Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Can we get past Jaimie's looks?

Home Outlander Costuming Discussion Forums General Outlander Discussion Can we get past Jaimie's looks?

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  • #6477

    I have just participated on a discussion page dealing with the objectification of the actors in Outlander. It made me think that polar opposite discussion would involve the spirituality, honor and integrity of the main characters. It is my opinion that the compelling aspects of the Outlander novels are the faith and honor attributed to Jaimie and the tenacity and integrity of Claire. The characters are described as beautiful yes but would they resonate with all of us to the extent that they do if they were weak or lacking on the previously mentioned qualities.

    I’ve read tons of books by great authors and some so so romance novels but I can’t say that I’ve encountered characters like Jamie and Claire. I do think the STARZ series is tracking the novel well and not shying away from difficult subjects like discrimination, religion, pagan beliefs, or treatment of women and children. So, Jamie’s honor and Claire’s tenacity is now apparent. But we are not really talking about that at least not that I have seen. I get why the marketing of Outlander is different from Game of Thrones or Vikings because the focus of Outlander is the love story. Clearly sex sells. But isn’t there more here? There is great entertainment out there on Netflix and HBO but its kind of a spiritual wasteland. So, am I the only one that sees beyond Jamie’s great looks? (My feelings will not be hurt. ) Are faith and honor not marketable?

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    • #6478

      I know how to spell Jamie. Not sure how to correct the above.

    • #6479

      The characters are described as beautiful yes but would they resonate with all of us to the extent that they do if they were weak or lacking on the previously mentioned qualities.


      I think it goes without saying that anyone who has fallen for Book Jamie has done so because of who he is, not what he looks like, because books aren’t a visual medium. Meaning, the author tells us that Jamie is deeply attractive, and we translate that in our heads to whatever our personal version of attractive, tall, well-muscled, red-headed man is. There’s not a whole lot of leaping to make there. It just happens.

      Contrarily, because TV is a visual medium, attractive actors must be hired to fill the roles of attractive characters. Now there’s a whole lot more room for disagreement because my version of attractive might not be yours, etc.

      But back to the books, I would argue that what makes Jamie and Claire such compelling characters is the way their personal characteristics make them weak, rather than strong. Jamie’s honor can hamper him at least as much as it elevates him, and Claire’s unbending tenacity (particularly when it comes to her calling as a doctor) gets her into all kinds of trouble, right? And it’s the ways they help each other get out of those situations that create a picture of a beautiful, if imperfect (and therefore ultimately human), relationship.

      Here’s a question: Which character do you love (or appreciate or relish or whatever) more, Jamie or Claire?

      • #6490

        Thanks so much for your interest! I would agree that both Jamie and Claire have chosen the path less traveled and the trials and tribulations created really pull the reader into the story. I am not sure I would use the term “weak” so much as vulnerable. But I do agree that it is not so much the labeling of the characters as honorable or tenacious that makes the story so compelling. It is the net effect. We read (and now see) the characters hold on to their sense of right and wrong as they are tested and tempted and disoriented by the construct of the novel….time travel and all. So, I am persuaded by your points!

        (Here’s a question: Which character do you love (or appreciate or relish or whatever) more, Jamie or Claire?

        That is such a difficult question! I would say that I appreciate the character of Claire. I really fell for her character at the end of the first book when she and Jamie were recuperating at the Abby. There is a wonderful passage in the story where Claire is asked to participate in the perpetual adoration of the host. She is skeptical but open to experience this (another wonderful trait) and she finds peace and comfort in one of the more challenging times of her life with Jamie. I could immediately identify with Claire here. She does this again I believe in the second book after she is separated from Jamie. I am open to all faiths and I too have found comfort during times of crisis in prayer venues that are out of the ordinary. I really hope that the TV series includes this.

        Between my husband (tall, muscular, dark hair) and my 10 year old son (still sweet, sensitive) and our dog Archie (loves me no matter what) I feel like I have my male/ Jamie needs met. However, my husband has started watching the series and I joke with him that I am going to send him to Jamie camp…bear strength plus sensitivity training. Have a lovely day, I am off to the office.

      • #6516

        Yes, “vulnerable” is a better word choice than “weak,” but you got what I was trying to say!

        I love that you brought up Claire’s spiritual growth in Outlander. I did not grow up with religion, particularly, and I didn’t know anything about the perpetual adoration before reading that passage (and the one in Voyager). I loved “sharing” Claire’s enlightenment in a way, and I really enjoyed the quiet learning she did with Brother Anselm.

        But I particularly love that you mentioned it here because my answer to the “Jamie or Claire” question would have been Jamie because I respect the way his character grows and changes through his struggles. I would have argued last night that we don’t really see Claire grow and change in the same way that we do Jamie, but now I realize that at the abbey is where growth happens for her. So thanks for reminding me of that! I just wish she could continue to grow throughout the other books (though I’m only just delving into Drums of Autumn, so maybe there’s still hope!).

      • #6523

        Yes I remember Claire remains open to different faiths but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. I’ll be curious to hear what you have to say about the books beyond Drums of Autumn. I found DG’s style of writing really changed (Breath of Snow and Ashes? )and the books started to read like daily journals. I hear the latest novel is better and so I may give this a try.

        I don’t disagree with your comments about Jamie. He’s a wonderful character. Jamie reminds me of my dad and uncles. They grew up in Irish ghettos in Northern Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio. They were raised Catholic, attended parochial school and just had a solid faith foundation which pulled them through some very difficult times and I think played a factor in all of their successes. They could be rough and tough but very emotional and sentimental. Of course, Jamie still has those pagan cultural beliefs that he can’t quite separate from his Catholic faith and so you get that great blend of Celtic Christianity which feels right to me.

        I love the expression “old soul” and I would describe the (beautiful,yes) actors that play Jamie and Claire as old souls with depth and spiritual presence. Not sure how all of this can be marketed by STARZ but I’ll remain hopeful! So, Outlander is quite entertaining? Can it be inspirational?

      • #6547

        I gotta say, reading a daily diary about Jamie and Claire’s life together kind of sounds like my perfect book right now. I think I posted elsewhere on this forum that the quiet, pastoral moments when they were at Lallybroch in OL were among my favorite of that book. I just like spending time with them, and I do sometimes find that I am just a tiny touch … annoyed (I guess that’s the best word) when they have to rush off on some dramatic adventure. But I will definitely let you know. I only discovered the books last year in the lead-up to the series being released (though I read the first three before watching the show) and fell in such passionate love with them that I had to extricate myself a bit! So that’s why I’m only up to Drums of Autumn. I’m intentionally taking it slow. 🙂

        Did your dad and uncles also have pagan cultural traditions or beliefs that were passed to them through the generations? I assume in Jamie’s case you’re talking about some of the changeling stuff in OL, though I gather that things get a bit more mystical in the later books. You know what just occurred to me? You define Jamie as possessing pagan Scottish cultural beliefs, but then I would argue that he doesn’t really believe Claire when she tells him about her journey through the stones. And can we extend that lack of faith to his character in other ways? He always identifies as Catholic, but he does not appear to practice Catholicism in any traditional sense — at least not in the books I’ve read so far. In fact, Claire is the one who dives into faith (and mysticism!) in the abbey scenes in OL.

        To me, Outlander is actually very inspirational, though I’m not sure how you meant to use the word. Like I said, I was very interested in both learning about perpetual adoration with Claire and her spiritual conversations with Brother Anselm in OL, but I won’t say that the books are religiously inspirational beyond that for me. Instead, what Outlander did was give me back a part of myself that had been missing. I hadn’t read a book for more than a year before OL — too many kids, too much work, etc. And OL reminded me how important reading is to my identity and sense of self. It also reminded me how wonderful my husband is. He shares a lot of Jamie’s traits, both physical and emotional, and I think my awareness and appreciation of him had gotten buried in the craziness of our daily lives. So I’m very grateful to have found it!

      • #6553

        What a lovely thing to say about your husband!

        Well I went back through the books after Drums of Autumn and it was not Breath of Snow and Ashes that I was thinking of. Let’s just say that in one of the novels I thought the story really began (in the usual DG style) around page 400 when there was a celebration at the house of Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta. The first half of the book was not a blissful daily journal. It was sort of a long, stressful series of events detailed to a painful degree that did not really seem to go anywhere. Just my opinion and I will be curious to see what you think. I may even read the books again if the series continues. Maybe I’ll have another opinion. I too love the small, tender moments in the novels and I would have loved to read more about Jamie and Claire’s time at Lallybroch.

        As for my dad’s side of the family, the Celtic traditions faded and were replaced by that interesting mix of German, Irish and Italian culture… in our area at least. What remained was the love of the outdoors, the “green” as my dad would call it. I found a local Episcopal church that has a Celtic Service and it is lovely. The prayers celebrate nature as well as the traditional Christian mass. Of course, the music is Celtic and accompanied by harp and flute. It is really lovely.

        Many years ago I found and fell in love with the Celtic Christianity prayer book by Father Fitzgerald. A friend who works at a local bookstore actually recommended Outlander to me because of the setting of the book and all of the references to the pagan and Christain traditions. So, I think I came to Outlander while I was really on a spiritual journey of my own. I absolutely find characters to be spiritual inspirational. I could do without any marketing that cheapens the story…Fabio in a kilt?

        My husband may have Jamie attributes but he is not Jamie. He’s much more like Claire. Hmmm…I will have to ponder that one! Have a great day and thanks for continuing the dialogue.

      • #6554

        to practice Catholicism in any traditional sense

        Between Scotland and North Carolina it was pretty much impossible to “go to church” or however we would define traditional Catholic practices. Catholicism was outlawed in most of the 13 colonies, though your best best was Maryland. Since Catholics need a priest to act as an intercede /mediate with God then without a priest there can’t be many of those ‘traditional practices’.

        (I’m decidedly not spiritual, so I don’t have anything to add to that part of the discussion.)

      • #6556

        Yes I agree Jamie would not have had much opportunity to practice his faith in the conventional way…church on Sunday at all.

        I guess I would separate the pagan beliefs that have meaning to me from the magic that is part of the book. The 200 year time travels, changeling and Nessie seem fairytale like to me. I am thinking more of the feast days and the beautiful Carmina Gadelilca poems and prayers that would have been spoken at the time of the Outlander story. It’s the combination of the passing of the seasons and the pastoral life that was incorporated into Celtic Christianity. I do see this in Jamie.

        There were many years when I was decidedly not spiritual. There was a very abusive priest in our particular parish and too many stories of corrupt church leaders. On a trip to Ireland, I was really touched by the people that I met that were on pilgrimages to sacred sites…Croagh Patrick was one. So, I decided to explore this at first to make my parents happy but then later just for me.

      • #6559

        Ok, that makes total sense. I’m only about 200 pages into “Claire & Jamie: The American Years” (aka Drums of Autumn), so I wasn’t even really thinking about the situation in the colonies.

        Still, it’s interesting to me that a Catholic author who clearly values her faith created a Catholic character who clearly values his faith but doesn’t include much information about how he practices that faith — besides having him go to confession for the first time in a long time in Voyager. Not even anything formal when they were living in strongly Catholic France.

        That leads me to think that there are other ways in which Jamie’s faith presents itself, and while I am keen enough to pick up on some of the more overt spiritual bits, I wonder if I just don’t know enough about Catholicism to see others. For example, there was a discussion on DG’s Compuserve board about the line in Outlander that goes something like “It is better to marry than to burn.” I interpreted the “burn” part along the lines of “burning with lust,” but apparently a) it’s Biblical in origin (which I did NOT pick up on, though that was probably just me being dense because I think Jamie even said it was St. Paul who wrote it) and b) there are certain translations of the Bible that make it clear that the missing words at the end are: “in hell.” That NEVER would have occurred to me, I think because I come from a very secular background.

        Of course, I also come from a literary-analysis background, during which I was trained to find religious allegory in just about every text, so when I’m reading something that has a character who strongly (and repeatedly) identifies as Catholic, I wonder where the religion is.

        And just a tiny disclaimer: I’m starting to feel like these posts are coming off as super serious, and I want to be clear that I actually enjoy the stories first and foremost and don’t spend a ton of time worrying about the religious influences in Outlander. It is true, though, that my personal literary-analysis expertise is in examining non-canonical texts for cultural influence, and this board seems to provide a willing forum, so I guess there you go. 😀

      • #6569

        Yes, masturbation is a big no no in the Catholic church. I happen to disagree with that. See, I am not so serious either :

      • #6707

        The religious aspects and discussion become more in depth the farther into the series you read. Some of the questions about Jamie’s views on his beliefs come up later. I, like Rachel, am decidedly not religious and while I find religious discussion fascinating I find that I have very little constructive input.

    • #6754

      I’ll jump in and say that I consider myself to be very spiritual, but I practice Folk Catholicism and I was educated by Jesuits, so I’m not a traditionalist. Still, happy to answer any questions.

      As for Jamie and his looks, really to me it was secondary. While Sam is handsome and I frequently allude to that when I write about him, I’m not in love with that character as an individual. What draws me to the character is his devotion to his wife, and Claire’s to him. I was in the car with my teen a couple of days ago and we were listening to Paloma Faith’s “Let’s Be” and he wanted to know why I liked it, if it was “depressing” and I told him that it was the opposite: Falling in love is easy. Any asshole can fall in love… but staying in love over a lifetime, that $#@’s hard. And I loved that song (and Outlander, in case you haven’t figured out the metaphor) because they are stories that speak to me in a real fashion about what a long-term partnership is: days where you want to drink the other person up, days when you can’t stand the sight of them, stupid petty things and breathless momentous ones… and shared memories.

      And there’s no man or woman good-looking enough to keep you there if there isn’t where you want to be. It’s heartening to see.

      • #6755

        I agree. I love the Jamie/Claire relationship for the arguments as much as the devotion to one another. After many years of marriage I view healthy relationships much differently. My husband and I had a huge fight several months after our wedding date and I thought how am I going to live with this bastard for the rest of my life. Can’t even remember what it was about…some improvements to the house maybe…and I just felt like I hated him and I am certain he felt the same way toward me. The hard part (advice from my mom) was finding our way back to one another. We have had other issues (raising a teenager is enough to strain any marriage) and when we at our wits end with one another we usually go to a B&B for a long weekend and just have sex. We may not talk for the entire trip there but we are usually laughing like teenagers when we come home. It may not be the foundation of a marriage for others but it really is for us. I do see that wonderful reconciliation between the J & C and I think it is inspirational. Great message for couples.

        I am intrigued by your Folk Catholicism and would love to hear more about this. My dad went to a Jesuit college and enjoyed the theology classes.

      • #6759

        Can I just say I LOVE your weekend getaway strategy? We have a teen and a 4 yo and some days it’s hard to get that couple time. I’m going to stick that one in my back pocket.

        Well, Folk Catholicism is in essence the blending of the native religions in the Americas with the Catholicism brought from Europe. There was a lot of cultural collision and things absorbed into other things (like native goddesses’ qualities being absorbed into incarnations of the Virgin Mary) and it resulted in a much more fantastic, less strict and more inclusive (IMH)) variation on the religion. I went to mass and studied evolution and the Inca creation myths, and I got vaccinated and took medicine but I also went to a witch doctor and got “las flores” to get the demons out. I prayed, but I also turned statues of saints upside down to get certain favors. I don’t put my purse on the floor because that is an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth), but if I were to do it, I would cross myself. So I have a love of the magical. I speak to my dead in my prayers and when awake, and I don’t know that I believe in the traditional heaven. I think we are all absorbed into the universal energy.
        But I still consider myself Catholic.

        And the Jesuits taught me that a true understanding of the world was like trying to explain math to an ant, and that science and evolution were not incompatible with the idea of a God, because science was how we explained and mapped our relationship to the world and our purpose in it, which was okay because the world was created for us to use our brains and grow. My priest would tell me that singing was praying x3 and I would sing outside and feel my words rising up and something else coming down, and I believed in God because I felt that art had a divine origin. The same priests taught me that to judge anyone for their choices was the worst of sins (hubris), and to respect each person’s relationship with the Universe and how they chose to connect to it. So I believe in God, and it’s a deeply personal belief, and it brings me joy and wonder but my eldest son is an atheist and that’s okay, too, at least with me. My husband is much more traditional.

        Hope that clears it up some.

      • #6760

        So interesting! I can see some parallels with the Celtic Catholicism…the beliefs in thin times when the spirit world connects with our world and the incorporation of powerful druids who later became Celtic saints. You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing. Wow…you have a four year old! I would give anything for my daughter to be 4 again. I was such a good mother to the kids when they were little. I think it is so hard to raise a teenager with cell phones and other forms of social media. I worry that it is a really artificial world for them. I have taken my daughter’s cell phone away for now and I am planning a hiking trip just for the two of us. I truly believe I nature therapy. I would be interested in any prayers that you have for protection of children and family.

      • #6767

        I just wanted to say thanks for all of your thoughts – and Connie for sharing personal beliefs – all are so interesting.

        I am interested in Celtic Christianity and other “nature type beliefs/cultures”. I do enjoy the Celtic/Pagan/Native American beliefs/cultures that are woven throughout the Outlander books – particularly the respect for all nature. It’s so interesting to me to learn how different “cultures” handled these things – and therefore what their lives were/are like because of their beliefs.
        (Potential spoilers):

        recognizing and giving thanks to animals for providing food – I always think of what was done to the buffalo in North America – to me that was a lack of respect, waste, etc. Also, I find the prayers, etc. when setting a hearthstone (I believe it was) for a new house – quite interesting.

        It seems to me, that particularly Americans, do not have enough opportunities to learn about things like this. It seems that people often feel that their “one way to do things” is threatened by just learning about other beliefs. I guess that I was fortunate to have grown up in Arizona – we did “automatically” get some “exposure” to various Native American beliefs and traditions if nothing else.

      • #6786

        I agree Lori. That’s another great message in the books…the ability to learn from and get along with people of different beliefs.

      • #6828

        I can’t really speak to the religious aspects of Outlander per se as I no longer believe in organized religon because, as I see it, too many bad things have been, and continue to be, done in the name of religon. At the same time I respect the right of people to practice their religon as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others who believe differently than them. A friend of mine once told me when I said I was not religious, that she would call me spiritual instead. I guess that’s as good a description as any.

        I believe that there is more to life than the very materialistic society we live in. I believe the disconnect modern society has fostered between humans and the rest of our world is the reason for so many of the problems we now see. I love nature and I believe that we have a responsibilty to preserve and protect our beautiful and amazing world and to take care of each other. I love to get away from the trappings of civilization so I can breathe in a way that is impossible in modern day life.

        I see Jamie (and Claire) as more spiritual than religious. They practice the bits and pieces of religon that fit them rather than follow a strict dogma. Claire practices perpetual adoration because it works for her. Jamie prays but doesn’t really go to church. They both respect the natural world and accept the mystical aspects of it. Jamie is accepting of others who are considered pariahs in his time (i.e the young Jewish Rothschild in Paris, the natural scientest in Voyager.)They are both very enlightened in that respect given the culture and times they were raised in.

      • #6847

        Thanks Barb. I really appreciate all that you have said. I too think that that Jamie and Claire are on a spiritual journey as they make their way through life. They have a strong moral compass that is derived from much more than organized religion.

    • #7045

      This is a really interesting discussion topic. When I first read Outlander, I think I was drawn in by Claire’s intelligence. I was fascinated by her ability to adapt to her circumstances, to think on her feet, and to use humor and wit. She didn’t seem to me to be a classic beauty but someone whose beauty was less about her physical appearance and more because of her intellect, confidence, and force of personality. Jaime grew on me throughout the first book and it seems like the impression that other characters have of Jamie says more about their personalities and depth of character than it does about Jaime. The characters who sort of objectify him or are only drawn to his appearance seem to be people who are more shallow, or predatory (in the case of Black Jack). Claire remarks on his appearance (in almost a clinical fashion) but what really causes her to like him as a friend and later a love are his character traits. He is fiercely loyal, has a strong sense of family, and knows right from wrong. He is also incredibly funny with a wry sense of humor that she also possesses. She also recognizes in him that he is keenly intelligent and practical. I think she sees this demonstrated in the way he handles the oath ceremony. Jaime has a tendency to leap before he looks but he does so because he has a very strong protective instinct.

      It strikes me that Claire has few equals. I think Frank was her equal in terms of intellect but I think Claire may have had to provide for her own emotional needs. I mean Frank chose to do genealogical research on their second honeymoon! It seemed like the primary purpose of their honeymoon was research not reconnecting with his wife. The other thing about Claire is that she was orphaned and raised by an academic. Frank is probably familiar to her, reminding her of her uncle and making her feel safe. Jamie challenges her and makes her feel emotions that are new to her. I think he brings out a depth of feeling in her because he does give to her so unconditionally. It is a fascinating relationship which makes for such great reading!!

      • #7060

        Yes, going back through the stones to Frank offers Claire the familiar life with greater physical safety and creature comforts… but emotional uncertainty. Jamie offers Claire little in the way of creature comforts but he does satisfy her emotional needs and more.

    • #7108

      Thanks so much for starting this thread. It’s a great topic. The philosophical themes or themes about faith in the books are one of the main things about them that has kept me wanting to read more. Thanks for those of you who have shared your views/beliefs/background. I come from a faith that believes in the divinity of most, if not all, religions: Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, etc. (essentially their teachings come from one divine source), so my opinions and thoughts about the treatment of faith in the books are kinda informed by that perspective.

      One of things I appreciate about the treatment of faith or belief systems in the books is that there’s a recognition in some way that people can express their spirituality and connection with the spiritual world through the physical in different ways. I haven’t noticed in the books that there’s an indication of one way being more “right” than the other (if I’ve missed something, feel free to let me know)…rather, spirituality and its expression works differently for different people…I think of both Jamie, Young Ian and Roger as examples of this.

      As for feelings for Book Jamie, like most of you, his looks didn’t do it for me, but his honour and his sense of humour (he’s made me laugh out loud while sitting on a commuter train many times). In the later books, I’m more drawn to Young Ian’s character than Jamie and he’s not supposed to be physically “attractive” (to Claire anyway). Going back to the question about how the show (and even the books) have been marketed – of course sex sells, but there also seems to be a focus on just the love story. As Maureenanne states, the overall story is more than that…Could it possibly be because of the demographic of the audience, the sex and gender of the author, and the societal presumptions and generalizations about what women like?

      • #7110

        Thanks for sharing SonyaKhanum. I do think that there is something about the novels that does prompt one to ponder faith and what we can or cannot explain in nature.

        My daughter has just asked me what a submissive was given all of the media play on 50 Shades of Grey. Perspective can be an ice bucket of water thrown over one’s head. I am now no longer going to complain about the silly hunky shots of SH or the Valentine arrows through the head! It all seems very innocent to me now.

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