*Minor Spoiler alert for both the show and the book*
I was in high school when I finally read something that stole my heart and soul enough to supplant Little Women as my favorite book. I was never without a book in my hand, and that is still true, so giving a book the title of favorite has significant meaning. I bestow the title with reverence.
I have been swooning over this book for the better portion of my life. No matter how many times I reread the books or listen to the audio books, my heart and soul are mesmerized.
It is not just the romance which is striking, though that is part of it, which makes Outlander the powerhouse it is to so many readers. Starz has done an absolutely phenomenal job transferring the book to the screen with integrity to both the story and the characters. Their social marketing campaign has been fabulous too. More on that another time.
For now, I want to tell you why this book, and now the show, are important and why, after all these years, it is still the book I recommend the most. Even if you have never read the books, the show is well worth your time. The history, costuming, and characters are fantastic.
Reason 1: Men in Kilts
Let’s just get this out in the open early. Kilts are sexy as hell and when you have an entire cast of men running around in them, I do not give a fig what they are doing while kilted. Can you just show off those knees a little more? Thanks. I’ll be in my bunk.
Reason 2: Dialog
Gabaldon has her characters going from serious to witty in less time than Jamie can throw Claire’s skirts over her head. The dialog is honest, true, poignant, and laugh out loud funny. The writers of the show have highlighted some of the best lines from the book and put in many more to showcase some of the characters (Angus and Rupert, you dogs. I love you).
Reason 3: Real Marriage
Marriage is messy, sexual, heart-wrenching, beautiful, and work. Jamie and Claire, once they figure out how much they do love each other, love hard, but that does not mean their marriage is easy. As a reader, and now as a viewer, we are privy to watching how a real marriage works. It is rare that I see a marriage which reflects my own healthy relationship with my husband on a screen. The only other example I could think of this week was Wash and Zoe from Firefly.
Jamie and Claire argue with flair and heat and in the beginning, they argue a lot. They yell at each other and occasionally throw things, but they always make up. They are a team. Jamie tells Claire in the beginning, “It’s the two of us now.” It is them against the world and they never forget where their loyalties lie even when they do not agree.
Ever since the hype of The Wedding episode started, I have been thinking about healthy sexuality in marriage and what a good example Jamie and Claire are of this. As an aside, the episode was a shining example of the Female Gaze and it hit all the right places, for everyone. Here is a controversial truth: Married people have good sex lives. Our culture has people fooled into thinking that the only people having frequent, good sex are single people in their twenties. I am sorry to say this is simply not true and it is amazing to have this portrayed so vividly before us, both in print and on screen.
Jamie and Claire give and take in a way that is realistic and beautiful. Growing with them as they figure each other out in the bedroom and watching the awkwardness of the first few encounters is priceless. We can all relate to the awkward moments because we all have a few of our own to share.
As the series progresses, we travel with them as they deal with separation, loss, tragedy, and war after war. We are able to watch them as they continue to work together as a married couple to navigate the world. It is a treasure to see and I am grateful to have been a witness on their journey so far. Through it all, they are a team who communicates and loves the way a healthy married couple should.
Reason 4: Claire is not a trope.
I have grown incredibly tired of watching otherwise great shows in which every single woman in the cast is either a bitch, a damsel in distress, a manipulator, or a slut (or hoor as the highlanders say). There are many popular shows on right now, even some written by women, who do not have one redeeming female character. Gabaldon created a female lead who is flawed, but not a trope. Best of all, Claire is a sexual being who is celebrated instead of punished for it.
Don’t get me wrong. Claire has her moments of idiocy and she has trouble keeping her twentieth century opinions to herself, but she is rarely a simple bitch. She is a compelling character you forgive and love and the men around her respect her, even if they do so begrudgingly. They are not that enlightened after all. It is the 1700s.
Claire has a healthy sexual relationship with both her husbands and she is never portrayed badly for enjoying this aspect of her married life. It is refreshing to see a woman allowed to be sexual without being labeled a hoor. Women are sexual beings too and we should not be punished for something that is natural.
Reason 5: JAAMF
James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser. I have been pondering marriage and why Jamie is so appealing. I can only come up with one reason: he is the perfect man. A mix of innocence, but with a hearty dose of knowing exactly who and what he is. His vows mean something to him on a visceral level. Jamie pledges to Claire, “You have my name and my family, my clan, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well.” Repeatedly, Jamie makes good on his promise, compromising himself to ensure the protection of his wife and others he considers his.
This is the kernel of his character which draws people in.
Jamie is a servant leader. He rarely asks to lead, but when it is his duty he does so without reservation and with the needs of others always fixed firmly in mind. He gives every ounce of himself to his purpose. Other men recognize this and willingly place themselves in his hands.
On top of all the uprightness of character, Jamie is so obviously, even in the beginning, quite over the moon for Claire that you fall for him hard and fast. As the years pass and their relationship endures, he still loves her with a fierceness that any lassie would be blessed to call her own.