Get ready for sexy old folks……a reflection on Outlander season 3

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Caitriona Balfe just celebrated her 37th birthday on October 4th.  All day long, I saw well wishes for her flash across my social media sites.  Outlander’s fans, the cast, crew, and creators were all wishing her the happiest of days and thanking her for bringing Diana Gabaldon’s character the WWII nurse, Claire Randall Fraser, to life.  Her birthday fell in close proximity to a few casting and award announcements and the unveiling of a new EW cover (the cover was tweeted one day after I wrote this http://wp.me/p4mtBT-4BP coincidence?…I think I’m clairvoyant! LOL).  All of this news had me thinking about season 3 and I’ve got ideas jotted down and several articles in creation about Fergus and Ian and Marsali.  There has been lots of inspiration for an Outlander blog! Today, however, I find myself still thinking of Caitriona’s birthday.  She is 37 on the upward slope toward forty which often is the point of no return or should I say no role for most actresses. Have you seen Amy Schumer’s skit on the subject?  https://youtu.be/XPpsI8mWKmg

I know that Cait has said that she has no interest in being a starlet and so, I’m wondering  if she had any real idea how fortuitous it was she said yes to playing Claire? She has an opportunity to play a character that will not only continue to grow as a person, but she will get the chance to play a character who ages.  She is going to get to play a female character who still has an active sex life past forty.  In fact, her character still has a passionate sex life…until she’s…well, last time I checked Claire and her Jamie were grandparents who indulge their appetite for each other…often. Folks,…Outlander has the chance to once again break some ground in portraying sex on TV. Brace yourselves there is a chance we will see hot sex between two older monogamous married people who are passionately committed to each other.

First, let me say that the older I get the older still being young seems to get.  I can remember when  I thought 50 seemed the end of the line for everything including being sexy.  I recall reading a reflection Erma Bombeck wrote about turning 50. She was looking forward to being able to dress in loose pants and going to the grocery store without makeup.  She believed there would be less pressure to conform because nobody cared what you looked like when you turned fifty.  Evidently, Erma and I believed their was an expiration date on sexual attractiveness.

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I’ve been married to the same man going on 41 years.  We still hold hands and kiss…in front of people…like our children, which for some reason totally grosses them out.  We hear things like “Stop!  We get it, we get it, you still have sex , but just… STOP!”  LOL!  It’s not like we are groping each other and swallowing each other’s tongues and need to be told to get a room.  Usually, it’s just a “moment” when we feel affection or gratitude and lean in for a gentle kiss and a look into each other’s eyes.  I would think knowing your parents feel this way about each other would be a good thing, but evidently,…not so much. This leads me wonder how Outlander will portray sex between it’s two main characters who are rapidly approaching fifty.  I’m wondering if they know they have the chance to once again break the mold when it comes to how sex is portrayed on the screen, because believe or not, people over fifty do have sex lives.  One of the things that has kept me attracted to this book series is Diana Gabaldon’s decision to go beyond the falling in love stage in relationships.  She decided to write about love that lasts for fifty years.  I think that’s why some of the books that come later in the series like A Breath of Snow and Ashes are my favorites.  I read them and find myself nodding in recognition of the truth of what it is like to be in a committed relationship.  

I believe that our society has a very unrealistic view of being in love which Hollywood has tended to perpetuate.  We tend to believe it’s like the fairytale. Happy endings aren’t necessarily easy to obtain. Ms. Gabaldon’s books take the reader beyond falling in love and into the everyday realities of how people stay in love despite tragedy and hardship.  

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My husband once told me about a conversation he had with one of his young college football players.  The young man had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and was going to drop out of school. My husband told him our story which included my getting pregnant at 18 and his not dropping out of college.  He told him it could be done and he would help him find a way to make it happen if the young man wanted to stay in school.  My husband said he felt the need to tell the young man the truth about marriage, “Marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is the thing I am the most proud of”.  Diana’s books give us a portrait of the self-sacrifice, acceptance, loyalty, and sometimes the forgiving it takes to maintain a long-term relationship.  One of the reasons some fans lament the lack of sex in season 2 is that they miss the communication that happens when those two are in bed together.  Sex is an integral part of how they communicate with each other, it is often how they connect when words just aren’t sufficient or there are no words.  It rings true to me, sex is important for a variety of reasons in a marriage and I hope season three of Outlander will show us sex between this older couple that comes close to approximating real-life because for the most part Hollywood hasn’t.

I find myself more and more fascinated by the role film plays in our perceptions, particularly of women. In general, Hollywood has an abysmal record when it comes to representing women as real members of the human race and that includes representing aging women in film.

Men over 40 accounted for 53% of characters whereas women that age represented 30%. That has implications for the number of female authority figures onscreen.

Age is one issue among many that has endured in Hollywood. The study found that among actors over 40 in film and television, 74.3% of characters are male and only 25.7% are female.

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When they do put older women paired with an older man in a film the relationship still isn’t portrayed as sexy, but instead is “typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous”. It is about companionship rather than a real relationship.

If you watch a random assortment of Hollywood movies, you could be forgiven for believing that the only people who have sex are in their 20s and, occasionally, 30s. When people in their 50s and older engage in an on-screen romance, their relationship is typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous.

In other words, the message that film-makers send us is, “Sex is for when you are young. Companionship is for when you’re older.” While it’s true that most of us know more about relationships now than we did as teenagers, this certainly doesn’t mean that sex has left the building. Far from it! In real life, baby boomers are saying that sex gets better with age.  (read this great article with Dame Helen Mirren about sex after 60) http://sixtyandme.com/should-hollywood-embrace-sex-after-50/

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Curious, I began looking for information to read about older women and sex in film.  One article link that popped up on my screen was entitled “The Top Ten Sex Scenes of Actresses Over 50” on a webpage call MiddleSexy which promotes the idea that sex when we are older can be better than when we are younger “older/better/sexier”.  I was hopeful that what I would find was a list of films that showed women over fifty in “realistic” sexual relationships…not so much.  In this article, 9 out of 10 of the films listed involved older women having sex with younger men and one about incest.  Evidently, Hollywood and the author believe only “cougars” can be sexy or have hot sex.  http://middlesexy.com/2014/10/21/top-10-movie-sex-scenes-featuring-actresses-over-50/

Men, as Amy Shumer’s skit suggests, don’t have an expiration date and are still seen as f*able no matter how old they are.  Do you remember the fuss over Carrie Fisher’s not aging well in the new Star Wars movie? http://wp.me/p65lj4-2r Women are consistently told they are too old to play the love interest of men older than themselves.  https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/maggie-gyllenhaal-too-old-hollywood

I asked myself if I could remember a film that actually showed an older couple having hot sex. The only movie I could think of was The Thomas Crown Affair with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan.  It was definitely sexy, but missing a key component for me…the ever after part.  This was still just another falling in love story. However, it should still be considered ground-breaking for it’s portrayal of an older couple having passionate sex. I would have loved to have seen a sequel to that movie.  Were those two character able to make a relationship work?! 

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The good news is that there seems to be more attention being paid to Hollywood’s issues with women in general.  Outlander has been part of a movement that has shown that TV with a female protagonist can generate audiences and money.  One of the biggest reasons we don’t see more realistic portrayals of older couples on the screen is because there aren’t enough women behind the camera and enough good roles being written for older women.

You’ve got to go behind the camera to fix things in front of the camera.http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/09/youre-the-worsts-aya-cash-on-ageism-in-hollywood.html

But, here’s some even better news…Outlander has two seasons to show the world that sex between two older committed people can be hot and meaningful too.  

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57 thoughts on “Get ready for sexy old folks……a reflection on Outlander season 3

  1. Thank you, Beth. Lovely and thoughtful as always. I see the same thing in my industry — magazine publishing/media– albeit for a slightly different reason. Advertisers covet the 20-30 demographic, and anything that makes that audience “gag” has a tough time of it.

  2. Agree! So hoping they get it right. The Thomas Crown Affair is one of my all time favorite movies. A sequel would be welcome. I think it’s been in the works for years. I love DG’s books for many reasons, but one that stands out is the fact that the central characters are in love, married, monogamous, in love, realistically involved in a relationship that takes work to keep it going, and in love. Did I mention they are in love? lol SO looking forward to Season 3 for SO many reasons. And I look forward to your blogging about it too!

    Dawn

  3. Denise

    I agree , we have been married for 36 years and it’s getting better and better !! We have more time for ourselves . I also love how she has them so in love after all these years ,,, It happens !! It may not be easy but so worth it ❤️️

  4. Linda Smith

    I keep thinking of how beautiful Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Helen Mirren, and other actresses are who I think are in their 60’s. I’m grateful to Diana for writing about this 50 year love story and marriage of Jamie and Claire, and the very sensuous sex scenes written for them. One more thing: I’m thankful that at my age I can still appreciate Sam Heughan’s beautiful face and . . well, everything!

  5. Becca Wolfe

    Hi Beth.

    I love your blog!

    Have you seen “Something’s Gotta Give”? It stars Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Keanu Reeves among others. Great movie about old and young relationships, young and young relationships and young and old relationships. You’ll see what I mean if given the watch.

    It’s a comedy but has its serious side, too.

    I’m a single woman of 62 who enjoys sex quite a bit who hopes she never gets too old to not!

    Cheers!

  6. I shared 49 years with the love of my life. I lost him 3 years ago and for some reason your characters remind me of all my happy years. Of course, we had words now and then but my memories are happy one with a wonderful man I loved beyond life. Still do.

  7. Jenny P.

    I hope the Outlander series stays on the air long enough to show Jamie and Claire in love and enjoying sex when they are in their 60’s. I can hardly wait to read book 9 and watch Season 3. Thank you for another thoughtful and insightful essay.

  8. Sharon

    My husband and I get the same treatment from our children when we show love and affection in their presence. I’ve also told them it’s a gift for their parents to still love each other after so many years of marriage. We have been together since we were very young teenagers and have been married for 35 years. That is an accomplishment I am proud of. It is the hardest thing you will ever do; stay present and committed to one person and not kill them at on time or another. I for one hope our very active sex life continues until they lower me into the ground.

  9. Ros Gardner

    Last year Stanford University released the results of a study that they had been researching since the 70’s. They followed a group of Engaged couples back then, to last year, to see if they could predict which couples relationships/marriages, would survive. The outcome for long lasting successful marriages according to their results could be summed up in two words- KINDNESS and GENEROSITY. Have to agree after 41 years of being married to an amazing man with those attributes. The same attributes that Claire and Jaime show time and again throughout the Outlander series. No wonder they overcome so much and are still madly in love……

  10. Nancy

    38 years. Just got back from a Bob Scaggs concert – we rocked out with all the other older folks – and a few younger. That being said, we are enjoying our older years. While sexual intimacy isn’t as often ( and in my case, after two hip replacements, one dislocation and three revisions – not as mobile), we definitely are enjoying a revised version. My husband is retiring after 46 years at a TV station in Minneapolis. They adore him and have interviewed him and are making him somewhat a celebrity (haha). And in every Q&A, he tells them almost first off how his career would never have been so successful if it wasn’t for me. That embarrasses the hell out of me, but to hear this man say that means, well, it just means! He has one more week to go and then he’ll be home for good. When asked how I was doing with that and if I was going to stand having him home, I honestly said I was looking forward to it. He still makes me laugh a lot. He still gives me unexpected hugs and kisses. He still tells me that I’m beautiful. My point in my longish story is, YES! Love, marriage, sex, happiness can really happen. It takes a lot of work, trust, humor and love. Those of us who have that are incredibly lucky. But at this age, I believe we know that. Thanks for your post, Beth. I look forward to our beloved couple aging gracefully – and, of course, sexually in Season Three.

  11. As always, Beth, I read your blogs and value you comments and critique. I absolutely love the quote by Dave Willis on marriage. I do respectfully disagree with you on the sex issue, though. I did enjoy all the sex scenes in the first season because as Caitriona said in many interviews, it developed the relationship between Jamie and Claire and moved the plot forward. It was the same for the few we saw in the second series. But I know that actors do not enjoy doing sex scenes and I can understand why. Would any of us really want 75 or so people filming us and another million watching us in the buff and in our most intimate time with our spouses? I’m totally all right with the build up to the sex scene, seeing a portion of it and having the rest implied. This has nothing to do with the age of the characters. I just care more about the development of the story plot being well done and Jamie being shown with the strength of character he has in the books, and Jamie and Claire’s deep love and respect for one another. I care about the season doing well on showing us the reuniting of Jamie and Claire and their gradual understanding of their matured selves, on showing Jamie’s commitment to his family, his sense of adventure, sense of honor, sense of humor, his wise comments on life, philosophy, and religion. I care about how well the season does the development of Jamie’s and Lord John Grey’s relationship and the leadership skills Jamie showed in the prison. So far I have not been let down in what the producers and writers have done. Sometimes I disagree with what has been included and what has been left out. But I love the series, think it is top quality, and am grateful that such dedicated and talented people are doing it. I have watched some episodes numerous times and favorite parts of episodes even more times. I am a faithful fan of Outlander and I enjoy this place where respectful, intelligent fans can express their points of view. Thank you, Beth.

  12. Joyce Johnston

    Wonderful words! As a woman of age 70 i.e. the same age as Cher I applaud you! Unfortunately i have been separated since 1993 though my husband passed away in Feb /16 on my son’s & sister’s Bday! Have been known to have a sexual twinge or two!

  13. Joyce Johnston: I am a single woman of 80 and have as many “sexual twinges” now as I did with 40–and I had more with 40 than I had with 20 (no more fear of pregnancy–I grew up in a world without contraceptives!). I had my greatest love affair with 65. Now I work as a reader in a retirement home, and there, too, many of the residents have love affairs with active sex and great emotions. It never stops!
    One of the reasons I love Diana´s books is that she writes so wisely about enduring love. It is life´s greatest gift to experience such a relationship and she makes it come alive for her readers with her enchanting language.
    Thank you, Beth Wesson, for talking about this topic. I love your blogs.

  14. As always, your words express exactly how I feel, but much more eloquently. We have been married 32 years, and it just gets better and better. Two things come to mind. I commented to a younger friend recently that I am happier when I am with my husband. Doesn’t matter if he’s across the room watching sports with his buddies or sitting next to me on the sofa. She asked, “Why?” as though she couldn’t imagine it. And yes, she is married. That goes along with my other thought: when people ask me the secret to a successful marriage, I tell them “Just don’t leave.” The key is to stay through the hard times until you cycle back into the great times.
    One of the most wonderful things about the Outlander books is that you know Claire and Jamie are so much more appreciative of being together because they had that 20 years apart. They never take it for granted.

    • JKCohen

      …maybe that 20 year break stoked the fire? Would love to hear people’s thoughts on the absence makes the heart grow fonder aspect of their separation.

      • Absolutely. Remember how Jamie asked Claire if what was between them was “usual,” and she told him that it was not? Imagine what it was like for them to get that back. Oh wait, we don’t have to imagine. Diana shows us. Just one more reason why she has my eternal devotion. 🙂

  15. Judith Hemker

    My husband traveled a lot in the early days of our marriage. That meant most every weekend was a “reunion.” Also had great adventures i.e. the time he surprised me with a ticket to San Francisco because he couldn’t get back. Our time evolved as did our love. We now have tender times since we are in our 70s and cancer has interfered. We Do not forget those early days and the memories; we build new ones and more creative ones. Twinges occur on both sides and I am glad they do. Claire and Jaime will have theirs too. I look forward to reading, remembering, and reminiscing. Thank you for your thoughts.

  16. My parents have been together for 30+ years and still act like teenagers sometimes. Of course I roll my eyes and laugh at them, but I love knowing how happy they are and how much they love each other. I’ve always dreamed of a love like that. Are they perfect? Do they always agree? No. But they work through it and fight to hold on to each other and that is what makes a relationship last. I’ve been with my SO for 6 years; the early times were hard but we were stubborn enough to fight and I’m so glad we did.
    DG shows you what it takes to make a relationship work long-term and that it can be even better than the early days. Hopefully Hollywood can take a page from her playbook and accurately show what love is once you leave your 20s. Because according to them, I’m on the downward spiral from here in my 30s lol.
    As always you bring incredible thought to your writing-always love seeing what you have to say next!

  17. Beverly Meckel

    Great blog! Appreciate your comments. My husband (72years) and I (68 years) agree the love, passion and commitment, we had at the start of our marriage (47 years), endures. Sex remains an integral part of our life together. While other couples our age have chosen separate bedrooms, we are still spooning.

  18. Angela H

    Great blog post as always Beth! As a 48 yr old married to a 50 yr old, I wholeheartedly agree that fires still burn for older couple and glad Outlander will be able to show that. I believe it is your mindset. If you believe the mindset perpetuated that sexy is for the young.. then your actions will reflect that ideal.

  19. Megan E

    I really enjoy reading this piece and all the comments! As a 25 yr old heading into my third year of marriage with a wonderful man I’m constantly blown away by how sex keeps getting better…and then I start to wonder how long it is possible to maintain it. So I have greatly appreciated DG’s stories and these comments to hear that passion can stay alive for decades to come even if we go through difficult phases. Thank you all for the honesty and openness!

  20. lori schmitt

    Great piece! I have been married for 33 years and yes, older sex while maybe not as frequent as when we were in our 20’s, is still amazingly hot. The appeal of DS’s books to me, was the sexual and emotional relationship between Jamie and Claire. And yes, our children roll their eyes at us, and tell us to “get a room”, but hopefully they are also paying attention to how a committed, long lasting relationship should work.
    I can only hope that those in the production of “Outlander” are paying attention to the details, and will be on the same playing field as most of us fans.
    Thanks again for another good read!

  21. Jeanne

    As an avid book fan my hopes are not the greatest for romantic scenes between Jamie and Claire. Since Breanna and Rodger are the younger characters that will be the so called money scenes. In Hollywood sex sells is the attitude. Dr. Gabledon’s book are masterpieces and show a life of love, loss, ups and downs just like normal people. But it won’t be that way on the series.

  22. Deborah E. Hammond

    I agree with so many of your points. I find one of the greatest things about the Jamie/Claire relationship is that they can truly survive anything, including nearly twenty years of separation and still find each other again and find true love and sex, yes; even as grandparents. If find that my relationship with my husband just gets better and better and I also find that people in my own family in their forties are amazed that is the case. It is so sad that so many relationships are lacking the zing even at younger ages. I look forward to seeing Jamie and Claire back together again and truly loving every aspect of that reunion, including, yes; hot sex!

  23. JFK

    Great blog, Beth! Loved hearing people’s stories in addition. You are so right-on! I’ve been married for 20 years but we’ve been together for 30. While sex life has some problems due to some physical problems for him and medication interference for me, our lives and relationship have gotten so much better in our later years. I hit 60 next year and we are planning a trip to Scotland, and reading all the comments from 60+ ladies gives me hope that my “twinges” will be better and more often once again as well! 😀

  24. Ellen

    Pfffft!!!! It’s Hollywood. They won’t allow the characters to age very much, if at all, judging by the set pics taken recently of Outlander outdoor filming. It’s pathetic. I hate Hollywood.

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