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Outlander and The Female Gaze: Why Women Are Watching

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By now you’ve doubtless heard of Outlander, Starz’s new entrant in the race for premium channel subscribers. The surprise hit, based on the epic fantasy romance novels by author Diana Gabaldon, isn’t the first series to court a mostly straight female audience; True Blood, adapted from Charlain Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, banked on the appeal of love triangles and quadrangles to rope in viewers who were still hungry for the romance of Twilight, with undeniable success. But unlike True Blood, which tantalized with ever more outlandish sex scenes and airbrushed-to-perfection hardbodies, Outlander presents a fantasy that doesn’t seek to appease the pornography-influenced tastes of a straight male audience.

To put it in simpler terms, Outlander is a drama crafted specifically for the straight female gaze.

From its premier, it’s been clear that the Scottish time-travel romance would be different. While exploring a ruined castle as part of their post-war second honeymoon, smart, introspective Claire Randall (portrayed with quiet intensity by Caitriona Balfe) and her husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies) engage in some marital relations atop a disused table. The scene, in which Frank performs oral sex on Claire, focuses entirely on her pleasure. Unlike most Hollywood couplings, there are no flickering candles, no slow strip-teases to reveal her gravity defying breasts or his rippling six-pack. Perhaps the most shocking part of this scene is how graphic it is in its realism; without the usual cues to the viewer that scream, “you’re watching something sexy,” it feels like voyeurism. It looks like sex that anyone could be having.

Of course, fans of the books aren’t sighing over Frank Randall, but the legendary Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), the young Scottish outlaw who is pushed into an arranged marriage with his time traveling bride. Readers have long known that Jamie stands apart from the romantic heroes offered in books and on screen. While he exudes sexual charisma and comes complete with a tragic backstory (including a tragic story about his back), Jamie has what most romantic heroes don’t: an ego that will take a backseat to his love interest’s feelings. He is dutifully devoted to Claire from the moment they’re affianced, and takes great care to consider not only her physical comfort, but the tender emotional state that Claire, a presumed widow, might be in when faced with a second marriage.

Rather than subjecting the viewer to the dubious consent expected from a medieval wedding night, fans were treated to an entire episode devoted solely to watching the new couple enthusiastically consummate their marriage. Mixed in with the candles and teasing glimpses of naked flesh, there were long conversations and genuine caring on the part of the groom, who had no desire to take his reluctant bride by force. When the two finally seal the deal, it’s fumbling, fast, and for Claire, disappointing; not only is Jamie younger than his wife, but he’s a virgin as well. It’s up to Claire to teach him how to be her lover, a task she’s happy to undertake by the episode’s end. In yet another role reversal, when Claire performs fellatio on Jamie, the audience sees the sexual awakening and inexperienced wonder of the male partner, in contrast to the depiction of a vulnerable woman’s introduction her own sexuality that women have been conditioned to consume.

Both romantic leads are almost supernaturally attractive. Balfe, with her flawless skin and long neck, resembles a porcelain swan, and Heughan’s chiseled features are tempered with kind eyes and shy smiles. Yet when their clothes come off, they don’t have the unobtainable bodies of gym-living actors who pump themselves up before each take. Heughan is undeniably fit, but he isn’t in the same league as the  Men’s Health cover models seen on other cable dramas. Balfe is slender, but her stomach isn’t flat and her breasts are natural. The lack of body hair is a bit disturbing, given the time period, but watching the actors together, the viewer sees two people being intimate with each other, instead of two sculpted dolls switching between acrobatic positions.

And that’s where Outlander is truly appealing to the sexuality of its straight female viewers. Instead of painting female pleasure on the male terms of the virgin/whore dichotomy, the audience is shown sex as a normal, matter-of-fact piece of the relationship puzzle. Sure, Jamie and Claire can’t get enough of each other on their wedding night, but their passion is forged by the connections made in the unhurried conversations that make up the bulk of the episode. Jamie is kind and Claire is emotionally conflicted, and their sex isn’t perfect or without fumbling. At one point in the now infamous wedding episode, Jamie stops mid-coitus to make sure he hasn’t hurt Claire. It’s a far cry from the violent thrusting and distressed shouts of a Game of Thrones sex scene.

In further contrast from that HBO juggernaut, Outlander puts sexuality front and center, rather than utilizing a character’s attitude toward sex as shorthand characterization in regards to morality.  Neither does it cheapen the value of sex in storytelling by using it as a constant backing track, as Game of Thrones has coyly done to entertain the male gaze during scenes of protracted exposition. Outlander approaches sex in a way that’s only shocking because it isn’t shocking at all. It’s non-violent, sensual, natural, and the woman is framed as more than an object for male pleasure. Female sexuality isn’t demonized, and engaging in sex doesn’t diminish Claire as a character. Outlander is the rare television drama that shows us a woman who is sexually experienced without being the villain of the piece, and a man who sees her desire and pleasure as a participatory experience, rather than an object to edify his own importance.

It’s far too easy to suggest that it’s the repressed desires of bored housewives driving Outlander‘s success. Women know better. When presented with a complex, emotionally engaging plot and sensual content that doesn’t degrade or shame female sexuality, they’ll tune in, gladly. If the growing fan base is any indication, Outlander is the show that television has been needing for a long, long time.

66 Comments

  1. Lieke
    Lieke

    I’m so excited to see this now! I read two of the novels and they got a bit too (forgive the pun) outlandish for me, but this sounds awesome.

    One of the things that made it impossible for me to watchTrue Blood (aside from the awful and annoying Southern accents and the stupidity of the characters (looking at you, Jason!) was how completely artificial all the sex scenes are shot. They’re all about making the leads look hot and making the sex look hot FOR THE VIEWER. It makes every scene feel like a milder version of a porn scene and it’s incredibly unappealing.

    September 22, 2014
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    • Kate
      Kate

      Yeah, I watched TB to the end, but the sex scenes were just…fake and not exactly needed, except for maybe a couple in season 1. They made feel like I was watching porn – which was not a good feeling, haha.

      September 22, 2014
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  2. Actually, I sigh over Dougal- solely because of Graham McTavish, as I really disliked him in the book. But yes, the reason I loved the book was the portrayal of a strong heroine with a sexuality that is entirely her own and not shaped by male expectations. And Jamie is lovely. I had not expected to enjoy the tv-series, but I find that I love it and I’m so happy that Claire and Jamie has been allowed to stay true. And it is definitely made for the female gaze, the camera has, from episode one, filmed Jamie from that point of view. We saw Claire naked early one as well, but interestingly enough she is filmed much more matter-of-factly.

    September 22, 2014
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  3. Adrienne
    Adrienne

    Thank you for so eloquently saying what I’ve been thinking about the show — especially this episode!

    “When presented with a complex, emotionally engaging plot and sensual content that doesn’t degrade or shame female sexuality, they’ll tune in, gladly. ” — right on!

    September 22, 2014
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  4. Char
    Char

    Excellent commentary, but I’m a bit amused at calling Oulander a “surprise hit.” It would have been surprising if it WASN’T a hit.

    September 22, 2014
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  5. A
    A

    I agreed with your entire article, save one part. I do think Outlander is nuanced in its approach to gender norms and expectations, and it felightfully surprises me week after week. But let’s not pretend that the actors are not preternaturally attractive. I will always argue that this show is more Han just a romance or bodice ripper, but it does retain elements of that, particularlynon the physical perfection of the characters. There’s no body insecurities here, like there would be for two other strangers having sex. I’d rather think that isnr a lack of perfection in their aesthetics, but a determined want to portray real, three-dimensional characters thay help us relate to CLAIRE and JAMIE, despite their clearly far-above-average attractiveness.

    September 22, 2014
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  6. Martina
    Martina

    Fantastic article. I couldn´t agree more. Loved your comparison to GoT. I like GoT quite a lot but tend to skip the sex scenes in it, because thay make me vaugely uncomfortable. In Outlander they were simply there and they were beautiful.
    I wish a lot more people would give this show a chance.
    I am from Slovakia and a our premium TV show blog posted a frustratingly narrow-minded review and after only first episode, no less, how it is nothing more than soft porn for grannies ( it was compared to a Harlequin novel , WTF?) I was disgusted.
    I wish there were more people like you, because your review does justice to the show, the book itself, and most of all to you
    so THANK YOU.

    September 22, 2014
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  7. A
    A

    (My apologies for the typos! I was rushing and haven’t quite mastered typing on my phone yet

    September 22, 2014
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  8. Rhonda Daniels
    Rhonda Daniels

    Wonderful article! I’m a Literature instructor, Women’s Studies minor, and Outlander lover (since 1991). I’ve actually passed this on to some of my colleagues. You’ve truly captured the beauty of the novel–it is not the typical bodice ripper, but a story of love and marriage.

    September 22, 2014
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  9. Lacey
    Lacey

    I couldn’t have written this better myself! You have hit the nail on the head. I am loving this series!

    September 22, 2014
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  10. outlander
    outlander

    The romance between sooki and Eric was never as hot as Outlander s Wedding episode. True Blood died for me after they botched the Eric and Sooki romance in Season 4. It was never the same. TAKE notes True Blood this is what you missed. Thank you R Moore and Diana G.

    September 22, 2014
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  11. Deb
    Deb

    Love this post. It highlights all the nuances of the wedding episode. I especially agree with the “real bodies of real people” as opposed to airbrushed six-packs and plastic boobs common in movies and TV. This whole series has been enjoyable for me for the equality of the strong female character and the strong male character. The two main actors are wonderfully talented and naturally attractive.

    And honesty compels me to admit that as much as I do NOT like or trust Dougal, I find him strangely attractive. My, my, two attractive Scotsmen in one series. I canna say how my wee heart will survive!

    September 22, 2014
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  12. slfisher
    slfisher

    I don’t know who was surprised that the show was a hit. The books have sold gazillions.

    And, we must give credit to author Diana Gabaldon for much of the tone and attitude toward sexuality; it all comes (heh heh) straight from the book.

    Props to the producers and directors for doing such a great job with it.

    September 22, 2014
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  13. Elsbeth
    Elsbeth

    I am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and have read them all more than once. Having my own image of Claire and Jamie from the books, I was doubtful that the Starz series could begin to capture the story of their love and marriage, but I have been most pleasantly surprised with the series so far. I must say, though, that The Wedding episode just aired had the most exquisite depiction of sensual love-making I have ever seen in any movie or TV production. The tenderness, the sensuality and the sheer joy of sexual discovery were breathtaking. I am in awe of both Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe for their portrayals and for “getting” it. Not only did they do my imagination justice, they took the scenes to another ineffably ethereal and beautiful level! In my opinion this episode is a must watch for everyone, but most especially men so they can see that THIS is what lovemaking is about!

    September 22, 2014
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  14. I started trying to write about Outlander last night but you covered most of the thoughts I had and this piece is better written than anything I could have pulled together. Loved it!

    September 22, 2014
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  15. Absolutely agreed. No show has ever quite attempted anything like what Outlander is doing, and you hit the nail right on the head about it. Yes the actors are attractive, but they come across as -naturally- attractive, and they come across as human-damned-beings, not plastic actors in a cheap porn. I’ve never seen a “sex scene” like their wedding night, and damn, it was beautiful. Beautiful! It made my heart and “down there” *sniggers* clench equally. Bravo, Starz, for doing this book justice, but also fuck you for splitting the season up you bastards!!! Making us have to wait until January for more Jamie!! *scowls*

    September 22, 2014
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  16. I don’t have access to this show, but I really wanted to watch it. I hope the screenwriters are good because the book was simply horrible. The writing made me want to rip my eyes out and the story dragged terribly through at least half of the book. But I also really liked Jamie …

    I don’t know if you’ve read the book, but if not, you might not be so forgiving. It has a lot of questionable stuff in it that can’t all be passed off as the time period in which it’s set. It has its good and bad and is nowhere near the horrificness that is 50 Shades, but I really hated the book. I could see, however, that in the hands of a more talented writer, it could be pretty awesome.

    September 23, 2014
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    • Oh, and Game of Thrones … don’t even get me started. My biggest complaint is not the change in story, but the way they changed it. There is no more story. It’s become an hour a week of ridiculous sex and over-the-top gore and that’s about it.

      September 23, 2014
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    • Karen
      Karen

      I was way, way into these books in the early ’00s. And while I’ve been loving what’s been presented on screen so far, I’m starting to remember why I didn’t finish the series. I have hope that the screen writers have some leeway to play with.

      September 23, 2014
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  17. Flo
    Flo

    Does anyone know if this is going to be available someplace other than Starz? I was able to watch the first episode but can’t watch the others since I don’t have a Starz subscription. We don’t have cable or satellite either, so not like I can sign up just long enough to watch and then cancel. Ugh.

    September 23, 2014
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    • Charly S
      Charly S

      It is on iTunes in Australia, maybe available that way for you as well?

      September 30, 2014
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  18. Raven
    Raven

    The Outlander Wedding Episode is the hottest thing I have ever seen on film. I am hooked. Please show me MORE.

    September 23, 2014
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  19. Lucy
    Lucy

    I used to love the Outlander series and couldn’t wait to read the next one. I thought Claire and Jamie were the best couple. But then I read it again when I was bored, and started to really dislike Claire. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but her character is one of those people I avoid in real life. She’s very devoted to her husband and family I’ll give her that, but it’s almost like she looks down on everyone else or something. I don’t know. I wish I knew what my problem with her was because then I would feel less like I’m crazy for disliking someone so many other people love and I quite liked to begin with.

    September 23, 2014
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    • A few people on Goodreads have said she’s a Mary Sue. I couldn’t stand her when I read it.

      September 23, 2014
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      • Lucy
        Lucy

        I think that might be it actually. Often she seems patronising and just looks down on others, especially other women (have you noticed her lack of real female friends?). Fair enough you come from a time where women are treated differently and lots of scientific advances, but that doesn’t make her better or smarter than anyone at all. And the amount of times we are told how ladies check out/flirt with/want/need her oh so handsome husband gets a bit annoying after a while, kind of like 50 shades only not as bad. I didn’t really catch all this while reading it the first time, and now I don’t get why others like her so much, haven’t we read the same books? But it’s funny as well, everyone has different opinions and I still find the books entertaining enough. And I’m aware these are mostly my issues :D.

        September 24, 2014
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        • I didn’t really relate to her at all. I like that she was strong and independent and I even liked her relationship with Jamie, but she just really rubbed me wrong in a lot of ways and I just couldn’t handle her.

          I found parts of the book entertaining, but I ended up getting really bored with a lot of it, too. It would start to get interesting and then lose me. I think it was way too long for what it was, the technical part of her writing was poor (maybe she gets better as the series progresses — I only read the first one) and I just found myself wishing it would be over already. I won’t read any more of them.

          But as I said in a previous comment, I saw a lot of potential so I can imagine the show might be a lot better.

          September 24, 2014
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          • Raven
            Raven

            It’s so odd to read this, because Claire is one of the very few female literary characters that I do like and feel I can relate to. I don’t see her as patronizing or looking down on others so much as just being in a position where her skills, knowledge, and previous life set her apart. She does care deeply for other women and develops close relationships with many in her adopted family. Her main tie is to Jamie, though, and I think it has to be that way because of their unique situation. She’s never going to fit in perfectly in the 18th century, and he is her reason for being there.

            September 24, 2014
          • To me, she just wasn’t well-written or well-developed. Honestly, I think the only character I REALLY liked was Jaime. And I can’t remember her name, but the other “witch” who was also a time-traveler. I read some Wiki an it turns out she was pretty evil, though, which is too bad. She was an interesting character.

            September 29, 2014
          • Don
            Don

            I disagree with your comment about “the technical part of her writing,” but I’m no expert; I just know what I like. You might give Diana some slack, since this was her first novel, written as an exercise of learning how to write a novel. I have read the entire series several times (the 8th only once) and they do get better and better, though some of the rough scenes with Black Jack are cringingly explicit and hard to read (for me and my wife, at least). I read the entire series out loud to my wife, and those scenes soured her on the story, but with mixed feelings. We are both enjoying the TV interpretation of the book.

            October 4, 2014
          • I have a BA in English lit and have been writing and editing professionally for 12 years so I kind of am an expert. The writing in this book is bad.

            October 4, 2014
    • karin morgan
      karin morgan

      No , you are not alone I feel the same way.The more I read the books [1-8] the more I disliked both characters.In the show people are deceived because the actors are good looking, plus the English cast and writers know how to produce good shows.The books I call it now is ” 50 shades of Plaid”.But maybe I’m wrong the author is speaking at the Oxford Literary Club, and it got a ‘People’s Choice Award.But NO , you’re not crazy.

      January 12, 2015
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      • No , you are not alone , I have read books 1-8 , and did not like either character,. The TV show is alluring because both characters are attractive.Plus the producers and actors are very good. No , you are not alone.

        January 12, 2015
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    • Debra Bish
      Debra Bish

      I agree about disliking Claire in her relationship with Jamie in the Starrz version .In the movie epiosodes I quite loved her happiness with Frank and enjoyed Catriona’s joyous attitude(not her bossiness),but in 1743 she is more angry than a caged wild cat and her continued anger is very annoying. Life is hard enough without a seething character in a movie you thought you would love. I must say Jamie’s honor and chivalry are delightful. I adore the love story in the books but the adventures are a bit scary and somewhat contrived. It’s good for a winter read , and I drink up the marital fidelity with a honey dip( in the books ).

      April 6, 2015
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  20. Carol
    Carol

    I have loved Diana Gabaldon’s books for years.. awaiting the publishing of each one with much impatience. Claire is a such a strong woman, unwittingly relocated out of her town time into a very backward culture. Taken for a spy and a witch she always triumphs and finds her soul mate. It is not all about the sex (although that is so awesomely described you really feel it) it is about the complex characters caught up in Claire’s travails that draw you in until they all become like old friends.

    September 23, 2014
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  21. What a fantastically written review of the show! I agree with a lot of what you said. However, I’m also not sure who was surprised by this being a hit considering how incredibly popular the books have been for the past 20 years. Was “Hollywood” expecting it to fail? Critics? Everything I’d heard about it – and maybe this is my perspective coming from a reading background – had it as one of the most highly anticipated new shows of the year with critically great reviews.

    For my next few comments, I need to offer a disclaimer: I haven’t seen the show yet – due to no access to Starz for the moment – but I have read the first book.

    I found some of the praise a little … odd considering the source material. This is – at heart – a romance story. Gabaldon penned a much beloved romance, that has so transfixed its audience that Jamie and Claire continuously are placed at (or near) the top of many “favorite couple” lists. With that in mind it’s not especially surprising that the show follows a lot of the same nuances. Or maybe it is, Hollywood can distort a lot of things in remaking them for the screen. But it doesn’t really surprise me that the level of romance and connectedness between Claire and Jamie are so prevalent in the show, because its SO prevalent in the book.

    Also, as much as my twelve-year-old self loved Jamie (and Claire) I’m not sure I’d have the same feelings about the couple now (and in fact plan to re-read the first book at some point to see if I do) – but he’s not *that* out of the ordinary from other romance heroes that I read. Most romance heroes set aside their ego for their partner – it’s part of what makes them such a fabulous hero. I wouldn’t continue to read novels that had heroes (and this can mean heroines too) that couldn’t see past themselves for the needs, desires, feelings, and general thoughtfulness of their partner. Am I just reading different romance novels than others? Granted I’ve never picked up Fifty Shades of Grey…

    All that being said, I’m so glad that the show is showing sex in a positive, *real* light. It’s a much needed change for Hollywood, and your thoughts on this episode have made me incredibly excited to finally be able to watch it!

    September 26, 2014
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  22. grayson
    grayson

    I had to laugh out loud at this entire post as I scrolled to the bottom and saw the link for your latest #merlinclub post. I laughed even more when I clicked the link only to see a Merthur fan in the image at top the article.

    LOL. Talk about watching a show that’s catered to the female gaze as you’ve described it here, and then decidedly not.

    Good luck.

    September 30, 2014
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    • it! All readers are not alike. Ever wndeor WHY the rise in SF/F/H/P romance, dark romance and erotic romance? Because readers who were also writers got sick of being served up the same old thing and asked, “Where did Dark Shadows go? Where did classic/tragic romance go? Why should women hide that we’ve always enjoyed erotic as much as men do?” So, we wrote it. Perceptions of the “industry” don’t always mirror perceptions of the hungry readers. Forget carbon copy books and even book blurbs. The average reader has less expendable income than they did a few years ago. They don’t want to read the same thing again. They want to read something new, and they want a blurb to tell them how it’s new and why they should shell out the money to buy it.As for the “rules,” there’s an old saying that there are three unbreakable rules of writing, and no one knows what they are. IMO, they deal with professionalism, submitting and honing your craft. All the rest varies from publisher to publisher and agent to agent. If you can break the “guidelines,” because they aren’t really “rules,” skillfully enough, you’re breaking new ground in a good way, you’re stretching the boundaries of the playing field and not hopping completely out of your lane. Thank you for finally saying it!

      June 23, 2015
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  23. Regina
    Regina

    I am a middle-aged married woman and I have my own paycheck and checking account. I spend money on entertainment, so I feel that it’s about time someone takes my point-of-view into consideration. I loved the episode, “The Wedding” (as did my husband who benefitted from this epi!) I’m glad that Jamie is inexperienced, he’s not dumb, he’s not goofy, he’s young without being immature. Keep up the good work Outlander contributors. I will support your cause and spend some of my money on your products and the magazines that feature your show!

    September 30, 2014
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    • Barbara
      Barbara

      I couldn’t agree more. I think the casting choices made for ‘Outlander’ are outstanding. The lead characters are very believable and real in their roles (although I agree with other comments that both Sam Heugan and Catriona Balfe are quite a bit above average physically). The wedding episode is a triumph and this article captures why. I don’t usually particularly enjoy sex scenes in movies or TV. They always seem contrived and, yes, male oriented. This episode was delightful. It portrayed the joy of discovering another physically and allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable.

      I have never done this before but I find myself watching the wedding episode and the following one over and over. It’s not just seeing beautiful people naked and coupling. It’s their unfolding discovery that really makes it hot!

      September 30, 2014
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      • Leslie Nicole
        Leslie Nicole

        Glad I’m not the only one who admits to watching these two episodes over and over. These are the best intimacy scenes I’ve ever seen on TV, but it’s more than that. I loved all the parts of the wedding episode. The writing is brilliant. I loved all the little vignettes in the flash backs. All the actors were fabulous. Thanks for the article, I agree 100%.

        February 28, 2015
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  24. It’s a good scene, but to a certain extent (and that’s what the author of the article seems to like about it) it does exactly the same thing that male-oriented het erotica does, only in reverse: it makes the male behaviorally more female.

    October 3, 2014
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  25. slfisher
    slfisher

    It was the rough scenes with Black Jack — not to mention the one in the abbey in France — that got me really intrigued with the books.

    October 5, 2014
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  26. monica
    monica

    i started watching outlander with zero knowledge of the books. i don’t like romance novels and don’t like most romantic comedies, precisely because they are so often unrealistic and cheesy. outlander impressed me, especially the wedding episode.

    this is a brilliant analysis, but i do think the author is stretching when she comments on the bodies of the 2 main actors. sure, nobody’s perfect but caitriona balfe and sam heughan are genetically blessed and probably take their food and exercise habits very seriously. they are more bit and beautiful than 99% of the population, so i wasn’t really buying the “they’re like you and me” argument, LOL!

    October 12, 2014
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    • Yes, I agree they are more good looking then average. She was a model, 5’10 abnormally tall . He is 6’3 but has acting training.So this is not a [just like me story].

      January 12, 2015
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  27. Connie
    Connie

    In response to those folks who do not care for Claire and state she has no female friends, some food for thought: you must remember not to apply your present-day filter. This is a woman who has no family and was raised by an uncle who was an archeologist. She was raised in an unusual manner and without siblings or close friends. She has been self sufficient from a young age. Later on, she becomes a physician which was quite unusual for a woman in the 1940s. She probably would not have had the normal female relationships for the times. I feel she is portrayed very realistically for a woman of her particular history.

    January 25, 2015
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    • My stepgrandmother started college when she was 16 years old and became a physician in the 1940s and she had plenty of female friends.

      Claire is an unlikable character (at least she was in the first book, which had plenty of other problems, which is why I won’t read another book in the series). None of those things make her likable. None of those things excuse her personality, which kind of sucks.

      January 26, 2015
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      • Connie
        Connie

        Over a lifetime of reading everything I could get my hands on, including the classics and the entire Outlander series (several times over), Claire and Jamie are on my short list of characters with complex and strong personality. Personality develops over a lifespan of experiences. It doesn’t need and is not required to be likeable. It’s what makes an individual unique-no matter how you feel about them.

        January 26, 2015
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        • Except that this is a character we’re actually supposed to like. She’s the heroine of a love story. I certainly don’t like Humbert Humbert, but I think he was a well-developed character. You weren’t supposed to like him, therefore Nabakov did his job well. In this case, the reader is supposed to like Claire. But she isn’t likable. That’s poor writing.

          You assume I am not much of a reader. I majored in English in college, I was the darling of every English teacher in middle and high school and every college professor. I have certainly not stopped reading since then, either. I read a lot. I know good from bad writing and I know about character development.

          It’s entirely possible this particular character become likable and the writing improves later in the series. But the first book was on my short list of the worst books I’ve ever read so I won’t be reading more. I did see potential in the story, so I will assume those who are writing the series fixed the problems that appeared in the book and it’s better than the book. I haven’t had a chance to watch it, though.

          I did find it interesting that you think a woman becoming a physician in the 1940s meant she wouldn’t have many female friends, though. I mean, I actually know a woman who was a physician in the 1940s and that’s a silly thing to say. However Claire was raised, she worked as a nurse amongst other female nurses all through the war and she went to school to learn her trade and would have been surrounded by other women who had much in common with her, since they were all on the same path.

          I also find it interesting that the author chose to have her develop a friendship with the other woman time traveler (can’t recall her name) only to turn that woman into a severely evil character. That was a huge disappointment as the relationship appeared to have interesting potential.

          January 26, 2015
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          • LOL
            LOL

            You’re well chuffed with yourself, aren’t you?

            (I was also “teacher’s pet,” a high school writing competition champ, a professional editor, and have a master’s in English from a top UK university, along with a second master’s in archival science. I find your comments hilariously smug and pendant. You obviously relate the Claire character to a woman in your life for whom you have a deep dislike.)

            August 10, 2016
  28. slfisher
    slfisher

    What about her do you find so unlikable?

    January 26, 2015
    |Reply
    • Other than that she was a self-righteous snot?

      January 26, 2015
      |Reply
      • Constance
        Constance

        Given all of your bitter, acerbic comments regarding writing and character development, the only self righteous snot is you, sweetie. You sound like some one who never reached the potential all those teachers and professors thought you had and are jealous of someone who is successful and beloved. My guess is you tried writing a novel and could never get it published so you spend your time trashing people who made it. You’re wasting your time trying to convince the millions of us who love the characters that you know best. BTW I am a published author. Enjoy your sour grapes.

        April 4, 2015
        |Reply
  29. Connie
    Connie

    I assume nothing. But I did read the series and didn’t get my information from Goodreads and Wiki. And fortunately I don’t need to state my level of education and general fabulousness to feel validated in my personal opinion. That’s really all it is. Nuff said.

    January 26, 2015
    |Reply
    • You did assume. You very strongly implied that I didn’t read enough to know that some characters are unlikable or that I assume they all have to be.

      You also started by announcing to everyone who criticized the character that we just didn’t understand her the way you did.

      It’s entirely possible to understand her and still not like her and still think the writing was flawed. I did read the first book. I hated it almost as much as I hated 50 Shades of Grey. It was poorly written. If I hated it that much, why would I read the rest of the series? If she couldn’t pull me in with the first book, she sure as heck wasn’t going to get me to read the second. So I looked some stuff up to see if there was a reason to go on and there wasn’t.

      I read through the Harry Potter and ASOIAF Wikis before reading/finishing those series (which I have since done) and both were very good representations of what was in the books. It isn’t the be-all and end-all of a book’s worth, but it does give one a good idea of what to expect going forward.

      January 26, 2015
      |Reply
      • LOL
        LOL

        Grow up.

        Also, Harry Potter is not great literature.

        August 10, 2016
        |Reply
  30. SueV
    SueV

    For everyone remarking that Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are too attractive to fulfill the characters of Claire and Jamie, I ask, HAVE YOU READ THE BOOKS?!?

    From the start Claire’s impressions of Jamie are of how handsome he is, not how average looking. And it’s not like all the characters in the books are beautiful specimens. Murtagh is described as ape-like and Ian Murray as homely. Then there is this classic passage in Claire’s POV from “Outlander” the book, which was not used in “The Wedding” episode:
    A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight — any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking…Well over six feet tall, broad in proportion, and striking of feature, he was a far cry from the grubby horse-handler I was accustomed to…
    Jamie is most definitely a beautiful specimen as he is written; Sam Heughan fulfills that literary necessity with ease.

    Because book 1 & 2 are told from Claire’s POV, we don’t hear her rhapsodize about her own looks. Jamie describes her to us via his dialogue with her on their wedding night, and everything he says supports that Claire is a beautiful woman. Her modern-era health protocols helped her escape some of the more common disfiguring problems of the 18th century, so Jamie doesn’t have any visual defects to ignore in Claire’s appearance. Added to that Dougal is attracted to her, either in spite of or encouraged by her spirit, and given that he’s already having an affair with a woman of extreme sensual beauty (no spoilers), his appreciation of Claire must have some basis in her beauty.

    The actress chosen to portray Claire had to be both beautiful and “real” (no fake boobs or lipo or collagen injections) to convince us that she could be a woman of the 1940’s cast back in time and with nothing more than her wits and looks be able to stay alive. Caitriona Balfe is utterly convincing in both areas.

    February 17, 2015
    |Reply
  31. […] point of view: It panders to us in the way most movies/TV do to men (Jenny Trout – Outlander and The Female Gaze: Why Women Are Watching). The whole series, not just The Wedding is like a siren’s song, enticing women to follow it. The […]

    April 21, 2015
    |Reply
  32. […] sex scenes in other pay-TV cable shows such as Game of Thrones, Masters of Sex, Girls, etc… Jenny Trout points out that the sex scenes in Outlander are largely rendered from and for the female…, hence also the camera lingering on Jamie’s impressive body. Jodi McAllister calls Outlander […]

    May 20, 2015
    |Reply
  33. Anon123
    Anon123

    Have you read the books? I’ve never seen the TV series or done more than skim anything past the first book. But the first book was…bleh. There was so much potential, but then there were literally dozens of separate issues that had me tearing my hair out. I did appreciate stuff like the different take on virginity in a romance setting, but there was also some really blatant rape and abuse later on in the book.

    For me, it was all like that–one thumbs-up followed by one thumbs-down, back and forth. And the characterization was often cardboard, but I can see how it being on a screen might remedy some of that. Idk, but I’ve come to trust you enough as a feminist writer that I’m willing to see the TV series as separate from the books based on this post.

    June 11, 2015
    |Reply
  34. Connie
    Connie

    Thank you, LOL, for supporting my opinion of this obviously unhappy person. I left this forum after one day due to what I felt was almost a personal attack. I did not say so at the time because it seemed crass- but I also hold a Masters in Lit and was at the time a professor of creative writing. I am also a published author and was appalled at this person’s disrespect of another’s opinions.

    August 11, 2016
    |Reply
  35. […] gaze” for which the show had been so praised. (For more on that gaze see wonderful essays by Jenny Trout, Maureen Ryan, and our own Melissa Maerz.) And while the sex he and Claire finally have in the […]

    August 11, 2017
    |Reply

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