Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, has posted a clarification about Black Jack Randall. Apparently, the character is not gay, as has been assumed by many fans.
Readers should be warned that there are mild spoilers for the series in this article, and the comments will most likely contain major spoilers.
Many readers of Gabaldon’s books, and quite a few TV only viewers as well, seem to have got it wrong in regards to Jack Randall’s sexual preference. Today, Gabaldon posted the following on her Facebook page:
Well, we seem to be getting a lot of interesting reviews on Episode 12 — which is All Good, to be sure. I just want to make _one_ thing clear, before drawing your attention to a couple of interesting ones: To wit, Black Jack Randall is _not_ a homosexual.
He’s a pervert. He’s a sadist. He derives sexual pleasure from hurting people, but he’s not particular about the gender of a victim. (Personality, yes — gender, no.)
I see reviewers assuming that he told Jenny repeatedly to turn around, during their encounter in a flashback — and they assume it was because he’s gay. Actually (and obviously, I would have thought…), it’s because she’s looking at him and laughing, and he finds this unnerving.
If you look at his behavior throughout the book (and I emphasize book, though it’s almost the same in the show), he’s shown as attacking four people: Jenny, Jamie, Claire, and another prisoner at Fort William (who we don’t hear about in the show) named Alex.
Two men, two women — he’s an equal-opportunity sadist. However, given his position (garrison commander) and the structure of the culture he’s in, he has much easier access to male prisoners, whom he can torture at leisure. But he’ll take women when he can get them–_vide_ his reaction to finding Claire wandering around by herself.
In our recap we didn’t make the error of assuming the reason Black Jack asked Jenny to turn around was due to sexual preference. We assumed it was initially a form of power and humiliation when Randall pushes Jenny facedown on the bed. In a sense what you don’t see can be scarier than what you do see, and it was a way of terrorizing Jenny.
We also thought that once Jenny turned over and laughed, Randall’s reaction was all about realizing he didn’t have quite the upper hand with Jenny. He wanted a submissive and cowering victim, and she wasn’t doing that by laughing. We thought his actions were all an attempted at control and domination, and he was having trouble performing because he didn’t have the outwardly terrified victim he wanted.
Now, on the other hand, we got it entirely wrong in this article. We assumed, having read the books, that Randall’s fascination with Jamie was a sexual one. Without specifically spoiling future events for TV only viewers, there are other instances in the books that lead us to believe Black Jack was obsessed with wanting Jamie sexually and to a degree romantically, particularly with certain words he asks Jamie to utter. His encounters with women, we felt, were more to save face with his men when they were out raping, sacking, and pillaging.
The obsession with Jamie Fraser, to us, seemed to be an indication of sexual preference. We came to this opinion based upon Black Jack killing a witness to another male sexual encounter, coupled with Black Jack’s relationship with the Duke of Sandringham as “a protector.” We assumed he and Sandringham also had a preferential sexual relationship, and that’s why Sandringham continually covered up for Randall. Obviously, given Gabaldon’s statement, we were wrong.
Gabaldon’s clarification is interesting because the novels have been around for over 20 years. You would think this clarification would have happened earlier. Believing that Randall is homosexual is not an uncommon interpretation among readers.
On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that Gabaldon clarified. Recently, some TV viewers have accused Gabaldon of deliberately painting all homosexuals as villains. This doesn’t ring true for a number of reasons. Other than four people — Jamie, Ian, Murtagh, and Ned — just about every other heterosexual male has been portrayed as murderous, scheming and/or having ulterior motives.
There’s a future character in the Outlander universe who will play a major role who happens to be homosexual. Up until today, for many readers, including us, he always stood as something of a foil to Randall. Again, so as not to spoil, this upcoming character is brave, selfless, trustworthy, etc. In short, all the things Randall isn’t. In fact, there’s a whole series of spin-off novels and novellas that feature him.
For us, we saw this upcoming character juxtaposed against Randall as an example that sexual preference has nothing to do with morality or deviant behavior. Honor, dignity, and integrity are all choices that comprise, to paraphrase Dr. King, the content of people’s character. Sexual preference has as much to do with their moral fortitude as does the color of their eyes, in that neither of those things is a choice.