The third installment in the Outlander series is my favorite book (after the first, natch). Diana Gabaldon drags our emotions all over. From Boston, to Scotland, to the Lake District, to the Caribbean, and finally having a violent storm spit us out on the shores of Georgia. Diana is God, her words are the whale, and we are Jonah in the belly. And we love it.
I spent hours absorbed in the pages of Voyager, fully invested in the stakes of the book. Can Claire travel back in time and find Jamie? Will he accept her? Will he still love her? I held my breath. I punched my thighs with my fists. Sassenach could not get to JAMMF fast enough, and Gabaldon’s pacing is perfect. It took just long enough to keep me wanting without frustrating me as a reader.
Season 3 of Starz Outlander is filming now, and I cannot wait to see Voyager come to life on my screen. I plan to wake the neighbors with my squealing at the moment when Claire comes upon the store front of A. Malcolm, Printer in Edinburgh.
I am looking forward to this season so much, but truth be told, I am dreading a few things that happen in the book. Voyager was published in 1993, and our collective sensibilities as modern viewers have changed a lot since then. The national conversation on race and consent/rape culture have progressed a lot, and what we tolerate now versus 23 years ago is not the same.
So this is my plea to Outlander writers: Change a few things in the adaptation from page to screen.
1) No Mr. Willoughby
The blue ball, meanwhile, had resolved itself into the figure of a very small Chinese, who was giggling in unhinged delight, sallow round face shining with glee and brandy.
“Mr. Willoughby, I presume?” I said to this apparition, keeping a wary eye out for further tricks.
Mr. Willoughby is a Chinese exile living in Edinburgh. He’s a drunk. He’s an acrobat. He passes out in garbage. He has a foot fetish. He’s Jamie’s “Chinaman” sidekick, and he’s a cartoon.
The character of Willoughby needs to go. The characterization is racist, and we can find Jamie a new partner is bootlegging crime. The reader eventually finds out Mr. Willougby’s respectable backstory and he gets his chance to go from bumbler to hero, but it doesn’t make up for the cringes.
Suggested fix: Axe Willoughby and keep Murtagh alive. He’s the only sidekick Jamie needs.
2) No Fuzzy Consent with Geneva
Jamie goes from Ardsmuir prison to the Helwater estate of Lord Dunsany. Lord Dunsany’s daughter is taken with Jamie, and prior to her marriage to the aged Lord Ellemere, Geneva blackmails Jamie into taking her maidenhead. She holds power over Jamie, and her insisting he have sex with her is rape. Jamie does not have free consent.
During the act, the issue of consent gets murkier.
Her struggles were accomplishing by force what he had tried to do with gentleness. Half-dazed, he fought to keep her under him, while groping madly for something to say to calm her.
“But—” he said.
“Take it out!” she screamed.
He clapped on hand over her mouth and said the only coherent thing he could think of.
“No,” he said definitely, and shoved.
The point of this scene is the conception of William. To me, Jamie is a victim who then turns Geneva into one, but neither character comes away from that scene feeling very victimized. Can a rapist be raped while trying to rape? Oh, my brain hurts. Why do we need to have one more rape conversation in the Outlander universe?
Suggested fix: This one is easy. Don’t have Geneva utter the word “No.”
3) No Rape of Wee Ian
When Geillis kidnaps young boys to her Jamaican plantation, she molests and rapes them. Children cannot consent.
After Jamie and Claire rescue Wee Ian from her clutches, Ian admits that Geilis performed oral sex on him. He is conflicted in how he feels about it, but it is not of consequence in the future books. Of all the wretched things that happen to Ian, this one has no impact on his life.
Suggested fix: Don’t rape Wee Ian. Kidnapping is traumatic enough. Being used in a witchcraft ritual under the threat of death is traumatic, too. Let that be the end of the danger we put this boy in.
Oh, and just a wee taste of Season 3 … literally. We are ON SET RIGHT NOW in Scotland, and there is a LOT you will get to see (eventually) from it. Will we see some of these changes? Isn’t the suspense really the fun part?
— That’s Normal (@Thats_Normal) October 19, 2016