Casting Claire (or How To Stop #Outlander Casting Bashing)

 

Claire_Fraser_(Outlander_TV)
Wait…are her eyes brown in this picture?

Her hair is brown, curly, and rather unruly.  Her eyes are the color of whisky; they are hawkish and observant[i].  At 5”6, her nose fits neatly in the hollow of Jamie’s chest.  Despite her generous bum and her full bosom, she is trim.[ii]  In the first book, Claire responds to Jamie’s blurted inquiry of “How much do you weigh, Sassanach,” with the unguarded answer of “Nine stone.”[iii]  These are the physical attribute of Claire—this is what she sees when she looks in the mirror.  Although, to be fair, considering the fictional life she lives, she doesn’t always have one to hand.  But that’s perfectly fine, because more often than not, Claire does give a rat’s ass if she looks “proper” or not.

Besides her lack of preoccupation with appearance, one of the things I love best about Claire is that her appearance is not static.  It changes.  She changes.  During times of trial and hardship, she loses weight; her stomach becomes nearly concave.  One cold winter, when activity is understandably limited due to the weather, Claire describes herself as “squidgy.”[iv]  Her hair starts to turn, some strands fade to white while others take on a silvery sheen.  Her ankle is marked by a broken vein.  Faint stretch marks are a testament to her feminine form.

And yet, based on (or in spite of) the words on the page, readers undoubtedly find themselves in Claire:

She is tall like me (…or short like me…)

She is curvy, like me (…or thin, like me…or has a round rear-end, like me…)

This seeing ourselves in the characters may be one of the reason that readers be so emotionally invested in the appearance of their beloved book characters when they do finally make an appearance on the screen.

Unfortunately, whenever a character is cast, it seems that the Appearance Police make their own appearance…

Hmmph, Brianna’s hair is so not that shade of red.  Cant’s they just use the dye they use for Jamie?

Claire’s eyes should be whisky colored.  Seriously, how hard would it be to wear contacts?

Brianna should be taller.  Geez, can’t she just, like, wear some platform shoes?

Roger’s hair should be blacker.  *produces bottle of hair dye and waves it threateningly*

Claire is too thin (…or too curvy).

Jamie’s hair is too short (…or long….or red…or curly…or fuzzy…)  Because, you know, they totally had some great hair products back in the 1700s… Bear grease, anyone?

Admittedly, it seems like the screams of outrage are louder for the casting of the female characters.  Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall having heard too much drama over the casting of Dougal (Disclaimer: I love Graham.  Seriously.  Not hating on Graham.  But, if you want to get picky, he really doesn’t look like Book Dougal.  And yet…no drama.  But geez, let poor Catriona rock her own eye color rather than some boozy hue and OMG! The Skye[v] is Freakin’ Falling!).

It seems that of All The Things I Stage Whisper To My Husband While Watching Outlander, none of these things are about physical attributes.  Mostly, because I tend to read characters and develop a “sense” of them rather than a mental image.  So I’m kind amazed when I see how absolutely rabid some[vi] of the Mental Imagers have with regard to the casting.

I just don’t get it.

But as I read all of the Twitter (and Facebook) outrage over the latest round of castings, it made me want to understand.  The best I can come up with is this:  maybe those qualities that the Casting Blasters believe they share with the main character weren’t retained, and it makes them sad to miss that perceived connection.

Maybe not.

I dunno.

But I do know that Jamie loved Claire when she was bony and when she was squidgy.  He loved her when she was his brown haired lass, when glints of white shone in her curls, and even when her head was shaved.  He loved her pre-stretch marks, and he loved her even more when the marks—these tangible evidence of the life they created– wove their silvery web across her stomach.  He loved her unconditionally.  Because Jamie loved the essence of Claire…not her appearance.

While lovely, Claire was so much more that that.  Jamie knew it.  Hell, even Lord John knew it:

“When he began to speak of you, both of us thought you were dead,” he pointed out.  “And while you are undoubtedly a handsome woman, it was never of your looks that he spoke.”

To my surprise, he picked up my hand and held it lightly.

“You have his courage,” he said.

 *Clears throat.*

*Wipes tear.*

*Drains whisky glass.*

So, I am thinking that maybe it would help if instead of Casting Bashing, we channel our inner-Jamie and wait and see how an actor/actress actually acts before we judge him/her.  We need to give them time to “show us what they got,” so to speak.

This approach works really well with fictional characters…come to think of it, it works pretty well for Real Life People, too.

 

 

[i] “She turned to Roger, her gaze an unsettling amber.  Her eyes always reminded him of hawk’s eyes, as though she could see a good deal father than most people.”  Voyager.
[ii] And this is where I would tuck in the quote about her flat belly that I recall from Voyager, when she is appraising her appearance and wondering how she will look to Jamie, after all these years… or at least this is where I would put the quote if I had book to hand and could find it at the moment
[iii] Or 126 pounds.  I rather like that she “owns” each pound; her answer is neither coy nor self-conscious.
[iv] To which Jamie responds something like, “I like ye fat.”  A response that made me crush on him pretty hard, and which every male would be well advised to learn and use when needed.
[v] See what I did there?
[vi] Please notice that I said “some,” not “all.”  If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t assume I am trying to shove your foot into it.

Why I Encouraged My Teenage Daughter to Read #Outlander

When I was fourteen, I read Flowers in the Attic. Several of the other girls in my grade were reading it…whispering about it…stashing it away when the teachers walked by. Of course, I had to read it, too.  I was lucky; my mother was always happy to buy me books (although, had she read the book herself, she might have rethought that, at the time).

Some of my schoolmates had borrowed the book from their own mothers…and by “borrow” I mean that they took the book after their moms left for work and then slipped it back into place before their moms came home in the evening. In the time in between, we consumed the story with a kind of perverse fascination.

So this was what grown-ups read!

Outlander-blue-cover-198x300So when my own fourteen year old asked if she could borrow my battered copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I didn’t hesitate long before passing the book to her. My heart skipped a beat as she dashed to her room to start reading but, to be perfectly honest, this was likely more concern for the fate of my beloved book than for how my daughter would react to the story.

No, that was a given.

This was one of those books that would leave a mark on her soul.

Some stories do that…they stay with you forever. I simply wanted to make sure that her first Adult Book was one worthy of the honor.

I read a lot of the same books that my daughter reads. Not because I am policing her reading, but because I want to share in it. When she comes to me sobbing over some book betrayal, I need to know who has earned those tears. But some of the books targeted to teenagers seem to portray the female protagonists as perpetually enduring some Great Tragedy, or waiting for a male character to define them/save them/notice them/love them.

Not all of the stories, mind you. There are some really good YA books with strong female characters who represented a wide range of diversity. But, honestly, we waded through a lot of simpering fools to find a few strong female protagonists. And a lot of the love interests shown in the books were either sparkly or broody. Many were emotionally manipulative or controlling. If she was going to have a “book boyfriend,” I wanted better for her.

So when I realized that my daughter seemed interested in this massive tome which made me laugh out loud, and ugly cry, and real passages aloud for the simple pleasure of feeling the words on my lips, I didn’t discourage it.

In fact, I encouraged it.

I scoured the books to find passages which showed the strength of love, the resilience of the human spirit, the anguished soul clawing its way out from the pits of despair. Some passages I read aloud. But sometimes, I left the book conspicuously next to the sofa—pages temptingly dog-eared—like an offering.

So when she finally asked to borrow the book, it was a relief, really.

“Where are you?” I’d ask eagerly. But not too eagerly.

The book served as a way to talk about hard things, scary things, awkward things… We talked about love and sex and respect and mutual pleasure and consideration between couples. We talked about marriage and expectations and the roles we construct for ourselves (and those that others wish to inflict on us). We talked about sexuality and about when feelings aren’t reciprocated. We spoke of honor and vows. Of promises kept…or not. We shared tears and heartbreak and loss. We talked about rape and brutality…and of healing. We spoke of hope and faith and trust.  We talked about when to hold on; we talked of when to let go.

I let my fourteen year old daughter read the book not in spite of the fact that the books is mature, but because it is. I let her read the book because I know that a book can be more than just entertainment—more than just a story.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a book can be a conversation…or at least the beginning of one.

 

The Best Boyfriends are a Work of Fiction

When it comes to boyfriends, real men can’t compete with the fictional variety. In the real world, whatever romantic instincts that Real World Guy may have once had is summarily quashed by the Testosterone Trapping Trifecta of carpool duty, lawn chores, and unpaid bills. The Bad Boys (and some Not-So-Bad-But-Still-Really-Hot-Guys) who lurk between the pages of a book, however…well, they could teach a guy a thing or two about wooing women. Here are five Literary Lovers who should be required reading for men:

  1. Jamie Fraser (from the Outlander series). It doesn’t matter if he has just brawled with a dragoon of redcoats, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser is never too busy to say soft things in Gaelic to a certain wild-haired nurse who fell through time and ended up in his plaid swathed lap. Equal parts boyish charm and, ahem, “unflagging enthusiasm,” Jamie is handsome, funny, smart, and strong. Seriously strong. Strong enough to want a equally strong woman. Even those who would never, under normal circumstances, dare deface a book by dog-earring pages or (gasp!) highlighting text may find themselves surreptitiously marking The Wedding Night scene and leaving it somewhere their husband might stumble upon it…say, perhaps, the bathroom? (In case you were wondering, that sound you just heard was that of some twenty million Outlander fans flipping through their battered books to re-re-re-read *that* scene.)
  2. Four/Tobias Eaton (from the Divergent trilogy). Another Book Boyfriend who could teach the men of the world a thing or two about romance is the strong, quiet Four of Divergent. Like Jamie Fraser, Four likes his women strong; but where Jamie is playful, Four is dark and brooding–perfect for those who want a bit of a Bad Boy but without the lying, cheating, or other drama that too often accompanies the “real life” version.
  3. Josh Bennett (from The Sea of Tranquility). If you haven’t read The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, you are missing out on some prime Book Boyfriend material. Although tragic, Josh is not pitiful. His painful past has provided him with a profound strength and the desire to protect others. Achingly sweet and undeniably awkward, he is the tortured soul from high school that we all wanted to save but never could.
  4. Ron Weasley (from the Harry Potter series). I know what you’re thinking, “What? That ginger kid from Harry Potter?!” But think about it…Hermione is incredibly smart, right? So she likely gave it some thought before picking Ronald Weasley. In fact, it’s entirely possible that there were lists and charts and perhaps some algorithms involved in her decision. Let’s see…well, he has that “ginger thing” going for him. And, despite the fact that it couldn’t have been easy being known primarily as “Harry Potter’s BFF,” or as “The Youngest Weasley Boy After, You Know, All the Really Cool Ones,” or as “That Painfully Mediocre Quidditch Player,” Ron manages to conduct himself with a surprising amount of grace. He frequently uses humor as a way to navigate the awkward spells (*snort* sorry, couldn’t resist). To his credit, he not only endures Insufferable-Know-It-Alls, but he also seems to have a bit of a soft spot for them (*cough* Hermione). But perhaps one of the best selling-points for having Ron Weasley as a Book Boyfriend is his family. Take a moment to consider your mother-in-law. Now consider Mrs. Weasley. Your mother-in-law. Mrs. Weasley. Need I say more?
  5. Severus Snape (Yes, more Harry Potter characters). At the risk of alienating everyone who has read this far, I am including on this list one of the most under-rated romantics of all…Severus Snape. Yes, I know that he might not have the dashing good looks of say, Gilderoy Lockhart, but Snape can be depended on to keep a secret, to be true to his self, and to be true to those he really loves. Always…. He is even willing to put his life at risk in order to protect the son of the woman he loves. (The son she had by another man, mind you.) If that doesn’t say a something about devotion, I don’t know what does!

I won’t lie, there is a reason that Jamie is #1 on the list. Fortunately, Hubs has taken a few cues from Himself: he has been known to speak with an impressive Scottish accent when he wants to charm me; he does own a kilt and isn’t afraid to use it; and he has, on occasion, called me Sassanach (always to glorious effect).

Of course, the fact that I can’t seem to shut up about Outlander may have something to do with it….  (Still, if it gets Hubs in a kilt, it can’t be all bad, right?)

More Character Crushes (Includes an Outlander Trifecta)

I was recently tagged on a blog hop (see said “call out” here), and it immediately got me thinking.  So, I quickly jotted down characters that I loved from books, movies, and televisions; and I made notes and I brainstormed, and then I started to notice certain…uh, patterns.  Which, me being me, I desperately want to talk about and analyze and pore over….  And, since this is my blog and I get to indulge my whims here, I will analyze the $#*%*#( out of this.  But first, the characters (in no particulate order):

 1.   James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser 

This one is a no-brainer.  I have already waxed poetic about my character crush on Himself.  He is loyal and honorable.  He is also incredibly funny.  (Funny is the new sexy.)  And, as he is quick to point out, he is an “educated man.”  (Smart is the new funny.)  He accepts those he loves and does not try to change them.  (See, that’s more of his smarts right there!)  He can be heartbreakingly romantic and also fiercely pragmatic.  While Laoghaire may need to be needed, I am a sucker for someone who can think for himself, who can DO for himself, who can cope just fine without me…but who simply prefers to cope with things with me by his side.

2.  Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser

If ever I had a girl crush, it was certainly on Claire.  Claire is just as able-bodied, just as stubborn, and just as “take life as it comes” as Jamie.  They are a good match.  Maybe that is why I tend to like her more when she is with Jamie.  I like what he brings out in her.  When Claire is with Frank, she is not as…as…well, as guess not as Claire as she is when she is with Jamie.  Frank’s Claire tolerates his infidelity.  Jamie’s Claire nearly tears him to pieces when she finds out about his by-then-defunct-relationship with Laoghaire.  Perhaps Frank’s Claire cared enough to be hurt, to be angry, but not enough to unleash fury.  (And certainly not enough to fight to try to get Frank back.)  Also, while some decry Claire’s decision to leave Brianna as some lack of maternal warmth, I see plenty of evidence of Claire being prime Mom Material.  Like many a mom before her, Claire set aside her own needs, desires, and happiness until it would be less problematic for those before her.  While she does not belabor how much she misses Bree once she returns to Jamie, we do see it nag at her like a festering wound.  We also see her maternal side in how she treats the family that Jamie constructs for them over the years:  Fergus, Young Ian, even Marsali, and William become part of their brood.  Heck, Claire becomes a mother figure to the better part of Fraser’s Ridge’s occupants.  And the woman STILL has time to doctor the fine folk around her and bed Jamie (both full time jobs, right there!).

3.  Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser

And finishing out the Outlander Trifecta is Murtagh.  I have a soft spot for this wee canty man.  His loyalty to both Ellen and her offspring makes me weak in the knees.  His devotion knows no bounds.  He is perfectly aware that his loyalty may well be the death of him, yet he does not flinch in the face of his own mortality.  He has the voice of an angel, the soul of a poet, and the kind of unflagging fidelity that makes me kind of love him, for all of his snarly and snarky ways.

4.  Ragnar Lothbrok

While my love of highlanders is well known, I also love me some Vikings.  It’s true.  I have a thing for norsemen.  So, besides Outlander, Vikings is another one of my guilty pleasures.  Ragnar has a certain cocky confidence that might be off putting if not balanced by his own strange brand of innocence and honor.  Ok, ok, before you start pointing out that Ragnar got that annoying Princess I See Strange Stuff knocked up when he was married to Lagertha, let me remind you that there are different kinds of honor.  Whatever his spousal shortcomings, Ragnar is a leader and, as such, he has certain responsibilities to his people.  Among his people, there is Floki, who is kinda crazy but–when he isn’t creeping me out and making me wonder if he is going to kill Ragnar’s son or betray Ragnar—he grows on you.  And there is Athestan, the priest/pagan whom Ragnar elevates from slave to second-brother.  Despite their failed marriage, Lagertha doesn’t hold a grudge…and maybe that is part of the reason why I don’t, begrudge him his Poor Choice in Other Women either.  While I long ago gave up on chasing the bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold, I can still appreciate him from afar.  Far, far, afar please.

5.  Lagertha Lothbrok

I have nothing but respect for a woman who knows when to fight and when to cut her loses.  This shield maiden stands shoulder to shoulder with Ragnar Lothbrok.  She has mad fighting skills, is cunning and loyal, but when faced with a freckled adversary with a baby bump offering to share her husband, the lady has enough self-respect and class to move on.  No bitch fight, no drama.  Even better—after she leaves, she doesn’t stoop to trying to indoctrinate their son with hate.  She doesn’t resort to snide comments or the airing of dirty laundry.  No.  Lagertha tells their son that he should be proud.  After all, he is the son of Ragnar Lothbrok.  Even betterer (yes, I know that’s not a word, again, my blog my rules) when Ragnar has need of assistance, Lagertha comes to his aid.  Not in a “Oh, maybe I can get him back” kind of way, and not in a “Dude, you friggin’ owe me, now!” kind of way, but in the way of a friend who has your back.  That’s some Real Woman is what that is.

6.  Molly Weasley

My favorite literary mom may well be Molly Weasley.  (Yes, I said literary mom.  While I like the Movie Molly just fine, you have to admit that she lacks the layers and complexity of Book Molly.  Book Molly sings sentimental songs.  Book Molly gets in catty arguments with Sirius.  Book Molly is Arthur’s “Molly Wobbles.”  Va-va-voom.)  She may be a mom, but she still has what it takes to rock Mr. Weasley’s world.  She deals with the stress of raising a family, and having money troubles, and wanting her husband to be fulfilled even if his chosen profession means they buy second hand books.  She understands people.  And herself.  Molly Weasley yells.  Oh, Lord how she yells.  And she has been known to utter a profanity, when the situation calls for it.  (Not my daughter, you bitch!)  Yep, this is a character I can identify with!

7.  Ron Weasley

Speaking of Weasleys, let’s not forget Ron.  You know:  Harry’s Best Friend…Hermione’s Foil and Future Husband…One of the Many Weasleys.  It seems that poor Ron is frequently identified only by his relation to others.  Geez.  No wonder the poor guy got a bit irked back in Book Five.  Who wouldn’t get a bit annoyed always been the cool kid’s red-headed sidekick?  In fact, we learn the depth of his insecurities in Deathly Hallows.  Did Hermione actually prefer Harry?  Merlin’s Trousers!  Did his own mother prefer Harry?  And yet, he stayed.  Erm, or at least he always came back.  And in the face of fear, insecurity, inadequacy, and jealousy, it says a lot about someone that they can fight those demons and still love the person who (however innocently…however unintentionally) spawned them.  Yep, I am a sucker for the tortured soul.

8.  Rick Grimes

[Disclaimer:  I have not yet read the graphic novels, so the Rick Grimes referenced herein refers only to the television Rick.]  I think that Rick made this list in large part because he grows into his roll.  Sure he was Sheriff Grimes long before he was That Bad Ass Guy Who Keeps the Walkers at Bay, but he was also soft in the way that First World Characters get to be.  When he finally wakes up (both literally and metaphorically) the world has gone to hell and he has to either become an avenging angel or succumb to the flames.  Sure, there are some dark times in the series, and more than once he might have gotten a wing singed but, when push comes to shove, the dude BRINGS the avenging angel.  He is a filthy, bearded, bad-ass avenger.  And he does it all with little Judith perched on his hip.

9.  Arya Stark

There are not enough words for Arya Stark.  She is the heroine that all literature that came before A Song of Fire and Ice was lacking.  She is young, but with an old soul.  She is a Lady, but with a warrior’s mind.  She learns.  She adapts.  She calculates.  She.  Does.  Not.  Succumb.  There is no time for fretting or fawning or flailing or any of those other Perfectly Ladylike responses to high drama.  The girl KNOWS winter is coming.  She feels it.  She (perhaps unknowingly) starts to prepare for it.  Screw embroidery, give me a sword.  While I love dragons, and I have a soft spot for dwarves, my money is on the girl.

10.  Cathcliff

Yes.  I know there is no such person as Cathcliff.  But I decided that I wanted to give some props to Wuthering Heights (partly because I love it, and partly because this list was a little pop-culture heavy and needed a little Lit Love).  Now, before you complain that Cathy and Heathcliff can’t both be on this list because there is not enough room, hear me out.  I contend that, if you stop and think about it, Cathy and Heathcliff are really two parts of a whole.  Even, Cathy said so.  *dramatic pause*  I am Heathcliff.  *even more dramatic music*  Their love is the love of my seventeen year old self.  It’s the kind of love where everything is Just. So. Dramatic.  Their relationship is Oh. So. Complicated.  There is no wonder that I loved this book back in high school.  Heathcliff felt angry, unworthy, misunderstood, and inadequate.  And whatever Cathy really felt, she was too caught up in what people thought.  So much jealousy.  So much revenge.  So much windswept moors.  You get the picture.  My seventeen year old self was a bit like Cathy, and by God I was looking for my Heathcliff.  Thankfully not every wish is granted.  Eventually I learned that Heathcliffs are not my thing.

Ok, so if Heathcliff doesn’t quite do it for me anymore, then what does?  Well, when I was driving to work this morning and thinking about which characters I wanted to write about, it hit me.  Oh, my God, I have a “character type.”  I am clearly drawn to certain types of characters.  Fortunately, “my type” has changed over the years.  I have veered away from Bad Boys and now seek out the Laird, the Protector, and the Leader.  I also have a soft spot for the Loyal Friend, the Devoted Mother, and the Oath Keeper.

While the seventeen year old me would definitely have chosen Draco Malfoy, the forty-two year old me chooses Ron Weasley.  And while my-seventeen-year-old-soul yearned for my own personal Heathcliff, I now realize that there is more to life, or the afterlife for that matter, than haunting the moors.  So, in this story of my life, please God, make me a shield maiden, or a protective mother, or a healer.  But, for the love of all that is holy, make me strong.

Check out the other bloggers who were called out to name their favorite characters:

Jen@OutlanderMusings, http://outlandermusings.wordpress.com

Norma D, http://thechurchofheughanology.wordpress.com

Vintage Chick/Melissa, http://melissasobservations.wordpress.com

Richard B, @OutmanderArtist

Alisa, http://findyoursparkle.org

Heughliots of AB, http://heughliots.wordpress.com

Julie, http://cookingjulesstyle.blogspot.com

Diane, http://outlanderdreaming.wordpress.com

Jenny Jeffries, http://outrageousoutlander.wordpress.com

And, since I need to throw down the gauntlet and challenge others to explore which characters make the cut, I challenge:

http://melissasobservations.com/

https://rynawolfe.wordpress.com/

https://akfranciswriter.wordpress.com/

Yes, I know I only tagged three people, but (1) I rarely play by the rules, and (2) I prefer words to numbers (except in my bank statement, then I want ALL the numbers)!

So, my Tagged Ones, for this quick, fun blog hop, you just name your 10 favorite characters from movies or TV, and then tag 10 friends to do the same!