... and then rolled back on out of it two weeks later.
Let me preface my first post in over a month with a warning, sensitive topics ahead. And spoilers, this review is chock full of spoilers so if you are contemplating reading or watching Outlander in the future, be warned.
So it has been a quiet month at the newspaper. The kids have been spending their time with various grandmothers and I thought that it might be time to check out this book/TV series that I have heard so much about. While ginger beefcakes are not usually my jam, strong and sassy heroines most certainly are. Quick synopsis:
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
I have spent the last two weeks immersed in the Outlander series, both books and TV show. I found the first book to be intriguing, if uneven. I loved the second book. The third book was a curious experience. I have never started a book with such a level of excitement, only to finish it with such overwhelming apathy. I also read book 3 while watching season 1 of the television show. The storylines are so different (twenty years has passed between Outlander and Voyager) that I don't recommend doing that.
The television series is marvelous. I enjoy everything about it and the long-dormant sociology major in me is intrigued by how this series is crafted in the female gaze. Some of my favorite courses in college were the ones which analyzed popular culture and entertainment. One of my favorite projects was watching several NC-17 movies at the indie theater close to campus and then breaking them down. To this day, I cannot read anything about the movie Kids without feeling disturbed.
However, the TV show took a controversial turn for its two last season 1 episodes with the brutal torture and rape of its main male character, Jamie Fraser. I knew it was coming and I will admit to being intrigued by how they were going to pull it off. I thought I was ready. After all, I
While a master class in acting with an absolutely gut-wrenching performance by Sam Heughan, I shall never watch the Season 1 finale again. By the end of the episode, I was looking for my own Craigh Na Dune stones to get me the hell out of there. I can't help but wonder if that was a goal of the show makers. They took it to a place that I have not seen on television before and it provoked some uncomfortable questions. Was I that disturbed because the victim was male? Or was it because of the ep's graphic nature? Did the show take it too far, could they have gotten their point across with less? Rape should be disturbing. It should not be easily digested by the viewer, whom I don't think would have registered the complete degradation of Jamie without those scenes. But Good Lord, they were hard to view. I might have broken out the highlanders' favorite drink -- in my case, The Engineer's Jack Daniel's Single Barrel -- that night to attempt to erase the images in my head.
What troubles me is that with the intent and carefulness that was very obviously crafted into the last episode is not reflected in the books. As I was devouring everything I could find online about this series, I stumbled across a spoiler that was a game changer for me. Every main character save one in this series is raped at one point or another. Full stop. By this time I was reading the last third of Voyager and that little snippet of what was to come combined with the tediousness and meandering of the book's plot drained what enthusiasm I had left. Let's call a spade a spade. That is sloppy writing. That is hubris.
So I skimmed the last hundred pages of Voyager and then with regret, put the series away. I am regretful because there are so many things about Outlander that I love -- the attention to historical detail, the love story (the ghost of Jamie staring up at Claire through her window in 1945 squeezes my heart), the humor. But the cavalier use of rape as a goto repeated plot point is not something that I am interested in experiencing.
At least I still have the television show. Which is a curious feeling -- when is the last time that an adaption is actually better than its literary source material? I think that is due to the the talent of everyone involved, from the executive producer Ron Moore (he did Battlestar Galactica, natch) to the entire cast, who are all fantastic. I am not sure I will ever be able to watch Tobias Menzies in anything ever again -- except GoT, long live Edmure (he will probably die in the first ep next season). And I am a total Murtagh fan girl.
But because it is my first post in a month and to end on a cheerful note, I will leave you with these. Enjoy!