Thursday, 29 October 2015

Television review(ish): Outlander

Outlander is a 16-episode period drama made by Starz based on the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It's 1945 and WWII has just ended. Claire Randall, a former military nurse and her husband Frank are visiting Scotland on a sort of second honeymoon after having spend years mostly apart during the War. When visiting the ancient standing stones of Craigh na Dun, Claire faints after touching one of them and awakes in 1743. Claire is taken in by the Clan MacKenzie and uses her medical knowledge to carve a life for herself. One of her patients is the nephew of the laird Jamie Fraser and despite herself, Claire feels drawn to him. But 18th century Scotland is not a safe place and soon Claire and Jamie are caught up in the struggles between the Redcoats and the rebelling Highlanders.

Writing this review is not easy for me because I have to admit that I was naïve and nobody likes to admit that about themselves right? Ofcourse I had read the stories about Outlander before I started watching it, the stories about it being 'Game of Thrones for women' and 'A sexy feminist's dream'. But I didn't really think much of it, attracted as I was by the story and the Scottish location and having formerly enjoyed Starz series such as Pillars of the Earth and The White Queen.

And I loved the first number of episodes, loved how Claire found her way in 1743 and used her 20th century intelligence to solve medical problems. I loved the setting of Castle Leoch and the beautiful Highland landscape. I loved Jamie's kindness and ofcourse I found him attractive. And while the series was raw and realistic in a way and not afraid to show 18th century life as it was, the content was relatively mild.

But now, having watched the whole first season, I can say this had more content than any other television program I've seen. And I feel a big part of it was unnecessary.You see, I'm not a content avoider at all costs. Sometimes, it can be necessary to understand characters and their motivation. Let me give you an example to make my personal opinion clear: the first scene of the 2008 Sense and Sensibility I found necessary content because it taught us about the character of Willoughby. While in contrast the bathing scene in the 2007 Northanger Abbey was in my opinion unnecessary, because it didn't really add anything to Catherine's character. Back to Outlander which had heaps of explicit sexual scenes which added little to the story or could at least have been done more tasteful. And the last episode (fellow watchers and readers of the book will know what I'm referring to) really crossed a border for me with the explicit depiction of rape.

So you might ask, why did I finish watching the series? First, because I'm a stickler for finishing things. Second, because I had come to care about Claire, Jamie and company. I enjoyed the developing romance of Jamie and Claire. I enjoyed Claire's bravery and inventiveness, she's an amazing character! I enjoyed her relationship with secondary characters Murtagh, Jamie's cousin and Jenny, Jamie's sister (Jenny is great, I would love to watch a series devoted to just her and her lovely husband Ian!). I loved the scenery and the history behind the story.

In short, I personally decided not to start on the second season. I can't recommend Outlander to you if you care about sexual (and violent) content, no matter how gorgeous the filming or how interesting the story.

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