Don't call me Sassenach and other unpopular opinions about Outlander and its fandom

Calm down. This isn’t the blog post where I unload on all the issues I had with season 4. Anyone who follows me on Twitter has already heard that. But after many years in the book fandom and a few years of show fandom, there are a few things that stick in this OG fangirl’s craw.

Note to my Outlander friends: I love you all. You are my soul sisters. But like any family. We can love each other without loving every thing that each of us does.

1)      Don’t call me Sassenach

Gaelic words for Nationalities (1).jpg

I know, it’s fun to fancy ourselves as the object of Jamie’s joking endearment. Who wouldn’t like that? But as a Gaelic learner, I find it irritating. Sassenach, or more correctly Sasannach, literally means English (not outlander or foreigner.) I am not English. I’m American. If you want to go through the DNA, I’m a basic British Isles mutt with a little of everything. But as I’m sure my MacGregor, Bell, Fraser and Menzies ancestors would likely tell you, the Scottish blood runs thicker. So, I’m not a Sassenach. I’m Aimeireaganach.

It seems like a small thing, I know. However, Gaelic is a living language that tens of thousands of people who aren’t Outlander fans still speak today, and that word actually means something to them. To apply it to everyone who likes Outlander, as if its actual meaning is irrelevant confuses and/or blunts that meaning. Outlander has done a great deal to bring exposure to the Gaelic language, and that is one of the things I love about it. However, many Outlander fans only see the language being used in the 18th century. I have heard other fans express sadness that Gaelic died out. Except that it hasn’t, not yet. It is struggling. Gaelic speakers have to fight for every penny and pound they get to provide Gaelic medium education and promote the language. There is still a strong contingent of people in Scotland who push against preserving Gaelic, because they see it as the language of country bumpkins and the uneducated. They call it “Hebridean Twiddle” and scorn the people who want to ensure that it isn’t lost.

Applying the word Sassenach willy-nilly promotes the misperception that Gaelic is a relic of the past and we’re free to do with it what we will. For a struggling minority language, that fallacy can be damaging to public perception and to the push for funds to preserve it.

Note to my Gaelic friends: I fully realize that Sasannach is misspelled all over the place in this section. I used the spelling that is used in the books.

 2)      The books/show are NOT only about Jamie and Claire.

Sure, it started out that way. They are the focus of the early books. But roughly 8000 pages spent on the same couple would get seriously boring after a while. Just as four to six seasons of the same couple’s love story would bore us all to tears. Diana Gabaldon frequently describes these books as the “story of a marriage”. Marriages rarely exist in a vacuum. We bring our own families to the table, with all their inherent baggage and quirks. Goodness knows the Frasers and MacKenzies have plenty. Eventually, if they want to, couples have children. I’m not sure what kind of parent you are, but I’m a pretty involved one, and my babies will never stop being my babies. Add to that, there are neighbors, friends and coworkers all of whom we interact with as a couple. Sometimes, they can even influence how we deal with each other as a couple. We all love Jamie and Claire, of course. But if you want a story that only focuses on one couple’s love story, you are looking for a much shorter book or series.


3)      There does NOT have to be a sex scene in every episode or even every other episode. THAT’S WHAT PORN IS FOR!

I know there are probably a lot of ladies who don’t want to hear this. But I have to be honest. These books are so rich with character and history, and the show could be too. Bemoaning the fact that the writers don’t slip a sex scene (See what I did there?) into every episode is frankly insulting to both the source material and the cast and crew on the show. In fact, I think it actually hurts the show (see Item 4 below).

So, clutch your pearls, quit your whinging, and hop on over to Pornhub. That’s right, Pornhub. There is a category there for Romantic Porn (Yes, it exists.). Some of it is even directed by women for women. No, Sam Heughan is not in them, but I promise he is not the only guy with piercing eyes and a fine ass.


4)      No one is going to win an award for acting on Outlander, and it’s not their fault.

Yes, Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies have been nominated for Golden Globes, and deservedly so. I agree with you that their performances are amazing and deserve more credit than they get. Sam Heughan’s performance is sadly underrated. Richard Rankin (Bless his heart) is absolutely brilliant, but he’s not going to win for playing Roger. Almost everyone on the show is terrific and talented. There are a couple of factors that I think will prevent them from ever winning awards.

First; genre confusion. Much like the books, no one knows quite how to categorize the show. Is it fantasy? Is it sci-fi? Is it romance? Neither fantasy, nor sci-fi are likely to win a lot of awards. Sure, Lord of the Rings won some awards, but they weren’t for acting. Game of Thrones won some awards, but for all its nominations, the only person who won acting awards for the show was Peter Dinklage. The truth is that fantasy shows just don’t get the respect that other shows do. Not fair, but true.

Second; See Item 3. The more persistent the perception that the show is a bodice-ripping romance, the less likely industry associations who sponsor awards will take it seriously. People have a hard time looking past the naked bodies and seeing the amazing performances around it. It’s well worth debating whether or not that prudishness is fair, but it definitely exists. So, if you’re complaining that Outlander isn’t the softcore porn that you want, while also complaining that it’s not getting the recognition it deserves, you might be part of the problem.


5)      Lay off the Fraser Stone at Culloden

The Fraser stone 5 years ago.

The Fraser stone 5 years ago.

A few years ago, after season one had aired, I went to Culloden. It was an incredibly moving visit for reasons that have absolutely NOTHING to do with Outlander. I stood in front of the Fraser stone (at a respectful distance) and thought about my Fraser ancestors and I cried for them and all those who gave their lives on the frigid moor. I even wrote a blog post about it. Since then, Outlander fans have been tromping around the stone, taking pictures and leaving trinkets so much that they have chewed up and eroded the ground around the stone. I find this absolutely infuriating. THIS IS A GRAVE! Would you do that at your local cemetery? Culloden is a solemn place, where real people died. The high traffic around the stone and the things left at the stone have created problems for the people whose job it is to care for the whole battlefield park. Don’t believe me? Here’s an article from the Scotsman where you can compare pictures. So, by all means go to Culloden. It’s an amazing experience. But keep in mind that it is a solemn memorial to real people, not just a fictional person. Visit the stone but stay on the path. Keep a respectful distance.

I could go on about how shipping the stars is cruel and dangerous, how I think The Wedding is not the best episode of Outlander, or how much I love William Ransom and Dougal MacKenzie, or that Frank is an unsung hero in this whole thing. But those are debates for other posts. Some of them I’ve already covered. So, I ask you. What’s an unpopular opinion you have about the books, show or fandom?