I have been trying to find a graceful way to open up this blog. Should I be eloquent and flowery or hard-hitting and humorous? I settled on being a bit all over the place – it suits my mood and my nature.
I have wanted to write about the women on Outlander for a while, I chose now because it is helping me pass the time until Season 5 airs. I figure like attracts like making this mutually beneficial.
Those who watch Outlander are exposed to women who are brave, strong, stubborn and determined. They grapple with heartbreak and persevere. They love fiercely and protect one another. Do they have flaws and imperfections? Ummmm, yeah! We all do. It’s another reason they are believable and relatable. That is what this blog is really about. How is it that we, as women in 2020 relate to these fictional women set so far in the past (mostly)?
I knew I wasn’t the only person that saw myself in these women on the screen. I was aware that this is how we stay involved and connected, or not. This made me ask those in my twitter bubble, what woman in Outlander did they relate to the most and why? The question wasn’t specifically for women to answer but no men jumped in to tell me which woman they related to, hopefully in the comments, some will. (Not who they like the most, who they relate to – just making it clear).
Gender stereotypes on television have been played to death and it’s intriguing that we have gone back to the 1700s to see them getting knocked around. Of course, we still see them in characters like Mrs. Fitz, from season 1. She was a dutiful head housekeeper to Colum. She warned Claire, if she did as told, she would gain favour with The MacKenzie. She caused no stir when her grand-daughter was about to be beaten in the great hall. Yet, she stood up to the likes of Father Bain. She ran that kitchen at Leoch like a boss and she smacked around the highlanders if they messed around in her domain. She was granted authority and demanded respect even still abiding by some of the patriarchal rules. I mean, historical accuracy is always a thing in a period drama.
That bit about Mrs. Fitz wasn’t mentioned as a part of who she was when people replied to my query on Twitter. I do love the hashtaggery.
All of these women are aware of Mrs. Fitz’s place in the Outlander universe. It is with their 21st-century lens they are able to pull her strength and fortitude forward. I don’t think they are ignoring Mrs. Fitz’s place in her 18th-century life, I believe they accept and see that Mrs. Fitz was bucking her place where and when she could without putting her life in danger. Something a great majority of women have done – for centuries. Those women hold shit together while making a difference behind the scenes, subtle changes that help push society forward. It may not be as loud and in your face as some but it still has an impact.
Jenny was a younger, stronger and higher ‘ranked’ version of Mrs. Fitz. For an 18th century woman, Jenny really did have and do it all. Career (Lady of Lallybroch for all intents and purposes), children and adoring husband. This maverick of woman could express milk and torture a dude all in the same day. Her strong personality and capabilities help today’s women feel empowered by their own image of “doing it all”.
As we read these tweets we see that these women not only relate to the character of Jenny, they can see themselves as her and she as them. Being Jenny is exhausting work. Besides taking care of everything and everyone – there were plenty of shite pots that needed stirring. 😜
Joking aside, this is why seeing representation on the screen is important. If it is powerful for someone like @ChaoticOctopus who has 6 children, imagine what it is like for women who understand what being abused and manipulated is like.
We might be surprised to know that there are women that feel a kinship with (the often slammed) Laoghaire. If we take a moment to open our hearts, minds and gather some empathy, it shouldn’t be surprised. My friends express it very well below.
Sure, some people are pure evil. I don’t think Laoghaire is one of them. She is a product of her environment and eventually, her bitterness clouds a lot of her story. This is not a Laoghaire trait. It is a human one. It isn’t a flaw that is singular to her, it is one that many of us live in. We tend to judge others for doing it instead of recognizing it in ourselves. I was humbled to see women confident enough in their own character to say they related to Laoghaire. I think many of us, whether we like to admit it or not have had the same feelings of jealousy and bitterness in our lives. Sure, we probably wouldn’t have sent someone to burn – but who knows, it’s not really an option these days either, so there is that.
There is also the fact that I don’t believe that someone truly evil would be able to raise a daughter like Marsali. She is quickly becoming one of the women on Outlander that we are falling in love with. Her character started out prickly against Claire, not shocking given the circumstances from her viewpoint. Marsali is no dummy, she feels deeply and goes by the information she has. Once she had more information, her disposition changed.
Marsali is seen as someone who is clever and uses her observations shrewdly. She doesn’t strike anyone as a wallflower. Many fans note her loyalty as one of her most relatable qualities. I believe that the way she was introduced to us showed her loyalty first and foremost but because of the way so many feel about Laoghaire, I suppose some felt it was misplaced. When we step out of our own perceptions and step into Marsali’s I think we can have empathy for her. She loves her mother. She sees her hurting and the source of her pain is caused by this woman who dropped out of the clear blue sky. Any of us thinking we would react calmly and love Claire, probably doesn’t remember being a teenage girl.
Thank goodness Marsali’s loyalties didn’t disappear, they only grew.
Season 4 brought us Marsali’s fierce loyalty to a fever pitch, do anything for family and not just along for the ride but literally in the driver’s seat on the excitement side of things. Her courage was not only entertaining to watch it was plainly setting the tone for what we have to look forward to. There is no doubt that we will have many relating to her character in season 5.
My friend Cat of @CatsandKilts was the one person who mentioned relating to Lizzie. You know the one, Lizzie, who went by exactly the information she had seen, processed what made sense and drew conclusions based on said information. Like every single person does every single day. In the Outlander universe, this always has crazy consequences. Cat is a brave fan by admitting she feels a kinship to her since Lizzie took a lot of heat last season. Which was kind of a bummer because Lizzie is so many of us, fallible and doing the best she can.
“Tries to do right tho she often fails.” I mean, how vulnerable and human is that statement? We all know how this feels but we rarely say it out loud. We all make assumptions about someone or a situation just by catching a glimpse yet we don’t always admit if we were wrong. Though if someone does this to us or someone we care about – the hell to pay – hot AF.
Another woman who made her Outlander debut was Aunt Jocasta Cameron. She was mentioned in season 1, during the Wedding when Jamie was weaving his family tree together for Claire. We finally met this formidable woman for ourselves. She made quite the impression. Some say she was a mix of Colum and Dougal, I prefer to say Colum/Dougal and Brian all borrowed pieces of HER. Cunning, determined and affectionate is the perfect Jocasta blend. There is definitely more to her than what she shows us. She is the blind one but that seems to be a subtle nod to “You can’t see me either”.
The two studies of Jo above, show us how detailed our personal lens can be when viewing characters on screen. They both relate to her for very different reasons, yet both are powerful and full of meaning. Both are also 100% accurate.
I am endlessly fascinated by women. How we relate to one another, how we lift each other up or tear one another down, the mechanics of our pasts and the trajectories of our futures. The layers/levels/shades and intricacies can’t be explained easily. Though we can see some of these dynamics when we pay attention to how we relate to one another, how we respond to one another’s personalities and the things that make us…well…us.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many identified with Brianna. I have seen some interesting assessments of Bree on social media over the years. It is my belief, the wonderful people in the tweets below…get her. They see her for who she is, why she is that way and how that makes her special. They know those traits aren’t always perfect. In truth, none of us are and nor should we be.
Perhaps some of Brianna’s qualities go unnoticed so people downplay her. I hope with these women pointing out why they relate to her, others may start to see some things they may have missed before. For instance, her creativity (not everyone can draw the way she can draw) and intelligence (engineering, need I say more?).
Bree, like her mother, chose a career that was male-dominated. Even by today’s standards, women are still underrepresented in the Engineering field. Have things gotten better since the 1960s? Of course. Are they where they should be? No. That is why we have women like Claire and Brianna to represent these themes. Hopefully, it inspires other shows to focus on POC and LGBTQ+ in these types of storylines in shows with target markets like Outlander has.
The matriarch of Outlander, as we all know is Claire. She can’t be described in a few words for the reason that she is notably complex. We have seen her as a nurse from WW2 to a stranger who was dropped into Jacobite era Scotland. She bounced through time, lovers, became a mother and eventually a grandmother. There is a dizzying amount of person there as you will see when we head to this twitter breakdown.
I don’t think I was surprised when it was she who had the largest number of people feeling they related to her. I mean, many of us really take a shine to some of those classic Claire lines.
I’m right there with Julia. The first second someone wants to control my decision making – the hackles engage. Oppositional defiance. Whatever you want to call it, I feel it in my bones. That is one of those things that will connect some of us to Claire. I mean, someone tells her “Stay here.” She hears “Runaway at the first opportunity”.
See what I mean? She does what she damn well pleases when she damn well pleases. The housework thing is mostly from the book but same – same. It wasn’t heavy-handed while reading. It was subtle and if it was something you personally identified with you would pick up on it. Which obviously, a few of us did. Imagine it was laundry day on the ridge, everyone is heaving heavy yards of linen and scrubbing in washbasins, Claire would run out of a herb and have to go traipsing through the woods. “OH NO! I ran out of cameltoes guys! George from the pond down the road needs some for his glaucoma! Biiyeeeee!”
Yes, depending on how we live our lives and the focus of our lens – we will get 2 reactions “OMG, ME TOO!” or “UGH! So selfish!” Both can be right. It comes down to empathy, understanding and kindness. It is never that black and white. We can pretend it is, so our point can be simplified and easily argued however, life and relationships rarely are that simple. That is why when those simple things are explained by a point of view, it helps us ‘get it’.
Now, we might think “I’m not the meek and obedient type” is what makes us relate to Claire. When Karen explains the WHY, she peeled back the layers and showed us. It reveals it’s not only surface ‘stuff’. The connections we have to these characters are strong and often personal. We, as fans, could be kinder to one another sometimes if we took a mental note of this.
Relating to them also brings out a desire to develop characteristics we admire. Sorcha mentions this in her tweet about Claire. It makes me grateful that we are exposed to these personalities and qualities on screen. We may see aspects of their spirit we would like to emulate, this supports our purpose to grow as individuals as we move forward and upward in our lives.
It is obvious to me that even though the men on Outlander get a lot of attention, the WOMEN OF OUTLANDER have developed profound connections with those watching. We may draw comfort from them or they may infuriate us but one thing is certain, these women are like us. They love passionately, struggle with heartbreak, lash out and experience joy.
Here is to seeing our favourites still with us (and a few more new ones) #RockTheRidge in season 5!
PS- if you didn’t get to weigh in on what women you relate to in the Outlander universe and why, please leave a comment. I would love to hear more.
PSS-Don’t forget we will be live-tweeting while watching on W Network here in Canada, using the hashtag #OutlanderCAN!