a very strong, opinionated, caring, compassionate, loving woman who never felt the need to emasculate a man in order to boost herself or prove a point. As a matter of fact, Claire loved men. The healing of Jamie, as it was written in the book, was so beautiful and showed the strength, bond and love between the two characters. In S2 this was lost in translation. S2 for Claire felt like a “get back to Frank fest” which was not appealing to most of us, let alone the critics. And, interestingly enough, not by Claire herself, as she admits at the end of Ep. 207 Faith telling Jamie, it was her fault that she asked the impossible of him, and put Frank above Jamie and their unborn child. The “jump the shark” episode is another debacle & no good reason can be given for the diversion from the written story-line, which by the way fitted perfectly with Jamie marrying her later. While I am a book lover, I realize that some changes are necessary for adaptation, and welcome them. I enjoyed the build up of other characters & story-lines. However, some character traits and story-lines would be best served if they played out as they were written; there is nothing difficult about that & there is so much source material to pick & choose from. Claire’s character should remain as DG wrote her, because it is our beautiful Claire that got lost in S2. Also, I don’t remember anyone seriously promoting and pushing the incredible acting of Sam who certainly deserved an Emmy for S1, Episode 115 & 116. Is it because they were pushing the show as a “feminist” show and the male lead character didn’t fit into that mold? Finally, I do watch GOT and it is full of sex & violence, and the women are portrayed as very strong characters, but despite that fact it is not what sells that show and they have many Emmy’s to prove that point……..I am hoping that S3 gets back to basics and what made this show loved by all; the story JAMIE & CLAIRE and their adventures as we go forward with Lord John, Ian, Bree, Roger, William, Fergus and many others. As I said, this is just my opinion……😊

      • wow…didn’t see season two that way at all. I’m not really sure why people are seeing Jamie as emasculated. Are you saying because they had Claire come up with certain ideas instead of Jamie as in the books that makes him less of a man?

      • Sarah

        1st one that pops into my head…Lord John Grey’s intro. There are others, but my point is that, by carrying Jamie’s recovery into S2, it made it seem that he was weaker than Claire for the entire time in France. It wasn’t until they were nearing Culloden that his strength and leadership was allowed to shine. When reading the book, I never got the sense that Claire was more “take-charge” than Jamie.

      • I agree that the handling of the end of season one may have SERIOUSLY impact season 2. But, to ignore his recovery wouldn’t have served the story well. i did not see Jamie as emasculated because Claire added to the ideas. Thank for the comments and adding to the conversation.

  19. Take heart. Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for playing: “Sarah/Alison/Cosima/Helena/Rachel, M.K., Krysta, etc.”. Upon accepting the award she said she felt “so lucky to be on a show that puts women at the centre.” That win came after 4 seasons. Mind you, Orphan Black is marketed as sci fi, not a “bodice ripper”, for sex, or as a romance… even though there is a lot of sex, romance and ripped clothing as well. Thanks always for your insights.

  20. bwismer5

    Beth, as always you are SO RIGHT!!! How can we get this seen by someone at STARZ PR or at LionsGate marketing??? Does anyone know someone who knows someone????

    • Janice Angelini

      Season 2 finale was most disappointing! I can only hope that writers don’t continue to stray from the books. Casting and dialogue seems to be from other book entirely. STARZ writers want to write their own book. I am not so eager to watch new independently written episodes but will re-read books and Lord John books.

      • margie9546

        STARZ writers do not want to write their own book; they want to create a tv series BASED ON these books. In translating the material to a different medium changes are always necessary. There is no way the series could stick strictly to the books and even get on the air, let alone be renewed for coming up on four seasons. If you listen to and/or read about the thinking of the series creators, you will have more insight into their choices. And, as I’m sure you must know, Diana Gabaldon herself is a consultant and has been more than pleased with the series.

    • Janice Angelini

      Well, Beth, after I looked at how whiney I was I must admit that the writers have a monumental task. They must glean the most important and relevant parts of a book that I spent a month reading and, then, read again because there is so much to love about DG’s writing. The actors are magnificent and the reason there so many followers. I still am puzzled that with so many broadswords, swords, cutlasses, dirks and knives someone decided to eliminate the scene of carving initials in their palms for rembrance was thought to be too bloody. Times are a’changing. Last night on a popular network TV show I saw oral sex between two young people and sexual intercourse between two people who should know better. Participants were not beautiful or in love or nekkid.

  21. margie9546

    So thoughtful, as usual, and so much research! You mention that you think Outlander’s receiving Emmy nominations–and, hopefully, awards–is “only a matter of time,” and I have thought that for a long time now. So many of the nominees have been around for longer than two seasons and usually on major networks. As much as I would love to see Outlander receiving awards “right now!”, I do think it will take at least one more season. And nominations as well as awards are so random anyway–didn’t Terry Dressbach get a nomination but no award in this year’s Emmy’s. How is that even possible??? However, the actual award is powerful indeed, and I know we all think Outlander deserves lots of them.

  22. Thanks for the thought provoking post, Beth. I too have been perplexed about the lack of critical recognition for Outlander. I hadn’t, however, tied it to an underlying bias toward female themes. I think you’re onto something. I have two grown daughters and frequently tell them that equality doesn’t mean being the same as a man. Rather, equality means that a women ( and what she cares about) is equally valued as a man.

  23. Hello Beth! Hard issues… My answer it’s about one points of yours: sex, sex’s imagine given, EW’s pics etc. I can guarantee that’s not sex’s “fault” in order to “Outlander image”. An example to all, Game of thrones, queen of TV series: is full of sex, in all its variable geometry ;-), in every possible way. So many people say it openly and also say it’s the reason they watch it.
    I’m from EU, I don’t know well the US “TV series market”, but I think that those who drive the market, as viewers, are the men/males, not the women. I’ll think about your article….
    I love much Outlander – you already know that – it turned me like a sock 😉 and I’m actually excited. I think, however, that my Outlander’s view maybe is lightly different frome so many people: Outlander is not “only love” or only “Jamie & Claire” at all. It’s history, antropology, sociology, cultural history. I feel it’s extra ordinary – revolutionary for many aspect, esp. for how drive the males (Frank and Jamie) and female leader character.
    I don’t know why, but I often wonder if some (or many) people, maybe, feel Outlander as something of “old”, “ancient”, “has-been” – I hope to explain myself well, english is not my first language – and, if it’s so, why,
    One thing’s for sure: you may or may not like a TV Series and can not be there a reason.
    Ciao Beth, nice to read you. And so interesting your way to explain your thoughts.

  24. Candace Wiishon

    You know, those of us who had a conniption about the EW cover, article, and pictures -and were called prudes, prissies and told we were too old fashioned and we needed to loosen up a bit-did NOT have a fit because of the sexy picture, contrary to popular belief, but for the VERY REASON that you are writing this article. WE SAW THIS COMING, that Outlander would get written off as exactly what they thought that they were being sooooo smart to market: a show about a romance between a hot girl getting her bodice ripped by an even hotter guy, and everything else pretty much revolves around that. What a shock viewers must have had when they saw the second season of almost NO SEX between the hot girl and her hotter man, AND because they didn’t close the rape/healing circle in the first season, they were at odds and at each others throats for the better part of the season. If I had not been a book reader, I wondered if I was watching the same story. And the article didn’t help ratings one bit, and the ratings were lower for the end of the second season than the first. What a miscalculation. And a mess. BUT hate to say “we told you so” but….many of us saw this coming. And they have no one to blame but themselves for the perception. Respect for the show has to be earned, and the marketing is half the battle. The PR dept. needs new management, and a reboot.

  25. Jacquelyn Kerner

    Excellent assessment. I loved the controversial EW cover–just to look at 😀 , but I think I underestimated the negative assumptions it might help create within the industry at the very least. Sometimes it comes home to me that we’re not nearly far enough from Hawthorne’s complaint about “women’s scribbling,” and I think “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

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