He said it himself, so it must be true. “Outlander was robbed.” Not my words – but comments made by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones writer/creator on the outcomes of the July 14 2016 Emmy nominations. There have been a lot of post-Emmy articles reporting snubbing and outrage appearing online in the last few days. Outlander doesn’t seem to rank, but Game of Thrones advocates are incredulous on account of only receiving six acting nominations – Sansa Stark/Sophie Turner missed out and is now being referred to as “the Leonardo Dicaprio of the Emmys.” Welcome To Our World.
Old news now, but Outlander received just two Emmy nominations for Production Design and Costume Design. However, it missed out completely in the Drama, Acting, Writing and Directing categories. Whilst it was well assumed that the incredible work of Terry Dresbach and John Gary Steele would be recognised, I can’t help thinking that this is the least condescending way to say that while we don’t rate your concept, perspective, vision, narrative, writing, acting, direction and execution, you did a worthy job of interior design and dressmaking.
You do feel for the actors particularly. Caitriona Balfe’s extraordinary “Faith” episode, Tobias Menzies in that complex dual role and Sam Heughan holding the line whilst transforming from trauma victim to powerful leader. Also a vast list of exceptional supporting and guest actors including Duncan Lacroix, Stanley Weber, Simon Cowell and Andrew Gower remained unnoticed.
At least we can throw out the myth that the Television Academy does not recognise genre shows in the Drama category that are accompanied by a fandom. If that was accurate, the Game of Thrones nomination tally would be closer to three, as opposed to twenty-three. So how do we get to the bottom of the bias against Outlander?
Let’s start with this. I recently noted this comment:
So much for democracy and free speech. Not only was Betty bullied and abused for her recommendation, but she was tracked down and intimidated to the point of withdrawing her vote. If “Betty” was a “Bill” or “Ben” or “Bob”, do you think the vitriol would have been the same? Despite this being a “mock” vote where people could submit personal predictions for the Emmys, the messaging can be replicated a thousand times over and speaks to a broader backlash against women vocalising that is reminiscent of the 1970s and 80s (and back beyond).
To me, there is one very clear distinction between Game of Thrones and Outlander and it is all to do with point-of-view. Kelsey McKinney recently wrote a very reasoned, well researched article on how the representation of women on Game of Thrones comes through the perspective of male writers, backed up by some telling statistics. The female roles are written by men, and so speak and act through an unwavering masculine point-of-view which has full control over the character arcs.
The article also pointed out that women’s contribution to GoT tends to be that of production support as opposed to the creative thinking/directional roles. This has trended differently across seasons, but take note of the ground-breaking commentary that ensued:
Outlander is almost the opposite. The base perspective is unequivocally female but is always open to shift and is exclusive of no-one. The writing, directing and production roles seem to be balanced and shared between men and women. Outlander has a very humanistic interpretation of the past and vision for the future that is informed by a real history. And I think, ironically, it is the positivity of Outlander – perpetuated by a significant number of women – that has so many Television Academy members disengaging from it. Is it because other productions are so bleak in their outlook that despair has almost become part of the selection criteria?
Rewind to 1859. George Eliot was an English novelist in the Victorian era. Except George was actually Mary Ann Evans. She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works would be taken seriously. Female authors were published under their own names during Eliot’s life, but she wanted to escape the stereotype of women only writing lighthearted romances. Sound familiar? I’ve always thought that with the advent of online commentary that enables anonymity, it would be an interesting social experiment for women to assume male identities online in order to be taken seriously. If Outlander supporters vocalised via a male pseudonym, would it make a difference? Sadly, yes.
And how do we interpret the recent emergence of male voices speaking up in support of Outlander? We’ve started to hear George R. R. Martin, John Doyle and notable other men publicly comment on the quality and authenticity of the Outlander production. A welcome relief to be honest, because one male voice seems to equate to one thousand female voices and it is exhausting. Thank God there are some people around to provide balance and authority because I for one feel destined to assume stereotype, take a valium and a go for a good lie-down.
The #BlackLivesMatter campaign captured a great photo (courtesy Afro News) from the protest in London last week:
I feel much the same. Frankly, I would rather be spending my time writing on other projects but I also find it hard to turn my back on the politics of this issue because the poor behaviour is symptomatic of an industry with a terrible gender bias, severe lack of accountability and no appetite to invoke basic protocols and guidelines.
It is not about trophies, or individuals, or production companies – it is about challenging the well documented blinkered thinking of Hollywood and taking on the cowardly online assassin that is the modern day aggressor against women speaking up and registering their thoughts. Don’t tolerate it. Never let anyone mess with your vote, regardless of what it is for.
All this prejudice because Outlander is simply a story told from a female point-of-view.
Shame on you Hollywood.
© Michelle Glasson 2016