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.
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, I 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: