‘Outlander’ Aims for Historical Accuracy Except in the Hygiene Department

Refinery 29 visited the set of Outlander and was able to interview the cast and crew during the production of season three.  Focusing on the topic of hygiene in the late 1700s, no one in the world of Outlander really wanted to be that historically accurate, nor do viewers really want a lesson on how people back then dealt with being “clean.”   Excerpts are below, but head over to Refinery 29 to read the entire article.  The article also touches on how women were treated as property their entire lives.

“Bathing [is] such an essential part of life,” Caitriona Balfe told me during a visit to the Outlander set last fall. “Heat and hot water. That’s probably the one thing I would miss the most. When you think back to that time, — yeah we’re doing this very romantic, epic show — but they all must’ve stunk. Imagine! No toothbrushes, no toothpaste, no soap.”

“It’s tough because [when you] come at it from your modern mind, especially with the spanking scene and things like that, there’s an initial reaction of, ‘No way we can do that.'” Balfe said. “My job in scenes like that is usually a lot easier because Claire is pretty much of the same thinking. She’s a much more modern woman, and you have to look at things in the time that they’re situated within. In the 1700s, this was kind of the way of life. I do think, especially when it’s sexual violence, that we have a responsibility to not take it lightly, to treat it with the respect that it deserves. We have always said, from the onset of the show, that if there are scenes of a sexual nature, or violence, that they’re there for a particular reason. It’s to tell part of the story and to move the story forward. It can be a hard conversation sometimes.”

“The issue with television is you can show dirt and grime as much as you want — it doesn’t play,” [Matthew B. Roberts] explained. “What we react to is the smell of things. When you see something and it looks dirty, okay, but as soon as it smells, then you have a visceral reaction. We just can’t do that yet, maybe one day. We try to portray if it’s muddy or dirty… We can’t portray the kind of grime and filth because we need the smell.”

Source: Refinery 29

  • Bonnie

    That’s what is particularly nice about actually reading the Outlander series. Diana Gabaldon addresses the sense of smell and what the characters are experiencing a LOT. She’s a lot of research and thinking re what the olfactory experience would be. It is in no way glossed over for the sake of romance and warm fuzzys.