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Kilts, Sex, and Violence
August 3, 2014 6:59 PM   Subscribe

The first episode of the TV series Outlander -- brought to us by Star Trek writer and Battlestar Galactica producer Ronald D. Moore -- has been made available by Starz online, with the official premiere set for next Saturday. Outlander, based on a series of historical fiction/romance books by author Diana Gabaldon, has built up a massive fanbase over the last 20 years, due in large part to its well-developed main character Claire, the explicit but emotional (and occasionally entertaining) sex scenes, extensive historical research and detail, and romantic chemistry between the two main characters. Between the devoted fans and the historical/quasi-scifi/fantasy components to the story, many are already comparing it to the Game of Thrones TV phenomenon. But will it be as successful (some spoilers), given that the current fanbase is predominantly female? Is Starz making books that used to be filed under "Romance" in bookstores into something too Fifty Shades of Grey for a wider audience to enjoy? Is the marketing of the show and the GoT-like recipe for success at odds with the author's stance on fanfiction based on her work? And most importantly, should fans of the books just STFU so everyone else can enjoy it? [Note that fans of the books may not want to STFU in this thread, so book and first episode spoilers may abound]

A general intro for newbies (spoilers for the first episode).

Previously, regarding the author's controversial attitude toward fanfiction based on her characters.

Special thanks to oh, yeah! for assistance with the FPP!
posted by olinerd (126 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh, can someone tell me real quick if this is worth reading for someone who isn't a romance fan? I generally like to dive into books before I watch the movie/show.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:05 PM on August 3


huh, so two periods for the price of one TV romance-drama-timetravel combo? is this unique or a whole subgenre?
posted by Bwithh at 7:06 PM on August 3


An obscure cable channel can afford to appeal to a niche audience. There are a lot of women out there; making a show that appeals to them but not to men isn't necessarily a losing strategy.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:07 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die, I absolutely think it is. There's a damn lot of sex and the story is fundamentally about Jamie and Claire's relationship, but the author is hardcore about her historical research and it's a great (historical fiction genre) read about Jacobite history and the period of the Second Rising in Scotland. The author also does a good job of turning the stereotypical romance genre tropes on their heads from time to time. I do not enjoy romance as a genre, but I love these books. I'd give the first one a shot and see how you go.
posted by olinerd at 7:08 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Stop ... stop giving Ron Moore shows. They just gave him Helix and that was kind of a train wreck.

I hope the presence of an original author can fix his tendencies.
posted by kafziel at 7:09 PM on August 3 [6 favorites]


I was just about to watch the episode. Again. For the third time.

I was also lurking in the Compuserve forum where the author holds court just so I could share enthusiasm with some of the other long-term fans, so I'm really happy to see this posted to the blue.

The eighth and most recent book in the series surprised me this past June by being a really good read, up there with the first three books in the series (not that the rest of the books aren't enjoyable, but they do kind of go on and on about war stuff when I'd prefer they go on and on about food or herbs or comedy-of-manners 18th century vs. 20th century stuff). The sex is not terribly cringeworthy. It is one of my favourite book series. I have been hoping to see a movie since, like, the 90s, but unlike most raging fans, I didn't have a dream cast. I couldn't figure out who they'd cast for the two leads that could possibly express the nuance of the characters after 20-odd years and so many pages.

Not to mention the fact that most of the series takes place after the leads are in their late 40s into their 60s. Really, these books turn a lot of things upside down.

BUT. I stayed up late, downloaded the episode to my tablet, and watched with great enjoyment. Amazing cast. AMAZING. Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe are excellent opposite each other. Sam Heughan is just really well done as Jamie. It was so much fun seeing the first part of the first book come to life. Everything is through Claire's eyes in the first book and Balfe carries the weight of this marvelously well.

I'm really looking forward to the next episode.
posted by annathea at 7:11 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Drinky Die, if you do read them, be warned that some of the later books are VERY racist. Not like period-appropriate character racism, racist descriptions by the author. I have read all the books and basically enjoyed them, but the author has very problematic attitudes. There is also a LOT of rape. A LOT.
posted by leesh at 7:11 PM on August 3 [6 favorites]


To chime in with leesh, the first book has a scene that I still find entirely problematic and basically have to pretend doesn't exist in order to read on. So yes, in addition to some problematic racism, there is also problematic misogyny. When I first read I hoped the author was using those scenes to illustrate the issues in both the time periods (18th century and post-WWII Britain) but as the series continues, it seems not...
posted by annathea at 7:14 PM on August 3


Huh, can someone tell me real quick if this is worth reading for someone who isn't a romance fan?

If you are ok with lots and lots of that romance thing where she likes him and he likes her, but for Reasons neither will admit to it and so many chapters of Complications ensue, then it's an ok book (though as noted later books bring in the problematic).
posted by Dip Flash at 7:16 PM on August 3


If I recall most bookstores shelve this under fiction. It is respectable Romance as opposed to the delightfully trashy Harliquin romance books. This sort of fiction isn't my thing, but I can hope that they go full trash and make a mini-series out of something like Truly, Madly, Viking.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:18 PM on August 3


I read the book about a dozen years ago at the behest of a romance novel loving ex-girlfriend. And, yeah, even she mentioned "that one scene" before I read it.

She still loved all the books. It'll be interesting to see if it lights up The Internet the same way the recent GoT rape scene did.

It's not a terrible book for what it's trying to be, though.
posted by Cyrano at 7:22 PM on August 3


one time i was on a first date with a hot lady and she suggested we go to this scottish-themed bar and she was like "ha ha, yeah, since reading Outlander i've kinda had a thing for scottish stuff" and i was like "you know i'm ethnically scottish, right? and wear kilts and stuff?" and her face lit up like i'd just shown proof of Fermat's Last Theorem

i guess this doesnt have anything to do with this show but it was a pretty sexual moment in my life, thank you for listening metafilter
posted by Greg Nog at 7:23 PM on August 3 [43 favorites]


Did you wear the kilt.. you know... later?
posted by Justinian at 7:29 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


We should add homophobia to the list of things the author is a bit weird about -- even though she devotes an entire spin-off series to a gay character that she claims is one of her favorites, it's uncomfortable reading Claire, etc's reactions to him throughout the book.

And I'm actually a big fan of Ron Moore's work (LOVED BSG, and I'm a huge Trekkie) so I'm hoping he brings a tempering voice to these characters' on-screen interpretations.

Yeah, there's going to be all sorts of rape, etc for the internet to discuss in this first season. It will be very, very interesting to see how the conversation goes, particularly the end-of-book/season rape in comparison to the GoT stuff. I imagine this will have much to do with the demographics of the audience by then and how much that affects double standards.
posted by olinerd at 7:30 PM on August 3


I expect this to be utterly terrible. Does anyone think it won't be?
posted by Justinian at 7:31 PM on August 3


I expect this to be utterly terrible. Does anyone think it won't be?

Well... me, for one. Can you maybe explain WHY you think it will be terrible rather than just dropping that line without explanation?
posted by olinerd at 7:32 PM on August 3


I hope they cut that scene from the show (if we're all talking about the same one?). It really soured me on the book and I never made it much further in, despite being a sucker for decent historical romances. I'm sure the guaranteed controversy will be enough to make them film it, though.
posted by sonmi at 7:36 PM on August 3


I think mostly the characters are homophobic, rather than the author, but I also think that's evolved from the first two books (in which homosexual rape features prominently and leaves shockwaves through the rest of the series). The problem is mostly that there's one "good" gay character and several villainous ones.

..ok, so the author is clearly homophobic.
posted by annathea at 7:37 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


I'll just leave this here: Why Women Are So Hot for Highlanders Right Now

(Kilts, okay? Kilts. Some other stuff too. BUT KILTS. Oh yes.)

I'm not a genre reader for the most part (I'm not really a reader anymore, sigh; if it's not online and easily interruptible - because I am always interrupted - then I can't manage it) but Outlander is quite well done for what it is. That first book - I didn't put it down until I finished it four days later. Later books, not so much... but I have appreciated - despite the things I do not like (rape, racism, homophobia) - how the author subverted a lot of common romance tropes (the male love interest is younger than the woman; he's the virgin, not her; the love story continues into middle age and the sex doesn't stop, etc.).

And I am trying to watch this episode right now but have run smack up against the US-only thing so... oh wait I have an IT dude in the house and you better believe he is on it because I have to check this out.
posted by flex at 7:41 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Stop ... stop giving Ron Moore shows. They just gave him Helix and that was kind of a train wreck.

I was excited about that show and then didn't make it past the first episode.
posted by octothorpe at 7:42 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I just saw the trailer for this before "Guardians of the Galaxy" earlier this afternoon. I had never heard of the books or this adaptation. The one thing that spring to mind when I saw it was "Arthur the King", which also starts off in modern day and has the lead female character fall back in time after mucking about Stonehenge and touching the stones. There's a lesson in here.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:44 PM on August 3


By the time I finished reading Outlander I was basically hate-reading it. I really wanted to like it, but there was so much stuff that just plain made no sense to me, even before the Evil Gay Rapist stuff.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:45 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


As a full-time romance writer, I notice that Gabaldon has basically cornered the Amazon market for time travel fiction. But she's also led to Highlands stuff being one of the biggest thematic trends in romance (and, by extension, *all of fiction* ... it's hard to overstate the size of the romance market!).

The result of this trend has been a lot of real garbage by people who have done very little research and even less basic thinking about what it must be like to be someone who lived a long time ago. But it has also resulted in one example of genius, in the form of one title.

No, not the book, the title itself:

Rogue With a Brogue.

When my company saw it on Amazon's bestseller list, we couldn't stop laughing for days--and making up our own rhyming historicals.

Man in Sudan
Guy With a Pie (and its sequel, Rake with a Cake)
Bloke With Some Coke...
posted by HowardLuckGossage at 7:46 PM on August 3 [18 favorites]


Manor Lord with an Ironing Board
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:48 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Built with a kilt.

flex: I'll just leave this here: Why Women Are So Hot for Highlanders Right Now

(Kilts, okay? Kilts. Some other stuff too. BUT KILTS. Oh yes.)


Having been completely busted checking out a kilt-wearing guy's legs on the bus, additional confirmation it's the kilt. (Of course, none of this hurt: salt & pepper hair, brilliant smile, fabulous legs. Sweet jeebus.)
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:54 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Well... me, for one. Can you maybe explain WHY you think it will be terrible rather than just dropping that line without explanation?

Let us count the ways!

1) It's on STARZ. Shows on STARZ range from terrible to cheesy cheese fun. Since I don't think this is going for cheesy cheese fun that doesn't bode well.
2) It's written by Ron Moore. BSG had some truly spectacular early episodes but it completely fell apart and turned into a garbled nonsensical mess.
3) The lead appears to be a model of some sort rather than an actress? She could obviously surprise me but Game of Thrones, to which this has been compared, mostly cast excellent actors. The kids were an exception obviously where they cast unknowns (since they were kids). But Caitriona Balfe is not a kid.
posted by Justinian at 7:59 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


But will it be as successful (some spoilers), given that the current fanbase is predominantly female?

Probably not. There are not that many women out there, I think.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:59 PM on August 3 [12 favorites]


Outlander is kind of ehhhh. The Lord John stories, offshoots of the Outlander series, are where it's at. Although if I recall correctly the first few of both series are not the best.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:03 PM on August 3


Starz seems like a good network for it, given that the novels themselves lend themselves to the kind of quality that Spartacus or The White Queen had (by which I mean: porny "historical" fun, high on the scenery chewing and lower in depth). I predict that it will be super fun, and then Ron Moore will ruin its ending.
posted by TwoStride at 8:21 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Outlander the book has the dubious distinction of being the very first book that I could not finish out of sheer rage. I fully admit to not being conversant with a lot of the romance tropes (ones that, now that I'm more familiar with the genre, I realize were being employed), but the rape played as evidence of romantic fervor was so disgusting that I couldn't continue. (Not to mention the racism and gay panic!)

BUT, it's Ron Moore. And I am a TNG and BSG devotee, and so I find myself in the uncomfortable position of wanting to give Outlander my eyeballs on the off-chance that the gem of a set-up can be spun out by someone who isn't Diana Gabaldon. Did anyone else hate the book but like the series thus far?
posted by minervous at 8:28 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


It isn't the first television series based on a romantic historical fiction novel called Outlander.
posted by sfenders at 8:31 PM on August 3


My daughter introduced me to Outlander. It is infinitely and exponentially better than Game of Thrones!
It's decently researched, and will take over your life!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:32 PM on August 3


I haven't finished reading all of the books, not sure if I've just got one more or two to go of the main series, never read any of the spin-off series.

The series has a strange appeal for me. On the one hand, there's all the racism, homophobia, and misogyny counting against it. But on the other hand… it's like crack-fic. I loved the books, not in a 'so bad it's good' way, or as something to be literarily MST3K'd over. It just drew me in, the way a great utterly batshit AU fanfic can. (Which made it absolutely hilarious to me when Gabaldon posted her whole anti-fanfic diatribe.)
posted by oh yeah! at 8:33 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


You are all wrong wrong wrong about Spartacus but damnit that just made me realize I (or somebody more organized) needs to do the rewatch for Fanfare.
posted by kmz at 8:34 PM on August 3


I really liked this when I read it, but I was kind of young-ish at the time and had fairly low standards for such things and hadn't had much impulse to go back to the newer books or whatever recently. But I caught the preview, too, and I feel like it may end up filling a spot in my life meant for majestic scenery and accents when I can't really stomach GoT. Honestly, it's been so long, but in historical context, I don't really remember a lot of things in the first book being very eyebrow-raising compared to the other stuff I was reading in the 90s. Not a great defense, but I am kind of curious if they'll just adapt it straight or if there'll be any changes made given the intervening time and shifts in sensibilities.
posted by Sequence at 8:35 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I was not a fan of The White Queen, but it's worth noting that that was originally aired on BBC and was sexed up for the US on Starz; it wasn't Starz-produced. So yeah, while I am fairly skeptical of most Starz stuff, it doesn't automatically mean everything they make is crap.

I fall on the pro-Ron Moore side of things, plus he has a storyline to work with here (as opposed to getting high and coming up with the BSG ending last-minute), so I'm optimistic on that front.

The casting was originally very controversial, everything from "Sam Heughan's hair isn't red enough" to "who the hell is this Caitriona Balfe", and actually from the first episode and the scenes I've watched I'm fairly impressed at what she's pulling off so far. (She needs to work on her Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ delivery, though) I've definitely come around on the casting. And Tobias Menzies is fabulous as Frank/Jack Randall.

Regarding the "only women like it" thing -- I threw that in there because the gist seems to be "if it's for women, men won't like it," as opposed to the obnoxious but sadly often valid default assumption in our world that even something aimed at men (like Game of Thrones, arguably) is still likely to appeal to a lot of female fans. It's a hard line to walk with this series, balancing the "Jamie & Claire 4ever" side of things with the truly excellent action and history the books had. I've got my husband agreeing to watch it with me but I'll be interested to see how he feels about it as the series goes on; I felt like the first ep was a little slow in its pacing for a newbie but I think he might warm to the storyline and characters eventually. (FWIW, I was the first BSG and GoT fan in our household, and it took him a while to come around to those)
posted by olinerd at 8:43 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


I have pretty mixed feelings about the books, but liked the first episode. It's beautiful, for one thing. The acting is fine. I liked how they really showed Claire's medical knowledge and skill. The voiceover gets a bit much after a while. Plus there's only one attempted rape! (And one conversation threatening rape.) It's pretty faithful to the opening of the book.
posted by leesh at 8:48 PM on August 3


As a fan of the books, as a fan of Game of Thrones television, and a fan of Game of Thrones books, I feel I can give my opinion on this first episode. This is not going to be a Game of Thrones. They have some good actors but I feel the lead actress is crap and the direction is weak. It's like they chose her on her ability to lean against stuff, smile, and look pensive.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:50 PM on August 3


Huh, can someone tell me real quick if this is worth reading for someone who isn't a romance fan? 

That depends on how much you like rape and violence. Do you find male dominance romantic? I personally got disgusted and had to stop reading.

This encapsulates the portion of the book I read: Outlander, Diana Gabaldon’s Abusive Romance, May Come To TV. It has spoilers (ones I wish I'd read before I read the book). I hear there is a very intense rape scene later.
posted by salvia at 8:54 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the feedback people, I think I'll skip this one.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:18 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I have mostly blocked out Helix from memory. It was a fevered dream, and there is no way anything with that much squandered potential exists. Ever.

Outlander is excellent if you have mentally played the "How would I survive if I went back in time with what I have on me right now - oooh I shall dazzle the peasants with my iphone! but then my battery will die." (This is why I want a solar-powered charger, in case of accidental time travel). Claire and Jamie are great characters and the book treats magic well, as this random, rare and terrifying power that is next to impossible to control and the ramifications of history changes and the Great Man/ordinary lives theories of historical movements, and so on. Claire also experiences the grief of all time traveling in the past - everyone you meet is dead, and because they're Scots in the 18th century, it's probably not going to end well.

The sexual politics are addressed. There's Claire's 1950s-beliefs, the 18th century beliefs which go all over the place - it's complicated.

I gave up at Book Five when I couldn't remember who was who in the minor characters and some people seemed too perfect (I'm looking at you, Lord John!) but I thoroughly enjoyed them and will read them again. Much better characterisation and description than Game of Thrones.

The show is just super pretty and sexy, and they did a much better job casting the main characters than I had thought from seeing the actors in interviews.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:25 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


I just this minute finished watching the first episode. My assessment is that anyone who liked the books will like the show and vice versa, but if you found the books boring or problematic, the show is not for you. As noted it was only slightly rapey (one attempt, one threat); the rather soft-focus sex scenes were not nearly as arousing as the horse riding with soaring music. The voiceover was too much by about the second sentence and was stating obvious things, in contrast to the books which I remember as deliberately manipulating genre expectations and treating the reader as intelligent.

I probably won't keep watching but I am interested how the show handles the much more problematic elements that people have described above. It was written a few years back and within the boundaries of romance; I suspect there will be some adjustments for the show.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:34 PM on August 3


I won't watch GoT so I can't compare or say anything on that front. But I just finished the first episode and I like it. It's quite evocative, pretty to look at, it's doing period (post-WWII) well and it's doing historical well, it's not really high-budget but it's not cheesy either. The acting is fine, the leads all have chemistry, and it's faithful to what I remember of the book. It's a little slow to get going but so was the book - those epic historical-type stories tend to be that way.

My husband is painting floors at the moment but he stopped and watched the last 20 minutes with me and it drew him in (I just asked if he's read any and he said he's started the first one a few times but never gets that far). He definitely got more interested when I said "Ron Moore" but he was really into BSG and I didn't watch any of that either.

It's good enough for me to keep watching. Count me in as another who's curious to see how close it will hew to the books especially in the more problematic stuff. FWIW the issues I remember Outlander having weren't things that were off-the-norm of romances of the time - which is not excusing it, but I do feel like some of the stuff (say, when Jamie belts Claire) is fantasy bullshit equivalent to how Fifty Shades of Grey is not something anyone would actually want happening to them - it is frankly appalling to contemplate in the cold light of day - they just get the naughty tingles reading about it. Obviously that kind of thing does turn some people's cranks, and I could easily explore how it's problematic all day but it's not uncommon in either being provided or happily consumed is all I'm saying.

I would also point out that there is plenty of problematic stuff (sex 'n violence) in more male-focused media that is generally accepted as okay in a way that problematic stuff in women's media isn't so much, and again that's not excusing it, but I'm just saying. And I do think Gabaldon was trying to be somewhat realistic in her historical depictions, which is generally trotted out as acceptable reasoning for extra gore or extra sexualized nastiness in other historical epics - I've heard that about GoT before, that its grimdark is particularly appealing because it's more "realistic". Outlander doesn't strike me as so different.
posted by flex at 9:35 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


I should point out that for those who are interested in watching, we're currently discussing over at Fanfare Talk whether or not we'll need two threads.
posted by olinerd at 9:40 PM on August 3


i guess this doesnt have anything to do with this show but it was a pretty sexual moment in my life, thank you for listening metafilter

What a fun sexy time for you!
posted by en forme de poire at 9:41 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I read all of these when my company was bringing out another time travel romance (Beautiful Wreck! It's got Vikings!), so I'd know the competition. First one, ok, second, ok, third...ok, dragging.......and it's all downhill from there.

Proud that we knocked her out of the top spot in the rankings for a while, though, she really does have that niche locked down.

I'll try the show--if anything it can't be worse than some of the other crap we've been watching this summer. (I'm looking at you, Halt And Catch Fire).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:45 PM on August 3


and her face lit up like i'd just shown proof of Fermat's Last Theorem

"I have a truly wonderful proof of my Scottishness which this kilt is too small to contain."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:53 PM on August 3 [19 favorites]


Out of the six (six? five? seven? I'm reading the most recent but I don't remember) books, the rapey bits account for about half a dozen scenes and not all of them are gender-typical, so at least there's that. I don't think there's actually been any explicit scenes like that in the last 4 books, just some (as far as I know) historically accurate if grim realities for women in history w/r/t income generation, sexism, and safety.

I don't think the series is perfect (which wouldn't be a requirement, I imagine, if the author and the "niche" audience were male), but it's pretty good. The first episode had a lot of info to juggle for a first episode and it showed, but I thought all the actors acquitted themselves pretty well (and Caitriona Balfe has previous acting credits and so is undeniably an actor).

But it's clear that this show is going to have a huge uphill battle against sexism, particularly the flavor associated with all romance novels except 50SoG, and I have my concerns about Ron Moore being the lead dog in this particular sled. But I hope it gets a chance, as there's a lot of really good material to work with there, enough that some of the crappier bits can be put aside.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:56 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


1) It's on STARZ. Shows on STARZ range from terrible to cheesy cheese fun. Since I don't think this is going for cheesy cheese fun that doesn't bode well.

Starz has shown they have no taste or judgement many times, like so far into the weird and cringe zone.

Exhibit A: Weeds.

I rest my case.
posted by emptythought at 9:58 PM on August 3


Weeds was done by Showtime.
posted by flex at 10:01 PM on August 3


crap, i always confuse the two not-hbo premium channels like that. i guess it's starting to show that i haven't had cable in like 8 years.
posted by emptythought at 10:02 PM on August 3


"How would I survive if I went back in time with what I have on me right now - oooh I shall dazzle the peasants with my iphone! but then my battery will die." (This is why I want a solar-powered charger, in case of accidental time travel).

And you're planning on calling whom and surfing whose websites, exactly?
posted by orange swan at 10:20 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


That's why I have offline Wikipedia on my phone! Also just the camera and video app would get me knighted/burned at the stake.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:41 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Zero knowledge of the books. Just watched the show based on this post. It was entertaining enough to watch the next one. I do like the leads. The photography is very nicely done. It looks great. I would totally wear those clothes. I actually like the voice overs. But it easily could get better, or far worse. My personal jury is still out, but as I said, I will give it a shot.
posted by cccorlew at 10:56 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


So is it anything like Great Doctor?
posted by rdr at 11:24 PM on August 3


Visually the first episode is stunning. Moore has said the landscape is like an additional character in the show, and it seems to be true based on the first episode. The music is perfect for the setting (and I hadn't realised Bear McReary also did some of the music for BSG -- my husband the BSG fan noticed before I did) and the costuming seems to be perfect so far. I think they spent a decent amount of time really emphasizing Frank's importance to Claire, and how awful it is for her to be separated from him. Plus it meant the audience could be reasonably surprised, like Claire, to discover Jack Randall and have the same realisation that Frank isn't Jack. Claire seems a little stiff (actually, I thought Jamie did too, especially in the "carry you over my shoulder" scene) but I think they'll get better. They had moments that were great. Claire's face is as expressive as it should be, because that's a major aspect of her character.

I first read the books when I was 21 and pick them up regularly for a reread. Although the main fan base is female, the action is great, and the historicity (that's a word, right?) is excellent, and the main reason it takes the author so damn long to write another one. I attribute much of what happens to the book to the era in which it takes place, which is an a remote, inaccessible, semi-lawless region where cattle lifting is the main pastime. There are instances of misogyny, there is rape, but (I'm actually saying this, woah) in the context it's jarring and painful to read but isn't gratuitous. "That" scene in the first book is awful, but to me there's one in later books that is much worse.

Anyway. I'm excited to see it finally on-screen. I'm already sick to death of the fans complaining "Jamie's hair isn't red enough! He's not tall enough! He's too skinny! Claire's eyes are the wrong colour! They aren't exactly matched to the picture in my head waaa!" Did GoT have this issue?
posted by tracicle at 11:30 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Well, count me in as one of those who hated Outlander when I tried reading it back in '98. I couldn't finish it-- I thought it was overrated, misogynistic, homophobic crap that wasn't as smart as it thought it was. But I generally like time travel stuff and historical romance. Should I try watching the show or will it make me want to stab myself in the eyeballs?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:06 AM on August 4


Guy With a Pie (and its sequel, Rake with a Cake)

Man With a Flan!
posted by elizardbits at 12:33 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I've enjoyed a lot of problematic or poorly written media in my day, but Diana Gabaldon's position on fan fiction as being tantamount to selling children into white slavery is enough to drive me away from anything of hers.

"While not all fan-fic is pornographic by any means, enough of it _is_ that it constitutes an aesthetic argument against the whole notion." Please.
posted by wrabbit at 12:48 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Guy With a Pie (and its sequel, Rake with a Cake)

Man With a Flan!


Chap With a Bap. Froods With Baked Goods. Cad With an Empanad'.
posted by Dim Siawns at 1:07 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


surburbanbeatnik There's only been the one episode so far which covers roughly chapter 1-2 of the first book. It was very faithful to the book with some minor changes (Frank is a little less pompous and know-all-ish; Claire's nursing background is fleshed out a bit). Ron Moore has said he's deviated in some ways from the books but will try to remain faithful throughout. So with that in mind...it depends.

As a costume drama/period drama so far it's good. As far as the sci-fi/magicky stuff, there's not been much of that beyond the initial major event (and too early for explanations/theories). As far as misogyny, as said above there was a threatened rape and a "lighthearted" discussion involving rape, which are both in the book. So if that bothered you, then maybe don't watch? Or try the first episode and then decide.
posted by tracicle at 1:26 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


(I knew nothing about the series and was confused about the racism charges, since—though I know that the past was much more racially diverse than we give it credit for—the setting didn't seem to offer many opportunities for racial bigotry. After a spin through the Wikipedia summaries, I see that I'd made the mistake of assuming that the heroine travelled to 18th century Scotland at the beginning and then the rest of the series took place there, but this isn't the case.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:37 AM on August 4


I am super excited for this series, though I have held out on watching the first episode yet- mainly because I don't want to wait two whole weeks for the next one, but I have cajoled my husband into watching it with me, and we haven't had an uninterrupted hour for tv since Saturday. I read Outlander for the first time at the tender age of 13 or 14, and actually remember the nice bookstore lady recommending it to me. It made quite an impression on my young mind. I'm re-reading the whole series now before I dive into the last book that was just released, because there is too much plot I've forgotten over the years. Drums of Autumn is holding up better on a re-read, and it turns out there have been a ton of plot twists and turns I'd completely forgotten. Diana Gabaldon is kind of insufferable when she talks about the books, and they are definitely problematic in the ways people mention, but the storytelling is really good, and the books are such enjoyable romps for me.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:40 AM on August 4


My wife is very excited for this show. So much so, that she's talked me into watching it in return for beer and blogging about it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:49 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Hah, that's what I get for now previewing, snookums.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:50 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


"How would I survive if I went back in time with what I have on me right now - oooh I shall dazzle the peasants with my iphone! but then my battery will die."

One of the things that bothered me about the book was that the main character just so happened to be a skilled nurse AND to be really into plant and medicinal herb identification. Like, of fucking course, she has the two skills that would be the absolute most useful in this situation.

The sexual politics are addressed. There's Claire's 1950s-beliefs, the 18th century beliefs which go all over the place - it's complicated.

I just didn't find it believable that she was [THIS IS PROBABLY A SPOILER] given a way to return to the 1950s and chose to remain in Ye Olde Women-Are-Property Tymes.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:04 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


I would have chosen to stay if Jamie Fraser was there waiting for me, man.

I love these books. They are one of the favorite things in my life. Sometimes on Saturday nights I get them all out and re-read my favorite parts. Sometimes I am driving down the road and think about scenes and tear up. I know this is insane but those characters are so, so real to me, as real as any fictional characters I have ever run across. I really believe in my heart of hearts that Diana Gabaldon is a master of world-building and especially of character-building, creating a dense web of a believable and loving family.

I'm always surprised when people write the series off based upon a couple of scenes in the first book. For one thing, it was Gabaldon's first novel, and I think her dedication to trying to keep things both exciting and period-accurate led her to put some stuff in there that maybe she would not have included if she were a more experienced author. But also, they are a tiny fraction of the words she has written about these people, and although those experiences shape their futures, those things are not really what the books are about. They're really just about family, and that becomes clearer and clearer the farther into the series you go.

I was very very skeptical about making this into a TV show, considering how beloved they are to me (and, you know, millions of other people). That first episode was excellent, though. I had doubts about all the casting until I saw them on screen, and in every single case it worked. This is going to be a good show.
posted by something something at 6:42 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


I would have chosen to stay if Jamie Fraser was there waiting for me, man.

AMEN. I mean, if I were Claire and in those exact circumstances (wherein my "present" is post-war 1940s and I'm married to Frank Randall....), hells yeah I would have stayed in olde timey times. Claire and Jamie have a passion and love that transcends physics. There's also a lot of characterization of Claire as having grown up with a very nomadic, no frills lifestyle; her staying behind is very believable not just because of True Love, but because of how she is written as a character.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:59 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I really want to like this because of my predilection for dudes in kilts, but I'm remembering the last time I watched a Starz series (Black Sails) and how it just got so unpleasant that I gave up on it about halfway through. Comments here suggest I may be right in that assumption. The show does seem like an easier approach to what looks like a Wheel of Time amount of reading, though.
posted by immlass at 7:00 AM on August 4


I think Ron Moore being in charge says a lot for the potential quality of the show. I know a lot of people had some issues with the end of Battlestar Galactica (I am not one of them) but it still is one of the best things ever to come out of the lesser cable TV networks and he definitely had a serious dedication to producing quality entertainment. Plus, he has said his wife is a big fan of the books and that as a result he's taking very seriously the responsibility he has to do a good job with the story.
posted by something something at 7:23 AM on August 4


Ron Moore writes women well. There are issues, but they're not systematic the way Whedon's can be, and I don't think of any of his characters - even godawful Helix - as XYZ-type woman, but as a person. I also love his approach to genre, and it's showing in this first episode. Genre isn't a restriction but a scaffold, and here it's this big romantic sweep of history with the romantic triangle (well, it's really a messy polygon!) central to it.

When I first saw his name attached to this, I thought oh bugger what a waste, but now I'm hoping that it gets the viewership numbers - and it should! loyal fans on a small network - and he gets several seasons to explore what could be a rich world of politics and personal, something he's excellent at.

I thought Claire was pregnant so she left? Which seems very reasonable to me, given her close and unpleasant encounters with medicine in the 18th century.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:04 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I don't know how spoilery we want to get so keeping it vague, she does leave at one point, for more than one reason (including the pregnancy), but she ends up in the past again later in the series.
posted by something something at 8:08 AM on August 4


Anne Helen Peterson: "Outlander" Is The Feminist Answer To "Game Of Thrones" — And Men Should Be Watching It.

She provides a little bit more info on some of the discussion we've had above.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:15 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


be warned that some of the later books are VERY racist. Not like period-appropriate character racism, racist descriptions by the author. I have read all the books and basically enjoyed them, but the author has very problematic attitudes.

What are you talking about? I feel like I've read most of the books and don't recall this.
posted by corb at 8:20 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Waaaaaaait.

I mostly know about the entire Outlander series as "Woman writes time-travelling female character who falls madly in love with Jamie from Doctor Who. Except he's Jamie Fraser. And that last name has nothing to do with the fact that the actor who played Jamie was Fraser Hines. Nope. Nothing at all. Go about your business."

And now I find out she hates fanfiction? Seriously?
posted by Katemonkey at 8:29 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


What are you talking about? I feel like I've read most of the books and don't recall this.

I can't point to specific examples, since I got all the books from the library, but I want to defend myself. Looking back at my Goodreads reviews: in Drums of Autumn I really felt like she was pushing the "noble savage" stereotype and in Voyager the Chinese character is just particularly really badly described, and the slaves are also described using racial stereotypes. Those are the worst ones, I think. Her descriptions seemed very tone-deaf.
posted by leesh at 8:57 AM on August 4


Been seeing the hype about this show, and I had to go back and look up the books. Then I remembered reading them. The first two were good, held my attention, and the 3rd okay, but by the time I got to the 4th, I was kind of annoyed. There was some of that noble savage stuff, yes, and also some plot points were too slick and things too convenient for the main characters. And it seems the main characters took on a certain cloying smugness.

Also, many romance novels contain rape and/or forced seduction. Either by the hero or another person and then he has to avenge her or help her deal with it. None of the scenes in these books were as distasteful as say, Secret Fire, by Johanna Lindsey. But people buy that stuff.

I cut my romance teeth on books by Bertice Small and Kathleen Woodiwiss, and have read more crap than I care to admit along the way. I don't get into the genre much anymore, but I would give this a watch, if nothing else, for the costumes and scenery. Time travel romance is pretty common nowadays, so maybe we have the author to thank for some fun (if less researched) reads in that genre.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:21 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I'm always surprised when people write the series off based upon a couple of scenes in the first book.

I was willing to get past "that scene." But then there are the two sex scenes after they returned to the castle (starting midway through chapter 23). The first starts off as a clear rape. She's struggling to get away and then this conversation happens:
"'I didna ask your preferences in the matter, Sassenach,' he answered, voice dangerously low. 'You are my wife, as I’ve told ye often enough. If ye didna wish to wed me, still ye chose to. And if ye didna happen to notice at the time, your part of the proceedings included the word ‘obey.’ You’re my wife, and if I want ye, woman, then I’ll have you, and be damned to ye!' His voice rose throughout, until he was near shouting."
She fights back, but when it's clear the price of saying no is having to leave, she gives her consent though again withdrawing it (unheeded) while they are having sex.

Then I got to the second sex scene, with these lines: "I’ll be verra gentle,” he wheedled, dragging me inexorably under the quilt. And he was gentle, as only big men can be, cradling me like a quail’s egg, paying me court with a humble patience that I recognized as reparation – and a gentle insistence that I knew was a continuation of the lesson so brutally begun the night before. Gentle he would be, denied he would not."

To me it was nauseating to watch scene after scene in which he physically or emotionally compels her to submit to him and she gradually accepts a definition of married life in which she must obey him.

I'd love to know that in chapter 25, she is like "oh HELL no. I am not obeying you any more than you must obey me, and thus no more forced sex" and he replies "you're right. A marriage where two autonomous beings come together freely and freely act in ways that strengthen the partnership would be the most magical and the strongest."

But she seemed quite content with the state of affairs the day after he taught her that "lesson." And that makes psychological sense, since every attempt to defend her autonomy had led to brutal reprisals. So I decided it was on me to say "oh HELL no."
posted by salvia at 9:38 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


The thing you wanted happens, and probably before chapter 25. The whole point of all that - if rather hamfisty - was Jamie's learning curve because he literally has no idea. And Claire's to a certain extent, since there's cultural baggage on her side too.

Really, what's the likelihood that eight books later he's still rapey and people are still reading?
posted by Lyn Never at 9:55 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


Right. Like I said earlier, I think most of that kind of thing is due to Gabaldon wanting to be period-accurate (in having Jamie initially view Claire as a possession), and Claire schooling him on how that is not okay. At that point, either Gabaldon's idea of who Jamie was had not been fully developed or she changed her mind, because his behavior in those scenes does not reflect his character as it develops. I disagree with your impression of how those scenes come off, salvia, but I know part of that is that I have read the later books many times and know how their relationship ends up.
posted by something something at 10:12 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


hey this show sounds pretty cool! I'll have to check it out.
posted by rebent at 10:24 AM on August 4


Fellow with some jello.
posted by Grangousier at 10:52 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Buddy with a buttie?

no that's crap ugh
posted by elizardbits at 11:17 AM on August 4


I read Outlander because it kept getting recommended on Ask Metafilter and I really did not like it. And it wasn't the rape parts I just thought it was dopey.

There should be a section on the metafilter wiki for most disappointing books frequently recommended on Ask Metafilter.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:00 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


Wordy Greek With A Dirty Leek
posted by Greg Nog at 12:18 PM on August 4


I feel the same way, interplanetjanet. Back in '98, a number of romance reviewers (over at the Romance Reader, RIP), gushed about Outlander so much I felt compelled to check it out. But I hated, hated, HATED it. Apart from the homophobia (the Evil Gay Bad Guy, yuck) and the ubiquitous bullshit rapeyness and sexxxay whipping scenes, I found it insufferably dumb. The Magic Standing Stones Time Travel Device was risible to me and I thought Claire was way too ridiculously chill with traveling back in time. And here I was, a time travel romance author! Ugh.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other romance authors (we've bonded together on Twitter) who hate Outlander too, so it's good to know I'm not alone.

And A Knight in Shining Armor is much better anyway.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:05 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


And A Knight in Shining Armor is much better anyway.

YES accurate

posted by elizardbits at 2:10 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


YESSS! Marry me, Elizardbits!
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:11 PM on August 4


Oh man, I thought A Knight in Shining Armor was hilariously terrible. I guess you guys are my romance novel mortal enemies.
posted by something something at 2:57 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Oh my gosh people there is the ONE whipping scene, which is not presented as "sexy" (though Jamie admits afterward that he enjoyed it), and it ends in a resolution that it will never ever happen again. The series is not full of spousal abuse paraded as hotness. Yes, that scene is in the first book. Yes, I completely understand it can be read as problematic (or specifically, the characters' reactions to it, beating one's wife for endangering lots of people legitimately not being period-inappropriate). But please don't paint the entire series with this brush, especially for people still considering checking this out.

Despite the arguably rocky start (not out of line for two characters in a marriage not of their choosing when they're from totally different centuries and cultural norms?), Claire and Jamie's relationship evolves into what I think is one of the most mutually respectful relationships I've ever seen portrayed in romance. But yes, it takes more than just one book to get there. There are 8 books. More are still coming. There's a lot in there.

Lots of people in the books get raped. Women get raped. Men get raped. Both are portrayed explicitly dealing with the emotional aftermath years and decades down the line (unlike GoT in this instance, for example). Men and women both are regularly (and often repeatedly) near death from disease, violence, accident, etc. The world was a really dangerous place in that time and setting. GoT seems to like to focus on the rape but keep the characters, especially female characters, largely out of harm's way except for that -- weddings may be dangerous but so far we haven't seen anyone with dysentery -- but in this series the feeling, to me, is more that "this is a lawless and unsafe situation for men and women both, all the time, even when trying to be careful." Occasionally these scenes are extremely painful to read, whether it is sexual violence or disease or whatever. I think it adds realism and a depth of feeling to the story, rather than glorifying in yet another opportunity for a female character to get naked. But that is just me. (Fwiw the Jamie/Cersei scene in GoT last season did bother me)
posted by olinerd at 3:31 PM on August 4 [6 favorites]


I've read and enjoyed the entire series up to and including An Echo in the Bone, but not including the Lord John books, and I couldn't even remember the problematic parts of the first book because of the way Jamie and Claire evolved into an extremely egalitarian marriage, by anyone's standards. Gabaldon herself states that she "wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone."

Granted, Gabaldon is a modern writer, but she isn't writing about modern times or modern people. It's a huge part of the story that Claire has to deal with the social attitudes of the 18th century, and Jamie has to adjust to Claire's more modern views, but remember that Claire is not a present-day young woman either - she starts out as a 27-year-old woman just after WWII. She'd be in her mid 90s now if she were a real person. She has very advanced ideas about equality even for a woman of that time period.

So why are we holding Gabaldon to such a high standard of tolerance? Let's keep in mind that sexism and racism are still rife today - we just wish they weren't - but no one alive has ever actually experienced a world without them.

I only recently read House of the Seven Gables for the first time, and it was supremely annoying to me that Hawthorne is such a disgusting ageist and sexist. He was writing of his own time, and he gets a pass for that. Why crucify Gabaldon for writing about sexism and racism more than a century earlier?
posted by caryatid at 6:32 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Regarding Gabaldon's anti-fanfic statements - "While not all fan-fic is pornographic by any means, enough of it _is_ that it constitutes an aesthetic argument against the whole notion." - I still find it so hypocritical as to be hilarious. I mean, if she were writing G-rated stories for kids or young adults, I could understand her being so offended by the notion of other people writing her characters into sexual situations. But, every time I read one of her comments, I just feel like Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest, like 'Do you even watch the show?!'

Why crucify Gabaldon for

Can we not go down that road much further? Nobody's crucifying anyone, people are well within their rights to express their dislike for Gabaldon's writing choices. And, sure, everyone's a creature of their time - but past times had their share of abolitionists and suffragettes, so, it's not like that's an automatic absolution from accountability.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:51 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


What something something said: "I love these books. They are one of the favorite things in my life..."

They are as well for me, and have been for 20+ years. I'm gobsmacked by the accusations of racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. It takes place in the mid-18th century, and Gabaldon is writing about characters with 18th century attitudes.

Jamie Fraser? I'd go back to any century for him. One of the best fictional characters ever.
posted by Sassenach at 10:09 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Can we not go down that road much further?

Why not? Surely people are also well within their rights to point out that writing characters who are sexist and racist, or writing that sexism and racism exist and/or were more prevalent in earlier times, is not the same thing as endorsing sexism and racism.

I get it, some people are incensed by Gabaldon's anti-fanfic stance. That is a separate issue entirely, and you can deplore her perceived hypocrisy in that area without letting it bleed over into accusations of "lack of accountability" because the characters she creates are not all abolitionists (which BTW is not the same thing as a non-racist) and suffragettes (which BTW is not the same thing as a feminist).
posted by caryatid at 10:37 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Well, and I think it's actually more interesting, the situation Gabaldon presents -- statistically, if you were thrown back into the 1740s, you'd be much more likely to meet a non-abolitionist or non-suffragette or whomever than not. So how DOES an independent, modern (1940s modern), arguably feminist woman deal with that, and reconcile her love for a "man of the times" with her own convictions? And how DOES the man who was raised with corporal punishment (of children, of wives, of criminals, of many people) and wifely obedience as cultural norms evolve as he falls in love with that woman? I think Jamie's later relationship with his daughter is very good evidence of this -- on one hand, his cultural background that he can't completely erase compels him to attempt to avenge wrong done to her and rather than succeed and be the heroic protective father, he utterly fucks that up, to significant consequence. At the same time, the part of him that has evolved beyond his background that greatly enjoys hunting and designing/building things with her and builds a peer-like relationship with her in activities almost no 18th century man would even have conceived of having with his daughter. 1943 pre-Claire Jamie wouldn't have done that. It's the growth of his character, him adjusting to the 20th century parts of his life as much as Claire has to adjust to the 18th century, that is so interesting to me.
posted by olinerd at 10:47 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


I get it, some people are incensed by Gabaldon's anti-fanfic stance. That is a separate issue entirely, and you can deplore her perceived hypocrisy in that area without letting it bleed over into accusations of "lack of accountability" because the characters she creates are not all abolitionists (which BTW is not the same thing as a non-racist) and suffragettes (which BTW is not the same thing as a feminist).

I don't think anyone in this thread is letting their feelings about her fanfic stance influence their opinion of what's problematic in the books themselves. If that was directed at me, then, it's definitely not the case. Like I said, the fanfic thing is just makes me kind of face-palm and shrug.

As far as racism, misogyny, and homophobia in the books, I just don't think it's all that clear that everything problematic is a deliberate writing choice reflecting the social mores of the 1940s & 1800's versus reflections of Gabaldon's own hang-ups. (I mean, I don't think I've ever heard a modern living person use the term 'white slavery' in earnest.)

The road I was hoping we could not go down is the one where people argue with those who have Nope-d their way out of the books because of the rape scenes. I understand how loving a thing makes one want to convince others to love it too (hell, I still believe there's a feminist interpretation of True Lies) but I just think it's important not to argue it in a 'you're wrong to be upset' kind of way.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:50 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Jamie Fraser? I'd go back to any century for him. One of the best fictional characters ever.
posted by Sassenach


Of course you would think so.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:56 AM on August 5


Jamie Fraser? I'd go back to any century for him. One of the best fictional characters ever.
posted by Sassenach

Of course you would think so. posted by Dip Flash


And you know this how, exactly?
posted by Sassenach at 8:33 AM on August 5


I'm pretty sure Dip Flash is making a gentle joke over the handle you chose to use on MeFi... if you go by "Sassenach" then of course you think Jamie Fraser is the bee's knees =)
posted by flex at 8:46 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I just don't think it's all that clear that everything problematic is a deliberate writing choice reflecting the social mores of the 1940s & 1800's versus reflections of Gabaldon's own hang-ups.

And so what if it isn't a deliberate choice? Why hold Gabaldon to such a high standard? Plenty of writers (and publishers, and critics, and readers) have far more objectionable hang-ups that don't have to be guessed at. Literary culture is rife with sexism.

Here's a quote from that second article: "Adelle Waldman: When I first read [Catton’s] interview, I instinctively nodded my head in agreement. It sounded right to me. In my experience, I think people are quick to assume I wrote my book to work out issues that are personal to me, a grudge against an ex-boyfriend. I think people generally have an easier time imputing intellectual and aesthetic playfulness to a male author than they do to a female author—they can understand a woman writing from hurt or rage more than from a place of greater dispassion or from sheer aesthetic pleasure.

Hmmm, sounds familiar.

I just think it's important not to argue it in a 'you're wrong to be upset' kind of way.

I don't see that happening here. No one is wrong to be upset, but it would be unfortunate (and mistaken) to condemn the entire series based on upsetting passages in the first book. I see people arguing (truthfully) that there's more to the books, and the story, including well-written, complex, evolving characters who do not remain stuck in, or fail to acknowledge and resist, sexist and racist attitudes.
posted by caryatid at 8:59 AM on August 5


the Evil Gay Bad Guy, yuck

The Evil guy, as I recall, is not gay but bisexual, and there are other bisexual and gay characters later in the series that are just fine. I mean, I'd understand it if it were the only one, but it's not.
posted by corb at 9:00 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Duh me. Sorry for the overreaction. That's been one of my screen names since the 90s (when I gave my heart to Jamie Fraser :>)
posted by Sassenach at 9:02 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Why hold Gabaldon to such a high standard?

I don't have a dog in this hunt, but some people don't like their pretendy funtime reads to include a lot of racism/sexism/homophobia/whatever. And Gabaldon is firmly in the pretendy funtimes reads category rather than the high literature "you should read it like you eat your vegetables" category--which also gets criticized for representation-related issues like racism, sexism, and homophobia. And "I don't enjoy this because [this thing I found sexist] bothered me" is not a very high standard.

All of our favorites are problematic. It doesn't make us bad people or anything, and it doesn't make people who were bothered by the problematic aspects of the things we love bad people either. People have different tastes. That's okay.
posted by immlass at 9:10 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


some people don't like their pretendy funtime reads to include a lot of racism/sexism/homophobia/whatever.

I am not making the argument that they should.

My argument is that Gabaldon's work, as a whole, does NOT include a lot of racism/sexism/homophobia/whatever.
posted by caryatid at 10:59 AM on August 5


But 'a lot' is a completely subjective term. What's 'not a lot' for one person is 'too much' for another person.
posted by oh yeah! at 12:59 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


The Evil guy, as I recall, is not gay but bisexual, and there are other bisexual and gay characters later in the series that are just fine. I mean, I'd understand it if it were the only one, but it's not.

Well, hey, he's bisexual you say? So he's a Depraved Bisexual! In fact, Jonathan Randall gets his own listing on the trope page.

It's okay to like problematic things. I like George RR Martin a lot, but I have a few issues with him: so honestly I can understand why others find ASoiaF to be overrated, problematic schlock. That's okay. From what I've read of Gabaldon, I find her books to be overrated, problematic schlock. And that's okay too.

I recently reread a comic I liked a lot around '99, Nowheresville by Mark Ricketts: and it features a villain who is both a Depraved Homosexual and a Trans guy. You could argue, hey, the comic is a homage to noir stories which is full of these characters, but it made me uncomfortable to read something that was honestly so... transphobic... that I used to like and which came out when I was in high school.

So, we all like problematic schlock to some degree: if someone came to me and said, Hey, I really love Nowheresville, I'd say, that's cool. The artwork IS beautiful and it's a fairly interesting story. But I wouldn't want him to tell me that I was wrong in finding the story transphobic.

TL;dr: what oh yeah! said.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:21 PM on August 5


My argument is that Gabaldon's work, as a whole, does NOT include a lot of racism/sexism/homophobia/whatever.

Are you saying that it's unreasonable for readers to put Gabaldon's book down because they didn't enjoy or were uncomfortable with the way that, for instance, a rape scene and its aftermath were written?
posted by immlass at 2:50 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


That rape scene is very brutal, no doubt, and I can absolutely see how for some people it would poison the book. It doesn't make Gabaldon anti-gay, though. I would venture to say Lord John is maybe her own personal favorite character, since she insists upon writing additional books about him that nobody seems to care much about, and he's a perfectly nice gay man. There are other lesser characters who are gay or bisexual as well, and none of them are evil. To me the key facet of Randall's personality is that he's a brutal sadist - he attempts to rape Jamie's sister as well, after all - and his sexual orientation is incidental.

I will also say that despite the fact that I have read these books many times, I had not once considered the racism issue, and I do think some of you have opened my eyes about how Mr. Willoughby (the Chinese man) in particular was portrayed very stereotypically. The main characters are so beloved to me that the entire substance of the books are essentially just a vehicle for seeing where those particular people's lives go, and as a result I probably don't think very deeply about what's going on with the background characters. So: good talk, everybody.

I sort of wish we could keep the Outlander thread open forever.
posted by something something at 3:41 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Are you saying that it's unreasonable for readers to put Gabaldon's book down because they didn't enjoy or were uncomfortable with the way that, for instance, a rape scene and its aftermath were written?

I don't think anyone's bothered by the people who gave it a try and put it down. To each their own. There are many, many well-beloved books and TV shows in this world that I simply cannot comprehend why anyone enjoys them and I cannot get through them (I'm looking at you, Wolf Hall and Breaking Bad) so I'm totally sympathetic to other people having the same reaction to my favorites. I think the concern is trumpeting that it is FULL OF RAPEY RAPE RAPE LEAST CONSENSUAL RELATIONSHIP EVER when people ask "should I give this a try?" and those of us who DO enjoy the books, who were able to reconcile the more subjectively problematic parts with our own convictions and experiences and so on, feel like it's not being given a fair shot. Seeing people state to potential newbies that "there are scenes I had problems with because consent, homophobia, racism" is totally reasonable and understandable and I think a very important thing to highlight, sort of as a trigger warning; seeing "IT IS FULL OF THIS NONSTOP" is a little frustrating because it's simply not objectively true particularly when considering the context of the entire series/world. Just as someone's "not too much" may be someone else's "way too much", someone else's "way too much" may be someone's "just fine."

I mean, I've always felt a little eeehhhhh about the homophobia (IMO, more toward Lord John via Jamie and Claire than toward Jack Randall, whom I view as mostly just the most sadistic perv who ever sadistically perved) and racism I've seen in the books, and it's something I mention to people when I recommend the books. This thread has been extremely enlightening about the issues of consent and domestic abuse that I had never really considered before -- maybe because the first time I read the first book was in my early 20s and I wasn't as aware of/sensitive to these sorts of portrayals? But having read all the books and seeing the characters evolve I have a totally different perspective on it now than I think I would if I were reading the first book for the first time, so this thread has given me a way to highlight to people in the future what they may find problematic or troubling if they do choose to read/watch the series in a way I wouldn't have thought to do before. It'd be cool if that went the other way too, with those who didn't like the book(s) saying to potential newbies "Eh, I really hated it because $TOTALLYVALIDREASONS, but other people who felt they could get past that/read beyond that have enjoyed it."

But in the end, of course it's no one's obligation to recommend something they don't like, or to continue reading/watching something they don't like. No one's asking for that.
posted by olinerd at 4:35 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


My problem with Lord John is that, from what I remember of the books, his goodness was bound up with his being sad & lonely. If I'm wrong and she actually gave him some happy gay sex in the spin-offs or one of the later books I haven't gotten to yet, let me know. But it seemed like in the Outlander-verse gay/bi men were either evil rapists or nobly & angstfully celibate.

I'm really curious & anxious to see how the show handles the rape scene. I think it's a much more difficult trick to pull off on film than on the page. In the book, some things are left to the reader's imagination, and we're reading it from Claire's point of view with her internal monologue. I'm not a fan of the romance novel trope of falling in love with one's rapist, but the fact that I kept on reading the books I guess means that Gabaldon managed the trope well enough for me. But on the screen, depending on the choices in direction & editing, it could ruin the love story. I could never get into the Khaleesi/Drogo relationship on Game of Thrones after that rape scene, it was so disappointing compared to the love scene in the book.

I also wonder how they're going to handle the giant time jump in the characters' ages between book 1 & 2. Are they planning on following the arcs of all the books, or will they go True Blood and make up a completely different story when/if they get renewed for later seasons?
posted by oh yeah! at 4:43 PM on August 5


Just to be clear when I'm referring to "the rape scene" I'm talking about Jack Randall and Jamie. Jamie does beat Claire the one time, but he never rapes her. (And I am curious about which scene you're reading as rape.)

Lord John does have lovers over the years but never a long term relationship, at least not yet. I think that is accurate to the time period, though; a nobleman and military officer in 1700s Britain would definitely not have been able to live openly as a gay man.
posted by something something at 4:50 PM on August 5


oh yeah!, I haven't read the spinoff books either, but Lord John's appearances in the later books do occasionally contain references to other relationships he's had in parallel with the main Jamie & Claire timeline, so I don't think he's totally celibate. That's not to say he ever appears to find a long-term happy relationship, but I would argue that that wouldn't be period-appropriate at all.

I've also wondered about the age jump. I wonder how much the ability to age-up the actors was a consideration during casting? Though in the books Gabaldon makes a big point of saying how Claire still looks so young as she ages (particularly for the 18th century), despite greying hair and all.
posted by olinerd at 4:52 PM on August 5


(And I am curious about which scene you're reading as rape.)

I guess I was thinking of the wedding night? Since it was a forced marriage? (I can tell now that the show is the thing that will finally get me to finish reading the books, now that I've watched the pilot impatience for each week's episode is going to get me started on a re-read.)
posted by oh yeah! at 5:50 PM on August 5


Actually the wedding night was pretty sweet (IMO) and awkwardly but definitively consensual. Neither of them wanted the marriage, true, but the only coercion really comes from Dougal, having masterminded the whole setup and requiring that it be consummated -- when it's down to just Claire and Jamie, they're apprehensive and hesitant but they go about it consensually. The two scenes where "Jamie won't take no for an answer" come later.
posted by olinerd at 5:54 PM on August 5


I think the concern is trumpeting that it is FULL OF RAPEY RAPE RAPE LEAST CONSENSUAL RELATIONSHIP EVER when people ask "should I give this a try?" and those of us who DO enjoy the books, who were able to reconcile the more subjectively problematic parts with our own convictions and experiences and so on, feel like it's not being given a fair shot.

I've had friends put down books I love because of problematic elements, so I get the disappointment involved. But the vibe I've gotten from some (not all) of the comments here is "your objections to the rape scenes are unfair" which is not an acceptable answer to those objections as far as I'm concerned.
posted by immlass at 6:29 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Show-only and Books-included pilot threads are up on Fanfare now, fyi.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:43 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Yeah, when I talked about the LOTS OF RAPE up above, I was NOT referring to Jamie and Claire (though I do hate the whipping scene). I mean, 3/4 of the main characters have been raped! One was gang-raped! It's not pleasant reading. More Claire making ether and operating on ppl with her supportive and bemused husband hanging around, less brutal rape please.
posted by leesh at 7:25 PM on August 5


Here's a couple reviews of the show (that cover the first six episodes) - interesting! and I felt quite relevant to our discussion here. (Also, spoilery.)

Entertainment Weekly: "With a reputation for gratuitous flesh and boning, Starz is the last place you'd expect to find a mature love story. But the pleasantly surprising Outlander gives us a romance between adults that feels adult, that's sexy and smart and stirring... Though technically a time-travel tale, Outlander eschews the typical tropes... There's also a feminist interpretation: Claire — strong, intelligent, and sophisticated; married to a man who regards her as an equal — has gone down a rabbit hole into a misogynistic, patriarchal society. Outlander is good enough to inspire such overthinking. What makes it just plain good is the escapist fun of a romance told uncommonly well. A-"

HuffPo: "The first six episodes of the Starz drama are a feast for the eyes.. Few things on your television this year will look as gorgeous as "Outlander," which makes for a nice contrast to the bloodier fare TV keeps flinging at us.

...Menzies' performance in Episode 6, which focuses on Black Jack, is truly exceptional in every way, and if you're wavering about "Outlander," as I was during some of its early episodes, this is the one that strongly convinced me to stick with the show.

Another element in the show's favor: Its treatment of sex and violence makes "Outlander" an outlier -- but in a good way. When "Outlander" depicts sexual encounters, it's realistic, emotionally grounded and refreshingly lacking in exploitative elements, and the occasional violence on "Outlander" is similarly kinetic, gritty and unglamorized. Given how much time Claire spends tending to characters' wounds, we see the mental and physical cost of the violent lives of the Highlanders, who are in rebellion against the hated English. Claire herself is regarded as a spy, and "Outlander" doesn't ignore the various dangers to her, but the show is generally intelligent and perceptive in how it depicts women's strategies for dealing with physical and mental harassment."
posted by flex at 8:00 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Few things on your television this year will look as gorgeous as "Outlander," which makes for a nice contrast to the bloodier fare TV keeps flinging at us.

Uh...someone's in for a surprise.
posted by tracicle at 11:40 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]


I'm hoping someone who loves this series can explain something to me, that seems to be totally ignored here. At the behest of a colleague who simply loved these books I read the first one a long time ago, so perhaps I'm remembering things wrong. But in addition to the rape issues, this just bothered me and stopped me from reading any more of the books.

Claire is married, and is on a second honeymoon type vacation at the start of the book with someone she apparently loves and from whom she has been forcefully apart for years. But when she goes back in time, she's quickly romantically involved and into a second marriage with very little resistance. It just didn't make sense to me. I'd like to think my attachment to my wife would be a little stronger than that, and if it wasn't then it would be an issue I'd confront a little bit more. I never got the sense from the book that it bothered Claire at all, and I don't recall there being much discussion about it from her.

Part of the supposed appeal of the books, according to my colleague, was the love triangle issue, but Gabaldon neither set up that there was a strong bond between Claire and her husband, nor was there a reason to suspect there wasn't a strong bond. It was just such a strange middle ground that to me didn't make any sense. What was the point of setting up the first marriage as being two lovers kept apart by war finally reuniting, only to be torn apart again, if the response is, "hey, what's up that kilt over there"?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:06 AM on August 6


She had been separated from her husband for the entirety of World War II, and their "second honeymoon" was really about re-connecting and rekindling their relationship. The pilot of television show actually does a great job setting this up, portraying them as two people who once loved one another and who are committed to being together, but more or less strangers.

And the second marriage to Jamie was not her choice - they had to get married to make her Scottish by law, so that the English couldn't take and imprison her as a spy. (She wasn't a spy, obviously, but nobody could figure out any other reason an Englishwoman would be wandering around the Highlands by herself). Even so, after Jamie finds out what she is, he takes her back to the standing stones so she can go back to her husband and her own time, and she doesn't have an easy time deciding what she wants before finally opting to stay with him. Their relationship begins with marriage by necessity but the real connection comes after months of forced time together.
posted by something something at 9:14 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


To add to something something's excellent response, Claire does spend about half the book trying to get back to the stones so she can return to her own time. She doesn't succeed, and only ends up bringing herself closer to Jamie through the mishaps that happen due to her trying to escape. I think also, Claire and Jamie get to know each other through life or death situations that end up heightening their feelings for each other because they are pumped full of adrenaline half the time- it's like that line at the end of Speed about people in intense situations falling in love fast (uh, or something like that, obviously my memory for the Speed script it not fantastic).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:30 AM on August 6


In the UK version ( called Cross-Stitch) Gabaldon added a few bits making it more clear that Claire DID miss Frank.

My take on when she first marries Jamie is that she likes him as a friend, is physically attracted to him, but doesn't fall in love with him until sometime later.

One didn't need to have read the Lord John books until An Echo in the Bone.

My ideal man would have Roger's looks and LJ's personality.
posted by brujita at 11:56 AM on August 6


Are you saying that it's unreasonable for readers to put Gabaldon's book down because they didn't enjoy or were uncomfortable with the way that, for instance, a rape scene and its aftermath were written?

Good grief, how many times must I say this?

To quote myself; "I don't see that happening here. No one is wrong to be upset, but it would be unfortunate (and mistaken) to condemn the entire series based on upsetting passages in the first book. I see people arguing (truthfully) that there's more to the books, and the story, including well-written, complex, evolving characters who do not remain stuck in, or fail to acknowledge and resist, sexist and racist attitudes."

Sorry, I know that if I were saying it's unreasonable, it would be an easier position to argue against, but no. I have not said that. I've been quite clear on the subject.
posted by caryatid at 12:56 PM on August 8


I started reading the book, I wanted to like the book, and I was liking the book just fine until I realized

"OMIGOD SOME OF THIS READS LIKE IT'S STRAIGHT OUT OF SASSENACH OF GOR"

...aaaand there's no getting rid of that idea now
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:30 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Outlander Is the Historical Smut of My Dreams
As every single review of this show takes great pains to mention, Claire Randell is a strong female character (as opposed to a Strong! Female! Character!), and the actual by-God protagonist of this story. That's the talking point you'll hear over and over and over, to the point you realize how rare and novel she is and it becomes just depressing. Luckily, Claire's enough to pull you out of the ensuing funk...

But nope, Ron Moore and Starz have produced a big ambitious prestige cable show that seems completely at ease appealing to women. Honestly I feel like this show was perhaps made for me, specifically? It's like somebody dumped all my high school enthusiasms—Ren Faire, DragonCon, romance novels, the Highland Games, Turner Classic Movies—into a giant whiskey barrel and let it ferment for ten years. I'm only just barely exaggerating when I say this show is a basket of kittens short of my perfect TV experience.
posted by flex at 8:24 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


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