Outlander wrapped its first season last night. As has been the case throughout the first season, uncomfortable subject matter is tackled head on.
Let’s just start by saying that the performances of Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan as Black Jack Randall and Jamie Fraser were so horrifyingly real that it was truly difficult to watch several of the more gruesome scenes, both the physical ones and the psychological ones. Let’s continue by saying that this level of unnerving the audience was a good thing. If a rape scene ever gets to the point when viewers are so desensitized to it that they are not on some level uncomfortable, disgusted, and infuriated; than the production has failed on a monumental scale.
Outlander handled a variety of topics last night concerning sexual assault that bear repeating. In light of recent news stories where seemingly educated people have bandied about ignorance concerning rape such as, former Missouri Congressman Todd Akin stating “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” Outlander tackles misinformation head on. Rape is a crime of power, dominance, and humiliation that uses sex a weapon, as its means to its end. Rape survivors live with the fallout of their attack for years with flashbacks, feelings of guilt, and society’s judgement of how that attack defines them.
Outlander last night shattered a couple of myths. For starters, some mistakenly believe that orgasm during rape is impossible unless the person truly wanted the experience on some level to take place. Along the same lines of misguided thinking, some have further believed that male rape to be impossible. Lastly, concerning male rape, others have thought that men cannot be aroused by another man unless they are homosexual.
All of the above are patently untrue as Outlander demonstrated last night. The human body has a physical reaction to sexual stimulus. It has nothing to do with sexual longing, or sexual preference. Just because your body reacts, doesn’t mean that the person being raped wanted it to happen. Unfortunately, many survivors are faced with this myth as they and others judge what happened to them. Even if a person comprehends that they didn’t want their body to react, and understands the biology, it still can be extraordinarily difficult to fight feelings of self-loathing and blame.
The other aspect shown in last night’s finale is the PTSD that comes with such a brutal assault. Granted the term “PTSD” was not used in the 1700’s, but that doesn’t mean the symptoms were not present. By talking about the attack, understanding that the attack will not be the only defining moment of the person’s life, and that their worth as a human being is not diminished, recovery is possible. It’s a lifelong process of highs and lows and reoccurrences. Simply put, Jamie Fraser is never going to be the same person again. His relationship with Claire will never be the same again, but they will survive this as a couple and as individuals.
Executive producer Ron Moore spoke to Yahoo about what the assault means to Jamie’s future. It’s something that book readers are well aware of, and non-book readers based on their previous experiences with Jamie can surmise, “If you know the books, you know that throughout the whole series of books, Jamie never fully lets this experience go. It may not be there in every moment or storyline, but it continues to haunt him and the emotions resurface throughout his life. We will treat it the same way. It certainly doesn’t dominate the second season, but it is now a part of who he is.”
Where many series that explore rape fail, is in having it be a one-time event that never touches the character again, or only touches the character if they are in a stereotypical dark alley triggering environment. Knowing the source material, and given Moore’s statement. This will not be the case with Outlander. Jamie will carry the scars from this attack with him for the rest of his days. He may not daily think about Jack Randall, but branded or not, Jack Randall will always be with him. No one just “gets over” rape.
To end on a positive note, there is one final aspect that the series explores. A survivor of rape is lovable. What really matters about that person has not been changed in the eyes of those who care about them. Those they love can feel sorry for the trauma the person underwent, but they don’t have to feel sorry for them like a wounded, broken spirited animal for the rest of their days. They know life will not be easy, but they will be there because that’s what unconditional love is.
Caitriona Balfe’s portrayal of Claire showed her willing to walk into darkness to reach Jamie. Clearly she would have walked into the bowels of hells if needed. She was there to listen, to understand, and to reassure that nothing needed forgiveness because there was nothing to forgive. There is complete and total unconditional love between the two.
Outlander will return in 2016 for season 2 on Starz.
Join us on Monday night at 10:00 p.m. for Hangoutlander, our weekly, live, post-show Google Hangout that we do with the crew from That’s Normal. Use the hashtag #Hangoutlander to respond during the show on Twitter, or to ask a question/give a comment ahead of time. We can guarantee that we will have a lot to talk about this episode. Come and join us as we wrap up the season.