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…

 

ABOotlander LOVE with Beth Wesson

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Thank you to Abootlanders for including me in your celebration of Love!

AB-Ootlanders

We, the ABOotlanders have been up to something in this fandom since we stuck our noses into it.  It’s about positive energy & intent, support and basic kindness.  We are lucky that so many others are in it with us.

giphy Like ferrets in a ball pit. FUN FUN FUN

Love & Kindness are things we all can use more of and the law of attraction is something we practice so every two weeks in our bubble of the interwebs you will see us celebrating!

Celebrating what you ask? I am so glad you did…we are celebrating Outlander bloggers, podcasters, fans, cast, crew, twitterers…you know people we associate with Outlander that we also associate with the positive energy & kindness.

The people we have enjoyed following & sharing our interwebish experiences with.  We hope you join us and share with us your wonderful experiences in our comments section.

You may recognize our…

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Why that damn EW cover still bothers me…a look at Outlander’s image

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As happens so many times when I sit down to write, the coincidences just keep piling on and I am left trying to make sense of it all.  It started with my pique at Outlander being left off of the Emmy voters radar and then was fueled by some Tweets about reasons for watching or not watching the show, articles that continue to play up the “bodice ripper” label, and the devaluing of women…always the devaluing of women.  I’m not sure I have answers, but I definitely have some concerns and frustrations.

What I’ve been thinking

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Let me start by saying, I understand that there is a lot of good television out there right now and that is a good thing.  In my opinion, cable TV has broken out of the box of standard TV fare and opened up a world of edgy and varied programs that appeal to once marginalized audiences and interests.  Obviously, the market will support their efforts because the ratings and money seems to be flowing in cable TV’s direction.  I understand the competition for awards is complicated by the sheer amount of good TV to watch, but I cannot believe that the performances on Outlander were not worthy of awards.  How anyone could not be moved by the episode “Faith’ and the shows’ treatment of such heartbreaking material is beyond me.

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I can only conclude that they didn’t watch it or that the speculation that Emmy voters tend to give votes for their impression of an entire series over individual performances is true. 

…academy rules insist that voters use tunnel vision when casting their ballots. They are told to base their judgments solely on the handful of episodes that actors, writers and producers submit for consideration. Just as jurors are only supposed to make their decisions without taking events outside the courtroom into account, Emmy voters are supposed to disregard knowledge of a series as a whole….

Nonetheless, Mr. Klein said, “I can’t say that a fondness for the series itself isn’t a factor.”

Ms. Cummings echoed that perspective. “That’s something you’re not supposed to do,” she admitted. “You’re supposed to just vote on specific episodes. But if you’re familiar with it, and you know the work on it is consistent, it’s hard not to think of the entire series itself.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/arts/television/emmy-voters-talk-about-sizing-up-the-nominees.html?_r=0

And, if they tend to vote for series that have a good reputation then Outlander is screwed because I think it has an image problem.  I believe the series is not taken seriously and I think it all has to do with our society’s value of women…

What I think about what others are thinking

So, I’ve been feeling a bit more than bemused by Outlander being ignored by the Emmy voters (even though I know lots of great shows never get awards), but trying to reassure myself that it is just a matter of time because there is a lot of story to tell and more people are jumping on the Outlander bandwagon than just book readers. Lately, I’ve been seeing re tweets of actors, producers, and generally famous people who have gone on record to say they finally watched the show and just wanted to let folks know how great it is!  These tweets are usually couched in a tone of surprise.

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I’m tickled to death that these folks found the series enjoyable.  I love the show and find myself sporting a smug grin when I read of another famous convert because we’ve been telling folks this is a great story all along.  However, upon reflection, I think what we book fans turned series fans have actually been doing is defending the series.  Which brings me back to one of my original points. People are surprised to find they like Outlander and fans feel the need to defend the show because it has an image problem.

Here is just one example that lends some validity to my claim that the perception of Outlander is other than what I believe the show is actually about. I was perusing my Twitter feed when I came across a re tweet of what I presumed to be another celebrity endorsement of the show.

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Neil calls himself an adopted Scot and is a journalist, novelist, radio broadcaster, film-maker and an Editor for the Sunday Herald (busy guy) and professed lover of Horror films. Originally, I skimmed over this re tweet, but then did a double take.  It didn’t seem as positive on second glance and so, I delved a bit further.image

Hmmmm…….

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Now, I’m intrigued and ventured to interact with these folks, but first I had to Google Mills and Boon…yep, as I suspected it’s the UK version of Harlequin…

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Hmmmm….and the “Fifty Shades of Tartan”?…

 

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Admiring my restraint aren’t you?  The key words in this scenario are “Mills and Boon”,  “Fifty Shades of Tartan” and marketing.  The perception that the show is Harlequin style women’s porn “guff” persists.  Here are just a few of the articles I found when I Googled Outlander, bodice ripper, and kilt.

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/06/spanking_on_outlander_the_outrage_and_the_turn_on_of_the_bodice_ripper_tradition/

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2014/07/starz-outlander-more-than-a-bodice-ripper

http://decider.com/2015/03/28/10-sexy-bodice-rippers/

http://time.com/3089580/outlander-recap-episode-1/

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-37467296

The label is consistently and extensively used and a lot of these articles are defending the show too! Why?

Why I think people think what they think

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Mr. Mackay isn’t the first person to be surprised at the show’s actual content.  I’m thinking of a particular TV critic who was angry the show had serious themes because that wasn’t what she was “led” to believe the show was about! Neil said he got his ideas about the show from marketing and talking about marketing always brings me back to that EW cover.  Last season, this campaign aimed to bring new viewers to the fold and take advantage of a huge and enthusiastic fan-base to sell magazines by playing up the sex and romance in the show. Because, …what else could women possibly be interested in?  If you finished watching season 2 you know just how ironic the hoopla over this cover was.

If this was the marketing Mr. Mackay and Ms. Kane saw for the show then  I’m pretty sure the jump to Boon and Mills and “Fifty Shades of Tartan” wasn’t too strenuous a leap.  I remember when I first saw trailers and teases for the show begin to appear on my TV.  In my excitement, I failed to notice what my husband did, “They are selling sex”.  I took a look with new eyes and found it hard to deny there was a focus on flesh and romance in these clips.

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The were selling sex and the perception that this show is only about sex persists because there has been little done to counteract this impression.  This marketing choice coupled with the persistent referral to the show as a “bodice ripper’ is obviously making an impression.

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So, despite being brave enough to sink money into a program with a female protagonist and KNOWING that the plot was certainly more than a formulaic Harlequin romance ( I don’t have a thing against romances and will explain) Starz chose to use/allow these tired marketing ploys based on gender stereotypes despite research showing that their use may even turn women and (Emmy voters) away from viewing the show.

Megan Walsh, in an article for Romper, wondered if there wasn’t a  connection to the shows perceived image and the lack of attention the show was given by voters.

It could also be that Outlander is considered a genre show with a focus on romance and time travel that has had some people (stupidly) dismissing it as nothing more than a chick show (as if that’s a bad thing to be)….

Is it all to do with the network it comes from? Or could it be that the show has such an intensely female point of view that it has alienated the voters? If that’s the reason, it’s a dumb one, and it’s also even more proof that Outlander should be earning heaps of awards.   https://www.romper.com/p/why-didnt-outlander-get-emmy-nomination-it-deserves-the-accolades-14308I

I agree.  If the reason the show is considered less worthy is because it is something women would be interested in, a “chick show”,  then it’s a dumb and …insulting reason.

Why I’m concerned and frustrated

Maybe it’s this election and all of the subtle and not so subtle focus on toxic patriarchy , Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright telling me I have to vote for Hillary because she is a woman or they’ll wish me to hell, people criticizing Hillary for her laugh, her smile, her pantsuits and Donald Trump evidently getting a pass from his supporters for continually disrespecting women, that has caused me to look a little deeper at the issues of how women are valued and what it means to be a feminist.

I’m sure you are wondering what the hell does the election and feminism have to do with Outlander and where in the hell am I going with this?

I hope somewhere that makes sense.

Why should how Outlander is marketed and the perceived value of “Chick Flicks” or “Chick Lit” matter in the big scheme of stuff that matters? Because, how women are portrayed impacts our beliefs about women and their place in the world. I happen to feel that Hollywood has some ethical obligation to portray women as real people and not caricatures.

…a Strong Female Character. There are plenty of them in movies. But think of what comes to mind as traits for a woman being badass: loud, assertive, rides a motorcycle, maybe really good at martial arts. And yes that woman does sound badass. But we pretty much never explore the idea of strong female characters that save the world by being feminine, empathetic, and caring.  https://medium.com/@sailorhg/coding-like-a-girl-595b90791cce#.azsjq079h

I’m frustrated because I think Outlander does an excellent job of portraying women as real thinking feeling human beings. Outlander’s main character Claire is a principled and kind woman worthy of admiration. Claire is a badass who moves through the world “being feminine, empathetic, and caring” and sexually confident.

Let me say again, I have nothing against romance novels or romantic movies.  Like most things in life there are good and poor examples.  I’ve watched and read my share over the years. There is nothing wrong in the themes women enjoy watching or reading.  But, for some reason, a film or book with female-centric themes or romance makes them less worthy of critical acclaim and worth and this sends a message to the world about the worth of women.

Sex in the television costume drama is suspicious because it explicitly appeals to women (largely straight women, but 2002’s Tipping the Velvet and last year’sLife in Squares are rare exceptions) and is seen as bringing often high-brow source material too close to the lowbrow romance novel. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/arts/television/emmy-voters-talk-about-sizing-up-the-nominees.html?_r=1

While I certainly don’t agree with the article quoted above’s assertion that Outlander is to be counted among the low brow because the show is ,”laser focused as it is on the muscled male body”, I did agree that”Outlander, which has been praised for its “handling of on-screen sex,” had to prove itself a serious drama and not simply a “sexual fantasy.” and that when talking about costume dramas it has ” always been a problem with the genre—female fandom is seen to threaten its seriousness”.

Why can’t women be all things? Why must I apologize for liking movies that feature relationships and nurturing?  Why must female characters be skewed male to be considered worthy of any value?  Why do books and films written by males get more critical acclaim even when he is writing about the same themes as women writers?  Why can’t a woman character reflect who women where at the time she inhabits without it being considered an attack on feminist advancement and women’s identity? Why can’t a woman like sex?

Literary critics and establishments have long believed that bodice rippers were …

…manufactured to engage the lurid fantasies of frustrated housewives. Often, their authors suffer public disdain, viewed as the sordid peddlers of a mysterious and unfortunate contraband – female desire…

and not very feminist and yet, …

…The very contradiction at the heart of romance fiction is a lesson: within feminism lies the permission, even the imperative, to enjoy, even if the fantasies you enjoy are not very feminist. https://aeon.co/essays/can-you-enjoy-romance-fiction-and-be-a-feminist

One of the most frustrating things for me when it comes to the perceived identity of Outlander as a “bodice ripper” is  that those folks who aren’t tuning in because they believe it is just women’s “guff” are missing out on a show that is progressive in it’s story-telling and portrayal of women when compared to most women characters on film.

Outlander’s women talk about things other than men

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Over twenty years ago,  Alison Bechdel  penned a cartoon about two women discussing going to the movies.  One woman told the other she had three rules for attending movies;

  1. It had to have at least two women
  2. they had to talk to each other
  3. about something other than men

This cartoon has famously resulted in the “Bechdel test” for how women are portrayed in film and has become a standard by which feminist critics judge TV, movies, books.  An article on fivethirtyeight.com looked at Hollywood’s portrayal of women and cites research that found in, ” 1,794 movies released from 1970 to 2013, we found that only half had at least one scene in which women talked to each other about something other than a man.” http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-dollar-and-cents-case-against-hollywoods-exclusion-of-women/

Outlander  meets the Bechdel test and then some. What those who dismiss Outlander as unworthy of their time are missing are women who are strong characters who deal with the big issues in life that we all deal with love, loss, finding purpose, making tough choices, living with the consequences, and forgiveness. Mr. Mackay was a bit startled by some of the themes the show wasn’t afraid to tackle.  Let me reassure him that the show takes its time showing the aftermath  of such trauma and allows the characters to work through it.  They are telling more than a formulaic love story. It is well acted, directed and produced, a virtual feast for the eyes and ears. I shouldn’t have to defend this show or apologize for enjoying it even IF it is considered a “chick” show because it’s themes are not less important than a show featuring a male protagonist.

I’m sure you have heard that Lionsgate has purchased Starz and Outlander was a big part of that pitch.  I’m not under the impression that Hollywood is not in the business of making money, but I believe that some of the long held beliefs about marketing films about and for women need to be challenged.  Statistics show that women make 80% of the purchasing decisions in America and that they are becoming more discriminating. There is no money to be lost and a lot of money to be gained if Lionsgate gets it right.  I’m hoping that PR for season 3 of Outlander will look a lot different than the stereotypical pandering of last seasons’ EW spread.  Outlander is genre bending which may contribute to the confusion over its identity, but it deserves a better more honestly reflective image than “Fifty Shades of Tartan”.

P.S.  My Friend @Janeanned thinks I’m psychic because this was just posted on Twitter.

http://www.ew.com/article/2016/09/29/outlander-season-3-sam-heughan-cover

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Haven’t read the article yet of course, but loving the headlines and pic so far! 

Spoilers: They tried to live without their hearts…Jamie and Claire the years apart

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imageAfter hearing the distressing noise, Lord John approaches the door thinking of perhaps going into the room to see if Jamie is alright.  He hears heavy breathing and realizes that Jamie has awakened from a bad dream. He overhears the big Scot talking to his lost wife, “Could I but lay my head in your lap, lass. Feel your hand on me, and sleep wi’ the scent of you in my bed”.  John knows he shouldn’t be hearing this extremely private conversation and tries to back away quietly. Before he gets away he hears Jamie sob and then whisper, his voice full of longing and pain, “Christ Sassenach, I need ye”.

Cue me, ragged intake of breath and leaky eyes.

I’ve been rereading The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon, my favorite of the Lord John books.  Last night, I reached the scene where Lord John Grey hears Jamie cry out as if he was having a nightmare. This is one of those scenes that causes me to take an involuntary sob. The characters have become so real to me that I feel invested in their lives and experience moments of crippling compassion when I read of their moments of distress or pain.  I feel what John feels and what Jamie feels and have to put the book down and take a moment to recover, laugh at my silliness, and curse and simultaneously love Diana for writing books and characters that can move me this much.  I’ve often wondered if Diana feels the kind of empathy I do when she writes. Does she have to take a break and recover, does she smile through her tears at the beauty of these poignant moments she has written?

Diana has written many moving scenes in her novels, but this particular scene gets me every. single. time.  I’m curious as to why this scene, in particular, makes me so…so…verklempt! Reading that scene and “overhearing” Jamie’s private moment with his vanished wife makes me feel like I’m right beside Lord John trying desperately to get away from that door. Like Lord John, I want to go into that room and offer Jamie comfort, but I know there is nothing I can offer that would comfort him.  With that realization, we can now think of nothing worse than Jamie knowing his private pain and moment of grieving was overheard and we are quietly careful as we move down the hall.

Loved Diana’s metaphor of John missing a step and coming down hard as he escapes detection. Hearing Jamie longing for his dead wife brought John back down to Earth hard. The heart wants what it wants, but John is a realist and no fool.  He knows this man will never be his. This man will never be his because his heart belongs to a woman and a ghost at that.

It’s Claire’s ghost that I find myself thinking about this morning and Jamie’s as well, the ghosts of their lost love. I think this scene affects me so much because it is one of those rare moments when we get to see what Jamie is thinking and feeling.  We can guess how lonely he has been without Claire, but this overheard private moment confirms it.  He is trying to live without his heart and having a tough time of it. He needs her. Time hasn’t cured this. A decade separates him from that moment on Craig Na Dun and yet, his need of her hasn’t lessened.  His grief feels raw to me.

I’ve also been thinking this morning about the print shop and how the TV series is going to get us there.  I know there has been some speculation because people can’t wait to see our couple back together.  They want to get to the “good stuff”.  I understand that is “good stuff” and I would love to see them stay as faithful to that scene in the book as possible, but the show has to think about viewers other than book fans. I am reminded of an article I read about adaptations and good story-telling.

…Going from a derivative work to its source, people tend to expect fidelity less than when they start with the original, then move to the adaptation…When I read the book first, I go to the movie expecting to see a strict translation of what I saw onto the screen, even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…

http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2012/03/22/149145605/what-fans-will-love-and-what-they-might-not-in-the-hunger-games

“…even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…”, the truth is those moments at the print shop need to be earned.  They need the context of knowing what has come before.  It will not be enough to segue way from Claire’s realizing Jamie might still be alive to her going back through the stones. Viewers will need to know what life was like in the in-between.  And, whether we want to admit it or not, we book readers will too.  Those moments at the print shop are meaningful and moving because of what happened in those twenty years apart and who Jamie and Claire were without their hearts.  They are starved for each other’s company and face the despair of knowing they will never again have the kind of mutual love they shared. They long for each other and when I read of their longing my heart aches for them.

Too many of us can relate to their need to go on living despite devastating loss.  In Claire’s case, she pushes forward for Bree and Jamie for Fergus, William, Jenny, Ian, and their children. They go on…they exist.  Diana lets the reader see that our beloved couple are never far from each other’s thoughts. She paints us a picture of two people who truly aren’t complete without the other.  Diana chose to tell Voyager in a mixture of present day with flashbacks to the past that slowly builds the suspense and intensity of emotion.  The search for evidence of Jamie’s survival is then followed by the reality of the Dun Bonnet’s real story and we see the names on the Ardsmuir roll sheet in the flesh.  We get glimpses of the deprived and lonely existence Jamie led.  We are then transported to the inner workings of Claire’s marriage of convenience.

We will need to see what life was like for Claire. I know this isn’t a popular idea for many fans because it means more Frank.  But, to ignore what life was like for Claire would not serve the story well and lessen the impact and meaning of the print shop reunion. These glimpses of life with Frank are sprinkled throughout the story, but it makes sense to me that the show will need to rearrange things and tell the story more chronologically. What was life like for Claire?  She made a promise and I believe truly tried to make it work with Frank.  She did love him, but what ever she feels for Frank pales in comparison to what she feels for Jamie. Frank believes they can make it work. He needs to make it work because he loves her, but her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s.  As a result, what started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted convoluted mess.

One of the few looks Diana affords us of Claire’s life with Frank comes from her remembrance of the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do? What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?  When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.

.Outlander Season 3

I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

“...he looked like Bree, didn’t he?  He was like her?”

“Yes.”

He breathed heavily, almost a snort.

“I could see it in your face– when you’d look at her, I could see you thinking of him.  damn you Claire Beauchamp, ” he said, very softly.  “damn you and your face that can’t hide a thing you think or feel.”

“…I did love you, ” I said, softly, at last. “Once.”

They go on to discuss why he didn’t leave and Frank wonders out loud,

“...but you couldn’t see her (Bree) without thinking of him, could you?  Without that constant memory, I wonder__ would you have forgotten him, in time?”

“No.”….

Diana Gabaldon Voyager

The last straw had been reached for Frank, but it also served to let us see how impossible it has been for Claire to love anyone but Jamie and to live without him.  The show foreshadowed this with Breanna’s comments about her mother living in another world. She is present physically, but she left her heart in another time, another place. She is living a life she no longer wants, but tries for Bree’s sake.

The story will be best served by the show showing us how empty and difficult their lives were without the other. So, when the ‘voyage’ finally leads us back to the print shop, as viewers, we will be entirely invested in the reunion of these two lost souls.

The reuniting of these two characters gives birth to some of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever read. Claire’s trip to the printer’s shop is full of those scenes.  Her nervous look at her reflection in the shop window, his fainting dead away at her sudden appearance, their holding each other both trembling with,”…longing of twenty years streaming down our faces”.  They touch each other’s features in wonder. I believe I could barely breathe when I read this scene.  The intensity of their need of each other was palpable.  Not the intensity of lust, but of need. And the scene where Claire shows Jamie Bree’s pictures?  My favorite. When he turns and ‘falls to pieces” in her arms, I couldn’t help but think he had been needing to fall apart for twenty years, but her arms were the only place he could do that…be himself…without fear. And for Claire, loving and being loved by Jamie was like  “the turn of a great key, each small turn setting into play the intricate fall of tumblers within me.”

Lord knows, the sailing will never be smooth for these two, but at last they will be together and nothing else will matter.

“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”.  And she replies, “ It was lonely without you, ” I whispered,” so lonely.”

Yeah,…we need to see the years without their hearts.

 

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)

 

 

Fandom Shaming Needs to GO #RespectTheFandoms — The Word Peddler

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LOVED THE THOUGHTS EXPRESSED HERE AND WANTED TO SHARE!

I have no idea what a Magmar is, other than the word kinda looks like Ragnar. Which makes me think of Ragnar Lothbrok…which makes me wonder when the new season of Viking starts. I don’t know because it isn’t my fandom. And I’m okay with that. Some people, however…aren’t. My kids like Pokemon Go. They […]

via Fandom Shaming Needs to GO #RespectTheFandoms — The Word Peddler