– By Carly Twehous –
These days, nobody talks about Outlander without first mentioning the star-crossed romance between Claire and Jamie, the feminist perspective, and, of course, the “masterfully filmed” sex.
As I tend to be someone who avoids both forlorn romances, material that become more propaganda than actual feminism, and unnecessarily frequent and gratuitous sex scenes, I wouldn’t have touched Outlander with a ten-foot pole.
Fortunately, my interest was captured by a thirty-second trailer that premiered at Comic-Con a few months before the first season aired. It wasn’t about the romance or the feminism or the sex.
It was almost exclusively the fact that they were wearing kilts.
Then, of course, the creepy Scottish music kicked in, and, with a whirl and a poof, the Claire Randall in this thirty-second Comic-Con trailer was transported back to eighteenth century Scotland.
I was sold. Braveheart, with a flare for time travel? What more could a girl ask for?
Claire Randall, as we first see her, is on her honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands… seven years after she married Frank Randall. Granted, World War II did a fine job keeping the newly-weds apart, but it also left a bride used to a certain degree of…independence from her husband. As such, and despite the era in which she lived, Claire has never been shy about speaking her mind, drinking in the presence of men, or belching loudly. (Yay, feminism.)
Her own curiosity leads her to Craigh na Dun, the Stonehenge-like hill with all the funny rocks and the creepy legends about Druids and witches and vanishing children. Claire ventures there a few times, her own fascination with the tales inspiring her to poke at myths and legends that probably should be left alone.
Then, poof. Claire Randall finds herself back in 1743.
Of course, she has the sense that, due to the English occupation of Scotland and the general unrest amongst the natives, the English-sounding “Randall” probably won’t go over so well. So Claire gives her maiden “Beauchamp”, and although she’s not immediately associated with the fiend, Black Jack Randall, who’s currently terrorizing the countryside, she’s branded a Sassenach… An Outlander.
At MacKenzie castle, Claire becomes increasingly familiar with Jamie Fraser, the man who saved her from English capture when she first arrived. Jamie, too, as she discovers is a bit of an outlander and has his own tragic backstory with the English that culminated in a run-in with Black Jack Randall that left poor Jamie with an interesting pattern of scars on his back.
Obviously, there’s a romance brewing between these two, but at least at first, it’s not so much as star-crossed as reluctant. Jamie knows he’s an outcast and Claire, although trapped in this century, feels it would be cheating on the husband that she barely knows. Naturally, then, when the story converges and forces Jamie and Claire into marriage to keep Black Jack Randall from permanently keeping Claire as his trophy, an interesting dynamic develops.
Their marriage is built almost exclusively on mutual respect. It’s not so much a duty to stay together to avoid shame, as was Claire’s marriage to Frank, nor is it in any way star-crossed love. Jamie, an admitted virgin, is nervous about hurting Claire and tarnishing her with his both his literal and psychological scars. Claire doesn’t want to marry another stranger, nor does she wish to be unfaithful to the husband she left in the late 1940’s, but she recognizes that this union with Jamie must work in order to keep her from Black Jack Randall.
Naturally, because this airs on Starz, the wedding-night sex is fair game for screen time, but unlike so many other shows that have free reign with nudity and graphic content, Outlander isn’t…gratuitous. Nor are sex scenes used in excess (though I hesitate to use the word “tasteful”). The M-rating is there when the story deems it necessary and, although subdued significantly, typically used in context of much darker things such as off-screen rape. It’s not about unwarranted romance novel stuff.
Let’s get one thing straight: This ain’t no Romeo and Juliet.
The relationship that develops between Claire and Jamie is one built on mutual devotion, friendship, and, because the story demands it, tragedy. It’s neither cheesy nor star-crossed in the same context that term is generally used. Yes, of course the story tears them apart, but it always promises they will find their way back to each other. (Insert eye-roll here.)
In the mean time, Claire will give many-a-tongue lashing to misogynistic eighteenth century Englishmen and Jamie will kick some butt in the Jacobite Uprising.
Besides, who needs romance when revolution is on the table?