The Problem with Fandoms (a/k/a The Objectification of Sam Heughan)

Fandoms rock. You know what rocks even more? Respectful fandoms. Fandoms that don’t have a sense of entitlement. Fandoms that don’t objectify. Fandoms that aren’t snide and snarky.

I am a proud fan-girl. I binge watch The Walking Dead. I eagerly try to convert others into Sherlockians. Somewhere there is a belt with a notch for every friend I have turned into a Whovian. I will talk Outlander all day long (and often do talk about it all day–to anyone who will listen, and many who don’t). So, when I find others who are equally obsessive, it’s like finding a kindred soul…except when it isn’t.

There is a dark underbelly to the fandoms. One which I didn’t really see until it stared back at me from my Facebook feed. Eager Outlander that I am, I recently joined several groups on Facebook: Other people who have read the books and loved them! How much fun is that? Except, it wasn’t.

I knew that things were going downhill when I read the comments on Sam Heughan’s video of himself doing the “burpee challenge” for My Peak Challenge. He posted a video of himself completing five minutes of burpees. The video utilized a fast forward effect and had no audio. It was cute and inspiring. The comments on Twitter and FB, however, were anything but! One commenter actually said that Sam needed to post the unedited video so that she “could hear his heavy breathing and panting.” Um, what? Since when is it considered okay for the fandom to, basically, ask for masterbatory material?

Now, Sam is a good looking man, and it is perfectly fine to notice that, or to respectfully comment on that, or to give a compliment. But at a certain point things get, well, creepy. Some other commenter actually said, “I know that I am totally objectifying him, and that if a man did this to a woman it would piss me off, but it is so much fun.

That was the point that I decided that was not the group for me. *unfollow* But it bothered me. A lot. So I thought long and hard about what exactly was bothering me. And, honestly, there was more than one problem at hand.

First was the double standard. To find it offensive when a man makes a certain type of comment about a woman, and then to turn around and make the same type of comment about a man is the Height of Hypocrisy. And then to acknowledge your hypocrisy, and to dismiss it as somehow inconsequential…. *mind boggles*

There was something else, though. Something, perhaps even more insidious. This same group of commenters who were self-avowed fans of all-things-Outlander, for some reason seemed to feel that, while Sam Heughan could do no wrong (other than associating with other females in real life),it seemed that Caitriona Balfe…well, her boobs were “weird” and “did she put on weight?” and “why did she wear that?” This lovely woman who embodies the strong female character that they all claim to love is suddenly, and quite thoroughly, torn to shreds in the comments. And why? Well, certainly not because of her boobs, and not because she wore red, and not because she is a perfectly healthy weight, but because tearing her down makes them feel better. And because, by gosh, the fandom wants “Jamie” for their verra own, so clearly “Claire” has to go. *cue the snark and pass the wine*

“Well, but Claire she really should have been curvier/skinnier, and her hair was curlier/straighter, and her boobs were bigger/rounder,” they scream–all the while forgetting that while the character is fictional, the person portraying them is very, very real.

Now, hopefully the actors are adjusting to their time in the sun, and hopefully they turn a blind eye to this kind of crap. In fact, I’m far more worried about what this says about us. What else are we modeling for our children? What do we teach our sons and daughters when we tear down another female because she doesn’t live up to our ideal? What are we condoning when we turn Sam Heughan into eye candy rather than a talented actor who is trying to use his position to help others? Sam’s video was done in the first place because he wants to help find a cure for blood cancer, for God’s sake! (Feel free to go donate here.)  And what about the charitable work that Caitriona does? *cue crickets* (In case you didn’t know, she supports the charity World Child Cancer, and you can donate here.)

Now, personally, I am happy that blood cancer charities are (hopefully) seeing a spike in donations due to Sam’s endorsement. And I couldn’t care less if people donate because they really want to find a cure or because it makes them feel, in some creepy way, closer to Sam Heughan. Hell, donate away! Donate twice! Three times! Make Sam proud!

Sheesh.

And you better believe I’m not against having opinions, or finding beauty (or not) where you may. I am not against discussing opinions, or preferences, or the fact that Sam Heughan looks bonnie in a kilt. Not at all. The man is bonnie. (So is Caitriona, by the way. Fair is fair.)

If you want to have a glass of wine and watch The Wedding episode in slo-mo while noting all the ways that Jamie is a better husband than the real-life one who is snoring in the other room because he’s exhausted after working hard all week, I can’t stop you. And if making snarky comments about a really talented actress because she has the make-believe life that you think you’re entitled to, then open another bottle and knock yourself out.

But, let’s be clear, you aren’t part of the fandom…you are part of the problem.

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207 thoughts on “The Problem with Fandoms (a/k/a The Objectification of Sam Heughan)

  1. Yes, yes, and yes. All of this and more. Unfortunately, it isn’t just relegated to this show, but to any fandom. Holy moly, some of the fan fiction related to characters/actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes me cringe. I mean, what happens when these folk have kids who can Google? It’s creepy and disrespectful.

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  2. I absolutely agree. I just recently binge-watched Outlander for the first time and I started checking out fan blogs and such. Now, I’m no stranger to fandoms. In my teen years I was a hard-core Buffy/Angel fan. But that was before social media went bazzurk.

    For example, I have been a fan of Supernatural since the pilot aired. I’ve been lucky enough to meet several cast members and watch some filming, (I live in Vancouver). But after going to a convention once,I felt ashamed to call myself a fangirl. I am. But I don’t be-grudge the actors their personal lives. I’ve never met Jensen’s wife, but on Twitter she seems lovely, not that my opinion matters. But I have met Jared’s wife. I was with a friend outside a hotel where their bodyguard Cliff was loading Gen and their son Thomas into their SUV (they now have 2 boys). My friend and I stayed far back just smiling at the exchange going on. But once Gen started driving off toward the street, she actually stopped the car, rolled down her passenger side window as well as the back where Thomas was and spoke with us. She was lovely. Meanwhile both these women have taken so much flack online. So much that one Twitter group had a “hope Daneel gets cancer” name. Absolutely horrible!

    I feel the same is happening with Outlander. Maybe it’s because I’m not a kid, but 36 yrs old. But how can you claim yourself a fan of Outlander when you bash the lead character simply because she acts opposite a man that is easy on the eyes? And while Sam seems great, he’s not Jamie. And Cait is not Claire.

    I’m sticking with Outlander because I have fallen in love with it. I eagerly await Season 2 in a couple of weeks. I will allow Sam/Jamie to enter my brain for private fantasies, (I’m single…how could I not??) but I am fully aware one is fictional and one is an actor that I admire. And the exact same thing can be said about Claire/Cait.

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