#Outlander, #Fandoms, and Finding Your Tribe

By the time I turned 40, I had amassed a lot more good books, a few more wrinkles, and more true friends.  That is the nice thing about finding yourself…once you find yourself, you can find your people.  Everyone needs people.  Even a sporadically extroverted introvert like me.

My people tend to be a bookish sort.  Full of snark and geeky cultural references tucked alongside the botanical names for certain herbs and an unapologetic appreciation for the bagpipes, my people are a motley bunch.  Yet, I still delight in adding to my tribe.  In fact, I seek them out.

As I gathered water bottles and hollered for my son to hurry up and grab helmet and pads for practice, I dashed back in the house to grab a book.  Well, two books actually.

“Haven’t your already read Outlander like a million times?” he asked as I climbed into the car.

“Mmphm,” I snorted.  “You know I have.”

“So….why are you reading it again?”

I sighed impatiently.  “Some books are worth reading again.  But I’m actually not re-reading it.  I’m reading that other one.” I nodded my head towards the other book.  My battered copy of Voyager peeked out from under the cluttered in the back seat.

“Why did you run it to get it if you aren’t going to read it?”

I shrugged.  “Well, in case I run into someone that likes Outlander.  Or might like Outlander.

That’s right.  Let that Fandom Flag fly high.

This is the same reason that I want to get a new phone.  Well, besides the fact that my iPhone is so old that it only has 3G, there is no space left on it, and it is so slow that if I had to use it to call 911, whatever crises warranted the call would likely be over.  But I digress…I want a new phone so that I have the space to get a new ringtone.  The ringtone.  The Skye Boat Song.

Right now, all incoming phone calls* are announced with the blaring of the Doctor Who theme song.  (Which I downloaded after I realized that the magical twinkling bells of Hedwig’s Theme was not audible from the nethermost of my purse.)  I briefly considered the Sherlock theme, but my inner Scotswoman wants bagpipes.  So that’s that.

At first, I didn’t realize quite what I was doing.  I thought I was simply surrounding myself with the things I love.  Which was true, of course, but it is more than that.  Like a male peacock showing off his plumage, it was all about attraction.  I was trying to attract others.  People like me.  My people.

There is a Scottish festival coming up in a few weeks.  There will be tartans, and meat pies, and bagpipes.  Books of history, and uprisings, and recipes, and languages.  I want to get a new license plate that proclaims my heritage.  Perhaps a bumper sticker, too.

sassenach
Well, hello there, fellow Sassenach!

If you see me driving down the street, feel free to honk.  If you see me at football practice reading, pull up a chair.  We can talk Outlander, or Sherlock, or Game of Thrones, or Walking Dead, or….whatever.

Come on.  Don’t be shy. There’s plenty of room in the tribe.

* This is not strictly true.  I do have one other ring tone.  All of my husband’s calls are proudly announced with the ear-piercing wail of a police siren, since he is…well…a police officer.  This is particularly fun when I am in a crowded place and he calls, and everyone around me looks around nervously.  My kids do not find this nearly as entertaining as I do. 

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.

Fandom Shaming Needs to GO #RespectTheFandoms

I have no idea what a Magmar is, other than the word kinda looks like Ragnar. Which makes me think of Ragnar Lothbrok…which makes me wonder when the new season of Viking starts. I don’t know because it isn’t my fandom. And I’m okay with that. Some people, however…aren’t.

My kids like Pokemon Go. They like walking around the neighborhood catching them. They volunteer to run errands with me, and they bring their phones, and they ask me to turn right when I could just as well go straight, but I do it because it costs me nothing and yet it makes them happy, and it gives us a few more minutes together, and later I overhear them telling their friends that they caught a Nidorina…which means nothing to me. Except it makes them happy, and the word kinda looks like Narnia, which makes me wonder the last time I read C. S. Lewis, and I make a note to dig out the books.

I understand the lure of books, and games, and television shows. I know firsthand how a book can open your eyes to new possibilities, or breathe life into interests that had been left for dead. The Outlander books reminded me of my interest in herbs, and nudged me into gardening more seriously, and urged me to track down my ancestry. The books reminded me of the importance of strength and endurance and made me want to take better care of this body I inhabit. The books whispered to me and echoed the beauty of the words of my ancestors spoke, and the words they spoke were Gaelic, and I wanted to understand. So now I have dozen books on the subject on my shelves, and I can say a few halting phrases, and it makes me stupidly proud…

My daughter went to a Con this weekend. It was her second. She planned her outfits months in advance. She spent hours on her makeup. She styled her wig. On the first day of the convention she walked around for eight hours. She found her place among other made-up faces and she took photos to share. In the photos, she smiled; in the photos, she was no longer the awkward 14 year old who was self-conscious of her smile or her adolescent skin—she was brave, and she was alive, and she was…happy.

There is strength in numbers. There is joy in recognizing yourself in those numbers.

Personally, I don’t care if Pokemon Go gets people to—however unwittingly—exercise. I do not care if you are a forty-three year old who wants to Catch Them All. I do not care if you spend your down time scavenging for super rare creatures whose names escape me. I don’t care—not because I am Above It All—but because it makes you happy. And that is enough.

For those who think that time is better spent studying or reading or creating or doing…ANYTHING other than Wasting Time…perhaps a reminder is in order: It is their time to waste, and perhaps your time would be better spent doing something—anything—other than sucking the joy out of another person’s life like a Dementor. (Yes. I went there. Deal with it.)

Because in a world where we actually have to remind ourself that lives—any lives—matter, and where those sworn to Serve and Protect are being assassinated by those eager to have their names written in the annals of time, if we can find something that brings us joy, something that brings us a bit of peace at the end of the day, something that makes the news for bringing people together rather than tearing them apart…then I am all for it.

I will happily drive my kids over another block, or another, or another.

Collect that Magmar, Exeggutor, or Nidorina if it makes you happy. Read Outlander if it gives your peace. Watch Supernatural, or Sherlock, or Game of Thrones if it gives you something to look forward to…no, in fact, watch them all. You don’t have to choose.

Because tearing down someone else does not raise you up…and tearing down another person’s fandom does nothing to strengthen your own.

#Outlander, the Icky Bits, and Nutella

I haven’t weighed in on Season 2 of Outlander yet.  Maybe I was letting it sink in, perhaps I needed to process it a bit…to decide just what I felt about it.

Other fans shared their thoughts and opinions.  I heard talk about how Episode 1 Jamie seemed remote, hard to relate to, almost wooden.   They bemoan the change and how Season 2 Jamie isn’t “their” Jamie–how he’s not the same as Season 1 Jamie.

And, of course, they are right.

They mention the rape, talk about his PTSD, and how he is traumatized.  Yes, yes.  Of course he is.  But a lot of these comments are followed up with the something like, “I’ll be glad when the old Jamie is back.” 

What they likely mean, of course, is that they will be glad when camera focuses less on Jamie’s pain and trauma and gets back to the good times.  They want less screen time that focuses less on his nightmares and more on his smile, his wit, and his cute tush.

And I get it.

I do.

Or maybe they simply mean that they want his suffering to end.  That’s not bad, right?  I mean, they really like Jamie.  Who wants to see someone they like in pain?

But, really, if one of our BFFs suffered a trauma, would we try force “normalcy” on her so quickly?  Or would we give her time to cry, to grieve, to bury her pain in a pint of Ben & Jerrys (or a pint of Guinness, I won’t judge), and to curse the son of a bitch that hurt her…all while we planned his very painful and humiliating demise?

Sometimes you need to hang out in your sweat pants and watch bad Lifetime movies while eating Nutella straight from the jar.  Sometimes that chocolate-hazelnut goodness is all that gets you through the day.

These episodes…they are Jamie’s Nutella Days.  The guy has earned it.  Don’t try to take the jar away just yet.

Yes, broken Jamie is painful to watch.  Broken Jamie doesn’t want to think about Sexy Time.  Broken Jamie is short tempered and doesn’t whisper sweet nothings in Gaelic.

Geez.  Next thing you know, Broken Jamie will start talking about bills, and carpool, and he’ll leave the toilet seat up…

But the thing is, people are like that.  Life is like that.  Love is like that.

There are things you simply can’t rush.  You can’t rush healing.  You can’t rush forgiveness (of yourself or of others).  You can’t rush growth, or understanding, or love.

One of the things I love so much about the books is how Diana Gabaldon doesn’t rush things.  She doesn’t write Jamie’s rape and then pretend it never happened.  We are reminded of it– Jamie is reminded of it—over and over and over again.

Diana Gabaldon did not merely craft a character and a scene.  She crafted scars for him to bear, specters to haunt him, guilt to chain him, and faith to heal him. Her books gave Jamie—and the readers—time to work through what happened and its implications.  She breathed life into fantasy.

Jamie’s rape casts a long shadow, and it reaches through the books and colors events for many years to come.  I appreciate that what he endured was not a simple plot device that, once used, is swept under the rug.  The thread of Jamie’s sacrifice is woven through all of the books…through each page (oh, so many pages) of all of the books (those wonderfully long books!).

Have I mentioned that I love long books?  (Thank you, Diana!)

I do.

Because you can’t rush a good story.

Stories are more than just the good parts.  Life is more than just the good parts.  Love is more than just the good parts.

So I will watch patiently.  I will bear witness to the painful bits, the heartbeats of sorrow, and the moments of aching longing, because these times are the building blocks for what is to come.

Things get better.  They do.  Wounds heal.  Disappointments fade.

Both on screen and on the page…and in life.

Until then, pass the Nutella.

Depression, #Outlander, and a New Year’s Wish

When you take away the twinkling lights and beloved carols, the bustle of family underfoot, and the sweet anticipation, winter can seem just…cold. Maybe the feeling is held at bay until after the last of the wadded up wrapping paper finds its way to the trash bin, or perhaps it creeps in not long after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. But it comes. It always comes.

The frightful weather outside no longer seems delightful, instead of throwing another log on the fire and shouting for the storm clouds to do their worst you wonder just how much firewood there is left, and worry how the roof is holding up, and if your pipes might freeze.

Laundry piles up as you put off the wash until the temperature can fight its way back above freezing, and suddenly the same four walls that seemed so cozy and inviting now seem to close in around you. The family you love seems to get on your nerves, and you spend an inordinate of time hiding in the bathroom just for a moment’s peace.

You start to notice the gaps . . . Those dark spaces that used to be filled by someone you loved. You are reminded of the traditions that fell away this year, since the one who carried them out is no longer around to do so. Perhaps there were angry words before the absence, or maybe there was no time for words at all. The were just . . . gone. Or maybe they lingered until there was nothing left to remind you of the person that once was, and you wished you could recall something more than the weakened shadow with which you were left.

For all the joy the holidays bring, too often they also bring sorrow. Maybe this is why I read so much around the holidays. It isn’t because there is more time (because there isn’t), or because the cold keeps me nestled indoors (because I tend to get cabin fever), but maybe it does have something to do with the fact that books remind us that we are not alone.

Books remind us what adventure feels like, the joy of possibilities, and the intimate pleasure of a story well told. They give us a taste of love when our own life might be lacking it, and a sense of justice of which the world too often seems sadly devoid. Books remind us what honor looks like, and loyalty. They can show us joy, and peace, and light.

But some books, daring books, also remind us what darkness is . . . and how to find our way out of it.

Harry Potter reminds us what true friendship looks like. Friendship with all of its faults and flaws. Friendship that acknowledges both selflessness . . . and jealousy. Friendship that has room for shortcomings, for missteps, and that still finds its way to forgiveness and loyalty. The series shows us love in all of its myriad of forms: the love of true friends, yes, but also the love of brothers, of parent and child, and of mentor and protégé.

But, in these dark days of winter, sometimes love and joy can seem as scarce as the fleeting daylight. Sometimes the emotions more easily identified with are those that mirror the steely grey sky.

J. K. Rowling gave the dark emotions form in the Dementors. These creatures sucked the joy out of those around them, just as depression can steal away whatever joy we try to embrace. If only chocolate could stave off the effects of depression as well as it did the after-effects of a Dementor attack . . .

While Harry Potter may have personified depression with its Dementors (and while a dear friend and I often refer to ourselves during inexplicably cranky/depressive moods as feeling rather “Harry Potter Book Five”), few stories summon forth the darker side of humanity better than the Outlander series.

Diana Gabaldon allows us unimaginable intimacy with her characters. We bear witness to violation, to self-loathing, and to grief. But, more importantly, she leads us through to the other side of the dark journey.

[SPOILER WARNING….]

JAMIE ~

From the beginning, we know that Jamie has had to endure Dark Days. His mother died in childbirth, he believed his sister to be in ruin, his father died of a stroke during Jamie’s flogging, he believed his uncle to have tried to kill him, his wife is nearly burned at the stake, and he tried to return her to her rightful time even though such a move would mean losing his true love. Later, he endures unimaginable brutality to try to save his beloved Claire. And that’s all just in the first book!

The end of Dragonfly in Amber always results in an ugly cry. (Yet I keep reading it, again and again.) Whatever joy he found is ripped from him as he is separated from Claire for twenty long years. In her absence, he fully expects to die and does nothing to try to avoid death. Instead, he embraces the relief he expects it will bring.

Slowly, his life finds purpose again. First, as a de facto chief of the prisoners at Ardsmuir. later as provider for Laoghaire and her daughters. He is uncle to Young Jamie and surrogate father to Fergus. Sometimes, we are reminded, it is enough to keep going for the sake of others until you can find your own reason to continue.

CLAIRE ~

Claire’s strength is one of her defining characteristics. When ripped from her husband and the life she knew, she did not fall apart or expect to be rescued somehow. Other that one brief moment of tears while perched on the lap of a certain highlander, the woman was unwaveringly strong. But even Claire has her limits.

In Dragonfly in Amber, when Claire lost her Faith, her beloved first child, she did in fact seem to have a crisis of faith. The darkness surrounded her and she found little reason to go on. As angry as she was with Jamie, she felt ungrounded and without direction or purpose. Only after she realized that she was needed, that he needed her (what with being imprisoned and all), did she start to regain her sense of action.

In a later book, even when Claire was brutalized at the hands of kidnappers, she did not succumb to the darker emotions that might easily have drowned her. Although there was still much to be dealt with and worked through, she did not give up. As long as Jamie was by her side, she seems able to withstand nearly everything. He is her strength, as she is his. In fact, it seems that Claire is most vulnerable when Jamie, her emotional bulwark, is absent.

Undoubtedly the lowest point for Claire was when she feared that Jamie was lost at sea. Without Brianna to care for, there seemed little reason to continue. She contemplated suicide and found what solace she could at the bottom of a bottle. And the readers bear witness to her nearly ruinous grief. We want to shout to her that Jamie is alive! We want to tell her to hang on, that things get better, and that there are still so many others to live for . . . just as, in real life, when we wish to whisper these same consolations to our own real-life friends and family members who suffer from depression or who are struggling with grief. Hang on. Just hang on . . . it gets better.

YOUNG IAN ~

Young Ian suffers from his own grief. The pain of being separated from his family time and time again has to weigh on him. He also confronts the nearly unbearable struggle of trying to do the “right thing,” and of trying to put others first as he offers himself as a substitute for Roger and, in doing so, must turn his back on his family, his faith, and his heritage. Then, when he finally builds up a life with Emily and they try to start a family, to then suffer the loss of child after child until finally his own wife turns from him. And the aching loneliness he quietly endures as he tries to make peace with his loss . . . only to see in his Uncle Jamie and Auntie Claire the kind of love that he longs for. Remarkably, the constant reminder of their joy doesn’t call forth bitterness, but rather hope. Hope that if they can find their way back to one another, that perhaps he, too, can find his way back to happiness. Young Ian still has the soul of a poet and there remains in him the young lad that, on that day long ago in a brothel, when confronted with his Auntie Claire, long since presumed dead, finds the whole thing to be incredibly romantic. Although he faces his own torments, Young Ian meets them like the poet-warrior that he is.

Not everyone is as lucky.

FERGUS ~

Perhaps that is why, for me, the character whose struggle with his own internal demons touches me most is that of Fergus. Fergus, who in his youth made light of his missing hand and joked about finally being a gentleman of leisure, who never complained about his motherless childhood, who always seemed confident and jovial . . . that this is the character who tried to take his own life, that we didn’t see it coming, THIS is the character, the moment, the desperation that I feel sharpest. Because sometimes you DON’T see it coming. Sometimes, no matter how well loved they are, no matter how many people care, sometimes we just don’t see it.

That is why, in these dark days of winter, as we take down the tinsel and tuck away the garland, it is well to take stock of ourselves and those around us. Depression can set in like winter’s chill, and sometimes you don’t realize how cold you are until you can no longer feel.

A new year approaches. Perhaps instead of resolving to fit into a size four dress or buy something bigger, better, or more expensive, we could resolve to take better care of ourselves . . . and of those around us

My wish for the new year is simple: May your home be filled with books that speak to you, friends who care for you . . . and time enough to enjoy both.

You Don’t Have to Choose #Outlander

After getting Jamie and Claire safely on the ship to France, I purposefully avoided social media for a few days.  I wanted to let the hoopla die down.  I didn’t want to hear the inevitable bitchfest that would most certainly ensue.  Of course, people are entitled to their own opinions, I don’t mean that.  I just was not up for all of the comparisons ad nauseam.  I wasn’t ready to face all of the They Should Haves and How Could Theys and But They Left Outs. 

Diana Gabaldon encouraged readers to “Put Down the Book”…I really wish more readers had heeded her words.  Because, let’s face it, the woman’s a smart cookie.

*sigh* 

Of course a book and a televisions series are entirely different mediums.  Television shows are restricted by budgets, time constraints, and, well, more limitations that I am qualified to itemize.  Books are only confined by the reader’s imagination.  But both mediums have a place, both serve a purpose and, dammit, both deserve some respect.

I view the books and the show as two distinct but related things. You  know, kinda like my kiddos.

My oldest likes manga and All Things Japanese and is a night owl.  She loves to read and is messy and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about fashion.  I kinda love that about her.

My mid-kid spends hours picking out clothes.  She likes to garden and to cook (no idea where she gets that *blinks innocently*) and to adopt stray animals.  She also rolls her eyes a lot, and her sarcasm can wilt a soul.

My son eats and breathes sports.  He rises with the sun in the morning, makes the sign of the cross whenever he hears sirens in the distance.  He also thoughtfully informs me when he feels “hug deficient.”  He melts my heart.

And just as I try not to compare the My People but instead love them for who they are, that is also what I try to do with the books.  I can love how, in the show, Claire’s pregnancy is revealed by her increasingly queasy stomach in times of stress.  (My non-OL-book-reading husband even noted that Claire was starting to puke with alarming regularity.)  But I can also love that in the book the quiet revelation of hope and new life is found in the warm, life giving waters under the abbey.  I don’t have to choose…just like I don’t have to pick a favorite child.

The television show is not a “bastardization” of the books.  The changes they make take nothing away from the books.  You can enjoy both.  You don’t get your Outlander Fan card taken away if you can’t angrily recite every deviation from the books.  Honest.

It makes me a happier fan when I allow the books and the television show to work in the way that they can…then I can sit back and better enjoy the distinctions instead of itemizing them for an angry post mortem.  Good Lord, if all I did all day was try to hyper-analyze the differences I (and those around me) would be miserable!

Life is too short to waste time in a hate-filled Book Versus Television Deconstruction.  There are too many Really Important Things In Life to get riled up about.  So, for me at least, I will treat the show and the books as I would my children.  I will watch proudly as they find their footing, as they grow and evolve.  I will proudly tell others of their exploits.  But I will not compare them or try to make them into clones of one another.

Wentworth: The Burden of Knowing (#Outlander)

I have heard the fearful rumblings.  Some will choose to not watch Saturday’s episode, and that is certainly their prerogative.  (Trust me, I get trigger warnings.  Do what you gotta do!  No judging here.)  But I will be watching.  I won’t hide behind a pillow.  I won’t be live-tweeting.  I.  Will.  Watch.  (Admittedly, there may be a dram or two at hand. And Kleenex…plenty of Kleenex.)

Before I go any further, in leiu of a proper “Trigger Warning Font,” please allow me to just switch to my big, red warning font:

TRIGGER WARNINGS AND SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW. 

 

DINNA SAE YE WERE NAE WARNED.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way…

Saturday means Wentworth.  It means sacrifice.  It means Curl-Into-The-Fetal-Position-While-Still-Trying-To-Keep-The-Whisky-Flowing.  But it also means a turning point.  Up until Wentworth, Jamie fought tooth and nail to protect Claire (despite the fact she had an annoying 20th century habit of wandering off, speaking her mind, and generally causing mayhem).  But at Wentworth, Jamie protects Claire by NOT fighting.  Well, at least not in the normal sense of the word.

In order to see Claire safely delivered from Wentworth prison and the clutches of Black Jack Randall, Jamie agrees to allow BJR take free liberty with his body.  Jamie agrees not to resist.  He pledges to accept whatever Black Jack wants of him—no matter how painful, or degrading, or horrific.  Jamie agrees to it, because his body is the only thing he is in a position to bargain.  He agrees to it, because no price is too great to protect the woman he loves.  (Excuse me while I swoon a little…nevermind, it was just the whisky.)

And Jamie is true to his word.  Jamie does not resist…but that doesn’t mean he didn’t fight.  Jamie—so strong, so proud—he most certainly fought.  He fought himself.  He fought every survival instinct that told him to Make. It. Stop.  Jamie fought his own humiliation, and disgust, and fear, and pain, and arousal, and shame.  Yes, there was a struggle going on; for a while, Jamie sure beat the hell out of himself.

Certainly at the abbey, Claire was left with a broken man.  Go back, he said.  Just let me die, he said.  Definitely not the Jamie we are used to.  But then, he had planned on dying in Wentworth.  And, to be honest, that which he could hope to erase in death was simply more than he was equipped to live with when he finds himself very much alive.  Jamie admits as much to Claire.

But how do you give someone back their pride, their dignity?  Jamie couldn’t fight for Claire at Wentworth—he had given his word and he meant to keep it.  But Claire could help him fight the lingering demons.  And, when finally relieved of his vow, fight he did.  Jamie awoke the next day to a wrecked room, a naked wife, and only fragmented memories of the battle that they had waged together.

One of my other posts garnered some comments about Outlander being awfully “rape-y.”

Rape also happens a lot in Outlander…because, well, rape happens a lot.  Period.  Claire does not escape this harsh reality.  When Jamie comes with Young Ian, Roger, and the men of Fraser’s Ridge, the drums echoing in the darkness*, he is faced with a very battered and abused woman.  The first time I read that book, I wept.  And not pretty, lady-like crying, no.  I cried that “Swollen-Eyes-Runny-Nose-Can’t-Breathe-Just-Pass-The-Damned-Kleenex” kind of crying.  Jamie was ferocious in his attack on her assailants, unspeakably gentle in his ministrations to Claire, and clear minded about the possible repurcussions of her rape, say, oh, nine months hence.  What threw me at first, though, was what he thought to himself when Claire very, erm, aggressively commenced their their first Post-Rape Consummation.

She fought then, that’s good.  (Or words to that effect.)

At first, it rubbed me the wrong way–as if fighting were something she owed him.  But then I realized that Jamie, of all people, would understand better than that.  He knew that fighting was something she needed.  She needed to fight…to fight through the anger, helplessness, and humiliation.  Just as he had demons to fight, so did Claire.  And she screamed and clawed and raged…just as he had.  And he let her…just has she had.

Brianna, ever her parent’s daughter, also did not escape the 17th century unscathed and, like them, she struggled with it.  Jamie watched her brooding over whether she might have somehow fought off the attack.  Instead of trying to sooth her with soft words and reassurances; however, he provokes her, riles up here anger, and shows her just how futile her fists would have been; in doing so, he assuages her guilt in a way that no mere words could have done.

He also helped Brianna to forgive–and not just herself.  Jamie confides in her that forgiveness is a choice he makes every day.  Every day.  Over twenty years have passed, and he still has to face the past and make the choice.  The Choice.  He did not “reach a place where he could forgive” or “learn to forgive.”  Jamie chose to forgive.  And, in choosing, he takes back some of the power he handed over on a dark night, at a place called Wentworth.

No, the struggle didn’t end when he was freed from Wentworth, nor when Claire made him face his demons at the abbey.  The struggle didn’t end.

The struggle didn’t end for Claire once the bruises faded.  The struggle didn’t end for Brianna just because she tried to hide what had happened.  And Jamie knows this all too well…he shares the burden of knowledge.

And while the Wentworth will be painful to watch…it is honest: things that happen to us (and yes, sometimes things that we allow to happen to us) aren’t resolved neatly at the end of an hour.

Having read the books, I know what will happen.  I also know how Jamie’s decision at Wentworth echoes through the rest of the books.  While perhaps not quite so deep and festering after a time, the choice does leave a very prominent scar—less visible than those he bears on his back, of course, but a scar nonetheless.

So I will try to face Wentworth with the same unflinching resolve as Jamie did…and I will fight off the specters afterwards.

*Fan girl admission: this bit is one of my favorites.  The description of the bodhrán gives me goosebumps.  Seriously.  Every Time.