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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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…

 

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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Everybody was as uncomfortable as shite…Outlander 2.2

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It’s Sunday morning and I’ve just finished watching Outlander episode 2.2  “Not in Scotland Anymore” for the third time.  In the past , I’ve found that it takes me three viewings to be able to just watch the episode for what it is.  This season has been no different. The first time I watch, I find my knowledge of the book interferes with my enjoyment. The second time I watch, I’m looking at the episode with a critics’ eye. I watch the third time with my husband who has never read the books. I note when and why he reacts to what is happening on the screen and grudgingly answer his questions (can the man just not read the books already).

MY FIRST VIEWING

After my first viewing, I found myself not being sure I liked the episode.  Good Lord, I thought, they put half the book in one episode!  It was disorienting and felt choppy to me. I felt that the scenes lacked the impact of the scenes I read in Diana Gabaldon’s book.  The scene that was most drastically altered for me was meeting Alex Randall and the news that his brother Black Jack was alive.  Ron and crew warned us that this book was much more complicated and therefore more difficult to adapt. Adapt they did.

I also had a  question answered for me in this first episode.  When pictures of costumes and sets were leaked there was quite some disagreement as to how that would affect fans’ enjoyment of the show.  Terry Dresbach, expressed her disappointment and tried to explain why she felt it was best to wait to see the costumes in the context of the story, as designed and  intended. She has since backed off..a bit..from that belief, after being impressed by Starz PR campaign using the red dress.  Many fans, starved for news about the new season, proclaimed that seeing they costumes only heightened their excitement and they felt seeing the costumes ahead of time would not affect their enjoyment of the show. I wasn’t so sure. I wondered how seeing these images early would affect my viewing.  Would I still be able to suspend my disbelief and become immersed in the story?

There was absolutely no way to avoid seeing images of the sets or costumes if you were on social media. I began to wonder if there would be anything we hadn’t seen before the season started! But, surely, I proclaimed they wouldn’t release the image of the red dress whose reveal was an important moment.  Jamie’s reaction was one of the funniest and most endearing moments in the book. So, color me surprised when I saw that red creation painted across magazine layouts and even the side of a building.  It was a striking image to be sure and even caught my daughter’s attention  who has never shown any interest in reading the books or watching the show. So, I’m sure there was some PR savvy employed in deciding to use that image to catch potential viewers’ attention, but I have to say, in this one instance, my enjoyment was diminished.  The big reveal moment was ruined for me.  I needed to be as surprised as Jamie.

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This dress needed to be seen for the first time in the context of the show.  It felt anticlimactic and that is a shame because it was filmed beautifully.

MY SECOND VIEWING 

The second viewing had me looking at how the story had been adapted.  I felt more charitable about the flow and could totally see how most of the changes were going to work.  Except, for Claire  knowing that Jack Randall lives.  As book readers know, the moment that both Jamie and Claire come face to face with BJR was full of suspense and foreboding.  However, I have learned to be a bit more patient and to give the writers the benefit of a doubt.  They always seemed to bring the story around to where it needs to go and develop the characters to reflect the people I knew from the books.

I was able to appreciate the wonderful creativity of the costumes, sets, and filming.  It was more than believable.  I can imagine myself watching this over and over again just to see what wonderful images and details I missed the first 10 times through.  It truly was a feast for the eyes.  But, beautiful sets, costumes and scenery aren’t enough if the story isn’t as beautiful or worthy of its setting.

MY THIRD VIEWING

I have no real idea why, but three truly is the magic number for me, LOL!  After a good night’s sleep, a couple of cups of coffee, and some “parritch” (thanks Jamie), I was ready to watch this thing for real.  The theme that stood out for me was the one I think they intended.  They weren’t in Scotland anymore!  It might as well have been Oz because everyone in our trio definitely felt themselves to be outlanders and some of the creatures they met as were as odd and different as a cowardly lion, tin man, and scarecrow. Everybody was uncomfortable as shite!

JAMIE

Poor Jamie.  Thank you to Ron and the writers for continuing to allow Jamie to deal with his trauma.  It goes a long way in making up for what was the short-changing in “somebody has to go into the darkness” I felt in the last episode of season 1.  In true Jamie fashion, he accepts his reality and keeps putting a foot forward.  Can’t we all relate to the idea that we can’t stop thinking or rethinking some traumatizing issue.  It’s tough to get things “out of our head”.  This is a problem Jamie cannot solve with a sword or charm  or wit.  Like all victims of such violence, he can only accept it and find a way to live the best he can.  His higher purpose of trying to save Scotland helps, he has something to concentrate on besides himself. I loved his lighter uncomfortable moments as well.  We were ready for some comic relief!  His reaction to his former flame, the foot kissing suitor, and the King’s not so personal personal issues were amusing and helped set the story and his place in it.

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CLAIRE

Poor Claire. Her ability as a healer has to be chaffing a bit.  She has helped Jamie heal physically, but we see her struggle to help him mentally.  How difficult it is for us to see a love one suffer and not know how to help.  My heart breaks for her and Jamie as it was made obvious that Black Jack is part off an unwanted ménage a’ trois .  I felt her concern and fear.  Her efforts to entice Jamie to her bed with a waxed honey pot was endearing and sad.

Claire’s discomfiture with the role she now finds herself in is so fitting with who she is as a person.  The fussiness and general restrictive situation must feel like a prison to a woman who sees herself as an equal to any man.  You just know the incident with the poxed ship won’t be the last time her modern sensibilities will get them in trouble.

Loved her lighter moments as well.  Claire and Mary watching the “waxing” was hilarious and her interaction with Master Raymond charming ( Good Lord! that , his vest, the shoppee, the music and the wonderful ladders…loved it!)

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MURTAUGH

I know it won’t serve the story, but I’m about to join the “Save Murtaugh” campaign!  of all of the characters Murtaugh’s uncomfortableness was the most acute and the most entertaining. Some great quotable one-liners that I’m sure @ConnieBV will soon turn into entertaining gifs.

“assholes and armpits”  “lard bucket and big head” “only in France does the King need an audience to shit”

The fleshing out of his characters has been one of the best things the adaptation has done.  His “sunny disposition” and loyalty to Jamie and Claire is an absolute delight!

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The characters in this story aren’t the only ones who are feeling uncomfortable as shite. The politics are staring to feel dangerous already.  If Murtaugh doesn’t slit Prince Charlie’s throat, I think I just might.  Love how he is being portrayed.  The Duke of Sandringham is a piece of work and I want to kick his cowardly lion ass!  It was crazy being at the King’s levee and swan nipple jewelry?  (cringing)

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Overall, I felt it was an episode that intended to set the scene and introduce us to the players. The costumes and sets served the story and characters well and the story was worthy.  I’m intrigued with how the writers will be moving the story forward and look forward to next week’s installment of life in Paris and Versailles.  Vive Les Frasers!

 

 

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.