This week has been an interesting one in the Outlander fandom. There has been much ado about the show and its adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s books and characters. The conversations about this topic have been, at times, heated and definitely filled with passion. I saw several folks try to help people put it all in perspective by creating memes and posting quotes to remind us all there truly are things happening in the world to get heated and passionate about. But, the debate continued and continues.
Other than sports, (Go Buckeyes), this is my first real experience with fandom and it has been a curious journey. The degree to which I have become involved surprises me and drives my family crazy There has been more than one argument with my spouse over the amount of time I spend on social media fanning. I’m not the only one who is surprised by their involvement. Just yesterday, I saw at least three Facebook posts where women were telling the story of their obsession with Outlander. They were all professing to be sane people who suddenly saw themselves acting like, as they put it, “teenage fangurls”. I think they were all looking for validation that this was normal behavior and that they weren’t completely looney tunes. Let me point out asking other people in the fandom in an online fan group might not get you the most objective response! And as time goes on, this phenomenon I find myself involved in gets curiouser and curiouser.
Last night, Terry Dresbach, Outlander costume designer and wife to Outlander Executive Producer Ronald D Moore, posted a travelogue Ron had shared with her. He is currently on a cruise ship decompressing. Terry has often said that she is constantly learning from Ron and that he is a student of human nature. I have heard her say that Ron has always told her that fans, even the angry ones, are coming from a place of love. I heard what she was saying and we discussed it, but per usual, it took something more to deepen my understanding. This time it was Ron’s travelogue. He recounted his reading of an old fanzine created by Star Trek fans. I loved the way he described the fragileness of the pages typed on an antiquated typewriter and yellowed with age. He felt like he was handling a precious papyrus. He was moved by the art created with different levels of skill, but not with less love. To me, his time spent with that fan-made magazine was reaffirming that what he did for a living mattered. He remembered himself as a fan and how he felt. He realized he had a lot in common with those folks who felt the need to create because of their fascination with a TV series. I realized I was one of those people too and it made me smile.
Photo credit to @thenewredplaid and Alex Oliver
The Greeks and Outlander
Of all the connections I could have made to what Ron said and my experience with Outlander fandom, I thought about the Greeks. I thought of Greek theater to be specific. Over the years, I have taught high school students about the beginnings of theater which in actuality is the beginning of modern TV. My students read the story of Oedipus Rex. They always seem to be amazed to find themselves engaged in a story written so long ago. In fact, in an effort to have them truly understand how long ago this was written we do a little math problem in English class. I have them figure out how many great-greats they would have to put in front of Sophocles name if he was their great grandfather. If I remember correctly, it would be somewhere in the vicinity of 149. The story really is interesting and I find I am able to challenge my students to think about such heady themes as fate and the irony of life.
Part of preparing them to read includes discussing the purpose of play festivals and how they were performed. If you were an ancient Greek you would have filed into the amphitheater found a stone seat and waited to see several versions of the same story. My students are always surprised to learn that everybody watching already knew the story. They were watching to see who told it the best. It would be like us all going to watch six versions of Little Red Riding Hood. The source material was being presented to the audience by different “executive producers” if you will. Can you see where I’m going with this? As fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, we already know the story, but here we sit in our home amphitheaters with much comfier seats, waiting to see how Ron D. “Sophocles” Moore tells the story. I’m pretty sure our discussions about his adaptation sound much like the discussions the Greeks had about the adaptations they witnessed, minus the togas. Did he get the characters right? Did he retain the most important elements for plot? What themes could we detect and did they ring true? Was the dialogue believable and what about the acting? I’m sure their conversations about Oedipus the King were just as lively and as passionate as our Outlander discussions and just like Trekkies,… coming from a place of love.
So, today I find myself feeling some love for Ron D. Moore and his desire to tell the story of Jamie and Claire. This Saturday I’ll tune in and watch to see how he tells my favorite story and then watch the fans’ reactions with new eyes. Some fans will be inspired to discuss on Tumblr, create memes and artwork, and I…I’ll write a fan’s blog.
Here’s the link to Terry’s blog post http://www.terrydresbach.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Cruise-Journal-Day-8-2.pdf