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.
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.