Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Reply To: On Objectification of Sam, et al


Hi all. Gosh, I am really overwhelmed by your lovely, thoughtful responses. It is heartening to know that I am not alone in my thoughts about all of this. I want to throw up a big amen to what you are all saying.
I wrote my first draft of this a few weeks ago and I just couldn’t figure out what to do with it. But the more it sat, the more urgency I felt to throw it out there. I am so glad I did, even though I hear it is getting some hate on Facebook. I expected that and I can live with it. I did tweet it to Diana Gabaldon, but I am not really expecting a response from her.
I did make the calculated choice to leave her out of the discussion for some of the reasons you all have already mentioned. She and Sam have some kind of friendship and maybe within that is an understanding that this is ok. If not, that is also between them to resolve. I would be uncomfortable with some of the comments she has made were I in Sam’s shoes, but he may be just fine with it. But that piece of the puzzle is theirs to work out. As for the rest of us who do not have a personal relationship with him, our conduct is something else entirely. DG may in many ways set the tone, but it is our choice to go along with it or hew a different path. (I feel like my kindergartener and I are having this discussion on an almost daily basis.)
I loved the discussion of consent as a part of question. My husband and I certainly joke and I slap him on the butt when walking by from time to time, but our lighthearted banter is (like Jamie and Claire’s) hard won, and the result of years of working out what is and isn’t ok within the confines of our relationship. (i.e. Slapping me on the butt in the kitchen and saying “good game” is fine, calling me a bitch even if you are kidding is never fine). There is mutual consent there, a long-standing commitment, and a lot of respect. That is very different than saying something sexually explicit on Twitter to a perfect stranger who is smart enough to know that he should not reply for PR reasons, even if it pisses him off.
I also loved the discussion of how good natured Sam is about all of it. I tried to touch on that too, because it is such an important point. He seems to handle it all well, but I imagine part of that is because he HAS to for PR. I feel sure part of this role involved media training and how to handle inappropriate questions and endlessly being asked the same thing at media junkets. If you notice, he often deflects when asked about his undergarments and sex scenes and finds a way to turn the subject. He does a great job, but seriously, why should we make him work harder? And as many of you have said, do we want to embitter him? Eventually this will get very old. Depending on Starz and the fan base, he could be playing this role for many more years. How awful if he came to regret this huge role.
It has been interesting that several women have said, “well, let’s ask Sam.” Of course I would love to know what he really thinks, but there is no way he can really answer. When ratings and fandom rest squarely on his shoulders, he has to smile and say “gosh, fan reactions have been great” and maybe at most mention that it can be a little weird. It is a shame that he can’t speak (because sure, maybe I am wrong and he loves it), but really. In his position, he has to keep neutral.
I also really loved what you all have had to say about the revenge feminism notion. Honestly, I knew it would touch a nerve to call out feminism in my little piece, but for me that was the bottom line. If we want equality, we have to give out what we expect to receive, regardless of history. It is not like the misogynists are suddenly going to say “ow, ow, stop it! Ok, ok, you get a point!” when we stoop to their level. And if we all admire Sam the way we do, why would we make him the sacrificial lamb? It is so backward!
So many more thoughts, but I have one kid sleeping on my and another yodeling downstairs, so please forgive me for being a bit jumbled.
Thanks again for all of your encouragement and really thoughtful observations!