Among the many emotional fan debates on Outlander the book series vs. Outlander the STARZ TV show, none raises more ire than if/why Jamie Fraser gets short shrift. Holly Richter-White analyzes why TV Jamie is different than Book Jamie.
I’ve had this article in the queue for a long time, as Droughtlander is verra long, and we have to spread out our articles across the parched timeline. But now, with the release of the Season 3 DVD (a treasure trove of deleted scenes), the Jamie/Sam fans have come out of the woodwork. The responses include complaints about Season 3, suggestions (demands?) for how to prevent a Season 4 “tragedy,” and a slew of generalities: “Sam’s been robbed,” “Jamie’s been emasculated,” “it’s all Claire, all the time.” Outlander BTS encapsulated the fandom’s woes in her recent post.
But I’m here for a different purpose. I’m here to use any and all of my expertise as a screenwriter to offer fans a solution, not just to parrot them. Consider it an antidote of sorts, with this warning: my medicine may be a little bittersweet.
Even Matt. B. Roberts had enough of the criticism, and deleted a whole post on Instagram due to the tone of the conversation. I saw it. It was nasty and wholly misinformed. It almost read elitist and entitled. Seriously fans, your “ask” is too high.
It’s hardly critique if you are misinformed, and that’s what many fans are still, sadly, wanting so much to believe in a given narrative so beautifully dreamed up by Diana Gabaldon in the Outlander book series. But, here is the truth:
- The adaptation to TV (a visual medium) is different.
- That’s not the story Ron, STARZ and Sony purchased.
Don’t get me wrong — I love the books, the characters, the character development and the plot. It is the best and certainly the more fulsome of the two mediums in sheer detail. I love how Jamie’s story is told through Claire.
Yes, in the books, it is Jamie’s story…
…told through Claire.
Well, it’s straight from Diana’s husband, Doug. In conversation with Diana, he said he felt that book fans “don’t realize that the show thinks it’s telling Claire’s story, and Jamie is an important part of it. What _you’re_ doing (Diana) is telling Jamie’s story all the time, through Claire. That’s your particular magic, to make those two be part of each other, and no TV show could ever do that.”
Then, of course, Diana explained further (in great detail so there’s no misunderstanding):
“What _I_ think is that a) of COURSE it’s Jamie and Claire’s story. How could it not be? It wouldn’t be the same story without either one of them—as is quite obvious when you see the separate tracks of their lives in the first part of VOYAGER. And b) what is behind my husband’s observation is true, but it has nothing to do with the importance of either character _as people_.
It has to do with the fact that Jamie lives in much more interesting (read, dangerous, unpredictable, and to a large extent unfamiliar) times. Claire’s post-war, 20th-century life without Jamie is, on the surface, not real interesting. Re-establishing emotional connections with a husband (but in a context of mutual safety and mutual desire to make those connections), or (later) dealing with the challenges of becoming a professional woman and balancing those challenges against the responsibilities and emotional involvement of motherhood.
Yeah, you can make a good novel out of such material—hundreds of Women’s Fiction novels do. But the raw material is not intrinsically interesting. What makes it interesting is either the intense and unique personality of the main character and/or cultural interest/outrage on the part of the readership regarding the situations depicted. Women respond to this kind of story because they face those challenges, and they want to see how other women might manage them. Men, not surprisingly, don’t; that’s why it’s “women’s fiction.”
So, Jamie’s story. He’s a wanted outlaw, constantly at odds with just about everybody, from the British government to a large segment of his own family. There’s incipient social unrest surrounding him (and his whole culture), with the constant potential for violence, subterfuge, mistrust, and imminent execution. In other words, he lives in a high-stakes context; Claire lives in a very personal (but overall low-stakes) context. Adventure (and the demands of such things on character, for good or evil), vs. “My husband KNOWS I take care of a squalling baby all day, how can he bloody invite people to DINNER without asking me?”
So. You introduce Claire into Jamie’s time (and his life) and she immediately enters the much more adventurous, vivid context. A lot of what happens to her in OUTLANDER (and later books) has to do with who Jamie is and what he chooses or is forced to do. This doesn’t mean she’s a bystander, onlooker, or in any way a nonparticipant; the fact that she’s _there_ is vitally important, both to Jamie and the story overall, and she makes personal choices that shape her own life (and Jamie’s), as well as dealing with circumstances forced upon her. But it’s Jamie’s context in which both of them live their lives together. She’s telling it, because she’s the outlander, the fish out of water, the stranger—we identify with her, because that’s what our role would be in similar circumstances, and it’s a much easier way to tell a historical story, if you can use modern idiom and perception (and gives you the opportunity for subtle social commentary—at least we hope it’s subtle…). That doesn’t mean it’s principally her story, or that her part in it is either more or less than Jamie’s—as previously noted, the story itself doesn’t exist without both of them, and both of them _together_.
But if you’re looking at the structure of the story, then yeah, it’s Jamie’s story as told by (and lived with) Claire.
P.S. Yes, I know some people connected with the show say it’s “Claire’s story.” They do so for their own valid reasons, and they’re entitled to their opinions, too. I’m just telling you what _I_ know. The books are the books and the show is the show—and I write the books.”
To add to that “framing,” the TV show didn’t do any favours by casting roles in the order it did, albeit unintentionally. They found their Jamie first. That set the stage for fans, who framed the new TV show, in the same way Diana framed the books (above). But that’s NOT what Ron and company intended.
We’ve heard it over and over from Ron, “It’s Claire’s story,” “Claire is the protagonist.” So, say that’s true. But then fans want to know:
What does that make Jamie? Her sidekick?
No. Not all all. He actually has a significant role to play as the show’s deuteragonist.
A what, you say?
This is the second person the show revolves around, a character whose actions drive the plot just as much as those of the protagonist.
The deuteragonist has enough importance, without needing to be always next to the protagonist. It is as important as the protagonist and in the work has the same attention, without being the main character of the story. In a romantic story, the “official couple” will usually be the protagonist and deuteragonist. And indeed, as we’ve noticed, the deuteragonist does not need the same intense and complete emotional expression of the protagonist.
The Greeks identified their characters in the works with these denominations: protagonist, deuteragonist (Jamie) and tritagonist (depending on the season, Black Jack, Frank or Geillis), and sometimes they were interpreted by different actors or sometimes the same actors performed different roles. The deuteragonist (and sometimes the tritagonist) strengthen the expression of the emotions of the protagonist, offering friendship, empathy and sometimes observing the waves of pain of the main character.
So, indeed it’s still Claire and Jamie’s story, as Diana said, but with the clear delineation between the two characters’ roles. If the writers don’t make this clear in their scripts, then the editor changes the scene’s dynamic to reflect this, as we’ve seen (stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on this).
One additional aspect: the deuteragonist is often the most sympathetic of characters. Sam Heughan as TV Jamie has an abundant number of highly empathetic fans, who not only saw him cast first and presumed he was the lead, but who are also more attached to him due to his more expressive social media orientation and his involvement in his own charity.
But what’s lost by (mostly female) fans in all of this is the more targeted feminist stance of the TV show. Truly, politics aside, every country is going through similar gender imbalances, only heightened in awareness by #metoo and #50/50. All of issues Claire faces in the 1700s and 1900s are eerily similar to what is still happening and that we had hoped were in our recent past.
Here we have a female protagonist in our favourite story, reaching millions, and we’re complaining about that? When we (myself included, at times) revert back to the good ol’ books, and then to TV, and want to complain about Jamie’s comparatively more unemotional or subdued role, I suggest we really give our heads a shake. We’ve come a long way, baby? Nope. See the common introductions to female characters this script-reader gets:
Diana sold the rights to Ron D. Moore. He’s entitled to use her characters, her series plot in a televised visual medium. Ron, STARZ and Sony have all of the legal rights in the world to take this, twist it, and morph it into their own plot lines, with their own tilt. Sure, they could have made this story with this logline (a one sentence description of what it’s all about):
“The adventurous life of a Highland warrior who marries a 1945 English combat nurse when she’s mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.”
There is nothing out there about selling your rights and ensuring the exact content and tone are matched. First, it’s impossible with a transition from book to film, and second, it’s not as creative.
To acquire truly great writers, they don’t want to take everything on a page and merely plonk it into Final Draft. Boring. They want to put their own stamp on it. Selling your rights, properly, is all about ensuring the money is there for timely and proportionally scaled production to represent your book, not re-create the book verbatim.
The reality is, Outlander TV’s logline was always its biggest clue yet:
“An English combat nurse from 1945 is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.”
It’s Claire’s story. Get used to it. It’s not going to change. Outlander books, and the resulting TV show, are both ahead of their time.
Do you agree? Whose story do you think Outlander tells? Is it different for you in the books vs. the TV show? Is that okay?
The way the writers and production are changing this to Claire’s story will eventually turn of a greater percentage of the viewers. Fact.
Book readers in general want to see the books brought to the small screen in the best way Moore-Ron and co could have done it. Moore-Ron promised “to stay as faithful to the books as possible”… which actually lasted until just prior to the wedding, when Clairelander began to ascend, and so it has continued.
I think S4 will be pivotal to many viewers, if the PTB mess up Jamie’s time to shine again, people will vote with their remotes
Book reader for 15 years and it’s always been Claire’s story for me. Thank goodness the show is doing that too. The other way would completely turn me off. It’s been done before. We need women’s perspective and Claire is a wonderful one!
For me it is and always has been the love story that is the primary draw. A love story takes two. Jamie and Claire are of equal importance. To make one stronger than the other diminishes both.
No, it’s not okay. It’s been obvious from the beginning what the television production was doing with these two characters by distorting the emphasis to Claire’s favor. I don’t like it but will continue to support it completely because the production values are so high and it is so well acted. Also, this Outlander is better than no Outlander. However, if I have to get used to it, I don’t have to like it, that I have, for instance, to endure choices like watching Claire slog endlessly through the jungle in Voyager when I’m wondering how Jaimie is managing. This situation is especially frustrating because Sam is such a terrific actor, so expressive and nuanced. Short changing my chance to see a male who can express this full range in his relationship with a woman, is a real injustice too because there are so few examples out there of this kind of man. Let Sam be Jamie MORE.
Wish I could star your reply. I agree completely.
I will continue to support this 5?? production with #BestCastEver till the very last episode in the very last season,whenever that ends up being.
It is their prerogative to put their focus where they want to make it relevant in the time we are living but I would ask that when they do present Jamie, that he is reflected as the fully formed equal to Claire that Diana wrote about & not this person I hardly recognise.
It IS possible to raise /celebrate the heroine/protagonist of this story WITHOUT reducing/diminishing the hero/deuteragonist. It simply requires checking Gabaldon’s source material to see how is successfully done.
Excellent essay and spot on! I totally agree with your comments about both book and show.
I love that Claire is a strong woman who pushes boundaries and is a trail blazer. I found the show after season 2 aired, had to know what happened next, bought Voyager and have now read all the books ( three times through) during droughtlanders. Became obsessed. I don’t see why the show has to sideline Jamie to elevate Claire. I’ll continue to watch the show and love it because they are bringing Outlander to life. But I’ll respectfully disagree that this is Claire’s story over Jamie’s. It is their passionate commitment to each other that makes the relationship timeless.
So well put! I agree completely. To me, the wedding scene where they reversed who said, upon seeing the other all dressed up for the wedding, the beautiful appreciation of Jamie’s appearance. Diana expressed this statement as coming from Claire. After all, she was “cleaned up” well before the wedding. He was working hard in the stables. She hadn’t seen him in full Highland gear. To her, his appearance was beautiful. Then they turned it around. No. No, not that line. Diana shows the strength of women by Claire admiring a beautiful man. I love that.
Interesting essay. I agree with most of the points made. I have a couple of observations of my own.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a show first, then a book fan also.
I have always been fascinated by these discussions. The bottom line, at least to me, is if you subtract either Jamie or Claire from the story, what you have left is not Outlander. There is nothing wrong with Claire not being a shrinking violet – her feistiness, her passion, her intelligence is what attracted Jamie to her in the first place. One point that is often not taken into account in assessing the story in the book Voyager and the third season of the show is how crippled both Jamie and Claire are when they reunite. Neither one is a spring chicken anymore. The Laird of Lallybock has been a prisoner, a groom, a multiple felon (sedition, smuggling) and lives in brothel. Claire is now a surgeon, but she has spent 20 years in a loveless marriage with an increasingly bitter husband, Frank. As they try to put their marriage back together, both of them make mistakes that doesn’t show them at their best. Claire is a bit slow in remembering how the 17th Century works, e.g., insisting on treating the excise man. Obviously, Jamie should have told Claire about Leoghrie (phon.) sooner. Claire could have expressed her love for Jamie more volubly in the middle episodes (actually not sure she could, I expect that she was out of practice), although jumping off a ship in the middle of the night to warn her husband sounds like love to me. (Ranger kind of love, but love nevertheless).
What concerns more for the future of the show is that while these discussions often comparisons between the characters, they sometimes edge over to a comparison between the actors. Sam and Caitriona to all appearances are pretty levelheaded and good friends. However, I would prefer that the fans take care not to kill the golden goose by inciting the actors into a jealousy stoked competition.
Really enjoyed this article. You hit the nail on the head. Ron has bought the rights to film these books and is making a female driven show, whether the book fans likr it or not.
Though I find some of the adaptations debatable, the show as a whole is a visual feast: fabulous decor, amazing costumes, music score, good acting etc.
I do feel that some of the episodes in season3 were not well written and I hope they get better script writers next season.
I have no problem with the changes. I agree with Diana the book is the book and the show is the show. I am glad that they stick closely to the book. They don’t make bad guys into good guys or change major parts of the story (I have seen this with other books to show/movies).
Ron M and Sony and Starz can do with the story what they wants=. We as fans of the TRUE story can also do what we want. WE WILL WALK FROM THE SHOW. I WILL CANCEL MY STARZ AND STICK TO HBO. I ONLY subscribed to get access to Outlander. I can find many other ways to spend my money then on a show that angers me because of the blatant destruction of a magnificent saga by egomaniacs who think THEY know better. I am still waiting for Season 4 but if your article is correct, they have no intention of listening to the fans, they have actually shown that they despise the fans. I was only waiting because of my support and love of Sam Heughan. But hopefully, his career will take off and I can enjoy his immense talent elsewhere. Many feel this way, most of those who have been fans of Diana’s books lived without this series for over 20 years. We are loyal enough and love the creator’s story enough to be around for the next 10, waiting patiently for the next books from this remarkable story teller. We did not fall in love with Claire, we fell in love with our Highland Warrior and HIS story. So Ron, Sony, Starz can go ahead and destroy a magnificent sage to prove they are politically correct but they will see fans finding other series to watch. There is a vast universe out there and I personally will watch no more. GO TELL THE BEES, I AM GONE.
Bye bye. Ratings are going UP. Those that want the EXACT same story as the books will continue to be disappointed. If you haven’t liked it in years WHY keep watching? I’m sure there are other shows you can watch. Now run along. If strong women aren’t your thing, you’re watching the wrong show.
I’ve re a the books, watched the series, I accept them both as separate beasts. Books will never translate accurately to film much less to tv series. People wo adore the shiw might not like the books and vice versa. I love them both but for very different reasons.
To say that ‘we’ didn’t fall in love with Claire is a remarkably bold, sweeping statement. I ADORE Jamie, BUT I love Claire more. It’s personal, everyone is different. The same way some demonise Frank, I like him. It’s all personal to temperament and experience.
The viewership of this doesn’t depend on one person alones wish to watch, vote with your hands, turn it off and stick to the books, Lord knows I’ve had to with certain film and tv adaptations that have been awfully disappointing, I’ve also loved adaptations that have been completely different but I still accept them as being different and love them in their own right, regardless.
Everyone has different tastes, the fact that this series popularity continues to grow speaks volumes, I hope they don’t deviate too much from the books but it’s one helluva a lot to cut down to fit into a series per book etc, and to show it so that it has as much emotional impact as the book. It’s damnably hard.
Luckily for you at least the series gave you some Sam as Jamie, or some Sam however you look at it, so there that positive you take away from it.
I would like to see more Jamie in season 4 (wouldn’t most 😉 ) but am happy to see what surprises they have in store. When all else fails we have the books, and I personally am super psyched for season 4.
The production values, portrayals, acting, cinematography, props, sound, everything….. I ADORE it.
For me, I see it as Claire recounting the life and times of her experiences with Jamie, Jamie through her eyes. That’s me personally, though. Everyone is different and the fact that so many can take the see things and see them so may different ways is actually beautiful to me, too.
I don’t think this is harsh as some do. The books are truly the books and the series is the series. How boring for the creative people involved (not just the script writers) if the series followed the book exactly.
I think Diana’s explanation is perfect. I’m a long, long time lover of these books and waited anxiously for the last two to be released. However, I LOVE the series as well.
When I re-read the books, I already have the characters in my head and they are not the actors. The actors are beautiful people and u dint think book Jamie and Claire were. Striking, yes. So, that’s my nickel’s Worth.
Everyone on that show isn’t doing a marvelous job.
I was a books fan first. As a woman-centered person, it was Claire that I fell in love with. The Jamie of the books is indeed the King of Men. For me that is because he is the ideal father, lover, caretaker. He is tall, broad, and a little goofy-looking. His most perfect and unusual quality in my mind, is his uncommon kindness. I hesitated watching the show until this year, largely because I did not want this image of Jamie to be erased, as Sam looks and acts nothing like the sweet Jamie in my mind. Come to find out I love the show, and now I have two stories, and two Jamies. The Claires often merge for me, in the most delightful of ways.
Sam is a very good actor, but I’m guessing he was hired in a large part for his impressive looks. I mean, my God, women are trying to win his sweaty clothes! I wouldn’t be surprised if the show creators are afraid to portray a more nuanced Jamie, for fear of scaring off the legions of women who worship at the altar of Sam’s hunkiness. As for the supposed man-killing feminism of the show, I feel the need to point out that when women are portrayed as equally important to men, it is shocking how many women are offended by that. Lastly I agree, some of the editing choices are a little weird – Claire slogging through the jungle went on far too long. My spouse and I refer to this kind of error as ‘the Gab-drag effect’. Years ago in the show ‘Xena’ , they had a piece where Xena dragged her supposed soulmate Gabrielle by horse, for a excruciatingly long segment. We imagined hearing the special effects guys, ‘we worked long and hard on this expensive bit and you’d better show it in all its glory!’ So: ‘we worked long and hard on this damned jungle and you’d better show every inch of it and not waste the money!’
I watched 1-2 episodes from season 4 last year, 2019 and I did not continue.
It is funny how I gave it a go from season 1 and then had to binge on it up to second half of season 3.
I am laughing out loud when I think to why the creators would assume that women want to exist above and dominate the men just because. 🙂
🙂 No this would not be the equality the show is intending to be promoting … I don’t think the material the actor playing Jamie is good and as Caitriona Balfe says the matrial will make the actor good … or not …
It actually sounds like trying to make men look bad … this is how bad it has become in the latest series. Why would we want to do that? Can we, women, exist without men?
For the most part the world has changed in respect to women’s equal opportunity at career and life choice. My personal experience.
To me the story was about two strong people with extremely different upbringing, education and culture become attracted to each for other for their respective strengths, compromising the weaknesses and act as one “together” through their life path.
No this is about how 200 years time difference did not change the woman’s need of an equally worthy man by her side. It is about 2 people who together are able to exist as one and thus able to make the most impact in the external “world” when “together”.
This is not about career women. 🙂
The material given to the male actor is ridiculous and Claire’s extended story lines are worthy of fast forward. I am still surprised that the creator’s expect that their ratings because of Jamie’s good looks. The male character was supposed to be likable in the first place.
Both actors are good and when good material is given to both it plays exceptionally.
In life – there has to be balance and it sucks when it is lost.
No, the rating are not going up.
here is what Caitriona Balfe says:
“you’re only ever as good as the people around you and the material you’re given. ” Caitriona Balfe
Thank you family …. you’re only ever as good as the people around you and the material you’re given. We always lift each other up. #lovemyoutlanderfamily
Love the books (I’ve read and reread at least 7 to 10 times… more times on some of the books). Love the show. I’ve watched each episode Numerous Times. They don’t have to be the same. I look for differences and they are FINE. The show cannot perfectly imitate the books. Ron D. Moore has given Sam many kudos for his acting in Season 3. (I’m Happy about That!) Cait has done a terrific job being an “Outlander” under unbelievable conditions (of the 18th and 20th centuries). Both deserve many awards. I agree that the entire cast, the producers, directors, writers, designers, camera persons, and every single being working on the show makes it the Show To Watch. Fantastic job by all. They cannot duplicate Diana Gabaldon’s amazing descriptions of everything. Impossible and I do not expect that! I’m happy to have both to read and to watch. Please continue adding seasons through the end of the books.
I agree whole-heartedly. I wince when I see Jamie’s role diminished sometimes. But….. we have a show to watch and cherish. DVD’s to continue long afterwards.
I totally agree Sherry
I have been a fan of this story since the early 90s. When I found out the TV production was happening, I could not have been happier. I love the books and I have loved the TV production, in spite of some of the interpretations that made things a bit different. I have long considered both Jamie and Claire’s roles to be essential to the story line that is throughout all the books. Both are strong admirable people and both err as humans tend to do. I could use more storyline of Jamie in the future. I cannot get away from the importance of Jamie to Claire and Claire to Jamie. Both should have moments seen in the TV series where they, inturn, are the strong one and have more attention paid. They love each other and need each other. Marriages go through learning curves and we get to see Jamie and Claires, who remain true to each other. Their love is beautiful.
What you’ve written may be true, the producers have the right to make Outlander their own. But remember there are tens of thousands of viewers tuning in because they fell in love with the books. I’m already starting to get bored with some of the ridiculous tangents – Claire performing emergency brain surgery…really? We know she’s smart and ahead of her time, if you just tell the story, it will come across.
Right on…. I’m walking too! Right back to Books only!
Ditto, Mother Tucker!!
After reading outlander, I patiently waited, (much longer than any droughtlander, so far) for DG to finish each book. The books are very dear to me. I was excited it was coming to the screen.
But…during the first season I realised it is a different outlook than my precious books. So, I have my books, and another version to watch.
The show is wonderful, I’d love to be there. I watch it for Cait, Sam, Tobias, and ALL of cast, lol and the drivers, but the costumes!!!! thank you Terry and crew for your amazing creations and attention to detail. The scenery is spectacular!! I need to go back to Scotland, many more times.
Thank you, Diana, for writing, and Davina for reading. Just hearing her voice puts me right there with Jamie and Claire!
Can we just enjoy the books and the series as they are? Of course the show is going to be different due to time constraints, budget restraints, etc. I would have loved to see a couple episodes added to each season. Who would not have? But, the time and money isn’t there. So, just enjoy the show as it is and the books as they are. Life is too short.
Sometime last year, I read an interview with RDM where he said that Sam and Cait were not the characters in the book and that they write for Sam’s voice and Caitriona’s voice. Despite what seems to be a consensus that Sam and Cait are perfect for these rolls (and I would absolutely agree with this,) I think he is absolutely right. When I read the books, I do not hear either Sam or Cait. Their voices are different. When they use dialogue from the book and I hear the words from Sam or Cait, they sound totally different from what I imagined they would.
However, I do not see what some people are complaining about. I love both the show and the books because I get two different stories, but in both mediums, the beautiful part of this story is that they are equals in the relationship. Both characters bring different talents and strengths to this union. What makes this special (especially on Jamie’s part) is the fact that they are in the 18th century when women didn’t have a say in anything. Although I thought at times that it became too much Claire and Frank’s story, it is definitely Claire and Jamie’s story. We saw this develop in S1 and continue in S2. In fact, I thought Jamie’s character progressed very nicely through his dealings in Paris and leadership of men back in Scotland during the lead-up to Colluden. Claire’s return to 1948 was Jamie asserting his leadership after all.
As in Voyager, in S3 they were apart for a large part of the season even after the reunion. In the first four episodes, Jamie’s story was given equal (and maybe even more) attention than Claire’s. In Ardsmuir he was the leader. If it doesn’t come across as strong as in the book I refer you to my first paragraph above. Sam’s voice is different than book Jamie. Not better or worse, just different. I thought there was some serious blips in the writing for some of the episodes, but didn’t really see where Jamie’s character was being subverted by Claire. Yes, the trek through the jungle was too long, but only because I thought they were wasting time with so much more story left to tell. When Jamie appeared later in that episode he was in charge of the Artemis, and it was Jamie who gave Fergus his name. I thought the season ended with them on equal footing, and I’m really looking forward to the continuation of their journey on screen.
That jungle trek was beyond toooooo long. Great ending, I agree.
Very good explanation! I think they’re doing good job with the series. I’ve seen some awful movie adaptations of books I loved. Dune comes to mind. I’m a big-time book reader and no one will change them ever, but the series is bringing the story to a whole new audience!
I still think it´s the couple´s story. Yes, she is the one telling it and he is the one leading it but one is nothing without the other. My prob with the show (which I like a lot truth be told..) is that lately the show it isnt even a couple´s story but Claire´s story and it´s not as interesting as it should be. I´m a big big fan of Claire (and C.Balfe) , this character is what made me fall in love with the story..her passion, her kindness, her sense of justice, how smart she is, how fiece how determined, she is somehow the woman that we all would love to be but even the show it´s not making her justice. Yes, the show focuses on Claire, but this “TVshow Claire” cannot be described as above. The reason? because the Claire described above is the Claire that exist when she is with Jamie in both show and books, he helps her develop her true personality. He makes her be who she is AND viceversa. They both need eachother to become who they actually are. Books and show are different “things” I agree but they follow the same core story. Lately this is not happening (s3-07 and on) and the show is steering away so much that it´s not even the same core story. Also, Claire´s character and therefor C. Balfe are getting a lot of heat and that is quite unfair bc they are not even resposible for it. I´m afraid that maybe pushing too hard this story line (Claire´s) it may not even help the character and her likeability and it may get the opposite effect… People are taking it with both character and actress and non of it is her/their fault. I havent seen so many negative comments about Claire on SM like now, specially since S3-07 and even as a Claire fan , still my fav character, I understand where they come from. C.Balfe does what is told, and beautifully IMO, and Claire as a character is written by somebody else not D.G and I must say that sometimes I wonder if the show writer really understands who Claire is and what the story is about. My point….is there a “right” answer? we keep discussing this but are we getting somewhere? are things going to change?
It seems to me as if because Cait has gotten nods for awards, they pushed her forward this season to cement that happening.
I was late coming to the show as well as the books. I enjoy them both, nor would I change the way its presented on television. In book form you can tell that it’s Jamie’s story told by Claire with Claire. Television can’t and shouldn’t display every line, scene laid out in print. So congratulations to all parties and keep up the excellent work
Read all the books. Watched all the shows. The shows are a stand alone. Can’t we just enjoy them both?
I started with the TV series. Started reading the books after season 2.
I, indeed, love both mediums.
The book and the show is a story of two people as told by Claire. Neither would survive without the other.
The acting by the entire cast has been superb!
The problem, for me, isn’t focusing more on Claire. In some ways I wished the book focused more on her thoughts about the differences between her modern and past life. Little things, like how she stumbles around in the night but the Highlanders just walk along – from childhoods brought up with/without modern lighting systems (I know Claire was in Egypt and such, but in the 1900s with matches and oil lamps invented it would have been much more lit up). So, again, I’m fine with the focus on Claire’s POV in the show. She has lived a modern life as a trailblazing doctor/surgeon – but because of her experience in the past, not embracing modern feminism. I’m not saying she would be against embracing it, rather, that isn’t what lead her to trail blaze. She is a born healer and has learned that by being placed in numerous situations repeatedly, we also learn in side-novels is it an ancient calling her distant relatives carried – blue auras, ways with herbs, etc. There is a mystical element to Outlander that is getting lost. Travelling through stones should tip the directors to this fact. It appeals to women more than men. The typical macho version of an ancient power is to tap it to become a great warrior/hero/whatever yourself, but in this story, the ancient power is just there, not grasped or manipulated. By having Claire take a more modernist/feminist stance, the source of her healing drive is being diminished. It is somewhat her modern sensibilities, but also her innate (and apparently very ancient) gift that drives her to heal. Modern feminism is about gaining equality with men in this world at this time (fair enough and long overdue), but Claire’s power and draw is as ancient as the hills and not available to all women equally anyways (I’d be a disasterous healer in the 1700s, but I’d have very strong modern opinions). So there is an element of mystery and ancientness being lost in Claire’s character that I am mourning.
Secondly, why does Sam need to be diminished to make Claire a force to recon with? They are very in love and don’t seek to dominate each other, but Sam is a strong character even if a secondary one in the TV adaptation there is no need to have him make rash, nasty decisions, as he did with Fergus on the boat. Sam has been in many other desperate situations – he keeps his head about himself. He wouldn’t be with Claire (or the love bond wouldn’t have developed the way it did) if he fell apart and acted rashly and nastily. Either Claire wouldn’t have been drawn to his strong personality or he would have got her and/or himself killed ages ago if he acted the way he did on that ship. He, unlike Claire, knows the 18th century too well to think turning against those who are your kin will have any long-term benefit. In those days your kin was your only source of help. The writers need to figure Sam out – even if he is shown through Claire’s eyes, she isn’t the sort of woman who would give up her career and life to return to a petty minded 18th century weakling. I loved Sam in Outlander, felt he was too passive in Dragonfly but really felt it was no longer Sam in Voyager. They need to get Sam right, even if they don’t show/feature him as prominently as the books.
I agree with the commenter who said without Claire and Sam, you don’t have Outlander.
So, what the show needs to fix isn’t just perspective and focus (it’s fine to focus more on Claire), but to balance who Claire is – she is a competent healer for reasons far beyond feminism/modern ideas of equality – and make Sam the strong, confident man he is. Of course he listens to Claire – he also fully recognizes who Claire is. A healer, from another time. He is confident enough to cherish her and care for her in her conflicted state (never fitting in properly) without needing to be less of a man.
Too much of Hollywood wants to socially engineer things these days. Facebook is getting accused of it too. Do women need a more prominent role in media? Of course. But Outlander wouldn’t be Outlander if they try to socially engineer it into something it isn’t. It is a very, very real book. It faces many difficult social issues head-on. Claire is a strong, fearless character. But she is not a modern feminist. No modern feminist would venture back to the 18th century and survive. She wouldn’t be happy there if she were. She is much more relaxed about the state of that century than TV Claire and the screenwriters making her a shrill reactionary to the times isn’t going to help ratings. She just becomes annoying and we all live on this side of history and know that even if a Claire Time Traveller was there back then, it didn’t do a wit of good in the search for equality.
See, for Claire to have dumped her 1960s life for the 18th Century, in the love story, Jamie was worth it. Fiddle with the Jamie character too much, pacify him too much, weaken him to the degree they did in Voyager and you have to ask yourself why Claire bothered going back. She then looks silly, foolish and immature. The first time, it is believable because it was an accident. The second time, it needs to be quite compelling. Jamie better be a strong reason for a strong woman to return.
I agree with everything you have said. Jamie is the King of Men. That is why Claire loves him. She recognizes his strength, leadership, intelligence. By diminishing Jamie they make Claire weaker not stronger and more of a shrew than a protagonist.
Thanks Val and Shari for articulating what I was too angry to explain. Feminism is not about women stepping into the old roles of men. It’s about equality and respect! Too bad that the old boy’s network is in charge of making this beloved book series into a television show!
To be honest, if Dianna is ok with how the books are being interpreted on screen who are any of us to say differently. This is her life’s work and they consult her on every episode so to co,plain about what Ron and his writers are changing is to complain about Dianna being ok with it.
Everything has been said and written! And I agree with Diane hereabove: If D. Gabaldon agrees with RonDMoore, etc…, there is not that much to complain about.
I have read the books in French first, in English later as the translations are… so and so… I have been a translator myself for years and know that it is not easy to render the exact meaning of a document from one language into another. That said, I have compared chapter after chapter and I insist: Read them in English and you will really enjoy the story between Jamie and Claire.
I have bought the 3 seasons on DVD – no other way to watch Outlander over her – and I am still reviewing them from time to time. Comparing with the books sometimes in order to complete or find explanations.
The book Jamie and Claire are not the TV Jamie and Claire, but books and TV series are D. Gabaldon’s “children” in a way. Children are different even if you have only two of them. And the way Jamie and Claire are presented is changing. In the books they have been fixed, solidly cemented, carved in marmor. They will not change anymore. There is no evolution. Which happens in the series. And yes, sometimes the change of personnality is too slow or too fast, to modern or a little boring. But the job is generally well done, so why complain. The authors responsible for the show have a thread in their mind and they follow it.
Only, in Voyager I did not like the stubborn way of Claire and could not forget that she was a doctor; coming from a comfortable 20th century with a home in Boston and all the day to day facilities and a succesful professional situation, she was disappointed by Jamie’s situation and they had been apart so long that they did not know each other anymore. Jamie says it: “We know each other less than when we wed”! But he is so hesitating too. Not the same man anymore. She seems stronger than Jamie. I would like to find back the mentality of Jamie and Claire as they were in S1 and in the second part of S2 (Scotland and the uppcomiing war). Strong personalities, always there for each other. Close. They must be together, they cannot live a story in loneliness and with one of them too strong and the other one weak and dominated, unbalanced, be it the man or the woman. Claire may speak and act, but Jamie must be the King of Men! And they must both acccept their characteristics because there would not be a TV show if that was not so.
I read the books both before and after watching the series. Love them both equally. I enjoy Ron Moore’s podcasts explaining what changes and why they were made to the episodes. I learn more about the difficulties of making a book into the series and the struggles the writers and actors go through by these podcasts.
I think they have done a great job presenting Claire and Jaimie’s story.
Personally, I like Sam and Cait’s portrayal of their characters. All the chosen cast has been great. Each season I see the cast grow into their role more. I have watched Sam in other roles he has done before Outlander and find he is a much stronger actor now. But he will always only be perfect in his role as Jaimie to me. Maybe that will change as I see him in future non Jamie roles.
I liked your presentation of protagonist and deuterogonist, very educational to me. Thank you for a very informative article.
I hope that the actors/producers/directors do not read these comments.
Geez, it’s just a good story. Enjoy it.
Let them do their work.
Thanks for a well thought out and written post. I really like both Sam and Cait in their respective roles and have never felt that Sam was given short shrift. Sometimes the story changes in the show are not as strong as the books, but generally they do a wonderful job. No screen adaptation of any book is totally the same and I understand how tough it is to serialize this story. I think the biggest challenge is the flow as there’s so much to include and sometimes I think it gets a little choppy as it goes from event to event and some of the little moments that give it flavor get cut for time. I love both the books and the show and have different expectations of each. In general I prefer to see a movie/tv show first and read the book second as there’s always way more detail and story in the written form. In this case there’s too much time between seasons so you read the books and give the show it’s due when it’s on. Sam and Cait will always be Jamie and Claire to me as I started w/the tv show and they are in my head. Thanks to everyone who works so hard on this show.
I strongly disagree. Ron D Moore stated during Season 1 that from the episode with Jamie’s voice over to start the episode that the story had become that of Jamie and Claire. Then he proceeded to give ClaireJamie’s ideas and even in some cases his dialogue. I went into the show without expectations about who the lead was knowing nothing at the time about who was hired first or whyZ. Hiring had nothing to do with my feelings that there are two equal protagonists in this tale. Jamie has to remain strong because Claire is strong. You do not have to detract from one to make the other strong in their own right. Bumping up Frank’s story in many ways detracted from Jamie’s story and made it more about Claire than the couple, Jamie/Claire. Adaptation does not need to be character assassination. I would implore the powers that be to tone down know it all Claire and to keep Jamie’s story as important as Claire’s. That balance no matter which media the story is told, is what makes Diana’s books so incredibly enjoyable.
Great write up! I agree with a lot of points, disagree with some too. And that’s okay! I LOVE the books and I LOVE the show.
I’ve always read the first 3 books being Claire’s story about Jamie and Claire (with a few other characters thrown into the mix too of course). You can’t separate Jamie and Claire from each other, or there would be no story, or at least, not one as interesting for me. And to me, it’s a no brainer the show would be adapted the way it because Claire is in so much more of the book than Jamie is-especially the first two books. She is the one that carries the story to the reader for the vast majority so naturally it would be that way in the show too. It almost doesn’t matter “who’s story” we interpret it to be. The first 2 books are carried through Claire’s POV, and most of the 3rd. So the show will be too.
I seem to have found the books and TV series by a different path – neither was first, rather I stumbled upon some of the Sam-Cait interviews from the first 2+ years and saw them as kindred spirits with a clear passion for their roles and the story and a great responsiveness to their fans. There are always significant differences between the written story (especially 1000+ page books) and the film/TV series starting with the inherent differences in the mediums. Like some others I like to watch the film/TV before I read the books as the written stories are usually more detailed and complex and it is impossible that a film version will ever perfectly portray what I envisioned (which is also different than what the next person envisioned). I love the books and I love the STARZ series. Regardless of argument I think we all agree there would be no Outlander without both Claire and Jamie.
I am perplexed that anyone would see Claire as a “shrew” – which sounds like what people say who are threatened by strong women more than anything I can see in the STARZ series. I am elated that she is in no way “meek and obedient” and that an 18th century Jamie is her equal.
I am appalled that supposed adults are posting nasty and often delusional comments on SM to anyone associated with the Starz series. From set and costume designers to writers and actors I have never seen a group more available to and dedicated to the fans. I hope people recognize that making this series is a choice as is the open access to fans and that can change in a heartbeat. Then you will see an uproar from those fans who have conducted themselves with kindness and thankfulness.
It is Jamie’s story as told by Claire. She would have no story without Jamie…..Jamie has a compelling and captivating story without Claire. Also, do not like the way the series has gutted the book Jamie. Sam Heughan has the broad acting talent to play all of the book Jamie’s wonderful attributes/characteristics. The series squandered a golden opportunity to make a powerful saga…one they had completely within their reach.
Wow! Carolyn Clark, Very well put. Thank you. I totally agree.
We don’t need Claire as a role model. What RM and his writers DON’T understand is that those (female) fans want a “Jamie” in the 21st century who understands and appreciates women as different but equal in ambition, intelligence, education, and passion. The “me too” movement is just that. . .for men to understand that women are not “objects” that they can control through brute strength, threats to professional life, or forced sexual contact. Women want “Jamies” to recognize them for their inherent value in all phases of life. Claire is a model for independence, but there are plenty of TV role models for her and many women already very much like her. I consider myself independent, but I’ve never met a Jamie. . .and that is what we want. What we DON’T have are enough “Jamies” in this world and THAT is where the Outlander series should put their focus. RM and his writers have not understood the reason Gabaldon’s books have amassed a huge fandom; women love the character of Jamie because he embodies all of the attributes we admire but rarely find in men. They have missed a glorious opportunity to show men how they can behave in an enlightened way toward women in every culture in the modern world.
There are many threads along these same lines. I must admit I did not realize fans were getting mad at the actors, as I feel they pretty much have to do what the directors say. As a single father to three young men- who are respectful to all- I am upset that Jamie is treated like an emotional wreak-tossed in the ship’s jail because he had a temper tantrum, all while Claire Saves the World and wins Survivor 1784. Why do we need to see holes drilled in heads; but the fact that he was blackmailed into sex and sacrifices his chance at freedom so he can look after his son-that gets fluffed over. Leaving out Jamie’s heartbreak over the loss of his first child-simply shows that in our culture, the man is no more then a “sperm donation” with no attachment to the child. I use to enjoy watching this show with a fine woman who is my friend; she also has 3 sons but lately we both cringe at the weak role Sam is asked to play. Jamie would NEVER have married “L” the way the writers had him knowing she tried to have Claire killed and then Mama Claire making him thank her no less ! Claire shows up after 20 years and in 24 hours his shop and means to be a patriot burns, his smuggling is ruined and he has to go back to the land he forfeited with his head between his knees with his errant nephew- When exactly was he suppose to tell Claire about his failed marriage? He is suppose to speak many languages and be well read but all he does is follow Claire around and react; as a sea sick landlubber he ends up saving the ship- just fluff that part over too. It is not about “whose story” . Is everyone so sure DG is happy with all the changes? Even as my wife was in the hospital she was strong in ways I could not imagine- there were times she would send me home to make sure I had dinner with our boys or get one to a dentist appointment. We were a team and I hope some day my sons find a woman who is half as loving and strong as their mother was. Society and TV need to learn that to be strong a woman does not need to be elevated by crushing male egos and always being right.
Perfectly stated James. As a Claire /Cait fan it saddens me to see that all these changes in the female character didn’t show us a stronger Claire or a better Claire but a weaker Jamie and therefor a weaker Claire. If Claire and Jamie are the true heroes in this story is because they work together, they support and understand each other. Creating this new Claire that comes closer to the XXI century point of view and especially to the #metoo movement they didn’t just changed the story, which you may like or not, but they actually had the opposite effect. A strong woman doesn’t need to overpower any man. If a woman is truly strong, she won’t feel the need to diminish men but she will understand that equality is the key. This is what IMO the second part of S3 is missing. Equality!
We love Jamie bc he is the king of men and not physically speaking but bc he is emotionally intelligent,he is strong, determined, smart, funny etc. Why somebody like this could be perceived as a threat for a woman. Just the opposite. A man like this would also look for a woman who could match him and viceversa. Claire would never go back if Jamie was a puppet. She fell in love with a leader.
I love the show n the books. I see them
As two different entities but lately it’s hard to get engage with the story. S3-07 and in was a bit of a mess. Hopefully S4 is back to the S1 style
Ps/ we know we are in the XXI century but we have to keep in mind that the show is based on thenXVIII century.
No doubt this post post won’t last an hour….. It might hurt some monstrous egos-because it’s honest and challenges the lies and PR you’re weaving!
If you’re going to beat the shite out of a well loved series so that Ron D Moore and Co can rake in all the profits from jumping on the “Strong Woman Lead:” bandwagon… at least be honest and get your damn facts right!
1)Diana did not sell the rights to RDM! They were sold long ago to someone who wanted to make a 2 hour movie! RMD has said on interviews that MD had to go begging for them for about 5 years! I wish to high heaven you would stop re-writing history to sell your version of facts!
2) James Fraser is the King of Men- Not Matt Roberts! Big surprise huh? He’s merely someone who happily filling his pockets with money he doesn’t deserve, for bastardizing a wonderful series of books! Too bad his little feeling got hurt from the posts about this mess. If he can’t stand the heat get outta the kitchen!
3) Sam Heughan is a classically trained actor Not someone’s side-kick. I appreciate Ms. Balfe and I know not all this is her fault! However you could have cast anyone/anything for the work you have Mr. Heughan doing- a good German Shepard! Could you have been any more obvious when you locked Mr Heughan in a cell below deck for a whole episode. He should walk and take all the true Outlander fans with him.
4) What’s lost on most female fans…… boy you carry your nerve right around with you don’t you??? What’s lost on you and this “fairy tale” you are trying to sell is that we female fans are not so blinded by Sam Heughan’s looks and body that we don’t see that your bottom line is the money, money and money! Or that we’ve lost site of what’s best for the story…. Oh please! I may vomit! This whole thing is a PR ploy of pretending that Women matter in Hollywood!
Finally- Another post mentioned that Outlander fans could just walk…. I hope we do!!! I know I am ….
Book reader first, then series….so I believe that it is completely ok to be offended by the push Claire, minimize Jamie way things have gone. Come on, you’ve got to admit that Claire is obnoxious, sanctimonious, and treats Jamie like her beloved dog who constantly needs correction. The one good thing is that Sam Heughan has risen above and beyond the restrictions placed on him by series Jamie to become the STAR of the show. Everyone who watches the show sees Claire try and fail to measure up to the overwhelmingly admirable Jamie. I’m just sorry that Cait has been forced to play such an unlikeable character. So to you, Ron and Terry, your modern feminist take on this story has crippled but not killed one of the best shows on TV. I’ll continue to watch because I love Jamie and I’ll try not to winch so much when what is presented on screen doesn’t ring true or is ridiculously bias.
I’m just so happy to have a screen version to accompany the books. I think Ron and co. have done a fantastic job of keeping the story arc of the books and have emphasized that film and the written word aren’t the same. They can’t be presented in the same way. There have been a few changes I didn’t like, but I understand they are different media and to get to a certain place or to get a whole book’s concept into X number of episodes, certain changes need to happen. I listen to the podcasts while watching the episodes, and I find that it’s really good insight into why they needed to make certain changes here and there or why they felt that something would read better in film than in the book. Not that they owe us any explanation. The fans who question, harass and bully the film professionals are no fans. None of them have people comment on their jobs online, critique them and tell them how it should be different. I’m all for free speech but I also think it you hate it so passionately, then move on and find something that brings you joy; go back to the books or find something new. The writers, producers and staff in the show have all made it clear that they are trying to do justice to Diana’s books. I wish everyone could take a deep breath and enjoy it for what it is. Diana is happy with it; why can’t her fans be? I love the show, I love the books (and I’ve read them all) and I can’t wait for more of both.
I’m currently reading the first book and I’ve watched all the TV shows. Both are excellent in their own right and give me so much to think about.
I’m Generation X so I have a grasp on how Baby Boomers see the world and also how Millenials see the world. I think the older fans grew up in a culture so much more saturated with patriarchy that the more modern feminist stories just feel off to them. I see it all the time at work and neighborhood conversations. There’s nothing special about being a woman that would automatically confer feminist ideals. We were all brought up in a sexist society and see patriarchy as the norm. So I’m not surprised when both men and women express dissatisfaction with women-led stories. It’s so rarely done it’s practically avant-garde and therefore not as easily digestable.
Thank goodness we have modern bards shining their torches in dark corners and showing us our own humanity to reflect upon. Thank you Ron Moore and Diana Gabaldon.