I love this topic! There is so much good stuff in the replies here, that I don’t even know where to start.But I will try to organize my thoughts on what has been said here.
1. BJR – I believe he is an extremely damaged man. A sociopath and/or sadist, but I don’t know if it is by birth or by experience or a combination of both. I do believe that he is capable of love to some extent – witness his care and concern for his younger brother to the extent of asking Claire (of all people) to assist Alex and his acceptance of being in the same room with both Claire and Jamie in order to make his brother happy. I don’t condone what he is in any way, or forget that he is very dangerous but I have to believe that inside him there is some tiny tiny tiny speck of humanity. We haven’t learned exactly what happened in the end between him and Jamie at Culloden since Jamie has suppressed his memories of that day, but I hope that Diana is going to address that before the end of the series so I can see if I am right or if he is indeed pure evil.
2. The whole rape controversy. Much as I hate to say it, rape is is a fact of not only 18th century life but of the present day. The difference being that we try to sweep it under the rug and pretend we are so much better than people were in the past. Look at the obscene numbers of rapes going on daily on college campuses and the attempt by schools to pretend they weren’t happening, until they are now being forced to deal because of social media attention being brought to bear on them.
Outlander depicts rape as a brutal and violent act. It doesn’t pretty it up and make it exciting. Even though I knew what was going to happen with the attempted rape of Claire in Episode 8 it was a horrific scene to watch. I loved that it was uncomfortable and, that in no way did it glorify the act of rape. As someone here said, the focus was on Claire and not on the would be rapist and it stayed on Claire in the aftermath. One of the reasons I don’t really like GoT is the constant background nudity, rape and violence against women presented as background.There is no empathy or horror in it because the women are nothing more than props. It serves to desensitize the viewer and it also serves to legitimize rape, as do many current movies and tv shows.
Outlander gets up in our face and forces us to see rape as the act of violence that it is. I think that is really what is making some people uncomfortable. It’s not the number of rapes (or near rapes) on the show it’s the reality of how they are depicted and I think it hits too close to home for some. It doesn’t allow us to look through our rose colored glasses. We all want to think that we live in a safe and civilized world, but as women we all know that we really don’t. I remember the twitter campaign a few months back where, after several women came out with stories about being sexually harassed at Comic conventions, some men started the hashtag #butnotallmen complaining that men were being painted with too broad a brush. In response, a women answered with the hashtag #yesallwomen where women tweeted their everyday experiences with harassment, from the simple ones of men ogling them on the street, to actual verbal and physical harassment, to the horrific ones of physical assault and rape. It was hard to see all of the responses from so many women ranging from young teens to women on the far side of 50. What was even worse was seeing how so many of us women accept such things as a normal fact of life and we deal with them and move on rather than pushing to make it unacceptable. I am guilty of that myself.
But in order to end this culture of rape and women as sexual objects, we need to bring it into the light of day and I commend Ron for not shying away from doing so. It would be easy to cop out and back off from actually showing the hard stuff. And it would be easy not to watch (or read) it. But I believe that popular culture can be a powerful agent of change when its creators have the courage to go against the mainstream and make the hard choices to show things in all their real ugliness. I don’t look forward to seeing what will be coming at the end of the season. I had a hard time reading it, and I know I will have a hard time seeing it, but if Outlander is to be true to the spirit of the books it does need to go there and am I happy to know you all will be doing so. Just remember that when the shit storm hits, there are many fans who will be standing with you and supporting you. If we don’t admit to the bad things we do to each other as a part of our culture we will never change them.
3. I love Claire as a character. Kelly Sue DeConnick (comic book writer and a damn good one)spoke at a panel I attended and I loved
her theory of female agency and the”sexy lamp”. Essentially she said that if you can take a woman out of a scene and replace her with a sexy lamp without losing anything then, she has no agency. However,if the sexy lamp doesn’t cut it and you need that woman speaking and acting you have succeeded in writing that strong woman character. By that yardstick Claire definitely does have agency most of the time. In the wedding night scenes Claire as an active participant is essential – no lamp, no matter how sexy, could replace Claire/Catriona in that scene.
4. The wedding night sex. Mostly I cringe when I see sex in movies or on TV; it just seems so fake. I loved the wedding night though because it was so real. The awkwardness of two people (one of them a virgin) being pretty much forced into sex for reasons other than actual love or desire came across so well and so true to life. The subsequent progression from becoming comfortable with each other,to actually wanting each other, and finally to expressing the caring for each other that was taking root was beautiful. Sam and Catriona were amazing in the way they portrayed all of that with so few words. (I do believe that having a woman writer and a woman director were a big part of that.) Jamie and Claire have touched so many people because they have a love that is deeply rooted in love and respect for each other,and one that endures through some pretty horrible events and across centuries. The wedding night scene laid the foundation for that love that is to come.
5. The spanking. I have never understood all the furor over this. Despite what some say, Jamie was acting as a product of his time and culture. He did what he had been brought up to do. We may not like historical attitudes but we need to acknowledge them and learn from them, not pretend that history did not happen or we will be doomed to repeat it.
If Jamie had continued to beat Claire throughout the books I probably would have gotten disgusted and put them down. But (and here we go with the female agency again), Claire does not let him. She pulls her knife on him (which is symbolic because we know he could take easily it away from her) and lets him know in no uncertain terms that he’s had his one pass. He’s not getting another one.And Jamie, being Jamie, is able to accept that. He even swears an oath to Claire that he will never lay a hand on her again. Today we don’t take oaths or promises very seriously (and maybe that’s the crux of the problem some readers have with this scene because they don’t understand the significance of what Jamie has done>), but in the 18th century oaths were something you didn’t break on pain of death. By doing what he does, Jamie is putting Claire right up there with a clan laird. This scene to me is the turning point of their relationship. It’s where they truly do become two against the world, and it’s the underpinning that enables their relationship to endure through the years.
So that’s what I’ve got. I look forward to the second half and the good and bad that is to come.