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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Dreaded Wentworth Episode on 'Outlander'



Please skip this entire blog post if you haven't read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novel.

SPOILER ALERT

The Jamie Fraser fandom is counting down the next few days as though we're heading to an execution.

"We've had a really good rapport," said Tobias Menzies, who plays sadistic English officer Black Jack Randall about himself and Sam Heughan, who plays Highlander hero Jamie, "and we've needed it because it is very exposing and difficult stuff.  I think -- I hope -- that we've taken it to a pretty interesting place. It will be suitably unsettling to watch, I think." -- (Zap2It interview)

As with its other groundbreaking scenes for television, Outlander is about to air an episode that puts its hero through an ordeal that is sadly all too common in both real life and in films/on TV for female characters. It is sometimes alluded to for male characters but rarely shot as an actual scene.

In my opinion, one of the greatest strengths in this set of upcoming scenes is as true for the book as for the TV series, no matter how much they show or don't show.

And that is this:

By coming to know Jamie intimately as readers and viewers, by knowing his normal strength of character, when he then suffers such an attack that aims to destroy his soul, we are deeply, truly shaken.

It is often the case in a mystery thriller that we only meet the victim of a similar fate as a nameless red-shirt character. We're unsettled by the fear and the screams, but we don't really know the woman that well. We feel bad when the victim is discovered naked and wounded, but we're not disturbed -- not as disturbed as we would be if it was the main character meeting the unthinkable fate.

Some may focus on the fact that it is a male assault scene that is so harrowing, but I don't believe that to be the case. As with all things Outlander, this series refuses to objectify its characters. Because our society is so used to the male gaze and to downgrading sexual assault as a possible gray-area he-said/she-said event, the mere presentation of this scene as a violent power struggle will be amongst Outlander's more important contributions to television.

I've been struck this week by how many viewers are voicing their dread on social media before watching this episode:

"I'm rather worried that Tobias Menzies is going to knock this one out of the park." -- Jamie Calhoun Nason, Facebook

"I'm scared, Diana Gabaldon, have you seen it?" -- Amanda Hose (FB)

"I have--it's_fabulous_work, by all concerned." -- Diana Gabaldon (FB)

"I am terrified!...I trust you but I am freaking out!!!!" -- Alison Gill (FB)

"Hey, if they can get through acting it out, surely I can get through watching it." -- Jessica Henkels (FB)

 "I am going to force myself to watch. Loving Jamie the way I do (the way we ALL do!), it was a difficult passage in the book, and I know the episode will be painful as well. I will do it anyway BECAUSE I love Jamie." -- Elena Schmid Torre (FB)









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