Outlander (which streams on Amazon Prime in the UK), starring Sam Heughan as Scottish heartthrob Jamie and Caitriona Balfe as time-travelling nurse Claire, is an extraordinarily popular TV series, watched by millions of people around the world.
However, as we all know by now, almost every fandom out there has a toxic side. We saw it with DC Comics, when fans harassed Anna Diop over the colour of her skin after the first trailer for new TV show Titans was revealed. We saw it with Rick and Morty fans, who took their trolling offline when they harassed McDonalds’ staff and customers following a promotional stunt. And we saw it with Star Wars fans when they turned on Kelly Marie Tran: the actor, who played maintenance worker Rose in the recent trilogy, was criticised over her ethnicity, weight and attractiveness on Twitter, and saw her “Wookieepedia” page for her character changed to include deeply racist language.
Now, sadly, we have learned that the same has been happening with Outlander fans, as Heughan recently revealed that he’s been the subject of an online harassment campaign for the past six years.
“After the past six years of constant bullying, harassment, stalking and false narrative I am at a loss, upset, hurt and have to speak out,” Heughan said.
The actor, who couldn’t go into specifics due to “legal reasons”, added that he has been falsely accused of “manipulating fans, being a closet-homosexual, trying to mislead or exhort fans for money and disregarding Covid-19 advice.”
He did not name his bullies but implied they were people writing on blogs and social media.
“It’s affecting my life, mental state and is a daily concern,” Heughan finished.
“My costars, friends, family, myself, in fact anyone I’m associated with, has been subjected to personal slurs, shaming, abuse, death threats, stalking, sharing of private information and vile, false narrative… I will not entertain it anymore.”
It is worth noting that the criticism about Heughan’s Covid-19 response stems from the fact that the actor, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, has been posting updates from Hawaii while riding out the coronavirus pandemic there (he arrived there before the travel ban, and decided it would be safer to remain).
Sharing Heughan’s statement on her own Twitter feed, his co-star Balfe has since addressed those same toxic “fans” directly.
“Sad that Sam has had to come out and say all this,” she wrote.
“I would have thought mean bitchy behaviour would have been left in the schoolyard. But unfortunately, a VERY SMALL but very vocal part of this fandom uses their energy to write and say awful untrue things.”
Balfe added: “Maybe they should harness all that energy to get involved in their local charities. And honestly, it’s quite simple… if you don’t like us, it’s a big beautiful world out there. Find something you do love and enjoy that.
“Life, as it’s all too clear right now, is short. Why waste it hating?”
Although Heughan was under no obligation to share his experience, we are so glad that he did join the fight against online bullying. And, likewise, we are heartened by Balfe’s advice to those toxic fans, because she’s absolutely right: why waste all of that energy on something so negative, when you can put it to good use elsewhere?
Of course, you’re allowed opinions. You’re allowed to disagree. You’re allowed to dislike someone. However, there’s a reason we’re all taught the phrase, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” from such a young age.
With that in mind, then, keep it to yourself. And channel that energy into being kind instead, yeah? As Balfe says, life is short right now: why waste it being hateful?