Both Sides Now: Review of the Mid-Season Finale of Starz’s OUTLANDER & Season 1 Part 2

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Joni Mitchell

Warning: Spoilers Galore

outlander promo s1p1I know you didn’t forget this promotional poster for Outlander Season 1 Part 1. A woman torn between her love for two men, reaching back and looking at the husband from 1945 even as she steps toward the Scottish Highlander husband from the past. Both men are reaching out for her, though neither touches her. I thought that poster was supposed to be romantic or something, though a woman torn between two men would be emotionally difficult, at the very least, while a woman torn between her love for two men in different centuries would be equally devastating for the men — neither would have a fighting chance, as it were.

To get ready for the 4 April 2015 premiere of part 2 of season 1, I re-watched the mid-season finale, “Both Sides Now.” I no longer see that poster as romantic, but, rather, as symbolic of Claire and her relationships. Claire is Sassenach in both Scottish Gaelic definitions of the word: she is “English” (literally, Saxon) and an “Outsider.”

Claire is between the two men, both of whom are reaching for her, but she is touching neither of them. In the promotional poster, just as in season 1 part 1 of Starz’s ambitious series based on the bestselling Diana Gabaldon Outlander books, Claire is not touched emotionally by either man. The mid-season finale, “Both Sides Now,” proves that Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is as malleable in the past with Jamie (Sam Heughan) as she is in 1945 with Frank (Tobias Menzies).

Claire & Men & Sex

outlander claire and jaimeIn the past in the Scottish Highlands, Claire marries Jamie — in a marriage of convenience to avoid being arrested by the British commander Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies in a dual role) — but she quickly seems to become sexually besotted with her new husband. She is, in fact, the more sexually experienced of the pair — even if, as far as series viewers know, she’s been with no one but Frank in the present. Jamie reveals before the ceremony that he’s a virgin, and the wedding night shows him acting a bit naïvely for a man his age, especially given the time period, when all people had shorter life-spans and so married at much younger ages.

So, Claire’s obsessed with Jamie and his sexual inexperience. It’s all right for an older woman to be sexually attached to and excited by a younger, less experienced man.

But wait, didn’t Claire claim to be completely and totally connected sexually with her husband Frank in episode 1? Didn’t she seduce him when they visited the castle — in its present day, abandoned state — by hopping up onto a table and then spreading her legs seductively? Didn’t he touch her and say, in a delightedly surprised tone, “Why, Mrs. Randall, you seem to have left your undergarments at home”?

Claire likes sex and she likes to be the instigator.

Or, another way of putting it might be, she “likes to be on top.”

outlander claire and frankIt makes me wonder, though, whether Claire loves either of the men in her life, and it makes me feel a bit sorry for the men, especially for Frank. Despite her constant protests that she must get “back to the stones” which transported her through time in the first place, she seems to have entirely forgotten Frank through most of the episodes in season 1 part 1.

Perhaps Claire just likes having sexual relations with Frank and Jamie.

Maybe she considers that to be love, albeit a different kind of “love” for each man.

Claire as a Strong, Independent Woman

outlander claire 1945 nurse In 1945, Claire is a strong woman. It is she who goes “off to war” — Frank stays in London working for the Intelligence Agency — and she is such a competent nurse that, in the opening scenes where she is tending to the wounded, I thought she was a medical doctor instead of just a “lowly nurse” and almost shouted for joy. (Alas, she was shoved aside by the male doctor so that he could see to the wounded soldier.)

In the past, Claire’s “healing skills” are recognized and respected. She treats serious injuries, stitching Jamie up, for example, and healing a boy who accidentally ate poison foliage, and treats people with herbs (sometimes offering them innocuous “love potions” but only upon direct request).outlander claire nurse in pastAfter her marriage to Jamie, however, she suddenly seems to become weak, defenseless, and altogether rather muddle-headed. In the mid-season finale when the group is attacked, Jamie tells her to run and hide behind some rocks (that are about ankle-high), where she promptly “loses” the big knife she’s been given. When she returns to the group, they tell her to go back and get the big knife she’s dropped, before they “teach” her how to wound a man — in order to defend herself — with an itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie knife.

outlander how to killWow. Really? Seriously? A trained nurse who’d been through World War II wouldn’t know how to use the BIG, BAD knife she’d been given in the first place, and, worse, wouldn’t know how to stab a potential assailant in order to “bring him down”? What happened to all her nursing and surgical training as well as her battle-field experience that she doesn’t already know what a mortal wound is and how to inflict it?

When did she become such a clichéd, helpless, dim-witted sissy-girl?

Claire’s “Loyalty” to Frank

No, I have not read the Outlander books — and I couldn’t possibly read the entire series of them before season 1 part 2’s premiere, as someone suggested — so I do not know what ultimately happens between Claire and Frank, or between Claire and Jamie, for that matter.

But since Starz has made Outlander a series, no one should have to read the books in order to understand the show: the show stands alone, as do all screen adaptations of books, because it is a different art form, and it is the Starz series that I am reviewing. Based on the show, then, I must admit that I am astonishingly and sadly disappointed in Claire’s apparent disloyalty to her husband Frank, whom she claims to love and to whom she was so vigorously sexually attached during their “second honeymoon” at the season’s beginning.

outlander 2 wanted postersFrank’s loyalty, love, and devotion — though few of the episodes have featured it much — has apparently never wavered. The mid-season finale opened with Frank’s going, once again, to the police station, where he is such a well-known figure that one of the officers simply says, “He’s back.” On the station’s bulletin board, there are posters offering money for information on the whereabouts of the “Highlander” — i.e., Jamie, whose spirit or ghost or soul was seen staring up at Claire in the window the night before her disappearance at the stones — and for information on Claire.

Frank doesn’t want to leave Inverness until he’s found Claire. He argues vehemently with the police who insist — ironically — that she’s probably willingly gone off with another man since there is no blood in the abandoned car and no signs of a struggle. Frank disagrees with the Reverend who suggests that Frank return “home” to Oxford without his missing wife. Frank even goes, against his “common sense,” to the circle of stones at Craigh-na-dun, after the Reverend’s housekeeper suggests another explanation for Claire’s disappearance: that the stones concentrate the earth’s energy, allowing some people to travel through time.

Frank’s been loyal and devoted to Claire though we haven’t seen much of it it till the mid-season finale since he’s barely been in the show.

I’m beginning to have my doubts about Claire’s loyalty to him.

Claire & Frank & Craigh-na-dun

outlander 2 wedding ringsAlthough the scene where Claire is hugging new husband Jamie, while wearing both wedding rings — from Frank (left hand) and from Jamie (right hand) — is poignant, and transitions immediately into a scene with Frank searching for her in 1945, I was stunned when both Claire — in the past — and Frank — in 1945 — show up at Craigh-na-dun.

After Claire was transported to the past, she very infrequently mentioned Frank and getting back to him by going back to the stones. When she did say something of the sort, it was usually only at the end of an episode. It became an obvious formula by which the show’s writers were trying to get the viewers coming back the next week: it didn’t seem like Claire really meant it.

Craigh-na-dunStill, they somehow both end up at the stones in the mid-season finale, although separated by two centuries. Frank is calling for Claire, who’s close enough to Craigh-na-dun in the past to hear him. She breaks her promise to husband Jamie to stay “hidden” and runs toward the stones, calling Frank’s name.

And he hears her.

Yes, you read that right: finally, Claire runs to the stones, calling to her husband Frank, who can hear her.

outlander claire running to rocksThough Frank keeps stepping nearer to the stones, shouting Claire’s name, he does not apparently have the ability to travel through time (though, according to the housekeeper, even if he could have traveled to another time, no one could predict what time period any traveler goes to). Two centuries earlier, Claire attempts to touch the stones to travel back to 1945, but at the last moment she is prevented from doing so by British Redcoats who drag her away.

All season long, “trapped” in the past, determined to get back to the circle of “magical” stones, Claire has been claiming that she must get back to her husband Frank. Then, when she finally gets the chance, when she hears him desperately calling for her, she runs to the stones shouting, “Frank, wait for me,” but she doesn’t valiantly and violently fight to escape her captors in order to stretch out her hand to touch the stones.

Furthermore, and even worse, Claire left Jaime without his knowing — without anyone’s knowing — and ran to the stones intending to touch them in order to go back to 1945, to her life with Frank. That means poor Jamie, who’s clearly falling in love with Claire if he’s not already in love with her, would lose her without ever knowing what had happened to her. He would worry, mourn, and grieve for the rest of his life. And, unlike the incident when the stones first transported her away from Frank, which Claire didn’t realize would happen, this time she was leaving her husband Jamie behind knowing — or at least intending — to leave him behind forever without ever telling him what she was doing. Without even saying goodbye.

I’m afraid I lost any empathy I had for Claire at that moment. Surely she has to have realized, at some point, that this is what Frank must be going through in 1945, yet she has never mentioned how he must be suffering all these weeks or months that she’s been missing.

And she was just about to do the same thing to Jamie, this time intentionally. outlander frank and claire at rocksHas Claire been untruthful this entire season every single time she said she had to get back to the stones so she could return home to her beloved Frank? Why didn’t she fight harder or use her weapon against the captors, none of whom had his weapons drawn? (As we see in a subsequent scene with Black Jack, she still has that knife on her, teenie-tiny though it is.)

Why didn’t she fight as the Scots had “taught” her, so that, hearing Frank’s desperate cries for her while crying out in return, she could escape the Highland past and return to her husband? Why didn’t she stab at least one of the Redcoats, as she stabbed and killed her rapist in the meadow, so she could break free just for a moment and touch the stones? Where’s all the “anger and bitterness” she feels “towards [herself] for not having gotten back to the stones” before she was raped by the two deserting Redcoats that she and Jamie killed?

What are her true feelings for Jamie?

She’s still in the past, but does she actually not care anything about him except when he’s saving her from some physical danger? I can’t tell after what she did to him after she saw the stones and ran toward them to go back to Frank.

But then she didn’t even struggle to get free from her captors to touch the stones.

Her anger, bitterness, competence, skill, and strength just seemed to evaporate.

I felt a sudden tremendous sympathy for the grieving Frank.

I felt pity for Jamie.

Outlander’s Violence

outlander post rapeIn “Both Sides Now,” Claire was raped by one of the British Redcoat deserters who came upon her and Jamie in the meadow. Her “I’m going into shock” interior monologue after the rape and the killing of the deserters, however, was pedestrian and unrealistic in the extreme. Instead of making me feel sympathy for her character, her ramblings about her anger, in which she insisted she didn’t know at whom she was angry, or that she wasn’t angry at Jamie for not protecting her in the first place, increased my emotional distance.

After she saw the stones of Craigh-na-dun, she had an epiphany that her anger and bitterness were “at [herself] for not getting back to the stones sooner” — the implication being that had she attempted more purposefully to return to the stones, she would never have been raped or forced to kill her rapist.

Outlander has been relatively violent all through part 1 of season 1, but it’s been increasing.

The mid-season finale was virtually non-stop violence.

Hints about Season 1, Part 2

outlander s1p2 2 postersTwo promotional posters have been issued for season 1 part 2 of Outlander, and the emphasis is clearly moving away from the romantic involvement of the three main characters that was implied by the promotional poster of season 1 part 1. Instead, Outlander the Series is obviously heading toward, basically, nothing but increasing violence.

I don’t need the books to tell me that, nor the actors to “warn” me that the series is going to some “dark places.” I can see it in the Starz promotional posters. I’ve read the reviews of the books on Amazon, and some of those reviews are very specific about their objections to the graphic violence in the books. Additionally, Outlander the Series has been getting more violent, culminating in a man with his tongue cut out and his legs burned with boiling oil, rape, murders, threatened disfigurement with a knife, and attempted rape.

And that was just in the mid-season finale.

Black Jack Randall

outlander BJRBlack Jack, who is the only character that actor Tobias Menzies will apparently be playing in part 2 of season 1 — according to interviews with the cast — is a dreadfully violent but completely cardboard villain. His having a taste for good food and fine wine or having an educated vocabulary do not, I fear, make him a rounded character. I don’t even find him interesting, he’s so flat and unrealistic.

Apparently, he becomes even more violent — no doubt, graphically so — doing more than flaying Jamie’s skin from his back as he did in the grotesquely violent and extended whipping scene, raping the sister of a suspected “traitor” (in an implied scene), holding Claire’s head underwater to get information from her (in a horrifying scene), attempting to rape Claire, as he did when she was first transported to the past and mistook him for Frank and as he was shown doing in the mid-season Finale, while holding her own knife menacingly against the nipple of her bared breast as if he were going to cut her nipple off, and then — after husband Jamie broke open the door — holding the knife at her throat. (Menzies claims that had he read more than episode 1 for the audition, he most likely would not have tried out for the part.)

These comments and hints by the actors in the show, along with the reviews about the egregiously graphic violence in the books themselves  — mostly regarding rape and sodomy, of female and male characters — make me wonder if I’ll even make it through season 1 part 2, let alone through any subsequent seasons of Outlander. 

First of all, as a victim of incest-rape for over 15 years from my father, stepfather, and mother (with implements), I get triggered emotionally over rape scenes, whether they be in books or in films. (Though I think Casualties of War is one of the most important and striking movies about the Vietnam War, for example, I have never been able to watch the gang-rape scene of the Vietnamese prisoner by the American platoon members: I can’t even listen to it.) I doubt I’ll be able to sit through any more graphic rape or sodomy scenes, of either male or female characters, in Outlander.

Second, if there are more such egregiously violent scenes, as everyone seems to be hinting there are, they won’t make me think Black Jack Randall is a more fully developed character either.

Apparently, Starz already knows this, as this poster demonstrates.

imagoutlander bjr s1p2esHmm, I guess — given what I’ve seen of Jack already, and given the relatively flippant tone of the Jack poster — I may not be seeing too very much of Jack in the upcoming part 2 of season 1.

I’ll give it a try, but I won’t watch (or read) anything that triggers me.

Sorry, Starz.

Outlander’s “Love” Story

When the network, writers, director, or actors aren’t telling us how “dark” part 2 of season 1 is going to get, or hinting at the upcoming graphic violence, they seem to be happily concentrating on the “love” story between Claire and Jamie. The actors even played The Newlywed Game in one interview, to demonstrate how much — or how little — the actors knew about each other, or about the characters: it wasn’t clear.

Sometimes, the concentration on this “love” between Jamie and Claire seems playful, as in this poster.

outlander jaimeAt times, it attempts to be poignant, as in this poster.

outlander s1p2But none of the posters, promotional or otherwise, feature Frank, so I’m guessing that the “love story” between Frank and Claire is being thrown over (following the books’ example, I suppose, since everyone claims Starz’s Outlander is staying as close to the books as possible, given that it’s a different art form).

So, it looks like we’re going to get this: outlander the loveand this:

outlander returnsand, unfortunately, even more of this:

outlander s1p2 posterBut I gotta tellya, none of it feels like a love story or a romance or anything like that. If they’d just advertised Outlander as historical drama, it would make more sense. But a love story? It feels to me like the writers — all of them, including Gabaldon — have dropped the only real love story that was present in Outlander.

The one between Claire and loyal, faithful, grieving Frank.

Outlander Season 1: Part 2

I’m not sure how I feel about the upcoming part 2 of season 1, which premieres 4 April 2015, and airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz. It sounds as if its violence is going to make me pretty uncomfortable. So uncomfortable — as a survivor of repeated sexual abuse and other types of violent childhood abuse — that I may not find Outlander to be entertainment any longer.

It would be sad not to watch Outlander any longer because it became too graphically violent.

Sometimes, Claire and Jamie were kind of cute together, though I readily admit I don’t understand why some readers and viewers classify Outlander as a “romance” rather than just as an historical drama, albeit one that concentrates more on clothes, hairstyles, shoes, patriarchal society, women’s roles, sex, sexual jokes or innuendo, and sexual violence than on historical events of the period like the Jacobite rebellion.

Furthermore, I really do like Frank, but since Frank isn’t going to be in the remainder of season 1 anyway, I guess I’m already disappointed in part 2.

outlander claire and frank in loveRelated Posts
Outlander: Season One, Part One

By yon bonnie banks, and by yon bonnie braes: Starz’s Daring Outlander

The broken heart it kens, nae second spring again: Starz’s Outlander

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19 Comments

Filed under Actors, Books, Movies/Television, Outlander, Rape, Violence

19 Responses to Both Sides Now: Review of the Mid-Season Finale of Starz’s OUTLANDER & Season 1 Part 2

  1. Laine

    This site provides lots of food for thought as I look around after the finish of Season 3 and travel back in time (wink) to your discussion of Season 1 which remains my favorite minus the last 2 episodes (15 & 16).

    As an antidote to the Frank obsession of one commenter, I recommend taking two of the essays on the site below and get back to me in the morning: 1) How Do You Solve a Problem Like Frank Randall? and 2) The Canonization of Frank Randall.
    https://justagirlwithspirit.wordpress.com/
    Frankly (pun intended) both book and show husband #1 left me cold though the actor playing him is talented.

    I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site that show runner Ron Moore has publicly admitted liking both Menzies and the character Frank, beefing up his importance and likeability. What he doesn’t admit is concomitantly diminishing Jamie’s bank account to make a “real triangle” which hardly existed in the source material where marriage #1 was to an older pokey pedantic husband with what Claire imagined was good sex and marriage#2 was to a dashing warrior poet with off the charts sex. Moore transferred Claire’s first experience of oral sex from Jamie to Frank and that alone robbed the Jamie-Claire union of important intimacy and a sexual first, muddling the audience’s understanding of who was hitting homers and who was not.
    Frank’s conversation with Claire was impersonal, insipid. He was more excited about history than re-wooing his wife after a 5 year separation. On the other hand there are entire forests of posters with quotes by Jamie about his everlasting and deep love for Claire and they keep on coming into their 50s and beyond. Gabaldon gave him a silver tongue in more ways than one LOL And isn’t language the foreplay that most women claim to want?

    As for where the authority lies on Gabaldon’s writing. Not her at this point because she has a definite conflict of interest. 1) societal mores have undergone a sea change in the quarter century since she started her series and she has to bow to present day PC. Therefore the complete denial that Black Jack is a homosexual sadist since no homosexual can be cast as such an unredeemable villain nowadays without charges of bigotry. 2) Money talks. She’s a paid consultant to the show in addition to what she’s paid for rights to her work. Clearly the longer the show proceeds, the more profit for her. Therefore, she can give no honest critique of the show and how well or badly it captures her original intentions.

    Last but not least, this is neither the show nor book series for those with triggering issues re rape or other abuse. Though I have experienced neither, I stopped watching twice – once when Black Jack held a knife to Claire’s bare breast. After resuming I quit for a year after Jamie’s abuse at Wentworth which went on for 2 long unwatchable-for-me episodes. Since then I have pieced together what was shown in one or two minute spurts. I found Gabaldon’s exhortation to admire Heughan’s artistry here (you have a link to her FB in another comment above) incomprehensible as this is not an acting workshop and noticing the acting takes one out of the story. Perhaps that’s one way of getting through what to me looked like drawn out violence porn in the glimpses I could bear to watch. But then, some people who are charming in every other way enjoy horror movies which I can’t stomach. Truly different strokes for different folks.

    • Dear Laine,
      Every time I think I can watch OL the show again, there’s yet another graphic rape. In book 1, there are only 2 explicitly graphic sexual scenes, and they are both rapes. In the book, they are gruesome enough. In the show, especially in 115-116, they are horrifyingly gruesome.

      As a survivor of incest-rape for 18 years (father and stepfather), which included a brutal rape with implements by my mother when I was 11 and had just started my periods, I find it very difficult to even read a rape scene, let alone watch one in a drama. That being said, I had heard rumors about the upcoming rape of the hero in 115-116, and, not having read the book, dreaded it, but couldn’t believe that RDM, with all his female viewers who loved Jamie, would graphically display his abuse at the hands of BJR.

      How wrong I was.

      Not only did RDM get graphic about such a horridly savage crime, he then attempted to make it seem like a work of art by posing the actors after Michelangelo’s Pietà. That scene was not art, and, further, it was not a grieving mother holding her dying son in her arms after his horrific crucifixion by an occupying imperialist power: it was a brutal, sadistic rapist gripping his victim, and it matters little that the sadistic rapist was part of an imperial power trying to demonstrate his authority over the victim and, by extension, the victim’s country.

      As much as I like Tobias, I cannot even bear to hear his voice now, in anything, because I have flashbacks to those last two episodes, and I am not joking about this. I fear Tobias has forever ruined his career with that role, if only because of those terrible episodes with their graphic and drawn-out sadism and rapes.

      When RDM had BJR rape Fergus, who was a little boy, and they didn’t actually show it, I thought RDM had perhaps learned something from Game of Thrones, where some of the most horrific violence, like the Ramsay’s wedding-night rape of Sansa or his dogs’ devouring his step-mother and half-brother, happens off-stage. Later, however, RDM revisited that rape scene between BJR and Fergus, making it more graphic. I clicked off the TV and have only infrequently checked in on the show since then.

      As for Herself, as book fans like to call DG, when she denounced fans who suggested that BJR was a homosexual who was more than a little obsessed with Jamie, and called those fans insulting names, she lost my respect forever. Without fans, neither authors nor actors exist, and I’m not saying that just because I’m an author or because I agree with the fans on this particular point.

      When fans went on Herself’s FB page to explain, in detail, their reasons for believing that BJR was erotically attracted to Jamie (which made BJR a bisexual-rapist at the very least, and homosexual one if he really is not ever sexually attracted to women), with readers giving both excerpts from the book and the show to support their interpretation of BJR’s interest in Jamie, those fans provided very valid arguments for their interpretation of BJR’s character. The blatant disrespect that Herself showed for fans disappointed and angered me: if a reader supports his interpretation of a character in a book with sufficient evidence from the work itself, the author has no moral superiority over the reader and certainly no right to dismiss the reader’s interpretation simply because it’s not what the author “intended.”

      In literary criticism, this is called the Intentional Fallacy, and what the author intended never outweighs how the readers interpret the work so long as the readers can support their interpretations. Not everything an author does can be conscious: all his unconscious issues and personal symbolism rise up in the art in ways that the artist himself — or Herself, in this instance — cannot always see until it is pointed out by more objective observers of the art. Even if the artist disagrees with the observer’s interpretation, that interpretation is not “wrong” if it is supported by evidence in the work itself.

      It’s bad enough for Herself to have dismissed her readers’ (and viewers’) interpretations of BJR and his sexual predilections — and I’m not talking about the fact that he is a sadistic rapist, but merely about his attraction to Jamie — simply because Herself did not agree with that interpretation and said it was not was she “intended.”

      To call those readers names despite their having supported those very valid interpretations of his character is unconscionable, and Herself joined the ranks of every famous author who publishes a book and then vainly tries to control how her readers interpret the characters she created, and that includes JKR who also dismisses Harry Potter fans’ interpretations, only to later bow to the general consensus of how the majority of readers interpret the work and the characters. Just because Herself later rather reluctantly agreed that the fans were “right” in their interpretation of BJR’s character and his fascination with Jamie does not change the fact that she insolently dismissed her fans and, worse, called them names when they first wrote these theories to her on Herself’s FB page.

      But I digress, as I fear that portrayals of rape for ratings or for titillation angers me beyond my control.

      I agree that no author who has sold the dramatic rights to Hollywood has the right to then try to interpret how Hollywood portrays her characters or their story, and any author who is also so intimately involved in said dramatic production can never be considered objective.

      Herself probably also has it written in her contract that she cannot insult the drama: Anne Rice’s famous “rejection” of Hollywood heavy-hitters Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in her Interview with the Vampire and her later “apology” and “support” of the project after she supposedly saw a video of the film in advance of its premiere (cough, cough) may have led to an insertion of a clause in Herself’s contract that prohibits authors from insulting the dramatic interpretation of their work. After all, Hollywood has a right to protect its investment, especially after it pays such enormous sums to authors of best-sellers.

      That being said, even without such a clause, Herself would be rather foolhardy to insult any drama that is splashing her name and her characters all over the screen every week, making her even richer than she already is, what with option monies and increased book sales due to new readers’ being introduced to her work. Such wealth alone could make any author openly and publicly support a dramatic interpretation of her written work, but when an author also seems rather madly in love with the actor who is playing the male character she created… well, who could blame Herself? After all, Sam is ever so much taller than Herself and is so very pretty besides.

      Thank you ever so much for your comments. I’ve enjoyed them immensely. And thank you for the articles about Frank. I’m looking forward to reading them.

      Best,
      Alexandria

      p.s. Great articles on Frank and his role in books vs his role in RDM’s show!

  2. Randi Christi

    So interesting to read the impressions of someone who has not read the books. In most of the places you feel confusion it is because it’s the TV spin of the story rather than the book story being depicted. Claire is not the superstar of the books. It is the story of Claire and Jamie and their relationship and all the challenges they endured that strengthened their bond and very special love. There is so much of value to learn in observing their equal partnership. The TV show Super Claire is not recognizable at all to most readers. We are not permitted to honestly criticize in the threads/groups or we’re kicked out.

    • Dear Randi,
      I’m beginning to believe that the confusion is not worth watching the show for since, unfortunately, the confusion is now outweighing my interest in what happens to Claire and Jamie. I notice that many readers are becoming unhappy with the show as the second half progresses. Of course, it doesn’t help when fans ask DG something on her FB profile, like, “But when I read the books, I thought BJR was gay and loved Jamie?” and DG replies “No” with a cutesy emoticon. That’s dismissive of the readers’ interpretations, and an author’s interpretation is not the only valid one if the book itself supports the interpretation. I taught University Lit for years and encouraged my students to disagree with each other but to always be ready to defend their interpretation. The goal in any art is to bring your own experiences and knowledge to the work and interpret the characters, their actions, etc. So when an author, no matter how unintentionally, is dismissive of a reader’s interpretation, that’s just not fair to the reader because it makes him feel stupid. I had plenty of bad English Lit teachers who did that to me when I was in school.

      So you think TVshow Claire is “Super”? I think she’s mad. Going down into a dungeon and shouting “Jamie” at the top of her lungs when it’s filled with prisoners and guards? This was the only episode my BF watched with me because he wanted to be “supportive” of me if there was any triggering violence (like with a rape scene), and when Claire was down there, he turned to me and said, quite matter of factly, “You do realize that she’d never have made it past the guards, let alone gotten the key, and gotten down into the dungeons like that, don’t you?”

      I was sitting there in disbelief myself, wondering if I was the only one who thought she was being an absolute idjit.

      I always welcome honest critiques, even if it’s of something I write in a post, as long as there’s no name-calling or insulting going on.

      Best,
      Alexandria

  3. jo

    This is one of the reasons I always come back to this blog. Each time I come back I am always amazed by the new information that’s presented to me and the many many ways it makes me think and change my mind about certain things I was so sure of. Thanks Alex.

    Dear Jessabean, your thoughts on the show are so insightful. Thank you. But unfortunately I do disagree on one thing though. I do think the use of rape in the Outlander series(the books) serves absolutely no purpose and is actually just a plot device to see how much horror we can put our hero and heroine through. It’s become how GoT has become about rape and violence. It eventually becomes gore-tainement.

    Like most people that watch the show I too wonder what draws our hero and heroine together. I sat through episode after episode after episode wondering why Ron Moore thinks that putting Gorgeous person A having lots of sex with Gorgeous person B = crazy love. Like I’ve said before, it’s so easy for romance to devolve into mindless popcorn mush. But I never said why.
    I’ve always believed that love is meant to bring out the best in people and I guess it’s what made the romance genre as popular as it is today. Love is supposed to make us courageous, kinder, nicer, more selfless, more intelligent, hardworking even. It changes us from the salt-of -the-earth A-holes that we all know and love into something worthy and fine, something that makes us heroes of us all. That’s what I love to see in my romance movies and shows. Something that makes us better.
    Which brings me to Outlander.
    Our heroine, Claire Randall, seems to have it all in the beginning. She’s brave, loyal-ish, strong, intelligent, opinionated, sure of herself and in a happy marriage. (I’m sorry, but I never got the impression from the show or the book that this was otherwise). She never seems to lack for anything, never seems to long for anything apart from the occasional vase. She seems pretty satisfied with life.

    Our hero, Jamie, apart from a mild case of virginity LOL, never seems to be longing for anything either 0apart from escaping the noose). He’s cocky, mischievous, naive, self-sacrificial, naive(bears repeating), hapless romantic, impulsive. He didn’t seem to be longing for Claire and was willing to have a go at Laoghaire if she came around.

    Then due to a series of unfortunate events , him and Claire come together(literally) and their love becomes this epic thing that defies explanation and rational thought. Episode after episode I have watched as their epic love seems to have made their lives worse. From disaster to disaster, witch trials to arrests. to jealous lovers (Laoghaire and Black Jack Randall) to rapes and attempted rapes….it’s like their love invites despair. I couldn’t help thinking if they hadn’t met each other, their lives would have been so much better. Claire would have been safe from rape and almost burning at the stake and other indignities. Jamie would have concentrated more on saving his hide instead of focusing on the increasingly reckless behavior that came with his not-altogether savvy wife. Oy.

    What’s that you say? Their love defies all…

    Well, there was a reason i mentioned their main character traits earlier, because like I said I believe that love should have some effect on the characters. For the better. Show that because they are together now, they are better people. Their flaws have been ironed out, because together they are now made whole. Well. that didn’t happen this season. because they are about to end up pretty much the way they started out, or in the case of Jamie I suspect much worse. They are not better people; they are the same people or even worse have devolved into bickering children that have sex on occasion. There ain’t no arc here. And you can’t blame Frank for that. I wish I could say it was different in the books, but everyone can read the books and judge for themselves.

    Hate fifty shades of Grey all you want; call it a waste of literary space. But give EL James her due. Each of her characters longed for something or lacked something in the beginning of the story. Anastasia Steele longed for a Prince Charming that would take away her problems and make her feel special while Grey needed a submissive in order to feel powerful. As tenuous as that story was there was a semblance of an arc, a thread of change as the characters experienced HARDSHIPS THAT BROUGHT OUT FACETS OF THEIR CHARACTER RELEVANT TO PLOT , not thrown in for gore-tainement. And eventually characters changed for the better-ish. Courage and acceptance, bravery, some sort of self-reliance achieved.

    It’s a sad day when one says Ron Moore should take a leaf out of E. L. James book.

  4. Jessabean

    Wow! This was painful to read … painful because it’s true.
    I have a gag order on myself about this episode… mainly because I gagged when I involuntarily threw up in my mouth.

    I’m a book reader and have loved these books – although Outlander is not my favorite.

    Rape – Yes it’s all over Outlander but, as a survivor myself, I’ve always appreciated the way the books give the experience and the recovery its due. When a character is raped on this show, the entire plot changes and the repercussions are felt for many years and through many books. As it should be!
    The fact the the show did not clarify that it was an attempted rape by being all arty with the camera enrages me! Then, to read Ron Moore’s cavalier attitude about letting the audience decide … and Diana Gabaldon’s defense of it. It’s just, well, unforgivable.

    Frank – the Frank in this show is totally fabricated by Ron Moore and unrecognizable to fans. Frank is a passive-aggressive man who is so involved with himself and his studies that I honestly wondered if he even noticed she was gone. He’s condescending and intimidated by Claire. He’s also 15 years older than she is and obviously a father figure. Also, the marriage is not working. It is entirely clear what draws her to Jamie when you meet Franke.

    Jamie – is the most magnetic and interesting character I’ve read … well, Dumbledore is right up there. 🙂 He is the sun and everyone in the Outlander world revolves around him. The show treats him as though he’s unimportant.

    Love – 100s of pages of Jamie and Claire’s relationship is missing from the show. They start as friends, confidants, and then lovers. The reason readers can read all the violence in these books is that the love story is so strong … and that’s not an accident. The book is about how strong love is and that it can redeem the worst you can imagine. That’s not a Hallmark card. All the dirty, messy details of how that is and how that happens are spelled out in detail.

    Thank you for such a great, thoughtful review. What Ron Moore and company have done to this book is an [insert superlative for awful] and heartbreaking.

    • Dear Jessabean,

      Thank you so very much for your thoughtful analysis of the post, the show, and the differences between the books and the show.

      Frankly, I don’t understand Gabaldon’s apparent obsession with rape and sodomy, as well as her continued insistence that Black Jack Randal is neither bi-sexual nor homosexual in his continued pursuit of Jamie. BJR is never shown sexually pursuing any other male characters-prisoners, not even in the Wentworth episode. BJR doesn’t rape Claire, and Jamie’s sister Jenny insists that BJR didn’t rape her. Yet, on DG’s FB page, when readers who are devout fans of the books told Gabaldon that they thought BJR “loved” Jamie or was attracted to him sexually, she just flippantly replied, “No” with some cutesy emoticon to each of them.

      I spent years teaching University students to read literature and to learn to trust their own interpretations of the characters and the action if the book itself supported said interpretation. There is more than one interpretation of any character in every book, and Gabaldon’s dismissal of the readers’ interpretations, despite their “support” for their interpretations by citing scenes from the books themselves, reminded me of every single bad English teacher I ever had, and made me feel sorry for the readers who now will doubt themselves and their intuition simply because the author was disrespectful of their interpretation and doesn’t like to admit that there might be more than one interpretation to something she wrote. It made me very sad.

      As for the rape scene involving the Redcoat deserter and Claire, I wasn’t even sure what was happening at first, since it was so unlike any portrayal of rape that I have ever seen, and the aftermath, with Claire’s bizarre stream-of-consciousness monologue was ridiculous in the extreme, completely taking away the dreadful nature of rape and its impact on its victims. In fact, I’m convinced that Gabaldon knows nothing about rape, sodomy, etc, since she even shows the “attempted” rapes, as well as the rapes, as just momentary “blips” in the characters’ lives that have no permanent effect on them. Ron is clearly following her example. On DG’s FB page, she “justified” the rape of Jamie by BJR (in the upcoming finale, I guess?) as “necessary so that Claire and Jamie could bond.” Wow. If that’s the way they bond, what about all the other couples in the world who’ve never been raped? And I agree about the artsy camera angles, along with Cait’s facial expressions: too dreadful to portray the reality of rape and its brutal savagery.

      Many readers of the blog have commented that Show-Frank is wildly different from Book-Frank, but I can only comment on Show-Frank at the moment since I don’t want to spoil my perspective on the blog by reading the books now. There are many others who are blogging on the differences between the books and the show, and since I’m blogging on the show alone, as a drama based on books I haven’t read yet, I want to read the books behind the series in order to accurately judge the series on its own merit. Or lack thereof.

      I agree that the show treats Jamie as completely unimportant. Or as a dullard. Or as a multiple personality, I can’t decide which. He seems to change his personality in each episode. Sometimes he’s a little boy who doesn’t even know words like [expletive] which have been in the English language (and Scottish) since the time of the Anglo-Saxons, then he’s a man of “honor” who beats his wife to keep his own reputation, then he’s the Laird of the manor, which just looks like a house to me… It’s all so confusing. I know the readers are getting more and more upset with Jamie’s character, and I simply don’t see Claire’s attraction to him, nor his to her — from the show itself. I’ve been told it’s in the books, and it must be since so many people could not possibly have mis-read such an important element of the novels.

      Thank you for your detailed analysis of the post, of the show, and of the books. More people on the FB groups and on forums are making the same points, and are expressing their discontent with the show, which is sad because I know they were so looking forward to it. I, too, was looking forward to the show, despite not having read the books, because I was fascinated by the premise. I have to admit that I agree that the show has deteriorated to a farce, to boring talk-a-thons, and to nonsensical boredom.

      I’m thinking I’m just going to stop watching the show after I do the post on this finale coming up, and I’m going to read the books instead.

      Best,
      Alexandria

      • Jessabean

        Sorry, I meant to say rape in the books, not the show. Rape in the books is very serious and its recovery highly detailed and, in many cases, beautiful.

        I love your comments about Diana Gabaldon…. and agree. One of the things I’ve learned throughout reading these books and being a fan is that the author’s intent doesn’t matter … at all. She’s convinced that the Frank in the show is the Frank in the books and I don’t know a single book reader who agrees. I don’t even care what she has to say about Frank anymore because it’s just gibberish.

        It’s kind of a 180 from JK Rowling. Everything I’ve ever heard her say about Harry Potter is in keeping with what I read. With Diana, that’s rarely the case. It’s weird, but I’ve stopped seeing her perspective as valid … even though that’s a very off thing to say.

        I was about to pepper you with my examples, but it’s not important. I read it the way I read it.

        I’m going to be reading your other posts, so you may be hearing from me on other posts.

        I admire yours because of how well thought out they are. I blog about my feelings so I can process my disappointment and it is nowhere near your level. Great work!!

        • Hi, Jessabean,

          I knew you were talking about the rapes in the books: that was clear. And you were telling me how much more seriously and gravely they were handled there, right? Others have commented on that, too. I was just adding my comments on the show’s poor handling of them.

          So much art is unconscious, but some authors simply refuse to believe that they’re not in control of everything they create, and apparently DG is one of them. As an author myself, with many author friends, I know that many of our best scenes came to us in dreams, that sometimes we don’t “remember” thinking of some of our most powerful scenes, and that readers often see things — like patterns or symbolism — that we didn’t consciously put in there. Of course, those things are obviously in the books, but the subconscious, where the greatest part of the artist dwells, puts it in there for us.

          Often, authors intend for their characters to be interpreted in one way, but all the readers interpret them another way. The authors sometimes get annoyed, and try to tell the readers that they’re wrong — a dreadful thing to do since it’s telling them not to listen to their intuition and it causes them to doubt themselves — even when the book completely supports the readers’ interpretations. So it doesn’t matter what the author intended: the book came out different from that.

          Some famous critic whose name I can’t recall named that discrepancy between how the author wanted the readers to interpret the characters and their actions and how the readers actually interpret them as “The Intentional Fallacy,” and he wrote that the readers were always right if the books supported their interpretations because the authors are not always in conscious control of what they’re doing when creating. Of course, the author has his right to his own interpretation of his work, but he shouldn’t ever discount his readers’ interpretations.

          For example, Tolstoy wanted his readers to disapprove of Anna in his novel Anna Karenina because he disapproved of her having an adulterous affair (because she had never loved her older, emotionally distant husband, and fell in love for the first time in her life with Vronsky), abandoning her son to go off with her lover, losing her place in society, etc because Tolstoy believed that the parallel story of Levin and Kitty, who abandon society — Anna’s a society woman — to go live on the land (they’re still wealthy since they own serfs and lots of property, but they pretend they’re not wealthy) to be the “ideal” couple in the book. That was his intention. Readers over the centuries, however, have usually fallen in love with Anna, pity her losses, and think her husband cruel because he won’t divorce her despite the fact that he doesn’t love her and never really did, and he despises her once she falls in love with Vronsky. Tolstoy was horrified that readers didn’t “see” that Levin and Kitty were the “better couple,” and that Anna and Vronsky were “bad” because they were adulterous. He wrote letters to critics and friends complaining about it.

          That’s just one other example of an author’s intending for the readers to interpret a character the way the author does, then getting upset when the readers don’t, and telling them they’re simply wrong. That’s what DG is doing. Furthermore, she keeps trying to justify what the show is doing by saying it was in the books originally and the readers missed it or misinterpreted it, which I think is pretty unfair to the readers. They probably know more of what’s in the books than she does, despite the fact that she wrote them, because that’s just how art is. And her fans have read the books more times than DG has — LOL — so they see a lot more than she remembers.

          It’s not an “off” thing to say that you don’t see an author’s interpretation of her work as the only valid one, especially if the author keeps telling readers they’re “wrong” and that her own interpretation is the only correct one, as Diana is doing on FB and in interviews. DG keeps telling the readers, rather dismissively, that they’re wrong if they don’t agree with her, and that they’re wrong if they don’t like the show, and that’s simply not fair of her to do to her fans. You’re listening to your own intuition — as are many other readers — and DG is pretending that the show is exactly like her books, while more and more fans are saying that the show is not like the books at all, especially in characterization and relationships.

          Many readers thought two of my characters loved each other, in my first novel, and I was surprised by how many readers said that. I never disagreed with them: I was just surprised because I had never thought of them loving each other. Maybe because DG never taught Literature, she didn’t learn that there are multiple interpretations to books, not just the hers and Ron’s — LOL.

          I would have loved to have heard the examples, but I don’t want you to feel you have to write a book for me, especially if you’re blogging about the books/show as well. In fact, I would love to read your blog, so, if you don’t mind, please send me a link — here or on the twitter — and I’ll RT it for you.

          Thank you again for your compliments on my posts. I love literature, in case you couldn’t tell, and all my literature training is just a part of me, so when I watch movies and series, etc I just tend to analyze them the same way I do books. It’s just second-nature after all these years. Since that’s how I view them, though, I put it in my blog posts, and people do seem to appreciate my interpretations of the shows or movies, so I’ll keep doing it. (Actually, I don’t think I could stop even if I wanted to 😀 )

          I look forward to hearing from you on any other post, and to reading yours. I’ll be writing a post on the Outlander finale after it airs, but it will also include Wentworth prison episode, since I suspect it will be a continuation of that prison scene. Some of the things readers were expecting were not in that penultimate episode. I guess Ron’s saving it for the very last one of the season.

          Best to you, and do send me the link to your blog. You can sent it in comments, on twitter, or here, in Contact if you don’t want anyone else to see it. I’m looking forward to reading what you write. It’s fascinating seeing how the readers are all saying the same things about the books and about the show: Ron and Diana are also saying the same things about the books and the show but they seem to be in complete disagreement with the readers! If I have to choose, I’ll go with the readers, and intend on reading the books to see what I think of them and the characters, etc

          Yours,
          Alexandria

  5. Jo

    Just want to say your post is one of the most intelligent and unbiased I have ever seen on the Outlander series. I am definitely looking forward to more.

    • Why, thank you, Jo. I just completed a lighthearted blog about episode 10 of Starz Outlander, for posting tomorrow on #MondayBlogs, sponsored by @RachelintheOC on the Twitter. I try to be honest about the shows, series, and films I review but keep my own take on them. My literature background usually makes me see things in a way that some other people don’t. Glad you enjoyed that post on the finale. Best, A

  6. I think you will find my response to your excellent post on my blog…the name of the piece says it all: Franklander. Here it is for your perusal. Cheers! http://parcaschosen.blogspot.ca/2014/10/outlander-episode-8-franklander.html

    • Absolutely love your post “Franklander” about Starz’s Outlander, and I totally agree with you on the smoldering sensuality of Tobias Menzies as Frank. Every time I see him, I envy Caitriona Balfe: I mean, how many actresses get to have sexual scenes with a cutie like Sam and with a sexy, handsome, intelligent, extremely experienced, smokin’ hot Tobias? Some actresses just have all the luck. Great casting on Starz’s part.

  7. Pat

    I have never been raped, but I am with you on this one: I’ll not be able to sit through any graphic rape or sodomy scenes, of either male or female characters, in Outlander. I have never been able to watch or listen to these types of scenes in any movie or series and will not watch them in Outlander.

    • The reviews of the books on Amazon complain vociferously about these aspects of the book, and about how graphically they’re described. I haven’t read the books, and because of the reviews, I won’t be. If Starz’s Outlander goes into graphic rapes/sodomy in Part 2 of Season 1, I won’t be able to watch it. I wouldn’t watch anything containing that on principle, however, let alone because of triggering. Thanks for commenting, and for your moral support against sexual violence.

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