Over the weekend I found myself at an the official fan gathering for New Zealand fans of the sprawling-time-travel-historical-romance series Outlander. Aside from the overwhelming sense of passion and community within this fan group of 30 or so women, itself part of a forthcoming feature, there were some incredible discussions. Over plates of eggs benedict and french toast, smart and considered responses to issues of female representation and sexuality were bandied about like the daily weather forecast. Who would have thought we’d have to go back to 18th century Scotland to get this progressive?
Many critics are celebrating Outlander‘s Claire as a feminist icon. Isn’t amazing that its taken so long to get a female protagonist on television like this?
Anna: There’s been some – like The Good Wife, which has that sense of her being a strong independent person with her own story. I can’t think of anymore actually, come to think of it…
Jenny: It’s definitely a show that appeals to women, and is driven by the main female character. If you are a sensual person, this is the one for you. I love the close ups, I love the dirty feet and dirty fingernails. It’s all just so provocative, I love it.
Tell you what, I watched The [very sexy] Wedding Episode (S01E07) and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.
Anna: See that episode is beautiful, but it’s also quite real.
Jenny: The awkwardness to it, it was perfect.
Anna: Again, it seemed to really be telling to woman’s perspective. If it was a man’s it would be all ‘high-five that was awesome’, but it’s not like that for her.
Jenny: A lot of the story is a romantic story in the traditional sense of the word romance. As in it’s got a slow build-up and it’s about more than just sex. It’s got a lot to do with the two characters getting to know one another and I just love the fact that it took them seven episodes to actually get there [bone]. You won’t get that on Game on Thrones.
Ruth [leaning over from an adjoining table]: …that’s all just ‘wham bam thank you Ma’am’.
Anna: If you look at other programmes like this and actually see how women are portrayed, they are marginalised on TV. Whether its Game of Thrones, Black Sails, Vikings – they are either getting raped, or they’re nasty, or they are very peripheral characters. I’m sick of seeing that sort of woman as a sexual scavenger. I want to see a woman who is strong.
Jenny: Yeah, and just not strong because she’s Xena or somebody. Strong just for being an independent and intelligent woman.
Anna: It’s something that’s been missing and nobody recognised it for a long time. I think it’s really important. Women have never been seen. We are always sexual scavengers who have to enjoy sex because men enjoy it. But in this programme, we’re not. We’re central in the programme, we’re central in the Outlander world.
[Anna reminded me about this fantastic piece about Outlander and the female gaze]
Anna: It’s nice for women to finally experience something like this. We need good writing and we need the escapism – because life is tough.