What we see and what we show, both are choices we make. Some of the time they are conscious but very often our subconscious compels the choice for us. Personal bias, life experience and past judgements skew our perception of what we see. It becomes a dance of our closely guarded secrets along with the desire to influence, determining what we expose.
This has been both beautifully subtle throughout the first half of Season 6 of Outlander and ‘smash you in your whole damn face’ obvious, at the same time.
It screams of what is going on in the world as well as my journey over the last few years. I found myself drawn to sit and write; this could be a doozy. You may want to grab a snack and cuppa of something strong.
Our favourite drama sucked us in with a 1753 flashback of Jamie first arrived at Ardsmuir Prison. The wary man simply wanted to bide his time of misery. Having lost everything that meant anything to him, he was entirely over it. He had played every game, he was done like dirt. Us Outlander fans love them a
duuurty Jamie. Not dirty enough for some fans but I digress.
Ferrrrgus (he makes me purr, I can’t help myself). What was happening with Fergus is something that we may see in ourselves, and loved ones and I promise, this is something we will project onto others fully when our personal lens is clouded.
Once proud, capable, and steadfast, his confidence in his ability to protect his family was shattered. It didn’t only shift or crack. For Fergus, it was not only his wife he failed to protect, it was his children, living and unborn…it was also his mother. Fergus may not use maternal language when referring to her, nevertheless, she has that motherly connection with him. If we go back to the season finale and look at César’s performance, if we weren’t so sucked into the brilliance of the episode, we would have seen his despair unfolding. Fergus was fragmenting more every moment we saw him.
What was happening with Fergus on the inside, didn’t stay there like many other characters this season. Feeling useless and worth nothing, his mission became to ensure everyone else saw him the same way. This is another means by which we punish ourselves when we believe we are a failure. It isn’t enough to
punish ourselves, we create chaos around us to have others validate how shitty we are. It becomes a perpetual cycle of self-flagellation. In turn, others will wind up telling us how horrible we are because of it. Cycle completed.
There was a fatal flaw in Fergus’s logic. He was loved completely. No one blamed him for the things he blamed himself for. It was how Fergus was externalizing his self-hatred that grew sinister. This happens to many of us. When we are aware of a ‘tender spot’ subconsciously we will begin to create our story. He knew Marsali’s history of violence due to an alcoholic father. What better way to poison her against him? It would surely complete his pursuit of isolation and bring about his wife hating him. Then she would surely admit the attack on her, Henri-Christian’s disability was his fault. Claire’s kidnapping, beating
and rapes, were all his fault. Once she hated him, as she hated her alcoholic father, she would admit it all. All these things can and do happen in our subconscious minds.
Fergus wasn’t wrong. Marsali did see her father in this messy and drunk Fergus. What she also knew was that version of Fergus wasn’t the man she married, loved or who he truly was deep down. She was giving him the grace to heal but she wasn’t going to tolerate his shittiness around her or their family any longer.
Marsali loves him, and setting a boundary with him proved that more than allowing him to continue the self-destructive behaviour. She Marsali’d him straight upside the head. There is only so much a woman who has recently given birth to a disabled child, has other children to raise and a household to deal with will be emotionally and physically able to tolerate. She did precisely what she needed to do. Protect herself. It wasn’t easy, but at that moment, she stopped a cycle of generational trauma in her life. There would be no more tolerating a man putting their trauma responses above the family unit. This is something that we all can sit with for a while.
Suicide is never an easy subject to talk about. It should make us feel uncomfortable. It’s heartbreaking we could get to a place where we feel the answer is to end the pain we feel. Treating the subject with anything less than empathy and compassion would be callous. The Outlander writers handled Fergus’s suicide attempt as genuinely and touching as possible.
Fergus lost sight of the man he was. He accomplished seeing himself as the nothing he felt, through others’ eyes. Even had convinced himself into wanting his wife to find a ‘whole’ man by twisting Marsali’s words to validate the action he was about to take. When someone chooses to die in this manner it isn’t done without a great deal of thought – yet – it is often done on impulse. That is why having Jamie catch him in the act and being able to articulate the logic of it isn’t what he does… it’s who he IS, that matters. It struck home. Fergus realized then the person he was drowning with booze was the *who* he was referring to. The man he was punishing for not being there was the one they needed. That was the Fergus that was emerging. Fergus was able to see the man his father was speaking about reflected in his eyes. He felt that man still existed within him and that is why he held on.
We can take many lessons from Fergus’s story into our own lives. Hurt people…hurt people. When we think someone is doing horrible things to us and we react in anger, maybe, just maybe they are hurting and are punishing themselves – inviting you to do the same. It could be you are doing that to yourself, right now.
Speaking of hurt ass people…whoooaaa. The whole
Crusty Christie family has a “there is something WRONG with you people” vibe.
I am going to put Jessica Reynolds on BLAST. As Malva, the 5’2” actress manages to circumvent all obstacles in her way, read…men of ANY size. Mark Lewis Jones, nearly 5’10” and Richard Rankin at 6 ft, this girl didn’t cause them to shrink at her looks of defiance or threats. She grew over them, the measure of her nefarious strength washed upon them and engulfs each moment.
As fans, we are shook’th! As we bring our judgement of Malva to moments that would seem inconsequential, they become disconcerting. It was bad enough she was creeping on Jamie and Claire having barn sex. The directors’ skilful choice in showing her hike herself up on her tippy toes caused fandom-wide goosebumps. It not only elevated Malva’s view of the twosome – it took the viewer to
another level of shudderhood.
I am sure by the time the season wraps I will have a TOP TEN BUTTCHEEKCLENCHING MALVA’SPRESSIONS. Easy. I might not even be able to narrow it down to 10. It might have to be a desk calendar. I look forward to it either way. She WILL get her own blog post. Eventually.
What makes the Christies fascinating in the lens of what we see/what is shown/ how we perceive them is that we know very little of their personal experiences. We are left to assumptions. Oh and we ASS- U – ME, don’t we?
Tom, for instance. He likes to believe he is this holier than thou dude. When, in fact, he feels the same feels any other human does, instead of feeling them, processing them, and moving forward he chooses to suppress/deny them. Moreover, he swiftly takes out his frustration for those feelings, out on his daughter. That somehow is the punishment he looks for. Let’s make it clear, Tom Christie is the poster boy for projection. Tom absurdly thinks he can stop Malva from becoming the kind of woman that tempts a pure-minded/hearted man such as himself *eye-roll*. He, being the one who obviously could not read a few words in a book without feeling impulses and urges.
Imagine though? Using ones intelligence to say “These feelings are natural, not evil. It is what I do with
the feelings that will make me a good or bad person.” This guy denies the feelings and is off trying to beat them out of someone else. Pretty damn evil, bro. How about accepting the feelings, expressing those feelings with love and consent…good? So, good.
That is why Claire seems an enigma to ole Tom. He was under the impression she was good. Then, he read this smut…and he thought of her. That’s right. He didn’t think better of her, he thought OF her. That is why he was fuming. His body and his mind are taken over by the sensations evoked by the words. He was baffled by his thoughts of this woman and the reaction of his body. But nooooo, not HIS fault. So he literally turns to lashing the one female he believes he controls, his go-to. You know, how about Tom take responsibility for his own emotes? No? Too real? I get it.
I am going to take a moment to speak on this as I feel it is pertinent to my view. I have always felt, even reading the books, that there is an unspoken truth to sexual violence when it comes to those who want to overpower others. Some speak of “too much rape” – I, too, am of the mind that there IS too much rape.
In real life. Rape takes place every day, more than any of us will ever see on TV. That is why it is uncomfortable, triggering and upsetting. We do more ranting about rape that happens on TV and in books than we do about rape that happens in real life. I’ve heard it said it is ridiculous that every member of a family would be raped. It isn’t. Generational trauma is a very real thing, trauma response and reaction are conduits for this exact thing. It not only happens in one family, it happens in generations of families until it’s finally revealed, discussed openly and healed. For me, It’s about honesty in storytelling. Sexual violence would be no more a plot device than a fire, death, traumatic birth, murder, betrayal, or any other tragedy that occurs when storytellers are being truthful within the scope of a dramatic narrative.
In the case of Claire’s kidnapping, she is taken by men who want to see her shredded, torn to the last vestige of nothingness. A man who thinks nothing of raping his own wife would feel no remorse. As Lionel showed, he deemed he was within his rights to take her, teach her a lesson and give her away. As I saw things, it wouldn’t be sincere if that wasn’t a part of the kidnapping tale. There is something about suspending belief and fantasy about time travel, big houses but not that. Not that kind of base human behaviour of evil. This is how people, women, in particular, have been torn down and controlled for centuries. Do I hate it? Of course. It’s happened to me…it’s reprehensible. I recognize the need to share
these moments with care, as Outlander has done through the years. It is why I was grateful to see they raised the stakes in Claire’s ongoing trauma from the many rapes. This shouldn’t have gone away quietly.
I am fascinated by Claire this season. I was curious as to how they would handle her PTSD in addition to her resumed sexual relationship with Jamie. My triggered heart was soothed in so many ways. The way both Caitríona and Sam are playing their characters this season is filled with nuance and almost a bubble
wrap of care. Claire isn’t sharing all of her pain with Jamie because she can’t. She isn’t capable of doing that. There is something about trauma that many people don’t understand. Claire even voiced it very well last season as she went through a list of her many traumas, stating they never broke her. The reality is, they all still live within her. She never would have been able to rattle them off with such passion if they didn’t. These complex traumas build up in us and when something massive comes along, we don’t have any more room to hold them. It isn’t that we aren’t strong enough or we have been strong too long. We need to heal.
We all want to scream and shake her by the shoulders “TELL JAMIE ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL”, this is us speaking from a place of observation. We aren’t considering her suffering. The fear, the pain, the confusion, and the need to fix it herself. This isn’t Claire’s pride, this is Claire’s wound. It’s still wide
open and healing. For her to say it out loud for someone to hear, especially the people she loves, the ones that count on her…she would fully become the wound in everyone’s eyes, right now, it’s controlled. Within her.
She shows everyone the Claire she needs them to see. Bree sees pieces of herself in her mother, not because Claire is showing her but because Bree recognises the behaviour she once projected. Jamie isn’t seeing what is wrong, not because he is too preoccupied but because he doesn’t recognise it. He also needs Claire to be ok. Claire blows sunshine up his kilt and he takes it. It is what we do for the people we love the most, on both sides of the coin.
When we face tough times and we know our partners have a lot going on…you know, like building communities, facing down an unavoidable war and being the king of men ‘n shit. The last thing we want to do is take their eye off the ball with us falling apart since we know they will drop it to take care of us.
We don’t tell them because A) we are too proud B) don’t think we deserve it C) don’t believe it’s as important as all the other stuff. Claire, amazing as she is, is not a singular being in her trauma. What does make her unique is…she has ether. Truly a magic pill of sorts. I’m not sure it was altogether an accident
that she perfected it at this time. Claire was in search of something not only to add to her surgery but something, anything that could assist in turning off an inner voice. The one that repeatedly haunts her and takes her back to the centre of her trauma.
We are reminded that Claire’s trauma doesn’t only lay at the clearing with Lionel and his sorry excuse for men. It lies in the many times she had been sexually assaulted. Being triggered at Flora’s party by the mention of the King was a profound bit of writing. This rape was often overlooked. Some argue it isn’t rape because she gave consent. The truth of the matter is consent without a resounding yes, is not consent. Consent that is manipulated, bargained for, coerced or bought is not consent. Observationally, someone may SEE it as consent. When the person EXPERIENCING the act feels they are being raped, which is what matters. It is not just happening to their body, it is happening to their brain, their gut, and their heart. It is rewiring their system. It’s why people who get sexually assaulted vomit afterwards, it’s a brain/gut connect reaction. It is why they feel a need to get clean, scrub the feeling OUT of them.
For those who do not understand being triggered, that can be the same sensation that takes over the body. It brings them to the same place of fear and panic. These are the moments that Claire reaches for her escape. It isn’t because she is weak or selfish. It is because she is in the middle of that clearing, the middle of King Louis’ bed, bent over Black Jacks desk and and and…ether is her quickest way out…for now.
When we see others in distress like this, we may have a low tolerance for their inability to cope. We may let our high expectations combined with our desire for them to be ‘better than that’ create
a narrative that they are worse or somehow less than. The truth is, our observation doesn’t match their experience. They are filled with panic, fear and chaos and desperate to stop it. Addicts don’t become addicts due to personality flaws. We should ask ourselves what someone is trying to escape from not judge them for wanting to escape a debilitating pain.
I observed some conversations referencing it would be better if the writers had made her a “drunk” along with Fergus. I found that theory interesting given that Claire’s remaining present, for the most part. Her need is to turn out the lights, to reset, a few seconds here or there. She drinks on the regular as it is. She wouldn’t be able to keep utter intoxication from anyone, for their safety or hers. The ether has been discreet enough to resist if she needs to and she has shown she does.
What many viewers fail to appreciate is we genuinely see things through the lens of our own experiences. It sometimes gets us stuck. Some see Jamie and Claire in a bad place right now because Claire is struggling and Jamie seems clueless. Truth being, Claire wants him unaware of this one thing. She is communicating with him, sharing laughter and connecting sexually. Those encounters are not
merely for show, not only to make Jamie feel like everything is peachy in pound town. They are also there for Claire’s healing. She needs that connection with the man she loves. Her distress doesn’t always involve him but she knows how he can help her and she is incredibly adept and utilizing his skills. Telling him everything would cause him to treat her like a victim, and for Claire to heal with Jamie, she can not feel like that. Not yet.
Jamie isn’t being obtuse or neglectful. He is picking up everything that Claire is putting down for him. Exactly how she wants/needs him to. The thing that makes it different is, it’s not complete. She leaves out the information that she is still processing, trying to work through, the stuff that she knows he can’t help her with.
I wish we would grant her that…hell…I wish we would grant ourselves that. We ALL do it. We hold onto shit that we are going through. WHEN do we end up sharing it? A) When we finally realize we CAN’T fix
it alone – after we’ve tried everything on our own. B) We’ve hit bottom and have no choice. C) We fixed it and the scare has passed. D) Processing has been accomplished, we require love, support, and family to commence cuddle warfare.
I do hope we see the reason we get upset when a character like Claire becomes all too human rarely is about her. It is almost always about us. That’s why we are so completely invested, it is all about the emotional connection we create. We have made it personal. Why wouldn’t we? Sure…it’s a TV show, it is a TV show that we write blogs about, do podcasts on, tweet about daily, create friendships, travel to meet others, meme to death, meet the cast, support their charities with our hard-earned dollar bills and absolutely LOVE. It is no wonder at all that we get so wrapped up in the characters and how they are portrayed.
The idea of having Outlander suit the wants and desires of fans quickly becomes impractical when reality strikes that “we” as viewers are in the millions, around the world. We made this beautiful choice to be seen, heard and engage with one another. I am infinitely grateful the majority do with kindness, respect and thoughtfulness. I am also grateful that I get to be a part of a group that chooses to voice their opinions and thoughts. We are small in comparison to the viewership but damn it is fun!
I was right…this WAS a doozy. I hope you are still awake.
Sherry AKA The Beav