Emma, what do you think? Are we headed toward Fifty Shades of Plaid? Is that a good thing?
Emma: To be honest, I’d be totally down with Fifty Shades of Plaid—so far, this series hasn’t had enough classy, feminist-friendly smut. Fine, fine, the male romantic lead has a recently dislocated shoulder, gunshot wound, and bruised face, but he can man up: The ladies are waiting.
Which is kind of weird, actually; like Julie, I’m ambivalent about the idea that this is a “Game of Thrones for women.” The idea of “television for women” and even “books for women” has been around for a long time, so it’s not like the marketing and buzz around Outlander is all that innovative.
But what, exactly, supposedly makes the show “for women”? There’s a strong female lead. There are some fascinating historical fashion items—in the second episode, Claire dons what appears to be an airplane neck pillow around her hips, presumably so that a 18th-century bard can compose the ballad, “Scottish-highlands badonkadonk.” And of course, there’s the much-ballyhooed oral sex, which a fully clothed Claire gratefully receives from her WWII-life husband inside a rotting Scottish castle in episode one. If in 2014, there are still men who would object to a TV show featuring any of this stuff, they’re not men worth worrying about.
But, since we’re talking about gender, I do have some questions about the emotional dynamics of the show. I haven’t read the books, so I’m not totally sure what’s coming, but as Olga said, it’s pretty clear that Claire and Jamie are going to make sweet, sweet Scottish love. From a tantilization perspective, I’m totally in support of this hook-up, but from an emotional perspective: wow! The first episode was all about Claire and her WWII-life husband, Frank, trying to reconnect after five years of being separated by the war. He seems kind, smart, and caring (he goes down on her in a dank castle, for God’s sake!), and at one point, they even have a touching conversation about whether they were faithful to each other during the war (they were).
By the next episode, we’re already being set up to cheer for Claire and Jamie getting together, which is jarring—just because she’s found a hunk in another century, why should she have license to be unfaithful to her husband? Presumably, the introduction of the dastardly Jonathan Randall is supposed to ease this tension a little—he is identical to Frank, and he’s a jerk, so we, the viewers, may find it easier to defect from team Frank on account of his asshole ancestors. But I’m still conflicted—just because Claire’s husband theoretically hasn’t been born yet, her impending liaison with Jamie still seems like cheating to me.
Also, as Olga mentioned, there’s been a lot of rape so far—Claire’s been threatened with rape at least twice, and another scene shows Jamie’s sister being forcibly unclothed in front of her brother and a group of soldiers and then taken away by Captain Randall. Even if this is historically accurate, even if it serves the purpose of heightening the stakes of Claire’s feminism, I found this jarring. It seems like rape is being used a general symbol for violence and patriarchy, tossed in whenever the writers need to make a point. That’s not smart or insightful—it’s demeaning.