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.  

Fans and Creators…drawing a line of decency in the sand

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Sunday, I was made aware there was trouble brewing in the Outlander fandom over some edited footage from the final scenes of the episode “Faith”.   It’s been a couple of days and I’ve had a chance to see some interactions between fans, creators, author, and cast.  I’ve let my thoughts sit for awhile and I think I’m ready to put those thoughts to words today.  

I just watched the entire clip

http://outlanderbts.com/deleted-scene-season-2-episode-207-faith-beautiful-work-sam-h/

and what came to mind was how ironic and sad it is that love of such a wonderful story has engendered so much ugliness.

When “Faith” first aired I posted my reflection on the blog and was overwhelmed by the response and moved by my reader’s stories of tragedy and grief.  http://wp.me/p4mtBT-3zD  That episode dealt with a part of life spoken of mostly in whispers if spoken about at all.  The real and honest portrayal of the loss of a child generated thoughtful discussion and for some it created a desire to tell their own story maybe for the first time.  It was and remains an amazing episode of TV.

I am not nor have I ever been an expert on the creation of a TV show.  Despite my voicing from time to time my likes and dislikes about certain episodes, the truth is I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to adapt the books to screen.  Oh, the show has piqued my interest and I’ve done some reading , but I have no experience in the creation of a TV show.  Like most people, I just know what I like and don’t like and then watch or don’t watch a show accordingly.  I felt the need to place my qualification to be a bonafide tv critic right upfront because this whole thing is bothering the heck out of me and I need to talk about it, but I want to make sure everybody knows who I am…a fan.

I’ve heard Diana say before that she fought for a scene to be left in or left out of the production.  Sometimes she wins and sometimes she doesn’t.  She always makes sure to add that no one has to listen to or include her in the decision making, but she is glad that they do.  Overall, she seems very pleased with the adaptation.  I always try to remember this wasn’t the first time someone had an idea to make Outlander’s story into film and I then remember that only she really knows how wrong this could have all gone.  What is really confusing me with these edits is that nobody seems to know why the scenes were cut and they aren’t being shy about saying so.  It isn’t only fans expressing their displeasure or surprise, it’s Metyin, a director,  tweeting he thinks the scene was better in the edited footage, and Diana and Sam Heughan, lead actor, adding their two cents.  They aren’t blaming anyone, but they seem as puzzled as I am.

I agree with Metyin when he said the edited scenes tied together all that happened in the previous episodes. The last time edited scenes were released, I found myself able to see why each scene (except the one with Murtaugh on the beach with Claire) was cut.  I could easily see how each would affect the overall storyline, pacing and character development if left in. I remember thinking that having more time doesn’t necessarily mean the story will be better told.  Sometimes less is more.   But, this time…more looked and felt pretty good. I’d love to hear the reasoning behind the edit because…that scene was amazing.

I’m not sure I know exactly where the buck stops in this production, there appears to be a lot of thumbs in the pie and a new merger had to have some impact.  I do, however, know where the blame for fan displeasure has landed and that is squarely on the shoulders of Ron D. Moore, executive producer.  Here’s the thing, even if he did make the decision to cut this scene totally on his own, he doesn’t deserve the nastiness fans are spewing.  NO ONE DESERVES THE SHIT I’M SEEING .  He hasn’t destroyed or sabotaged the show, he isn’t disrespecting book fans, he doesn’t hate Jamie or Sam, he isn’t making decisions based on what his wife wants or overreacting to what fans say NEEDS to be in the show (thank God), there is no conspiracy or agenda (other than making the best show he knows how to make) …sigh…did I cover it all?  Oh, and, it isn’t personal.  But, the attacks sure are.  Some are thinly disguised as “concern” from fans who LOVE the show, but just want RDM to get with the program and deliver what they want which is more of “the core” of the story.  The truth is we may never see book Jamie and Claire, but I’m not buying the line that Jamie has been emasculated to make Claire look stronger, or that the relationship between the two main character’s has been altered beyond recognition.  This fandom seems to have as many shouting points and conspiracy theories as the presidential election and they get repeated about as often. 

Here is another thing I’m puzzled about. How do the same shit stirrers get access to and notice of the cast and creators?  I swear it’s the same dirty dozen that lie in wait for something negative to be said about the show and then pounce.  They sit in judgment of the show and its fans.  They feel it is their right to degrade the show, its stars and makers in the name of “critique”.  Translation… you didn’t make the show the way I wanted so you are wrong.  The meaner they are the funnier they think they are and the gloat-fest goes on for days and their infamy celebrated.  The dissatisfied jump on the bandwagon with “I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels that way”.

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Critique

Critique is one thing and being judgmental another, but some fans tend to use the two interchangeably.

Judgmental usually refers to people who have a fixed, negative attitude about something.  It carries a meaning of “passing judgment”, black or white, thumbs down or up, like a judge ruling whether someone is guilty or innocent.  It focuses on the negative result in that process. It also has a moral component.


Critical, at least by  tradition, carries the idea of a well-reasoned, expert, articulate, and in-depth examination of the ideas or quality of a thing, not the thing itself: something that a literary or movie critic might do.  Though it tends toward negative, it’s not necessarily so – a movie could receive critical approval.  Critical comes from critique.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-being-critical-and-being-judgmental

  • Criticism finds fault. Critique looks at structure.
  • Criticism looks for what’s lacking. Critique finds what’s working.
  • Criticism condemns what it doesn’t understand. Critique asks for clarification.
  • Criticism is spoken with a cruel wit and sarcastic tongue. Critique’s voice is kind, honest, and objective.
  • Criticism is negative. Critique is positive.
  • Criticism is vague and general. Critique is concrete and specific.
  • Criticism has no sense of humor. Critique uses humor to soften the “blow” of the critique.
  • Criticism often looks for flaws in the writer as well as the writing. Critique addresses only what is on the page (screen my addition to the list) .https://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/03/06/a-critic-critiques-criticism-critically/

 

Loved what this article had to say about the “vocal”fans.

It isn’t just Outlander dealing with fans who have crossed some sort of line of decency in the sand. Social media has given us access to creators and it has been a learning curve for them and frustrating to fans who aren’t the vocal minority.

This unfortunate behavior mostly comes from vocal minorities. But it’s an unfortunate truth that those who yell the loudest are usually the first to be heard, which is how you get TV writers blinking in panic at the idea of having to cater to fan whims. I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite saying otherwise, fan backlash results in far less communication between creators and fans, rather than more.

Creators and fans need to find middle ground before creators shut fans out completely   http://www.vox.com/2016/6/8/11885562/tv-fans-the-100-fandom

Make no mistake, this is what will happen…it already has…

 

But, …the fans lament, I can’t believe fans concerns aren’t LISTENED to (translation: why aren’t you doing what I want)

…And the amazing news, as far as creators are concerned, is that the explosion of social media might have opened up communication between the artists and their fans, but it’s by no means equalized it. Major studios and publishers, and the creators they’ve chosen to invest in, still have a bigger megaphone than any of their fans on Twitter. They just have less privilege, less complete protection from a dialogue with their audience, than before. Some still find ways to choose not to have that dialogue. That’s fine; it’s their right.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/are-fans-getting-too-entitled_us_5750ab2ce4b0ed593f13e893

 

Loved this too…lack of empathy…let’s insult the people the creators and cast care about and then act surprised when they get upset…smh…

Fan entitlement, or something like it, can be hurtful—especially for creators who work on beloved franchises like Doctor Who or Star Wars, where fans feel a strong sense of ownership of long-running characters. But fan entitlement is an attitude problem, brought on by a lack of thoughtfulness and empathy. It’s not an umbrella term for every fandom reaction, from death threats to hashtag activism.  http://www.dailydot.com/parsec/fandom-harassment-captain-america-ghostbusters-devin-faraci/

Critique (I just did. I told you I thought the scene was better before the edit and why without taking it personally or damning anyone to hell) can be productive when it is truly critique.

 

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I would not be surprised if Outlander’s folks are setting new boundaries as we speak….

With social media increasing consumers’ access to producers, fans and creators are still negotiating their boundaries online. Sometimes, a handful of fans will wildly overreact to a creative decision (the emphasis is mine) and behave like immature dicks. Sometimes, a creator will misinterpret a piece of constructive criticism as a personal attack and freak out. Occasionally, a hashtag campaign like #OscarsSoWhite or The 100‘s lesbian death backlash will start a productive conversation that might inspire real, positive change.

http://www.dailydot.com/parsec/fandom-harassment-captain-america-ghostbusters-devin-faraci/

 

 

Here is my point, we have NO idea what happened.  Maybe they made a poor choice maybe they didn’t have a choice.  Is the show ruined?  Are folks going to continue to beat the “Ron doesn’t get it” dead horse?  You don’t have to like every decision, but for God’s sake it’s a TV show and these are real people who work hard and take pride in their art.  I understand folks have been waiting a long time to see “their” story on the screen and are disappointed it wasn’t delivered exactly the way they hoped, but you might want to consider cutting the creators and cast a break …it isn’t personal.  And,  if I was a creator?  I’d be building a fence, an electric one…

 

Great insight… From someone who knows…Outlander from a scriptwriter’s perspective 

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I’ve said this before, but one of the great things about writing a blog is hearing from people from all walks of life. In the past,  I’ve posted comments from actors and producers because of their unique perspective.  This past week , I heard from someone who adapts books into scripts for TV.  We all would like to think we know how to adapt Outlander for the screen (just look anywhere the show is discussed on social media), but this person KNOWS.  She agreed to let me share her thoughts in a post.  

Thanks Lori! 



I am an avid Outlander fan. Been reading the books since they were each released. I remember being at the library for each subsequent release and waiting anxiously for them to catalog it so I could be the first to take it home. (LOL – it got to the point that they’d call me the second it came in – small town libraries are wonderful!) That said, I am now a screenwriter. It has been my job to adapt books and stories for the screen.

There’s a lot that goes into storytelling on the screen that is totally different from what’s on the page. The reason that the books are always better is that an author has no limitation whatsoever in what they imagine. It can all come to pass. But for the screen, a variety of things need to be considered. Budget. Pacing. How does the action happen from point A to point B” Would the carving of their initials slow down the overall pace or cause it to stutter. Would it add to the storyline in the future? Is it something easily done by the props department or could that one scene add a hefty amount to the budget? On that one specifically, it would add a bit of a headache for the makeup department – ANYTIME their hands would be shown in the future, the initials would need to be exact. precise, and there. It adds a bit of a headache for continuity purposes. Cause I promise the second they would be seen without it, there would be an uproar! Heck, fans are angry now because it isn’t the proper hand on Jamie that was injured by BJR. I have seen entire blog posts on it -and that’s a simple one to explain!

When adapting to for film, you need to take the book (whatever length it is – 300? 500?) and put it into about 90-120 pages. MAYBE 150 if you have a good budget and are able to put a longer version into theaters. For television, it’s usually 42 pages per episode. That isn’t a lot of space to get in all the good stuff. And sometimes you just need to switch things up a bit to make the story flow better.

This is, by far, the best adaptation I have seen from page to screen. They have been beautifully faithful to the books. Often, when buying or optioning the rights to books, the filmmakers love the story, but they want to tell it their own way. They see it more as an inspiration. I have been brought in often by authors because they know how much I love the source material and that I will usually remain faithful to it rather than try to change it to make it my own. I have had a couple of authors who have given me leave to run with their characters and build what I want from their universe (Jodi Thomas was beautiful about that – just want to give a shout out there!) but more often than not, it’s the other way around. And authors just aren’t as understanding of how storytelling goes on the screen because it’s so different.

I deeply admire the creative team and showrunners on Outlander. I watch each episode and come away utterly delighted from the fan perspective and blown away as a writer. I know the razor’s edge they walk in order to keep fans of the books happy AND reach out to new viewers who have never read the books. It’s a horrible balancing act and it’s rarely done as well as it has been here.
:) Thank you for highlighting some of the differences and showing perspective on this!:) Love your wraps/insight!  Lori Twichell (@Twichie)

 

 

Marathons, Fan Art, and Adaptation…A look ahead to Outlander episode 2×13

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The new Outlandish Anticipation post is up!

Outlander Online

Beth-TopperI feel so out of the loop!  So, much has happened since the last time I wrote anything about Outlander!  Forgive me if I seem a bit uninformed, but there is no way I could get caught up.  I just got a chance to see my DVR’d episode 2×12 The Hail Mary this Sunday.  I’d do a review, but I’m pretty sure it was covered in a timely manner.  I haven’t read any recaps or reviews, but it has been pretty hard to avoid comments on social media the few times I’ve been on.  Sex or lack there of seems to be the topic of conversation. My guess is the conversation is surrounding the entire season rather than this last episode.  The perception is that fans have somehow been cheated and that the core of the story of  Jamie and Claire’s relationship diminished.  One of the comments I saw said…

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The Hail Mary…A Look Ahead to Outlander Episode 2×12

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New Outlandish Anticipation post!

Outlander Online

Beth-Topper

“Hail Mary, Coach Wesson! Throw a Hail Mary!” was the cry of one of the fans in the stands at my husband’s football games.  He coached for over thirty years and I heard a lot of things yelled at him from the stands, but the memory of that phrase lingers for a couple of reasons.  First, the lady that yelled it at every game was a great character and it was always yelled with such fervor and good intent. The second reason was my husband’s reaction to her yelling at him to throw a “Hail Mary”.  He would just smile and shake his head, No.

Read more after the jump!

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“He expected the taste of victory to be sweeter”…a reflection on Outlander Episode 10 Prestonpans

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Photo credits to OutlanderOnline.com

 

My husband said, “I could almost predict what was going to happen.”

Curious, I asked, “How, so?”

He explained, “It’s the way they’ve been portrayed.  You knew Claire was going to take charge and Jamie was going to fight to do what was best for everyone and that Dougal was going to throw himself into the battle.”

After speaking a bit more, I understood that he didn’t mean the plot was necessarily predictable, but that the characters had been so well drawn for him that he felt like he knew them. Personally, I think that is a good thing.  If you are able to feel you know a character that well then the actors have done their job.  They have made you feel something about the person they are portraying and we are able to suspend our disbelief and go with them into battle and care about what happens.

Ensemble:  a group of musicians, actors, or dancers who perform together.

Sam Heughan said this was his favorite episode because of the performances of the ensemble.  In truth, I felt Outlander’s actors were able to act off of each other in a way we haven’t really seen before. All of their character’s beliefs, experiences, values, and personalities arrived in Prestonpans and we were treated to seeing everything that has come before come to a type of fruition.  I understand what Sam was saying, this ensemble made the whole, the episode, better…because of its parts.  There were some truly wonderful performances. The actors emoted so much through a subtle swallow or a momentary grimace, glance or the blink of an eye.  Bear McCreary’s musical score, the realistic costumes, sets, makeup and special effects, and the filming (wow, just wow) all combined to make me feel like I’d fallen through the stones.  Our characters were going to war.  What would Murtaugh and Dougal do?  How would Claire react?  What was each of their places in this battle? My husband was right; I could practically predict how each character would react.

I love that this show has a depth that allows me to make connections with real life and its truths. My husband was definitely on my mind this morning as I reflected on this episode.  He is a school principal and as such, he is asked to make hundreds of decisions a day.  Most of those decisions have very little to do with reading, writing and arithmetic.  Most days, he finds himself navigating issues that are less about academics and more about impact on his students’ lives and well-being. I never worry that he will make the wrong decision because of what motivates him.  He bases every choice on what is best for his students. His integrity won’t allow him do anything else.  He makes his judgments based on his belief that his responsibility is to care what happens to his kids. As a result, despite how difficult or unpopular that decision might be, I know it will be the right one and that he can defend his choice and sleep with a sound conscience.

Here in lies the problem for the highlanders in our story.  Unlike my husband, who has a clear idea of what he is fighting for, they are making life-altering choices based on an idea and ideals that are not based in reality.  Murtaugh had it right when he said they needed a better reason to fight than just a more sympathetic ass sitting on the throne.

DOUGAL’S DREAMS vs REALITY

Of all the “stories” told in this episode, I felt Dougal’s was one of the most interesting.  You just knew his zeal and desire for glory wasn’t going to end well.  His hopes for Scotland and a Stewart restored to the throne were based on an idea that just didn’t match reality.  Prince Charles’ idea of what this battle is about does not match with Dougal’s idea of England as the enemy, but Dougal doesn’t know that.   The Prince is fighting for the restoration of a kingdom, a faith, and his father’s approval. Dougal fights for a free Scotland.  The enemy is easy for Dougal to identify, but the Prince doesn’t see it as Dougal presumes and the Princes repeated belief that the English are his father’s subjects and the highlander’s brothers confuses the issue for everyone. Dougal has a romanticized idea of the Prince, I felt sick to my stomach when I saw the look of awe and humble gratitude on Dougal’s face when the prince hugged him and for what this selfish young royal’s desires meant for this war and what that then in turn meant for the future of Dougal’s beloved Scotland.  In short, Clan McKenzie’s war chief has committed himself body and soul to something that doesn’t exist.  The result can only be decisions and actions that will be disastrous for himself and others.

CLAIRE AND JAMIES’ DESPERATION

I was so moved by the interaction between these two in this episode.  They truly are good and honorable people who are trying to make the best of a horrible situation.  Everything they do is colored by the knowledge that the “promise of history” is not in their favor and I could feel their desperation.  It is a desperate state of affairs.  Every touch, every look, every word was filled with poignancy.  I wanted to reach through the screen and hold them both as Claire held wee Fergus.  They have no choice, but to move forward and try to effect change and make decisions to save those they love despite their knowledge of the future.  They have no idea if the decision to turn right or left, do this or do that, will be a sound decision or one that will lead them closer to the abyss that is Culloden Moor.  Even Jamie’s incredulous joy that the battle was won so quickly with so little loss of life was tempered with the knowledge that it was written and might be the harbinger of the future.

MURTAUGH’S SACRIFICE

There were so many wonderful moments between these characters.  Jamie giving Dougal his opportunity to shine before Prince Charlie and then rescuing him from banishment and disgrace, Rupert and Angus’ touching attempts at intimacy, Claire and Jamie’s moving moments of goodbye before the battle, and… Murtaugh and Jamie.  I was struck by Murtaugh’s loyalty and his life of sacrifice.  He tells us that when you fight for your clan every man has a part to play and if you are forced to wound or kill or be killed yourself you would know your memory would live on in your clan and your death would have meaning.  He knows he goes to war without that close connection and purpose and he fears his death will go unnoticed and his sacrifice will mean nothing.  He knows the future too and he knows that because they failed to stop the rising they face almost certain defeat and maybe…a meaningless death. But, despite this knowledge he too fights on because of his own integrity and loyalty and for love of Jamie.

“Watch over Jamie” asks Claire.

“Always” assures Murtaugh.

 

LOYALTY AND FIGHTING FOR A CAUSE

The cost of war is always in lives, future and love lost. In the end, it is the equalizer.  In the end, we all value and fight for the same things and are destroyed by its loss whether you’re a Fraser or a McKenzie, a lieutenant or prince, a crofter or a war chieftain. The episode’s writer, Ira Behr reminded us from the opening scene that the wages of war are death with the image of a highlander lying dead and swollen alone in the woods and in the end, with Angus newly gone covered in his own blood and surrounded by the helpless ones who loved him.

In the end, I too could predict what would happen to the characters dreams and fears in this episode because of a universal truth the show so wonderfully and effectively allowed us to see, “war tastes bitter no matter the outcome”. The song to life sung by Rupert and the crofter was a song sung for all of us.  Love and live life well while you can because death comes for us all.

 

The Madonna Breaks…A Reflection on Outlander 2.7

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A BROKEN MADONNA

I remember the blood most of all. The blood that wasn’t supposed to be there. The blood that was too much. The blood that wouldn’t stop. I remember lying on a sterile table in a cold sterile room surrounded by strangers. I stared up at the operating room lights and tried not to feel as I heard their efforts to clean my womb. I remember the pain that did not result in joy and always the child that would only live in corners of my soul.

Last week, in my look ahead to episode 7, I discussed miscarriage http://wp.me/p57847-o0A.  I talked of statistics, grief, and guilt. My readers told me their stories of loss and lingering sorrow. My own story resulted in the decision to not have more children, but they told me of bravely trying again and as a result, finally experiencing the joy of motherhood. Others shared that they had tried and tried again…and again. I cannot fathom how they coped with that cycle of hope and despair.  All shared they had never forgotten the children they never knew. I was moved by their stories.  And, so, I hoped that Outlander would be able to show us a story that reflected the truth of expectancy miscarried.  They did. They showed us a broken Madonna.

This was storytelling at its best. They told a honest tale of how sometimes life breaks us and they did it with such astounding insight. Once again, Outlander has honored its subject matter by allowing the audience to see the full measure of the effects of an event like miscarrying a child. They didn’t gloss over, sensationalize or romanticize Claire’s trauma instead they chose to show us the depth of this woman’s suffering that then allowed the audience to experience empathy in a powerful way. This episode showed us the power of compassion and forgiveness.

THE STAGES OF GRIEF

I don’t know if the writers and producers decided to show us Claire navigating the stages of grief, but it is what I saw and I was able to respond to the story they were telling with connections to my own life and experiences with grief.

DENIAL

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My daughter is a photographer and especially gifted at capturing images of people’s beauty and personality.  She has volunteered to take pictures of servicemen in that moment they finally come home to their families and birthday parties for 95 year-old grandmas or grandpas who may not be here much longer, and Senior portraits for a girl who is confined to a wheelchair and disfigured from a car accident and needs to feel beautiful, and pictures of babies “born dead”.  She volunteered because she felt it was important, a way to help these grieving parents say goodbye.  But, she found she couldn’t despite a desire to help because it was just too much, too much grief, too much sadness.  She needed to stop for her own self-care.  

I don’t often write about the actual filming of the scenes, but, the way the camera closed in, panned out or gave us angles of perspective added so much to the telling of this story. We are first given a close up of Claire’s face her eyes swollen with crying, pale, expressionless and reminiscent of Jamie on the pallet at Wentworth. The camera pans out so that we may float on the ceiling looking down on the blood and the birth turned butchery. She later awakens and we see her try to make sense of where she is and what has happened. They kept it real and allowed Claire to be a woman whose body has been changed by her pregnancy instead of bowing to a sexier/less realistic representation. I knew what she felt when she touched that empty belly so recently vacated.  Her panic was a true indication that she knows something is wrong and yet,…denial, ” No, it isn’t possible”.  Her confusion and changing feelings were all expressed in rapid and yet moving succession. She demanded and pleaded for the baby she knew must be there. The flashback scenes of her holding and crooning her love to her dead baby were so poignant.  

A worried Mother Hildegarde calls in Louise to try and reach her friend who won’t surrender her dead baby. As Louise approaches Claire, we see her touch her own child and we feel her compassion for another mother.

“She is an angel.”

No metaphor was ever more true and Claire knows it is time to let go, but how? When she kissed her child goodbye, I took a ragged breath and said a small prayer for all those who must kiss their children goodbye.

ANGER

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When I was in eighth grade, my Uncle Chuck  finally came home from Vietnam and my grandmother finally got to take the placard of a star, that designated them the parents of a soldier, out of the parlor window. He seemed to be adjusting well and she was finally able to sleep at night without worrying that a uniformed soldier might come to her door with news. It wasn’t a soldier who came to her door it was a deputy sheriff.

I remember being woken in the middle of the night by my mother’s voice raised in anger. She was screaming “How could he!  How could he!”.  I wandered down the stairs and was confused by the tableau I saw in our dining room.  I couldn’t figure out why my Uncle Harry was there or why my step-father was hanging his head with tears in his eyes or why my mother was furious. My Uncle Chuck was home one month from his third tour in Vietnam and was killed in a car accident trying to avoid hitting a deer.  My mother was angry because he had gotten himself killed.  This was my first exposure to the different forms grief can take.  The anger isn’t always rational, but someone must be blamed for such an inconsolable loss.

Mother Hildegarde’s conversation with Claire was a brilliant example of what often happens in the case of miscarriage/still birth. Claire is grieving and she is filling in the “utter void” left by Faith with anger and blame directed at Jamie.  The dialogue here was so revealing of grief and the use of anger to cope.

“My husband betrayed me mother… a year of mercy is all I asked…Revenge mattered  more to him than me or his child.  He might as well have run his sword through me”.

“God bids us to revel in mercy, tread sins underfoot, and throw iniquities into the sea.”

“I’m not sure there is a sea deep enough”.

Many who experience such loss cope by wrapping themselves in blame, naming sins, and never find that sea.

BARGAINING

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I promise I’ll never…I promise I will…If you give me this…

Very few of us that grieve have not at least thought of a bargain with God or the universe. Like children we beg and offer to change or sacrifice if only this would not be true.  Claire doesn’t bargain for Faith and I was so moved by her expression of total loss, “My sins are all I have”.  Acknowledging she is still angry with Jamie, once she hears why he broke his promise she bargains for his life with her virtue, “I will count it among the things I’ve lost in Paris”.

DEPRESSION

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When bargaining doesn’t work and anger exhausts us, depression moves in.  Our loss colors everything.  We see the world through grey fog.  Life has beaten us and changed us.

Claire’s fragility was so piteous. We could tell by the troubled look on wee Fergus’ face and the offering of flowers he still held that the woman we were about to see was altered.  I was so moved by the servants waiting to welcome an obviously loved Milady home. I couldn’t help but feel those steps from the carriage to the house were some of the most difficult she has ever taken. Even in her weakened state she tries so hard to give these people what she can.  Her not allowing Magnus to bow to her and bowing to him instead was so Claire.  She is not a respecter of personage, she does not judge anyone by anything but their heart.  

We see her face devoid of emotion as Fergus brushes her hair,…a child caring for an adult is always so heart breaking.  It’s not supposed to be that way. Then when she is drawn to the spoons, I was reminded of unused baby clothes and a prepared nursery waiting for a child that will never come and I understood how this joyous gift now only serves as a reminder of her loss. She angrily pulls on her robe in the need to take some sort of action and quickly realizes she has nowhere to go and nothing she can do and falls apart.  

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Loss changes us.  But, life it goes on.  Acceptance is the bittersweet stage of the grieving process. It isn’t about suddenly being okay or “over it” because we are never okay with this kind of loss. It is rather about accepting a new reality.

The “will you make me beg”scene between Jamie and Claire was one of my favorites in the books and one of the three scenes I picked preseason as having the potential for award winning performances.  The scene was different from the books, but no less convincing in its portrayal of the power of acceptance, compassion and forgiveness.  

“The weight of what has happened here is too much for anyone of us to bear alone. The only way we can live with it is to carry it. Together.”

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In my opinion, Outlander has fulfilled its promise of being something different.  They continue to show us the story of two decent people who want to do the right thing and struggle with choices, people who admit their mistakes, make sacrifices for the sake of others, and choose to forgive. It is a rarity on TV to be sure. There was so much in this episode to write about and talk about, but I think for now, I’ll concentrate on this story-line of loss and how it affects everyone it touches. This breathtakingly wonderful adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s story of Jamie and Claire was able to capture the depth and wonder of this rich and complex story.  I would like to thank everyone who has so lovingly cared for this story, the actors who moved me, the writers who spoke to my heart, those who guided performances and filmed perspectives that added to our understanding, those that helped create the costumes and sets that helped suspend our disbelief and made these people and this world real.
This episode reminded me once again of how lucky we are to have had this story given over to such a serendipitous group of people. People who care.  I thought of all the complaining about shortened episodes, petty differences from the book, a heroine characterized as selfish, and a lack of sex in the former episodes and wondered how difficult it must have been for them all to stay silent knowing what was to come in this episode.  I wouldn’t have traded that moment of Claire’s self-awareness and Jamie’s compassion for all the hot sex in the world. There are wonderful lessons to be learned about what it means to be human here for those who care to look and I for one will have “faith” that Ron D. Moore and company will continue to do honor to the story of Jamie and Claire.