Wed
Jul 30 2014 12:55pm

Outlander’s “Just a Bodice-Ripper”? Really, Vanity Fair?!

Jamie and Claire in Starz's OutlanderEarlier this week, Vanity Faira posted an article with the headline “Does the New Outlander Series Have What It Takes to Be More than Just a Bodice-Ripper?b

In the piece itself, journalist Joanna Robinson says that no, it does not, and writes that “in order to become a true hit, Outlander, a steamy, time-traveling romp through Scotland, is going to have to find a way to appeal to more than just your dear old mum. In other words, it can’t just be Fifty Shades of Plaid.”

Annoyed? You're not alone.

The article goes on to mention that the most recent installment of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander book series, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Let's think about that discrepancy for a moment.

If the Outlander series were only appealing to “your dear old mum,” it sure as heck wouldn't have hit the top spot on the New York Times list. Robinson says that the book series appeals to “a largely female readership who will pre-order each installment months in advance,” but even if that's true, there have to be a substantial amount of males buying the books as well for them to consistently hit #1. And even breaking the readers down by gender in this case appears to just be another way for her to insult the series' audience.

Anyway. Moving on.

She also points out that the show is “obviously being marketed toward women and that, I think, is a huge mistake.” Because women are “already in the bag for this one” because of the “stereotypical love triangle” and “and a wee bit of blood on our hero Jamie.” She brings up the obvious comparison to Game of Thrones, which people originally conjectured wouldn't appeal to females, because a fantasy series about dynasties, kingdoms, dragons, complicated relationships, and strong women wasn't thought to appeal to women.

No. Of course not. Oh, wait...

Again, moving on.

It's fine if the journalist thinks that Outlander, the series, won't convert people who haven't read the books into fans. But to disparage the book series' fans and the television series because she thinks the book series and now the television series are just for women is both offensive and ignorant. The real question should have simply been, “Will the Outlander Series Appeal to More Than Its Book Fans?”

What would you say in response to this article?

(For all of H&H's Outlander coverage in one handy place, visit our Outlander Collection page. And check back for weekly episode recaps coming your way very soon!)

a: We used a 'donotlink' link so your clicking through won't count for their click numbers.

b: Bodice-ripper is an outdated pejorative term meant to convey disdain toward an entire genre. 

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Individual - You will receive an alert for each comment added to this post.
Digest - You will receive an end-of-day alert for all comments added to this post.
25 comments
Brie Clementine
1. Brie.Clem
Oh, this is very disappointing! Joanna Robinson is a genre reader (a hard-core Game of Thrones fan) and, as far as I know, she also reads YA, so to see her being so dismissive and ignorant about another genre is bad, especially when paired with the ugly "dear old mum" remark, which is pretty offensive and sexist.

She just lost a faithful reader and listener.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
@Brie.Clem, I didn't know Robinson was a genre fan, so her dismissiveness is even worse. Interesting. The thing that irks me the most is the underlying suggestion that something loved by mostly women can't possibly be really popular or even worthy of attention.
Darlene Marshall
3. darlenemarshall
I just can't get worked up anymore over the ignorance of the mainstream media when it comes to romance fiction, or even fiction which the author insists, correctly, cannot be defined as romance genre work.

Today I watched the CBS Morning segment on Outlander and got the usual tittering from the on-air talent over the fact that it contains sex (which, as Gabaldon pointed out makes sense when you're discussing a marriage lasting decades) and wondering what's beneath the kilts.

Different day, same sh*t. I can't be bothered anymore.
Lege Artis
4. LegeArtis
Ok, this article made me mad.
It's not about the show or a book... it's her completely offensive opinion that women can't like anything that's not 50SoG.

I was positevely surprised today when I read articles on io9 (blog focuse on scifi and fantasy) regarding the show . Their covrage of Outlander is great!
Just compare it with VF article:

"Given that this is the first series that Moore has created since Battlestar Galactica, we were already intrigued. And it's based on the bestselling book series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon. So that's a good combination.

The premise of Outlander is...interesting, to say the least. You come for the dirty men in kilts, and stay for the wonderfully complicated and all-consuming love story."

(i am not sure if I am alowed to link it. )
LoriK
5. LoriK
Man, I hate it when women pull this, "I'm not like those other girls" BS to make themselves look like the cool chick at the expense of other women. Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own taste. They aren't entitled to be so dismissive of other people's, and that goes double for a journalist.

The irony is that I always found Gabaldon's insistence that Outlander isn't a romance to be the same basic kind of annoying. Two wrongs definitely don't make a right.
LoriK
6. fangirl
I do not think Outlander will appeal to many men. Period setting and a heavy emphasis on romance will probably drive many men away without even checking the series out and a lot of those who start watching, too (though I think the show has more of an opportunity to appeal to men than the book depending on how much time they spend on battles etc.)

So what? Women constitute over 50% of reading and viewing public and over 50% of purchasing power. If Outlander appeals to a large swath of female viewing public, it's pretty much set. There is a large number of books/shows/movies created specifically to appeal to male audience and few people look down on them. I think it's a ridiculous double standard to look down on things marketed/appealing exclusively to women.

We can debate forever whether Outlander is a romance or a 'bona fide' historical novel (I tend to think the former but realize a lot of its fans disagree), but I also fail to see why it's so bad if it is "only" a beloved, popular, best-selling romance? That genre is unfairly maligned just because it appeals to women, IMO.

Also, the 50 Shades of Plaid crack just shows that her conclusion makes no sense. 50SoG appeals exclusively to women and there is no debate that it's romance/erotica, yet look how widely successful and profitable it has been.
Heather Waters (redline_)
7. redline_
@LegeArtis -- Of course! Please always feel free to include links.
Evangeline Holland
8. EvangelineHolland
I think it's premature for anyone to declare Outlander won't appeal to men. Particularly because I ask: what men? There are plenty of men who love period dramas, plenty of men willing to watch things with their SOs, plenty of men who don't feel their manhood is threatened because a trailer promises sex and romance, etc. And aren't there plenty of male Outlander fans? I'm sure they'll probably tune in to see if it lives up to the books.

Ultimately, this topic makes me go WTF? Nothing, not even the bloodiest blood sports like MMA and boxing, are popular without fans of both genders.

Men like romance and sex. They might not discuss or think about it in the same language and vernacular as women, but they won't knock it unless they feel it overshadows the other elements they like. Back when I was part of the True Blood fandom, I remember men and women debating Sookie/Eric/Bill, and even Jason/Jessica/Hoyt! Before I deleted my GR account, I noticed a number of male GR friends read and enjoyed FSoG!

Maybe we need to talk more about shaming and gender stereotypes than lambasting things that will first appeal to women.
Katherine Bloom
9. lsbloom
The idea that something is "massively popular but only by women so it is not valuable" has been around for centuries. It is an enormous problem with the current Western literary cannon. Yes, we'll all have to read the dry and convoluted Leatherstocking tales because a bunch of men in a room decided that the books that acutally sold at the time were to flimsy to be valuable becuase they were written by women and read by...well everyone...but heaven-help the disctinction of being a 3-volume novel.

It's a perpetuation of stereotypes and misogynistic thinking and having it done by a woman is all the more offensive. If she thinks men aren't tuning into GoT for the naked tits or Spartacus for basically being graphic sex and violence--as most of the cable shows are, she's got another thing coming. Not to mention, achieving the popular success of the books on TV would make it the biggest thing Starz has ever tried to do who gives a crap to the demographics. Women have money too. We make decisions on cable providers and we have advertising clout. Oh wait, did she forget that 50s stereotype?
LoriK
10. BMcClenathan
You go girl! Thank you for writing this rebuttal. Love it!
Carmen Pinzon
11. bungluna
Another idiot trying to validate her superiority by 'differentiating' herlself from "those other females" and putting down anything liked or valued by "them women". Sigh.
LoriK
12. doryjake
Perhaps Joanna Robinson would like Outlander better if it was discovered that Claire and Jaime were actually brother and sister. That might give it some GoT "cred." It is interesting that George R R Martin edited a couple of anthologies, Dangerous Women and Songs of Love and Death featuring stories written by Diana Gabaldon.
Marie Sullivan
13. minime2
That review was so disappointing to read. I really wish she read the books or at least Outlander and DIA so she would know that the books are not "bodice rippers" at all. I love the series, I preordered MOBY 6 months in advance and I am not a granny, I'm 36. I actually have to take a break from each book to pull myself together because they are so emotionally draining. Perhaps she read one of the Fabio adorned In Love With An Outlander harlequin books…
LoriK
14. Renee W
In response to the comment that the show will primarily appeal to women: I had my very manly husband watch the first episode with me. This is a man that is critical of all series and movies in general. He thought it was well written, enjoyable and took the book to another level. He said he would continue to watch!
LoriK
15. Sharlene Martin Moore
I would say there will be probably be more men to watch Outlander than read Vanity Fair.
LoriK
16. GraceBurrowes
In a very few lines, one critic has managed to reveal ignorance of general reading demographics (female, shall we say, dominated), the romance genre, the series she's critiqueing, and appropriate nomenclature, while insulting a lot of dear old paycheck earning mums, too. Some kinda talent, but not a very worthy addition to a literary dialogue.
LoriK
17. Cindy Holby
I had my husband sit down and watch it with me and he enjoyed it. He's not into scifi or fantasy but he loved the action bits. I think it's going to be highly successful.
LoriK
18. Leslie G
I had tried to read Outlander many years ago, but hadn't been able to manage it. Then, as a Tolkien fan, I found out Graham McTavish was going to be in the television version. Watched the trailers, went out and bought the books. and read all eight novels, plus the Lord John books and all the novellas, in three weeks, and I'm re-reading again. Outlander is the sort of thing that should go down well with the Bernard Cornwell crowd (Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe), and should be popular with the sort of people who read GoT, Tolkien, and big thick historicals, not just the romances and Regencies. Why the journalist would class Outlander as a mere bodice-ripper is beyond me. Yes, bodices will definitely be ripped (prime example in Dragonfly in Amber, the second book), but there's a lot more to the books than that, and from what I've seen of the television series so far, it does as well and should have a much wider audience than the journalist suspects.
LoriK
19. librarypat
I wonder if she has even read the books. There is more substance to these books than you find in a mere bodice-ripper. Relationships, romantic and otherwise, have always been important in history. You would think someone of her experience would see how the series unfolds before condeming it.
LoriK
20. RobMRobM
I'm a guy and I've been a big fan of the books - it's all about the characters and plot and Gabaldon is very strong at both. I was very impressed by Ep. 1. Beautifully shot, well acted, well directed and nice adaptation choices. I'm all in.
LoriK
21. ColleenGS
I don't think she read the books at all...she just phoned in that article in the way I think many journalists do now....a review to be contrary...not objective and fair. Outlander is a wonderful story that you just can't forget, and my husband and I love the books and the first episode.
Jean Boe
23. jeanie
The book is great....the show is great.....she absolutely does not know from whence she speaks.
LoriK
25. Mammagadget
Perhaps Joanna Robinson's articles aren't worth reading. Afterall, Vanity Fair is a magazine primarily marketed toward women. If she were a 'real' writer wouldn't she be writing for some men's magazine? ...Cough,cough.
Post a comment