Fans, Fanatics, and Frenzy

So, you may have noticed that I’m an Outlander fan. Right?

Yes, another Outlander post from me… but this one is about fan reactions.

OL pic

It seems to me that fans may very well be a fandom’s worst enemies. Here’s why.

For years prior to the announcement of a TV show, when Outlander was *only* a bestselling series of books with a huge, devoted fanbase, fans spent countless hours and brain cells on fantasy casting. The perfect Jamie! The ideal Claire! Oh, the fights. I swear, I would not be surprised at all to hear that friendships were lost over such important issues. Because we all know that Jamie is the king of men and he is PERFECT.

But it was all a dream, alas.

Until Ron Moore read Diana Gabaldon’s books, put together a TV deal with Starz, and the rest is TV history.

So here we are, two weeks into season 1, part 2, and are fans happy?

If you relied only on social media comments, you’d be justified in thinking the answer is “no”.

I suppose it’s only to be expected, and we need look no further than Game of Thrones for similar fan reactions, but people are more or less going NUTS over the changes from book to screen. And while I used to just roll my eyes and move on, the tone of some of the comments is seriously starting to irritate me and worry me.

Because, oh ye gods above, it’s getting insane.

Yes, there are changes. Sometimes the changes are big, sometimes they’re just minor details. But hey, as Diana Herself said in one of her endless rounds of pre-premiere interviews, “I understand what the word ‘adaptation’ means.” The question is, do the fans?

Early on, before the show premiered and immediately afterward, a lot of the focus of fan complaints was on the physical: Claire’s eyes are the wrong color. Jamie isn’t tall enough. Okay, fair enough in terms of facts, but would you rather have a Claire with whiskey-colored eyes or a Claire portrayed by an actress who can actually ACT? I love Caitriona Balfe as Claire, so I’m perfectly okay with a change in eye color. Anyway, look at the Harry Potter movies or at the Targaryens in Game of Thrones — maybe the eye color is important in the books, but the overall dramatic effect is not altered in the slightest by the fact that Harry’s eyes are blue in the movies or that Daenerys’s are not violet.

Soon after the premiere, the focus of fan comments seemed to have shifted to plot changes:

In the book, Claire does buy the vase!

In the book, it’s Beltane, not Samhain!

In the book, Claire has a certain KIND of sex for the first time with Jamie — she doesn’t do that with Frank! (This isn’t true, according to Herself, but it certainly is many fans’ perception.)

And what about this line, or that line? Wait, the wedding ring is wrong! Jamie’s tartan isn’t red enough! Old Alec is supposed to be old!

Yes, there are variations. ADAPTATION, people. Still, I know some people take pride in spotting every little difference, and that’s fine.

What’s bothering me, though, is that the tone seems to have shifted to a “blame the production team” mentality in some quarters, and that’s starting to feel not okay. I’ve read comments saying that “of course, Ron doesn’t get it” or “they ruined xyz scene” or “the writers don’t care about the book”. I’ve even seen devoted fans say “that’s it! I’m not watching anymore!” And that’s just so frustrating to me, and feels so counter-productive.

Without Ron’s vision and dedication, we wouldn’t have a TV show. Period. Is that really what people want?

Again, yes, there are differences. Any time you change from one artistic medium to another, there are going to be changes. And so long as the new production is true to the important themes, characters, and events, I’m okay with the details that get altered, combined, or skipped. Because it’s a TV show! It’s not a word-for-word reproduction! If you want word for word, go listen to audiobooks!

The Starz production is a representation of Diana Gabaldon’s work, recreating her stories and characters as filmed drama. It has to work on the screen. It has to fit into one-hour episodes within a sixteen-episode first season. It has to attract new viewers as well as appeal to fans. That’s a really tall order.

I hope the fan noise around changes from the books doesn’t get so loud that it starts to drown out the applause and the enthusiasm from people who are just LOVING the show. It would be a terrible shame if Outlander fans themselves were responsible for shifting the tone of discussion into widespread negativity.

We want our show. Right? So let’s support it. We can acknowledge the changes, track them, debate them, and discuss the potential plot disruptions that might result five seasons from now. But let’s try to move the discussion away from “ruining” and “destroying”, and stop casting blame on the magnificent and dedicated people behind the scenes every time we wish a certain scene had happened a wee bit differently. Because the production team does love this story, and they get it, and they want it to succeed. And they’re pouring their hearts and souls into it.

Personally, IĀ  can only say that I’m loving every moment. I know the Outlander books pretty much backwards and forwards by now, and yes, I’m very much aware of the elements that are changed for the show. But I can still love the show, and the show’s differences in no way subtract from my love of the books. They’re two different art forms, and they’re two different pieces of art, and I love them both.

Here’s a cheer for Ron Moore and the cast and crew of the beautiful production of Outlander! And here’s wishing them — and us — many more seasons to come. And to all the fans, all I can say is — maybe it’s time to dial down the upset, sit back, and enjoy TV Outlander on its own merits.

As the T-shirt says:

Keep calm

12 thoughts on “Fans, Fanatics, and Frenzy

  1. I still have the newest two episodes on my DVR, so I don’t know exactly what people are referring to for the start of this half of the season, but I really thought it was a very faithful adapation as far as adaptations go up until now and I don’t think I have any reason to think that will change. I don’t want to see MAJOR deviations, but you have to let the nit-picky stuff go people!

    • I agree, of course! Any adaptation will be different, but if the overall storyline and tone is faithful to the original, then I’m okay with variations. Plus, the world they’ve created in the TV show for Outlander is just so beautiful! I could watch the landscapes, the costumes, and the sets all day long. šŸ™‚

  2. You know? I don’t watch Outlander and I don’t know the books, I don’t watch Game of Throne because after reading the first book I wans’t impressed, but I’m a Tolkien fan and of course I watched all the movies (except the last Hobbit, becuase the second film was so disappointing I couldn’t care to go to the theatre for the last one) and a lot of what you say happened to the ‘Tolkien’s films too.

    Personally, I loved the first trilogy. As you say, there are differences, of course there are. Can you imaging how boring the films would be if they had been films exactly how the books are told?
    And this isn’t just LOTR books (which are, admittedly peculiar) but every book. Actually, I liked seeing how anohter fan interpreted the story, and to be honest, I would have liked even more personalization on Jackson’s part, but hey, this is just me.

    And I’m always buffed by this: we Tolkien fans will never know what the author thinks of Jackson’s adaptation of his stories, but you Outlander and Game of Thrones fan do, and still people get mad about adaptations even when they don’t bother the authors themselves.
    I really don’t understand this.

    • Very good point about LOTR and its movies. And I think the problem with The Hobbit movies is that they did stray too far (especially in taking one lovely book and turning into 3 overblown movies). Looking at the Harry Potter movies, the first one is rather boring, and I think the problem is just what you said — it’s too literal a translation of book to screen, and it’s just flat.

      I do very much agree with what you’ve noted about the authors of GoT and Outlander: If they’re enjoying the productions of their works, who are we to say otherwise? That’s really enough for me, especially knowing that the Outlander team has DG on board as a consultant and that they run so much by her.

  3. I have the DVD waiting for me on hold at the library – so excited!!

    One of my closest friends has watched the DVD set already and she reported to me that it was very faithful to the books. I’m wondering if you have two groups of fans. One who picks at every last thing (and then posts about it on the internet) and another who is happy to see a favorite book come alive – and finds the adaptation to be true to the spirit of the books. I’m also guessing this second group is less vocal.

    I have to admit I was wondering about… that certain kind of sex.

    • I think you may be right — I know there are a lot of people who adore the show. I suppose it’s true for almost anything that the most vocal people on the internet are the ones with something negative to say. It’s just funny to me that some of the people yelling the loudest right now are the same ones who spent the last six months counting the days until the next new episode!

      Can’t wait to hear what you think once you watch the DVDs!

  4. This is Fan enlightenment to a T. I heard when the show first started that Jaime’s hair wasn’t red enough. My response was “do you want him to look like ronald Mcdonald?” There is a line that gets crossed between loving a show or a book and loving it to the point that the eyes bulge and it can’t breath. I think the show is excellent and yeah there are going to be differences but that’s what happens when a book gets turned into a movie or a tv show. The fans need to suck it up and stop being so picky

    • I think you said it perfectly: “loving it to the point that the eyes bulge and it can’t breath.” That sums it up perfectly! I remember all the endless comments and discussions over the redness of Jamie’s hair. I think Diana G made some comment about how Jamie would look like Bozo the Clown if his hair were as red as fans seemed to think it should be. I’m glad you’re loving the show too!

  5. What an awesome post, and so right. It is an adaptation and while I feel that for the parts that are MOST important, they’re really doing an excellent job of getting it right. You can’t expect a perfect replicate and arguing about things like eye color just seems silly to me. And I’m a big fan don’t get me wrong. šŸ˜€

  6. I’ve seen this happen with so many shows and so many fans. The internet gives us a way to air every little grievance very easily, and very publicly, and shove those opinions right in the noses of the show makers themselves. I completely understand being frustrated when you’ve waited so long for an adaptation of your favorite books and the adaptation doesn’t meet your expectations — but you’d think after decades of book adaptations, people would get used to the fact that some things are going to be changed! Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for arbitrary ones. One tv show can’t live up to everyone’s expectations!

    • Very true, with the internet, everyone is a critic, and some get very loud and very rude, and it can seem to drown out everyone else. I suppose it’s a double-edged sword — people love the book so much, and their expectations are so high that it’s practically impossible for the show to actually live up to what they expect.

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