Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Reply To: On the Objectification of Sam, et al. PART II (added per the request of Terry)

Home Outlander Costuming Discussion Forums General Outlander Discussion On the Objectification of Sam, et al. PART II (added per the request of Terry) Reply To: On the Objectification of Sam, et al. PART II (added per the request of Terry)


De-lurking and registering because this subject hits some really sore spots for me.

I suspect what I’m about to say will be unpopular, but I feel it needs to be said.

What friends say to one another in private is very different from what friends say to one another in public. If Gabaldon wants to privately joke about Sam’s body with him and he’s OK with that, that’s their business. But we’re not talking about the private joking between friends. We’re talking about very public statements, made where thousands could witness them. Nor can it be called simply a “slip” as I’ve seen some folks say: if it had been a single outlier comment at one panel, then yes, we could write it off as an “Oops.” But it isn’t one comment – it’s been a regular part of her comments and exchanges with him on Twitter, to talk about his “assets” – and I’m not referring to his acting talents.

I ask you and everyone else in this forum, would you want a friend of yours to repeatedly and publicly comment with multiple Tweets/Facebook posts, and on a stage with a microphone, about your derriere? Your breasts? Or other intimate parts of your body? I rather doubt it. I know I sure wouldn’t, friend or not. Let’s also be honest – some of her comments have been potentially hurtful. Again, jibes and teasing between friends in a private setting is one thing – but none of this has been a private setting in any way, shape or form. Friends who work together (and this is an indirect working relationship here) know that there’s a time and place for joking (ribald or otherwise), and a time and place to refrain.

People are giving Gabaldon a pass on her public, objectifying comments – comments which, in a very real sense, amount to sexual harassment of a colleague given the dynamics of their relationship – because it’s difficult to admit when those we admire are at fault. But no woman in an actual workplace making these sorts of comments to a man she worked with would be allowed to get away with them. Friends or not, there are simply some things you do not say out loud in a public space. They are disrespectful and unprofessional.

Either objectification is wrong, or it’s not. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong no matter who is doing it, their relationship to the victim, how famous they might be, and no matter how much we might admire them. We can’t have it both ways, folks. It’s wrong whether it’s a man objectifying a woman or a woman objectifying a man. Turnabout is not OK, not even because we women have had to deal with objectification more than men. We should be holding ourselves to a higher standard, not sinking down to the lower and saying it’s OK because “haha, it’s our turn!”

We can’t rightly criticize all those fans out there making objectifying comments, but give Gabaldon a pass. It’s a blatant double standard to criticize them for doing the exact same thing Gabaldon has done, yet say it’s fine when she does it because they are friends. In some respects, it is precisely because Gabaldon went down the road first that has led to others doing the same. Her making these sorts of comments was, to her fans, implicit permission to follow her lead. And it’s snowballed and brought us to where we are now, which is not a nice place (in my opinion) and which I’m finding increasingly distressful and not something I want any part of at all. I don’t even want to call myself a fan of the show or actors, because I don’t want to be associated with the poor behavior going on.

And it only seems to be getting worse: what I’m seeing now are fans who not only objectify Sam Heughan, but who have crossed the line from enthusiasm into obsession – fans who talk about how they are behind on work, aren’t sleeping, who are neglecting their real lives, all because they are busy being a fan on the internet. That’s not being enthusiastic; that’s being obsessed. I might understand this more were it coming from very young girls (such as what happened with many of the fans of the Twilight movies), but from everything I’m seeing, the majority of fans of the Outlander series are grown adults; this sort of behavior coming from adults has me completely baffled.

The latest craze is competing to “win” a follow for a week, and all I’m left with is the thought that Sam Heughan is not an object to be competed over and won. He’s not a trophy. Some of the fans involved in this have turned something he offered as a nice gesture into something dehumanizing.

And to be clear – I believe there’s a difference between appreciation and objectification. I see nothing wrong with telling someone they are attractive/handsome/beautiful! Who amongst us doesn’t want to hear a compliment from someone that we’re attractive? There is, however, something wrong when we can look on Twitter and see Heughan turned into a sandwich (in an actual literal sense), or his image/name inserted into all sorts of sexual situations with sexual innuendo or outright sexual comments on the images. That’s so far from appreciation, it’s not even in the same galaxy!

The other thing that goes in tandem with this is the insistence on Hollywood for perfection – which has led to comments about how Sam should be getting his moles removed, or hair plugs (because they think he’s losing his hair) or that he needs to be seeing an aesthetician (because they think they saw pimples). It’s a sadly apropos bedfellow to objectification, because Hollywood’s ideal of what people should look like isn’t even human anymore. We have airbrushed and Photoshopped and nipped and tucked our way towards turning people into mannequins. It sickens me, and I hope that none of the actors feel pressured into having to change themselves in such a fashion to suit Hollywood’s ideas about beauty.