Diana Gabaldon is Not Your Mother

Neil Gaiman once famously informed a reader who complained about George R. R. Martin taking so long to finish a novel, “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.”  I think of this whenever Diana Gabaldon gets grief about how she conducts her friendships.

It seems that there is a huge divide over whether or not Diana Gabaldon behaves “appropriately” with the actors portraying her characters.  Actually, let’s be honest, what these people have a beef with is the way she acts with Sam Heughan; specifically, they don’t like her talking to him about his ass.  And they really don’t like the way that she told Sam that she looked forward to him being raped and tortured.  (I know, I know, that does sound really bad, but hear me out…)

Now, I would never presume to believe that I know what goes on in Diana Gabaldon’s head, but it seems to me that what she is saying is basically shorthand for describing her excitement for seeing how Sam would bring to life the incredibly traumatic scene that she wrote.  Or at least that is how I am interpreting it.  Perhaps I see it this way because I am a writer, and I can imagine how amazing it would be to see something that you had dreamed up come to life right in front of your eyes.

Others seem to take offense with the familiarity that Diana shows Sam on Twitter.  The thing is, friends get to be familiar.  That’s one of the perks of being a friend.  (That and borrowing their books.)  And from what I have seen of their interactions, I do believe them to be friends.  They chat, they tease, and they tweet.  They have inside jokes.  Some might even be kinda dirty jokes.  Sounds a lot like friendship to me.  And friends, well, they get to draw their own boundaries.  They get to decide what they consider acceptable or unacceptable.  They don’t need us to draw those lines for them.  They got it covered.

Some have asked how the public would respond if George R. R. Martin told Lena Heady that he looked forward to seeing her raped or tortured.  A reactionary response would sound a lot like this:  That pig! How dare he? Is he some kind of psychopath?  Put his head on a pike. How would he freakin’ like that?  Teach him to kill Ned Stark  say crap that rubs me the wrong way! 

Perhaps a more measured response would look at the context of this imagined statement (Was he describing an upcoming scene?) and the nature of their relationship (Are they friends?  Do they normally joke like that? Is SHE okay with what was said?).  Notice that at no point when considering this exchange did I take into consideration their private bits.  You know why?  Because it doesn’t matter whether the speaker has a penis or a vagina.  What matters is the context of what was said, the relationship with the person it was directed to, and (this is super important) how the person addressed feels about what was said.

You might ask, “So how come Diana gets to talk to Sam about his ass, and you just scolded me for sending Sam a twitpic of the ass-pillow I made from screen shots from The Wedding episode?”  Well, because you don’t actually know Sam…you simply don’t have a “let’s talk about ass pillows” kind of relationship.

The thing is, it’s good to talk about objectification.  It is good to know what we, personally, feel to be objectification–to know where we draw the line.  But it seems that there is a lot of finger pointing going on, and a lot of those fingers seem to be pointing at Diana Gabaldon.  Some even believe that she “set the tone” of the fandom…as if what Diana Gabaldon says to a friend somehow determines how the rest of the world may behave…as if we (as adults) cannot think for ourselves and must look to her behavior to decide how to act.

Come on.

Claire was famously informed, “You’re a guest of the MacKenzie. We can insult you, but God help any other man that does.”  Well, the same kind of thing applies to friends.  There are certain things that you can say to friends (both insults and racy-stuff), but that doesn’t give other people the right to say those things.  And it isn’t a matter of free speech, it is a matter of good taste…and respect…and having a filter that reminds you that everything that goes through your brain doesn’t have to come out of your mouth.  This is like when your mother told you “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.”  Which brings me back to Neil Gaiman…

Just as George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.  Diana Gabaldon is not your mother.

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40 thoughts on “Diana Gabaldon is Not Your Mother

  1. Very well said, as have been your other two essays on the subject. So glad to read such smart opinions on these topics.

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  2. As with your last two blogs, I am in complete agreement.

    I was just letting go again and had a comment almost as big as your article – rather than do that to people….can I post a link to this on my blog and then respond there?

    You rock BTW! Awesome writing!

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  3. I don’t understand your argument. A few days ago you called out the fandom for objectifying Sam. Now you’re defending Diana for doing it “because they’re friends”. Fair enough, maybe Sam and Diana are good friends and have the kind of relationship where they can joke around like that. Unfortunately Diana tweeting that stuff at Sam in public is just encouraging a lot of fans to act the same, resulting in…….further objectification of Sam.

    In an ideal world, fans would be sensible enough to realise that their relationship with Sam is far different from Diana’s relationship with him and behave accordingly. However, it is clear from some of the ridiculousness on twitter that there is a vocal minority of OL fans who have absolutely no concept of boundaries whatsoever.

    It might not be fair, but whether she likes it or not, Diana must realise that she is setting the tone in many ways. If you are concerned about the objectification of Sam, which you seem to be from previous posts, then I really don’t see how you can argue that DG isn’t part of the problem.

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    • I am glad you asked. Yes, I called out fans who do not know the actors, yet who feel that they are entitled to bombard them with innuendo, diatribe about their appearance, or otherwise objectifying them. That being said, I do not (personally) consider the comments made by Diana Gabaldon to be of the same ilk due to the nature of their friendship.

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      • I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. While I don’t think DG is the only cause of the problem (as you said above these people are adults and make their own decisions!), I do feel she contributes to it. She can behave whatever way she wants with Sam in private, but if the objectification of Sam is to lessen, then maybe some of her comments would be better kept off public forums like twitter.

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    • I agree with Mea Culpa. Talking in private and talking in public with friends is different. You wouldn’t talk about private matters of your friends in their workplaceor worst you wouldn’t show your friend intimate pics in a public space. Twitter is a public space. Diana Gabaldon is part of the problem, she started the objectification and she enables it when she posts pic of sam’s ass with a 45 over imposed on it.

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  4. Why are you just policing the fandom so much? You basically run a blog saying all the fans are bad and behave badly. We dont need a lecture about everything we or other fans do. One post about people objectifying Sam is one thing, but now there are multiple blog posts..

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    • and I do not engage in the things you are talking about, I’m just so sick of the lectures to this fandom. Its bringing down the decent, well behaved fans at the same time. Enough already.

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      • Gail,
        As a fellow well behaved fan, I can appreciate the fact that you have not acted out in a way that has been described in the blog posts done here, but it is not your place to generalize what all other well behaved fans want to see and read. I have appreciated seeing the different perspectives given by many different fans on this topic, and while I personally would like to see DG take more accountability for her public persona I can see the benefit of discussing why she is entitled to do/say the things she has.

        I’m confused as to why you feel like this blog post was directed as a lecture towards you specifically, but more to the fandom at large. It appears, to me, to be an opening dialogue to express the writers own views on the topic at hand not a personal attack. I would counter that it isn’t blogging about possible negative behavior in the fandom that is bringing down the decent, well behaved fans, but the negative and objectifying behavior of fans that is bringing us all down.

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  5. I agree with your posts. It is very different between being a fan and a friend. Diane knows the cast and is part of the production and can talk to them differently. Fans enjoy the show and books but they do not have a personal relationship with DG or the cast. The cast are glad that the show is a success and that such a dedicated fan base exists. They go out of their way to let us into their lives through Facebook and Twitter but they have their private lives and people should respect that. How would you like to be treated if you found yourself famous. Diane enjoys the success of her books but it is up to her how the story of Claire, Jamie and the others play out. Outlander is a great story and they have done a great job bringing it to life but it is just fiction. It is great to lose yourself in a great story but it is just a story. It will end as other tv shows have ended and the cast with go on to greater success and we will follow them but they will never come over to our house for dinner.

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  6. Three articles pointing out some very specific issues. I wouldn’t call that ‘policing’. Voicing a frustration that a LOT of people share. Hoping perhaps (speaking for myself here) some of the ‘problem children’ might read it and get a clue.

    Can’t really ‘slap’ individuals on FB or Twitter. Would love to sometimes. I can’t find it again now but a couple of days ago I saw a JustJared picture of Sam leaving LA – Great shot. One of the comments (not a direct quote but damn close) “What I want to know is who the blonde B*TCH is and what she is doing with MY Sam!” Nothing to do with objectification and everything to do with being totally inappropriate.

    Gail, I’m curious why you think this is “bringing down the decent, well behaved fans at the same time.”……………. I happen to fall into that category and say ‘ROCK ON’.

    Something to keep in mind too – this goes for ANY fandom. Outlander and it’s various people are good examples and handy. Perhaps people could be sent here to read that could use the message. Or, ‘decent well behaved fans’ could use the clear arguments here as points of discussion for not so stellar fans.

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  7. I meant to reply to this when it was first posted, as I wondered if my response to the earlier Sam Heughan post might have had something to do with it (“Diana G sets the tone…”), but time got away from me.

    And then PaleyFest happened, and I was once again reminded of my issue with Diana Gabaldon.

    The “joke” (which she apparently now denies was even a joke) about enjoying watching Sam Heughan being raped and tortured was completely outrageous and unacceptable. During the panel, she went out of her way to repeat this comment from last year, with a look that clearly demonstrated that she thought she was being edgy/provocative/witty, rather than rude and inappropriate. I think (others can and will disagree) the look on Sam Heughan’s face shows true discomfort with the comment (and Tobias Menzies and Ron Moore also looked embarrassed).

    Not sure this link will work, but here are some gifs:

    To me, this is clearly sexual harassment. I may be friends with some of my colleagues, but I don’t talk about their asses, and i certainly don’t joke about them being raped. Sam Heughan and Diana Gabaldon are colleagues, even if they are also friends, and he knows full well that he can’t tell her off. Sam Heughan has no way of responding other than to laugh it off. And we all know if genders were reversed this would certainly not be okay. If Ron Moore said it about Caitriona Balfe, his head would be on a pike in the town square.

    Frankly, the more I hear from Diana Gabaldon, the less I am able to enjoy her writing. There are several scenes that I have had issues with while reading the Outlander books (Lady Geneva Dunsany, anyone? There’s a word for what Jamie does in that scene…), and these remarks of hers make it all the less enjoyable. Further, it seems she can’t just take her lumps and move on, but rather has to post a (typically) verbose and defensive tweet about how everyone misunderstood her, makes me like her even less. The woman’s ego knows no bounds.

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    • If Diana bothers you so much and you can’t enjoy her writing, then don’t read it. Don’t follow her on Twitter, don’t watch her interviews. Simple fix.

      As for ‘lady’ Geneva – the one who blackmailed Jamie, threatened his family and was a right little brat – and Jamie did something wrong? She knew exactly what she was doing and how to manipulate people. I’ve known a few like her in my life.

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  8. Just today, I read a comment from Diana Gabaldon which tries to clarify her intentions as to the specific comment you mentioned. It seems that her intention was what I had (whether rightly or wrongly) assumed–that it was basically that, as a writer, she was looking forward to having a particularly emotional bit of the story come to life via Sam’s acting.

    I didn’t take offense with it when I first heard the comment, and I certainly don’t take offense with her clarifying her position. However, some do. And that is perfectly fine.

    If a reader can separate the author from the book and still enjoy the books without necessarily “liking” the author, then they should by all means continue to reap what joy that they can from the books. If the author’s personality is such that he/she somehow “taints” the experience of reading the book, then it is clearly time to move on.

    Perhaps it is easier to have a book “ruined” in the modern age…when we are privy to so much of an authors’ comments, actions, personal life. We tend to put authors on pedestals and when they somehow fall short of our expectations (and, of course, they will…because who can fulfill the collective expectations of a worldwide audience?) we resent them for it.

    As for the Jamie/Lady Geneva fiasco…I have friends on both sides of that fence. I think it is definitely worth talking about–more than just a discussion buried in the comments of an unrelated post. I’ll put up something on that soon, and I would love to talk it out with everyone!

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  9. In the same way that Diana is not our collective mom she is not perfect. Sometimes she blurts things out in public forums that I think most people would not and that most people would want to take back if they could. Sometimes someone on FB questions something about the TV show with which she disagrees and she shuts them down. I have never seen her say she was wrong in such cases. She explains but does not take back. There is the whole controversy about calling Sam grotesque. Every time it comes up people point to the obscure definition of the word that she really meant. I would wager my best shift she meant exactly what the word means in common usage. All of this is to say, no, she is not my mother (who never would have blurted out such things in public) and she is not perfect. Where things go wrong, I think, is when she misses chances to apologize sincerely for any misunderstanding, and when the fans jump to her defense even when she was objectively wrong or wrong to say whatever it was in public. I love this woman’s books and the characters she created. I think she sometimes says awkward things that are hurtful even if not on purpose. She is not our mother and we should not keep her on a pedestal. And when fans defend her by saying, in the case of something she has said to or about Sam in public, that he doesn’t mind why should we, well they don’t know what he minds or doesn’t mind, they don’t know him.

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    • I think Sam has answered this and we, as fans, need to just leave it alone.

      Diana is who she is…and she doesn’t apologize for it. She isn’t always politically correct (thank god for that in my opinion). She and Sam have their own unique relationship which, quite frankly, I think a lot of people are jealous of. They want in on that – but they don’t have that ‘in’.

      This came up in the live Q & A Sam did on FB – an I copied it so I’d have it for something like this:

      · Lily Fwee How do you feel about the gross comments you constantly end up with? A.k.a. the really graphic inappropriate ones from older women who should know better :s

      Outlander Diana knows EXACTLY what shes saying. I love it. – Sam

      I think we all as fans need to respect the relationship that Sam & Diana have and cut it the fuck loose! WE don’t have that relationship with him and never will. Sam is a strong minded lad that will stand up for himself if he feels he needs to. Diana is a strong woman that most of us are jealous of. She has a gob of money from writing some books, she has a lifestyle we can only dream of and a relationship with Sam that we would almost kill for.

      Sam is awesome and I’d love to hang with him sure – but he isn’t the first guy I’d want to be close to. Be very thankful he is as open and sweet as he IS to the fans and leave it alone beyond that! Enjoy what he is willing to give!

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  10. The way I see it – from the outside looking in – is this: Diana really does enjoy shocking her fans in her writing and on social media. (Or she simply just gives that impression. That’s how I interpret it anyway). Diana is BIG on communicating, and she seems to thrive on it. Social Media is a great means of feeding that, and honestly…. the most ‘rabid’ of her fan base is EASILY pulled in by that.

    Speaking for myself, I think Diana can say whatever she wishes but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find her remarks — (I’m speaking of the two remarks you listed. I don’t follow tweets or anything from the actors, and long ago I unsubscribed from Diana’s Facebook Page) —- to be stepping over the line a bit, BUT…. that’s only because she and I are very different people.

    And I do think your interpretation is correct about her rape/torture remark. (Because let’s face it: In the books she dealt with the aftermath of Jamie’s abuse. She wasn’t condoning it or anything). It’s only that I, personally, would never in a million years speak so lightly – in public or otherwise – about such an evil subject matter that is very real to a lot of people. I find it insensitive, but again… she’s an adult entitled to say whatever she wishes.

    But back to some of the fans more radical behavior, such as lightening photos of screenshots where you can see under Sam’s kilt. (I read about that in a blog post a while back). It’s like what I wrote about Diana and her more rabid fans a while back; there’s a false camaraderie there, which makes them feel like they’re in her “clique.” It’s like they’re back in high school and see her as the popular girl that they want to be best friends with… to sit with at lunch… to agree with her every word… and perhaps even to mimic her? (Granted, I’m not saying all her fans are like this. Not at all).

    I also think that a lot of people just don’t think before they speak/write their posts. Either that or they just take it all very lightly because at the end of the day it is only a tv series, and perhaps even an escape from daily life to them.

    Oh boy have I babbled just now. Lol! Sorry. Basically, I think this isn’t a strictly black-and-white issue with a lot of people so it’s only natural that not everyone will see eye to eye. The good thing about that is there’s free speech on both ends of the spectrum.

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    • I think you really nailed it when you compared the situation to a high school clique. I can totally see that. Fortunately my high school years blessed me with a handful of book lovers to talk with and help deal with a time of growth and transition. Outlander has likewise blessed me.

      I love your thoughtful insights. Thanks!

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  11. Ass-pillows, though….
    Now seriously, some people have the self-awareness, restraint and emotional intelligence of drunken, sex-starved toddlers. Jeez.

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  12. Another thought about Diana and her comments. What they are actually talking about is ‘work’. Her writing and his acting out what she has written and then has been worked up for screen. Jamie’s ass and being raped are a huge part of the show! In some respects it would be like telling and actor they had the perfect eye color or breasts or whatever to portray a specific character. As far as the rape/torture – this is an incident that not only changes Jamie drastically as a person, but shapes the man he becomes and how he acts and reacts to things for the rest of his life. It’s pivotal. Sam is portraying Jamie so she is speaking to him as the actor. Sam has stated he ‘loves it’ referring to Diana’s comments. (see my earlier post above). Personally I think she treats him a younger brother

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  13. oh my god really? be thankfull She is who she is. some stupid nice little lady would not have been able to write such great stories. and be thankfull she still has some respect for us fans, otherwise she would have killed all you’re sweet claire and jamie and John and Brianna and Roger and Jem and others just like you know who whahaha.
    and I think a lot of you are all yealous of her. she at her age still looks like a million bucks!

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      • I have met her. I first met her as a fan, but then worked with her as a writer and later as a conference organizer. She is generous, but she is also a brilliant mind and she doesn’t suffer fools. She likes the fans of her books because they (paraphrasing) have to be intelligent people to get through books that size. i.e. Wimps needs not apply. She has a devoted fan base of intelligent people who’ve invested days of their lives getting to know her world, immersed in her head, as it were. If you like the books, you ‘get’ her. You know her, because you’ve spent that time. If you know those characters, each one a part of her, you do know her.

        Along comes the TV series. Anyone can show up for an hour and stare at a screen. I really like your ‘friends can say stuff to each other, that other’s can’t’ line. The people who have come late to the party, didn’t watch the relationship with Sam develop, don’t know Diana through the in depth layers of the books, and can’t keep up with Diana’s wit, are going to be aghast at what she says. They’re missing the context. The rest of us are just enjoying the Diana and Sam show. 🙂

        I’ve just purchased the second half DVDs and watched those final episodes again. Sam does such an amazing job making all the despair and trauma of it almost beautiful it’s so painfully real. Amazing television. Amazing talent rising to the challenge of a horrible scenario. I can NOT believe they didn’t get an award for that work.

        How blessed were we when Ron Moore bought these rights?

        Thanks for a great post!

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  14. Of course you have all seen DG’s recent explanation of her “I want to see you raped and tortured” comment to Sam, right?

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