Update: I would like to apologize for having offended any Outlander fans. I have edited this post to better reflect my own opinions and to not insult those who have opinions that differ from mine.
Here’s one of those Outlander Season 3 rumors that shippers will hate to hear: Sam Heughan (who plays James “Jamie” Fraser) and Caitriona Balfe (who plays Claire Randall Fraser) are really, really, really not together.
I felt compelled to write this op-ed piece after searching for some more news about one of my more preferred shows on television, which I can, subsequently, bring to you. So I began to do some due diligence – reading Starz and IMDb message boards, pouring over trusted magazine sources, and even reaching out to some PR contacts to see if they had some information for me to share with you.
Then, all of a sudden, I fell down the “shipper” rabbit hole.
Now, while the personal lives of the stars of Outlander have nothing to do with Outlander Season 3 rumors, it’s imperative to put a post out like this in the hopes that it will quell some of the waters and turn the focus back onto the show.
A recent Vox article discusses the so-called “dark side” of “shipping”. If you Google “Outlander shippers,” a vast array of Tumblr sites will come up dedicated to this very topic. If you stick around on social media long enough, this very thing will come up in various mentions from time to time.
Now, let’s be clear on something: Shipping, on its face, is perfectly fine. As a hardcore Star Wars fan who was lucky enough to be alive to see the original cut of Return of the Jedi in theaters (on what was the best grade school trip ever), I used to love the idea of not only Han Solo and Princess Leia living happily ever after in a galaxy far, far away, but for Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher to have a real-life relationship after the final credits rolled. (And some rumors from that time claim that that’s exactly what happened.)
But where shipping becomes a problem is when boundaries are crossed — boundaries that affect real-life people in real-life situations. I mentioned that I “used to” love the idea of Harrison and Carrie getting together, which implies, if not outright states, that I no longer love the idea. Why? I think because of my personal experience. I got into — and out of — personal relationships of my own and learned what does and doesn’t work. And I realized that things are as they are, and thus as they should be — not as we wish they are, or as we hoped they would be.
Yes, it’s still nice to watch Star Wars (yes, even the prequels) and think that Han Solo and Princess Leia are living together, happily ever after, in a galaxy far, far away. However, when the credits roll, you come back to reality, you realize that it’s nearly 40 years after the first Star Wars hit theaters, and you appreciate that Harrison and Carrie are two real, distinct human beings with real, distinct lives away from the camera, and those lives deserve to be protected and treated as sacred, because they involve other real, distinct human beings (including children) who didn’t ask to be swept up into madness.
Again, “shipping” is harmless for the most part. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a nice thing to think about the stars of our favorite show (or movie) being together in real life…”true love at last,” and all that. Hollywood exists on that very premise. But when certain lines are crossed — when real lives are interfered with — that’s when things start becoming not-so-harmless.
There are “fans” of the show on various social media sites who demand – literally, demand – that Sam and Caitriona get together, even though Caitriona has been in a relationship with someone else for nearly two years (and, presumably, the poor fellow would be devastated to lose his girlfriend), and Sam is dating other women. Worse still, there are people who are attacking women Sam is dating on social media. One person even went so far as to contact a girlfriend’s employer, and many continually attack girlfriends on their social media accounts.
When these lines are crossed, it does not benefit Outlander, Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, or anyone else. Turning the discussion away from Outlander — the actual show — toward a “relationship” that some fans feel the stars “should” have isn’t healthy. Attacking Sam’s girlfriend/s, Caitriona’s boyfriend, journalists doing their job, and other fans on social media is not going to give the desired end result.
I think what started these Outlander Season 3 rumors about Sam and Caitriona is their on-screen chemistry. Certainly, they have a lot of it – that’s undeniable. But that just means that they’re good actors – that they’re doing their jobs quite well – and that they were robbed of their Emmy nominations.
But I think the best response to these Outlander Season 3 rumors is one given by JD Scott in a very different context but on a very similar topic: managing expectations. Scott is the older brother of the stars of HGTV’s Property Brothers, one of whom, Jonathan Silver Scott, has also been at the receiving end of shipping-style insanity and whose girlfriend has similarly been the target of many social media attacks by crazed Property Brothers fans who believe that Jonathan “owes” them a relationship. (Incidentally, both Sam Heughan and the Scott brothers are Scottish — Sam, by birth; the Scotts, by descent.)
— JD Scott (@MrJDScott) November 23, 2015
In a Facebook live chat with some of his fans, JD put it simply, and best, when he said, “no one owes you a relationship.” Furthermore, JD said that it was unfair to other people – people who are, essentially, collateral damage – to be at the receiving end of people’s failure to manage expectations. (My interaction with one such deranged Property Brothers fan landed her, ultimately, in jail, but that’s another story for another day.)
In closing, then, I hope that the Outlander fans on all sides will take three things to heart, going forward.
1. There’s a reason Vikings and Game of Thrones stars are receptive to their fans – there’s a reason they will live-tweet with their respective communities – and there’s a reason many fans of the shows have been able to befriend (both online, and in real life) many of the stars and ancillary workers of the shows: because they’re respectful and fun, because they’re intelligent and thoughtful to others, and because the lines between fantasy and reality haven’t been crossed. Fans of Vikings aren’t demanding that Travis Fimmel and Alyssa Sutherland get together off-screen. Fans of Game of Thrones aren’t leaving nasty comments on Kit Harington’s girlfriend’s Instagram posts, and they’re not claiming that Peter Dinklage is part of a vast conspiracy to hide the fact that he’s really married to Emilia Clarke, who’s pregnant by him for the fifth time.
2. If, indeed, Sam Heughan’s girlfriend/s are with him “for the money and the fame,” as so many shippers have claimed, he will find out on his own. He won’t allow anyone to tell him as much. If you spend enough time in the entertainment industry, you’ll quickly learn to suss out who’s there for you because they like you, and who’s there for you because they want something from you.
3. If you are going to talk about Outlander, keep the focus on the show. If you’re going to spread Outlander rumors, spread them about the show. And if you’re going to participate in discussions about Outlander, believe Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe when they say that they are not and never have been dating.
[Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images]