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.  

Icebergs, Prince, and Outlander…My reflection on episode 2.3

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So, who the heck on the Outlander set is messing with the time continuum?  I’m convinced someone is experimenting with time travel because that was the shortest hour of television I’ve ever watched! It flew by and I found myself surprised when all too soon it was over! I believe I actually screamed NO! when the screen faded to the credits.  I have to wait a whole other week to find out what happens next? Say it isn’t so! Grief stricken, I did what any normal feeling person would do…I rewound the episode and watched again!  Whose a Time Lord Now!?! BOOM!

I  don’t do recaps.  I feel like you all watch the show if you want to know what happens next.  I don’t necessarily do reviews either.  I believe there is an element of a review when I sit down to write about an episode of Outlander, but I think what I’m really doing is …reflecting? I know what I do isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and after this week, I’m okay with that.

I’m big at making connections.  I tend to make meaning between loosely related ideas or disparate events.  A friend told me that I see a thread and pull on it until the whole thing unravels.  I like that image.  It rings true to me.  Somehow, in the process of unraveling, I make meaning and then reassemble the whole thing using a story to tell a story. That is what happened this week when I sat down to write about Outlander 2.3, “Deceptions and Useful Occupations”.   I saw a thread and pulled; Icebergs, Prince, Outlander.  Not sure you could get more disparate.  But, here I go.

ICEBERGS

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There is a phenomenon called the teacher job satisfaction curve. Teaching is a profession for idealists. Teachers want to believe that we touch the future by teaching children. We are life-long learners who constantly hone our craft in an effort to engage our students in learning in the hopes of creating a spark that will make them want to learn more!  We start out every school year excited to get into that classroom and make a difference in children’s lives.  We envision students who will arrive in our classroom ready to  learn! Students who have loads of untapped potential, who are just waiting for us to inspire them!

Yep,…reality…not so much …sometime right before Christmas break you start counting the days before retirement.  The enormity of the task you have taken on becomes crushingly obvious.  There are so many variables you are unable to control.  Not all students are ready to learn or even want to learn. If I heard, “but, we’re Seniors!” one more time, I seriously thought my head would explode!  However, the disillusionment we all feel in December begins to fade and you start to feel hopeful once again.  After all, there is always next year and so, I begin to reflect on the current year and how I will make changes and hone my skills to inspire students next year, … for sure!

During this period of reflection (at my desk at the end of 4th period), I had a particularly puzzling student approach me with a friend to ask my advice.  Without giving away too much, I doubt she will ever see this, but still, there were things happening in her life that would have made it difficult for anyone to concentrate on “The Importance of Being Ernest” or “The Canterbury Tales“.  I hope my advice did help because often I feel helpless to affect change in their lives, but her asking me reaffirmed that even when we don’t think we are making a difference…sometimes, we are.

Thinking of what this girl projected on the surface made me think of icebergs.  And, I was reminded once again to look at my students a little deeper. That behavior that drives me insane may have very deep roots and the anger or apathy they display may have nothing to do with my request that they pay attention or stop talking and everything to do with how they are trying to deal with what is happening inside themselves.

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PRINCE

This week also brought news of the death of the artist Prince.  An outpouring of grief and love for this man was found all over the news, social media, and the streets, even here in Ohio.

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Many of us became reflective.  We asked ourselves what this man’s life had meant to us, including Terry Dresbach, costume designer for Outlander.

…not only is he an incredible artist, he is a man of principal and ethics, he is fiercely independent, he is going to do things his own way. He is not going to bend to the commercial interests of corporations. He is going to control his own art. He may be as famous for his willingness to go to the mat for his work. Famously giving up his own NAME rather than control of his music, scrawling SLAVE on his face for public appearances. He refused to give up in the face of the corporatization of the music industry, fighting to the end for the rights of the artists…

So what did he mean to me?

Who am I? I am an artist, first and foremost. I am a product of my time and place. I am part of a generation,…

…As the child of union organizers and political activists, I struggle every day as an artist in a corporate world I struggle as a human in a human world. Ron constantly asks me if I could not make everything into one of my “social justice” issues. No, actually, I can’t. I will always struggle against the tide that says we all need to be managed and formed to a polished symmetry that never colors outside the lines. Whose voices and very existence, should be managed and tailored to fit into an expectation. Group think…

Well that ain’t gonna happen. I am going to continue to be me. I’m going to throw elbows at anything or anyone that tries to control me as an artist. I am not going to hire anyone to manage me or my voice. I am going to fight hard against anything like that, big or small. And I am going to play Prince as loud as I can while doing it.    http://www.terrydresbach.com/when-doves-cry/

I was very moved by her self-examination.  This world can put so many pressures on us to conform.  Sometimes, conformity is the right thing to do, but sometimes it isn’t.  It isn’t the right thing to do when you find yourself acting in ways that are untrue to your own ethics and beliefs.  It isn’t the right thing to do when you feel compelled to dim your light, so that others won’t be seen as lacking brilliance.  Attempts to hide your true self never end well.  I’m convinced that many of the world’s angry and depressed people are those who have for whatever reason not allowed themselves to be themselves.  People always come out sideways when they feel suppressed and managed.  Like Terry, I believe the only way to live authentically is to make conscious choices that are true to who you are and not what others expect you to be.

OUTLANDER

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So, ….that was a long way to get here.  The fact that I CAN apply lessons about life to this story makes me happy.  I am proud that there is a TV show on the air that isn’t afraid to show characters who grapple with moral and ethical choices, characters who struggle to do the right thing and still be true to themselves.

I will defend the writers and producers’ choice to let us see Claire and Jamie struggle to find their way back to themselves and each other to anyone who feels that this weakens their character.  The characters, the story, and therefore, the show are the better for it.  I have said it before and will say it again, it is a mistaken belief that because Jamie is strong and brave he would suddenly be able to pull himself up by the bootstraps and snap out of what he experienced.  In the book, what Claire did in the abbey was a desperate attempt at what we would now call aversion therapy.  She exposed him to what he feared and allowed him to fight back like he couldn’t before.  That would have been very difficult to reproduce in a visual format.  In fact, it took me several readings to truly understand what she did. Like most victims of such violence, TV Jamie has to figure out how to live without such a dramatic intervention and as a result, the Jamie we see on the show is… an iceberg.

 

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Dressed in sumptuous silk, smiling, going about his work, plotting  to stop the Jacobite rebellion is the top 1/4 of Jamie.  It is the part the world sees. The part we don’t see is powerfully large.  That Jamie we knew was destroyed “he broke me, I knew it, we both did”.   It is no wonder that he isn’t the Jamie we all know him to be. He is a shadow of the man he was.

Claire struggles to help him.  She tiptoes on egg shells.  Anyone who has lived with a spouse with PTSD could confirm that their loved one is altered and that they struggle to have any intimacy/closeness.  Jamie’s identity has been shaken to the core. He cannot get “him” out of his mind. Add to this struggle playing a role, being deceptive; something that goes against everything Jamie believes himself to be and you have a formula for an explosive situation.  Jamie is coming out sideways, “When do I get to feel good, when do I get to have meaning in my day?”  It isn’t that he doesn’t want Claire to be happy.  He does, but he isn’t himself.

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I love how they chose to juxtaposition Claire’s struggles with her own identify and secrets with Jamie’s.  She isn’t herself either. It is so complicated.  They are both living a lie and trying to find themselves again.  No one is going to be happy until they can.

I loved the filmed metaphor of Jamie walking down the hall and Claire following him. Every time she gets a glimpse of Jamie (and we do too, glimpses of the old Jamie) he walks behind a wall. Yet, she still follows and keeps trying.  I predict the pay-off for our patience and Claire’s will be some of the most moving television ever filmed.  It is going to get worse before it gets better, but when it gets better we will have a couple whose journey will form a bond unbreakable …even by time.

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What Ron D. Moore taught me about fandom

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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.

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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

I promised him I would let him go…Outlander episode 2.1

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by Beth Wesson

 

The past two weeks have seen an absolute glut of Outlander related news, articles, interviews, and images.  Which is soooo different from last season.  Back then we scoured the internet for anything about “our” show and anxiously read what few articles there were, hoping that critics and reviewers liked the series.  We dreamed that the world would find out about the wonderfulness that is Outlander.  It took awhile, but what we hoped would happen did happen.  In fact, there is so much Outlander stuff out here right now that I feel slightly overwhelmed!

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The articles I’ve been reading this time around have been absolutely delightful.   They have been meaty, insightful, and VERY complimentary.  For the first time, I feel like the critics “get it”.  And, the outlets that are sitting up, taking notice, and writing about it are getting larger and more numerable.  I’d feel a little sad about the competition for readers except…THERE IS A COMPETITION FOR READERS!  It is everything we fans had hoped would happen for our beloved books and show.  They are getting the attention they deserve.  Despite the “Scotland’s answer to GOT”, “fifty shades of plaid”, “bodice-ripper’ labels  given to the show, people tuned in and …got hooked

When I went to bed after watching the Television Academy’s From Scotland to Paris: A Behind the Scenes Journey with Outlander, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo0aWxwY2EA I dreamily fell asleep convinced that I had just witnessed something very special. The astonishing level of creativity, skill and …love demonstrated by all involved in the creation of this show was so evident that as a fan I felt proud and strangely emotional. So, after reading all the positive reviews, watching all the insightful interviews, and being gob smacked by the panel, I thought I was prepared to watch the premiere.

I wasn’t.

I’m sitting here trying to find words.  Searching for words that have even the slightest chance of expressing how I felt about this episode.  I’m not entirely confident that I can, but I’m going to give it a shot.

THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

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I’ve always believed that no matter how great a movie or show is, if it is based on a book, the book is always better.  It makes sense.  An author has time and room to give us the details and let us see into what makes a character tick.  I have never seen anything that has caused me to doubt that belief…until now.

Just this week, I wrote an article for Outlander Online  http://wp.me/p57847-jFr that wondered how the beginning of the book would be handled.  How would the audience be told that Claire had returned?  I was concerned because despite our frustration (and downright pissed off at DGness), the fans I’ve talked with thought her opening with Claire in the 1960’s was powerfully discombobulating and kept us wanting to turn the page. As much as I admire Diana’s skills as a writer and adore her books, the TV adaptation told the story of Claire’s return to Frank better. This was so much more powerful and I can totally get why they did it.

As a reader of Diana Gabaldon’s books, I am as fascinated with what she doesn’t write, as much as with what she does.  What I’m trying to express is the idea that sometimes a writer doesn’t give us all the details and lets us try to figure out a characters’ motivation. Like a good author does.  It is often what is not explicitly explained that keeps us all talking about the books, speculating and theorizing. Ron and his writers have the enviable and monumental task of adapting Diana’s books into a visual medium.  They have explained that each episode has a story arc and that to tell the best story sometimes things have to be changed.  I finally get it.

 

HOW THEY TOLD THE STORY DIFFERENTLY, BUT STILL KEPT IT PLAUSIBLE

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I’ve often said that the most controversial character in the book series isn’t Black Jack Randall, or Gellis, St.Germaine, or any other villian.  It’s Frank. Drop Frank’s name into a discussion of Outlander and watch the sparks fly. He is loved, pitied, and hated. But understood?  We have all wondered what Frank felt and thought, why he and Claire decided to stay together, why he got over his belief he couldn’t raise another man’s child, and if he still loved Claire or if he was just doing what he saw as his duty (cuz he’s not a cad). Did he believe her? Ron chose to answer some of those questions in his adaptation and I think the story is the more powerful for it.

  • THEY SHADOWED IT FROM THE BEGINNING

In the very first episode, we saw Frank accept the possibility of Claire being unfaithful. “It wouldn’t be unheard of. Understandable…comfort”.  And, we saw Claire’s indignation over the idea that he would think she could ever be unfaithful,.  “There is nothing you could do to make me stop loving you.”  They foreshadowed his acceptance of the child with Frank’s interest in his own genealogy and their renewed attempts to start a family and then there is… Jamie’s ghost.

  • THEY LET US SEE FRANK WORK THINGS OUT BEFORE OUR EYES

In the books, we never get to see or really know what Frank did when Claire disappeared or how he felt about losing her.  As readers, we became so engrossed in Jamie and Claire’s relationship that we soon forgot about poor Frank.  Diana has revealed more and more about Frank as her series of books has continued, but she is still keeping what Frank really knew and what he felt a bit of a mystery.  In my opinion, what Ron has done is very plausible and not a large departure from the Frank in the books.  Let’s look at the how it went down:

  • Frank does come to Claire after she has been missing for almost three years
  • he is told outside of our hearing that she is starved and pregnant
  • she tells him to leave and that she loves another man
  • she explains what happens and Frank gets angry over her explanation of being carried through the stones
  • he doesn’t leave and agrees to raise her child as his own
  • he moves them away for a fresh start

In the TV series, it happens a little differently, but the pieces are all there. Frank hears her story and although it is a “leap of faith” agrees to “accept’ it.  Knowing Frank, Claire doesn’t buy it and calls him out. He acknowledges that although he doesn’t understand her feelings for this other man, he believes her when she says she loved Jamie. But, he is now, he is there, Jamie is not. He only cares that she is back.  She then tells him she is pregnant and this is the catalyst that triggers his anger instead of when the anger is triggered in the books.  He still had a last straw moment.  She hit him where it hurt the most. Different yes, but, maybe better? Certainly, watching his joy and then devastation when he realized it was a mirage was powerful and echoed back to Wentworth and Jamie thinking he saw Claire and then realizing it was all an illusion. The pain and loss was real.

  • THEY LET US SEE CLAIRE’S STRUGGLE AND JAMIE’S GHOST

Claire’s voice-over set the tone for the episode.  If she could have died she would have. Her anguished screams and sobs let the audience know she has been ripped from Jamie’s side and all is lost. And, then we see Frank… hardly able to contain himself as he rushes into the hospital.

Diana has told her readers to remember that we see things from Claire’s perspective and that Claire has her own self-serving reasons for wanting to believe the worst of Frank. She needs to keep him at a distance, she has a need to feel loyal to Jamie her true love and yet, she loved Frank. I saw that struggle tonight.  Her guilt over what she had done to Frank. Frank’s points about her ring and how her story confirmed that she would never have willingly left him rang true and you could see Claire flinch in the face of it.  She grieves for her lost love and yet, as everyone reminds her he is a ghost. So, when Frank offers up his conditions she remembers her promise and in a last self-sacrificing gesture of love for Jamie she stiffens her spine, lifts her head and  lets him go.

The many symbolic gestures in this episode like the hands transitioning her past and her future, her reluctant hug so like the one Jamie gave her in the Abby, were wonderful. Everything reminded me of something that happened in season 1.  Jamie’s memory, his ghost if you will, continues to wander the streets of Inverness.

  • THEY KEPT IT REAL

I had the opportunity to use the books in a literature class.  The one thing that bothered my students the most about Claire returning to the future to live with Frank was how she could possibly ever look at Frank and not see Black Jack.  I had to agree that knowing that Frank isn’t Jack and that he is not responsible for his ancestor’s behavior might not be enough. I was glad to see the TV series addressed this issue right out of the box.  What I saw in episode one, maybe in part because it IS a visual representation of the story, felt more real to me; more believable.

  • ALL OF IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED

It might not have played out on the screen exactly as it did in the books, but it could have.  The show deliberately connected the dots and fleshed out Frank’s character.  I think it was a smart move.  It all makes more sense, especially for viewers who haven’t and won’t read the books.  This treatment, in my opinion, makes all of their choices more poignant, more honest, and more powerful.  For the first time, I understood Frank and their decision to stay together and why they both did what they did.  I felt his hope (yet, you still wear my ring) and her painful resignation (I promised him I would let him go).

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Kudos to Caitroina Balfe and Tobias Menzies.  Emmy worthy performances right out of the gate. Kudos to Tallship Productions and Starz you’re keeping your word to the fans and …I can’t believe I’m saying this…making a great story better.

 

 

 

 

 

Outlander’s acting…How do they do that with a camera in their face?

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I’m amazed.  I’m amazed every time I see a behind the scenes photograph of the actors of Outlander. It amazes me because the reality of filming seems so intrusive.  I am amazed that actors who have microphones hanging over their heads and cameras in their faces can manage to make a scene feel real and intimate.  My understanding of the challenges an actor faces has increased and so has my respect for their skills. You’ve heard me say before that I’m curious and that I am often inspired to look a bit deeper.  Today that inspiration came from this picture. 

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It is a simple scene and yet for me it helped clarify what is actually happening during filming and it is far from intimate.  In fact, it appears to take a village to raise a film. Movies take years to plan, months to shoot and thousands of people to create. On average the top films of the past two decades have each had 3.5 writers, 7 producers, 55 people in the art department, 32 in sound, 55 in camera / electrical and 156 in visual effects. There are 19 people listed for hair and makeup alone and 37 in the camera electrical department for Outlander on IMBD. The list of folks working on the show is pretty impressive and worth a look. Suffice it to say, there is a crowd surrounding these actors most of the time.

You are probably aware that the author of the Outlander series of books, Diana Gabaldon, was asked to write scripts for Season 2 and had the experience of filming those episodes.  I was entertained by her less than glamorous pictures of traipsing through mud and her Scottish weather uniform including her pink boots. ( btw, I found a great blog about a typical day on a set. https://www.friendsinfilm.com/typical-day-on-set )

Quite frankly, it looked cold, uncomfortable and sounded like a study in patience when she explained that the same scenes were often filmed over and over. Her day started early and ended late with her falling across her bed sometimes too tired to eat. For the actors who have to get into makeup (I’ve read it takes somewhere near 4 hours to put the prosthetic on Sam’s back) and costume, I can imagine it might even be more time consuming and more exhausting. Despite all this they must be ready to be in character and stay in character on demand and get up and do it all again the next day. Ron Moore talked about the stamina it took for Cait to be in almost every scene, I’m starting to really appreciate what he meant and why Sam and Cait appreciate having a co-star that is a friend.

I’ve  written a bit about how costuming and set design can affect an actor’s performance http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Zo ,  http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Yx . I’ve even written about different schools of thought on acting and a bit about why someone might want to act http://wp.me/p4mtBT-Pd .  I can see how certain acting techniques could work, especially as a stage actor performing the same material night after night, but this acting for a film series seems to be a different animal.  For instance, how does filming out of sequence affect your performance?  I would think that you would need to act in some sort of chronological order to build upon what happens to the character.  The only response I ever got to that question was from Terry Dresbach, Outlander’s costume designer, who told me she has never been part of a production that was any other way.  After following this show’s production for the last couple of years, I’ve come to understand the “why” of filming out of sequence, but I still don’t know how it doesn’t negatively impact actor’s performances.  The fact that Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and all the others are able to get inside their characters’ heads on cue continues to baffle and as I said….amaze.  How do they tune it all out? How do they make us believe those emotions are real?

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Outlander has gained a reputation for portraying its story in an honest manner.  The scenes feel like what might actually happen between real people including the sex.  I’m astonished to realize that what appears to us as romantic and passionate and intimate was created in a room with directors, camera people, sound guys, etc.  I found it amusing when Ron Moore said they wanted to give the characters some privacy and so they made the crew skeletal! Skeletal there’s a relative term! LOL!

Yeah, we got to get it right. But the subject matter — Caitrna [Balfe] and I have never done anything like this before, so it was a bit of a learning curve. We were lucky that the director, Anna Foerster, was good. We did a lot of rehearsals. We discussed how we wanted it to work. When you watch the episode there is a progression in the way that Jamie and Claire get to know each other. Their relationship grows quite quickly so by the end of the episode, you can see that they’re basically making love, it’s not just consummating the marriage.    Sam Heughan http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/outlander-sam-heughan-jamie-claires-732878

I’m sorry, but if I’m wearing nothing but a modesty patch simulating sex with an equally naked co-star and people are filming and giving me instructions like hold him here, touch her there, I’m going to have tough time not being embarrassed! Get it right?! Yeah, they got it so right I felt slightly voyeuristic watching!

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I found some great insight in an article in the Atlantic.  It took a look at the emerging interest in the psychology of acting and how it could give us insight into the science of why people do the things they do. The article asserts that acting is just a different way of looking at human behavior.  What I discovered is that becoming a character isn’t easy and not without cost, especially when playing scenes like episode 15 and 16.

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http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/how-actors-create-emotions-a-problematic-psychology/284291/

I found myself getting a little worried about our actors while reading this article, but I’m happy to say that it ended by concluding that good acting may be less about becoming your character and more about simply concentrating.

“Intensity gets misinterpreted. Not all acting is necessarily extremely intense. But it is concentrated and very much about being here, now.”

The toll of at least temporarily living in a character and world you’ve created is emotionally consuming and an actor needs to cultivate ways to disengage from their work of acting.  I’m happy to say that our actors appear to be aware of the need of self-care and I love that they share that they laugh on set, eat healthy, hike Munros, drink the occasional whiskey, and spend time with family and friends who know who they were before they played Jamie, Claire or Black Jack.  I still don’t understand how they do it, but wow, they are good at it and this fan is grateful! 

 

Happiness is…Outlander getting accolades

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There are a lot of things that make me happy like drinking a great cup of coffee by a fireplace reading a good book while snuggled in a fuzzy blanket. Or listening to children giggling or watching puppies frolic. Good Stuff.  You know what else is good? Learning that Outlander had been nominated for 3 Golden Globe awards.

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The results started rolling in this morning and so did the tweets.  In very little time, my notifications were lighting up with good news. Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies, and the show its self were at the top of the list.  I kept asking if I had missed Sam Heughan’s nomination because I was THAT sure his brave and moving performance would be recognized.

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When I realized it was true…no nom for Sam, I experienced some very conflicting emotions.  I was thrilled for the others maybe even surprised.  Not because their performances weren’t brilliant, they were, but because I was worried we wouldn’t be noticed at all.  I’m pretty cynical about these awards things and I had been told repeatedly that we would be lucky to get one nod with all the great TV out there right now.  So, there I was feeling elated for Cait and Tobias one second and absolutely gutted for Sam the next.

Because my feelings ARE so strong, it hasn’t escaped me I might be giving validity to my families insistence that I have become obsessed.   For whatever its worth, I’m willing to admit maybe they are right because this feels personal.  I’m sure that part of the reason it feels personal is because I’ve been around the fandom since Diana Gabaldon announced the show was a go and a lot has happened in that amount of time.  We fans awaited casting news like the birth of a precious child. And, our first picture of Cait and Sam as Jamie and Claire?  Surreal.  There they were in the flesh and we all couldn’t quite believe it.

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Our fan experience was intensified by the willingness of the cast and crew, writers, producers and directors to talk with us and share behind the scenes tidbits and looks into what they do.  Matt B. Roberts “POD”,  Maril’s “heard on set” and Terry’s “tidbits” all helped us feel apart of what was happening. We knew they were all fans of the book and I felt reassured by Ron’s insistence that he wouldn’t mess up his wife’s favoriite! cf1346fb82adfc1f9e51059a52af3988

It was a singular experience and this inclusion has contributed to my feeling personal about these awards.  This is MY show about MY book.   We fought the critique that the show would only interest bored housewives and that men wouldn’t watch.  Our battle cry was, “Just wait you’ll see, this story is so much more!”  While we waited for the premier, I  remember anxiously hoping that they would do my very favorite book justice.  It could have gone so wrong.  It was such a wonderful story and I wanted the world to see it and fall in love with it too.

Diana Gabaldon’s books have become my favorite because of the wonderful stories she tells of a passionately committed couple and their adventures through life. I’ve always felt there were truths about what it means to be human spoken between those pages. Diana spoke to the irony and wonder that is life. So, I hoped that Ron Moore’s “adaptation” would be able to capture what I loved about this story; it has, but what I didn’t expect to see was Ron’s story of what it means to be human.  The visual story-teller told Diana’s story and somehow made it…more.  I am seeing Diana’s truths about life AND Ron’s as well. Two creative people’s ideas came together and the melding of their genius has created a new and inspiringly delightful visual version of my favorite story. Each new episode was like unwrapping a beautiful gift filled with amazing costumes, sets, acting, directing and writing.  It is a quality production that wasn’t afraid to be different or take on difficult material. Truly, I couldn’t be prouder if I had actually had anything to do with it myself <g>.

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I was reminded today that the show received a nomination for best drama and that means that everyone who had a part in creating the show is nominated.  That did make me smile.  So, congratulations to everyone!  Happiness is knowing people you’ve come to respect are getting recognized for all of their hard work and I’ll be celebrating by watching Claire get lost through the stones tonight while I snuggle in a blanket and drink some good coffee.

Jamie and Claire Fraser…Courtiers

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Soon, (a relative term) Outlander fans will be making a weekly appointment with Starz to watch their favorite couple Jamie and Claire Frazer navigate the salons, ballrooms, and dining rooms of the French Court of Louis the XV. The picture Starz painted of the Frasers’ new life in the first Season 2 trailer was visually far and away from muted and earthy Scotland.  Being a curious soul, I found myself wanting to know more about life in Versailles.

The story goes that Louis’ great grandfather, Louis the XIV, worked for thirty years to make the palace opulent as recompense for a childhood of relative poverty (it’s said he slept on tattered sheets and his mother had to pawn the crown jewels).   Versailles was literally built around an old hunting cabin and eventually was half-a-million square feet, had 700 rooms , 67 staircases. and 6000 paintings.  No surface was left unadorned. Gilded paneling, crown molding, brocaded or flocked wall coverings, allegorical paintings of Greek gods, floors patterned with parquet or colored tiles were found in every room.  Everything from furniture to finishes was embellished. It was a visual feast.

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Louis the XV was said to be a bit less into the pomp and ceremony his great grandfather seemed to enjoy, but still, on a daily basis anywhere from 3,000 to 10, 000 people were in attendance at the palace.  In an effort to gain control over the nobility, the King often required them to live with him.  Attending the King took them far from the daily operations of their estates and put them under his watchful eye.

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A courtier is defined as a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage or a person who seeks favor by flattery, charm, etc.   This certainly described life for the courtiers of Louis the XV. Currying the king’s favor was serious and tricky, courtiers needed to tread carefully because the King could make them or break them. Nobles needed his permission to do basically anything, so remaining in his good graces was vital. 

…a very varied society with a rigid hierarchy. Some were there by birthright, others by social obligation, others out of self-interest or curiosity, and others still to earn their living. The high-ranking nobility were often present, currying the favours of the master of Versailles.

…Among the courtiers, those who held a role were said to be “established” at Court. These roles, either inherited or purchased, often very dearly, corresponded to a function or office.

… Living quarters in the palace were also highly sought after. They avoided much travelling back and forth and provided a place of retreat for those moments when one was not at Court.

http://en.chateauversailles.fr/?option=com_cdvfiche&idf=D49E0D38-2622-D151-2217-6E71CAB84BE0

 

To stay in a state of royal grace required being up on the latest rumors and news. Information was power and the court was where everything was happening, kind of like the Outlander fandom x1000. #KingSam and #QueenCait  These folks lived by a very strict code of etiquette and adherence to the Monarch’s whims. Whether it be it how to sit properly, knowing the latest dance steps or wearing the latest fashions,  being a courtier was serious business and a serious competition. With so many in attendance gaining the King’s attention was no easy task.

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“beauty or wit, rivaled with dazzling finery to attract the Monarch’s attention.”

Hence, the need, as  Outlander’s costume designer, Terry Dresbach says, for everyone to look like “a butterfly”.  Enter Jamie and Claire, a tall red-headed Scots decked out with plaid and his English rose dressed in a blood red gown. You just know that Terry and her crew will have created a dress worthy of the King’s attention!

There is a lot more to know about this world and I’ll be writing these little tidbits to help satisfy my curiosity and maybe enriching my watching experience.  Hope you’ll join me as I explore!

 

 

 

 

Jamie and Sam the literary connection

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I love my readers!  So many of you take the time to engage in what are truly interesting conversations about the books and show.  I especially like it when someone from the film industry adds their unique prospective.  Recently, I got a response to my article on Hollywood and women. http://wp.me/p4mtBT-1af Jacki Lippman, one of those rare women who Is actually getting to make a film, shared her thoughts on the issue and went on to say that although she loves Claire she believed that Jamie was one of the  best fictional male characters out there.  In fact, she’s been studying him and the reaction book readers and now series watchers have to him.  The following is an article she wrote about when the fans helped Sam Heughan (Jamie) win The Radio Times “TV Champion”.  I loved her thoughts about how this character and Sam’s portrayal of him has resulted in such fan devotion.  I agree. One great literary character + One great actor + One great performance = a pretty amazing fan base.  The clan is busy voting again and who knows what they’ll accomplish this time.  Thank you to Jacki for letting me share her great words. Congrats to Diana, Sam and the whole Outlander team!  You’ve truly created something that inspires!

 

Brianna…a hard nut to crack

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We are mid “Droughtlander” and anxiously awaiting a few casting announcements.  Brianna and Roger haven’t  been cast yet or if they have there hasn’t been an official announcement.  As anxious as I am for a peek at who they have chosen, I have to say I’m glad they are taking their time choosing these two.  Getting these two characters right is a big deal!  They are important to the rest of the books and hopefully, to the rest of the series.

I’ve talked to very few book fans who weren’t half in love with Roger. He’s very likable and an interesting mixture of strength and vulnerability.  He is every bit as emotionally intelligent as Jamie and I’ve always felt that he “gets” Claire. In fact, I’ve felt they have a lot in common.  He is patient, forgiving, caring, smart, strong, and capable of loving unconditionally.  He stood up to Jamie and earned his respect. That fact alone tells you that Roger is a man worth admiration and respect.

Then there’s Brianna… she tends to inspire a variety of fan responses.   Some fans love her and some hate her.

I’ve always felt that Claire and Jamie were pretty easy to figure out.  It isn’t hard to understand what motivates them.  Claire is a kind woman who cares about the people around her.  Jamie does the best he can with the gifts and people he believes God has entrusted him. I’ve come to see their daughter as a bit harder to figure out.  I’ve come to see her as complex.

I once had a conversation with some fans where I mentioned the fact that Brianna was probably more difficult to write because of her being inserted into the story as a baby. Diana had to start from scratch! Add to the difficulty of creating a persona for an already established character, the fact that she is the child of two very strong and well-loved characters and you get fan expectations. In fact, one of the fans I was discussing Brianna with said she believed “Diana got lazy with Brianna’s character. Just because she was hard to write doesn’t give her permission to do a poor job.”  SAY WHAT?!

Further questioning revealed that this fan didn’t like Brianna as a character. I believe the words she used were selfish and bratty. I can remember at the time feeling a little incensed that someone would call Diana a lazy writer.  I still marvel at how she connects every little detail, every character to the on-going story.  You better remember what she writes because somewhere in one of the eight books those details and characters are going to come into play. Lazy? Have you seen the size of those books? And how many best sellers has she written? And whose books are so full of entertaining characters and plots that they made it a TV series? Lazy? Soooo not buying that one. But, when I was thinking of the casting of Brianna for the show that conversation came back to mind; selfish and bratty. Was she?  If not, then why would someone think that I wondered? Did Diana try to make her difficult to like?

As you probably know, Diana Gabaldon often shares insight into her writing process.  She once said that when she writes she is usually dealing with three types of characters; onions, mushrooms, and nuts.  Claire and Jamie are considered onions, they are multiple-layered and with each new book she gets a chance to add to the layers. Lord John is an example of a mushroom, he just sort of pops up fully formed. Then there are the hard nuts, characters like Brianna who HAVE to be written because they already have a place in the story.

So, I started thinking about how Diana chose to write Brianna. The reader might expect that the daughter of these two characters would be pretty wonderful, perfect in fact. Given how wonderful her parents were it would be reasonable to expect Diana to write a character that reflects the best of their character traits.  But, Diana is pretty good at not giving us the usual and the to be expected in her characters and story.  Brianna should be a character that is a perfect blend of Jamie and Claire…to quote Diana, ” says who?”

I think Diana made Brianna unique.  She IS a great mixture of the two of them, but there is the key word…mixture. Jamie and Claire each brought unique skills and aptitudes and personalities to the moment of Brianna’s conception.  But, like when you mix vanilla, flour, sugar, and eggs together and then bake it you have something entirely new…cake.  Jamie and Claire are some great genetic ingredients, but sometimes just a little too much of one thing and not another can change the taste of the whole thing! And then you still have to have the right temperature and bake it the right amount of time, etc.

So, I believe Diana decided that Brianna would be a product of both nature and nurture just like the rest of us.  The fact that she is a child of the fifties and sixties in America really should impact who she is a person, as does being raised by Frank and then finding out he wasn’t her father. Her mother broke through gender barriers to become a doctor in a time of emerging feminism, that had to have made an impression.  In a way, Bri going back through the stones would have been an even harder adjustment than what her mother experienced.  At least Claire had some understanding of how to be the ” little woman” or what it meant to be submissive to men. I dare say Brianna never saw her mother playing the submissive role.

I’ve heard fans say they don’t like how she treats Roger. What I’ve seen is that she expects to be treated as an equal. She sticks up for herself and her needs. Maybe this is where people get the idea she is selfish and bratty?  But, isn’t that what we say we all want for our daughters, the ability to stand up for themselves? Brianna knows her own worth and expects to be treated as worthy of respect and fair treatment.  Roger, bless his heart, believes she is worthy too!  She isn’t easy, but he’s up for the challenge. It takes a strong man to love a strong woman.

So, what kind of person did Diana decide to create in the character of Brianna. I believe Brianna is the modern woman; she is

confident

loyal

empathetic

in touch with her own needs

not willing to settle

self-sufficient

passionate

stubborn

kind

bold

Yep, the nut didn’t fall far from either tree! Can’t wait to meet her on the screen!

Claire’s birthday!

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#sassenachbday

My Outlander Blog!

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It’s Claire’ s birthday….huh…. What would a birthday celebration for Claire be like? Hmmmm…giving this some thought.  Let me set the scene.

The setting: Gotta be Frasers Ridge in the big house. I’d have them celebrate there because I think that’s where she was happiest.  This is where she built a life and home with her love.

The decorations: I picture the table set with a homespun cloth, candles and a crock full of the posey Jamie has picked from the fall colors found in their woods. No poison ivy this time <g>.

The food: I see the birthday cake is walnut layer with blackberry jam filling. Dinner is a beautiful roast turkey that Brianna shot and samples of the plenty Claire has stored in the pantry. The room is full of the delicious aroma of brewing coffee and the firelight makes the glass whiskey decanter glow.

The guests:  They…

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