When I was asked to submit a guest post about a man’s perspective on Outlander — an “outMANder’s” view, so to speak — I started jotting down things I thought men would like about Outlander. And then I realized I can’t speak for all men. I can only speak for myself.
So I dropped the universal man idea. Instead here’s why Outlander has rocked my world. Feel free to share it with your husband, significant other, office colleague you’re trying to impress — and you’re welcome.
I first got hooked on the series by watching the show. The first thing that snagged me was Claire (Caitriona Balfe). I was stricken with her beauty, and by that I mean the many facets of her beauty. I may not share the same perspective on female beauty as other men, but to me a woman’s beauty is found in the “softness” of her smile and laugh.
Of course, I love a woman’s other “attributes” too, but they take a back seat to the essence of the woman, and I find that essence best expressed in her smile. Caitriona has a lovely smile, but she also has the rare ability to have many “looks” and all of them enchantingly pretty. I could gaze at her for hours.
But beauty alone would not compel me to binge read all eight books over a four-month period. Yes, I did that. The character of Claire “hooked” me, but a whole lot more kept me coming back for more.
First, there’s the history. I love history, so a good period piece always draws my attention. I’m a fan of adventure stories, too, as long as there’s more “story” than exploding bombs and car chases. Finding a love story I like is a little more dicey — so many of them are Lifetime Movie Network types or saccharine enough to rot your teeth. I’m also generally not interested in “chick flicks” or movies that explore relationships for the sake of exploring relationships.
But even a story that has the triumvirate — history, adventure and a love story — still needs more to snag my attention. It has to be written well enough to engage my heart and mind — and that’s why I love Outlander. Outlander is the total package.
The Jacobite rebellion would be enough of a historical story on its own to grab me. But thanks to these characters, the history became human. These are people we care about, not caricatures. The twist to the story that a 20th century woman is thrust into the camp of the losing side of the rebellion and that she eventually tries to alter history to change the outcome of the rebellion allows us to imagine it doesn’t have to be a fait accompli, which expands the fantasy in a compelling way. It’s the historical and fantastical aspects of this story that made this more of a “must see/read” for me.
But with the fate of the Jacobite rebellion decided by the end of Season 2/Book 2, more than that kept me reading books and looking forward to Season 3 — and that’s the foundation of the story. I’m referring, of course, to Jamie and Claire.
I’ve already declared my love for Claire (my wife understands ????), but I focused on her physical beauty. Claire as a character is wonderful, too. She is intelligent, strong, passionate, aka just about everything this man could want in a woman.
And Jamie’s character is as well developed as Claire’s. He is a man other men can admire. He’s obviously physically handsome and hunky and that’s important for getting the girl — something all men yearn for — but he’s also everything a man would want in a friend and a woman would want her man to be. What’s not to like? The two of them make a couple both men and women like and root for. They both seem very human and very real, if not almost too good to be true.
The fact the story takes place in the 18th century allows the chivalrous Jamie to be a knight in shining armor when such men still existed. The interplay between the 20th century “liberated” woman and the 18th century prince is both engaging and integral to the growth of both characters. We see Jamie learn how his relationship with Claire needs to be different than the typical 18th century man/woman relationship and watch while he not only adapts but actually appreciates having to do so. We see Claire come to rely on and appreciate Jamie’s protection in ways that weren’t necessary or expected in the 20th century. We see their love deepening to the point where both would lay down their life for the other, and we believe it. We care about them, and we want to go along with them wherever their story takes them.
The story is not without violence and sex, but both were handled exactly right. Both types of scenes went right to the edge and maybe a little over without being gratuitous or exploitative. I was disappointed Season 2 didn’t have sex scenes like Season 1 — not because I just wanted to see sex scenes, but because the missing scenes eliminated some of the beautifully depicted intimacy between Jamie and Claire that is such a vital part of their relationship. It isn’t necessary to see more skin, but it would be good to see more of Jamie and Claire being intimate with each other.
While the books certainly convey these character developments beautifully — and obviously are the genesis for all that happens in the show — let’s face it: without the spot-on acting the show wouldn’t work. Diana Gabaldon provided the story, the characters, the humor and witty repartée, but the actors need to pull it off. And they do, in spades.
In the first few episodes of Season 1, I knew the characters by the actors who played them – Claire, Jamie, Frank/BJR, the MacKenzies, etc. – but not the characters presented in the last part of Season 1 and all of Season 2 because by then I had read past the point of the TV series. I wasn’t disappointed with any of the casting and, in fact, I thought some were even better than my imagination conjured. Score an A+ for casting. The acting is outstanding, especially the main characters. I would favorably compare the acting in Outlander to … well … just about anything. It’s damn good and pulls the entire story together and makes me want more.
I’m not sure what your plans are come spring 2017, but I know where you’ll find me: glued to my TV and eager for book 9 to arrive.