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I Pledge Myself to Thee…sort of

09 Apr

Loyalty, book adaptations. How far do you support something based on it’s origins, rather than it’s own merits? Ideally I think most of us would say that we wouldn’t do that, we either like something or we don’t–not because of any prior bias. For myself, I can admit that I do give weight to that bias and it makes me feel guilty, twofold: If I’m giving the project more leeway than I normally would because of the story it was adapted from, that’s not a fair judgement. By the same token, if I don’t like it as much as I feel that I should, that somehow feels disloyal to the original story. Sometimes the differences between “original” and “adapted” bother me, while other times they don’t. I guess it depends on whether I think they’ve improved upon the original story or even branched off far enough that it’s become it’s own unique telling. What has me in this particular frame of mind currently is the Starz television drama Outlander.

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As I’ve stated previously in former posts, I’m a long-time fan of the Outlander novels. Yet, I’ve struggled with my impressions of the television version. Character portrayals, plot changes, and even minor historical or logistical differences have stood out to me like a sore thumb. I want to over look them, just go with the flow and enjoy seeing my beloved story on screen…but I can’t. It’s not that I hate the show, I would probably really enjoy it if I had no prior Outlander knowledge; I hate being one of those “in the book” people but in this case I am. I think it’s time to own that for myself.

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There were many “in the book” people who didn’t like The Hobbit movies. I could understand their complaints but I had no problem enjoying the movies on their own merit…sort of. I really liked the first movie, An Unexpected Journey. And it was through my love of that movie that I became enamored with one of it’s leading men, Richard Armitage. The second movie in the trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, had a different tone to it than the first but I liked it well enough. By the third and final film, The Battle of the Five Armies, I was left questioning how deep my bias might actually be. Looking back, I’m thinking that it was my investment in certain characters that pulled me along, instead of an overall affinity for the films themselves. The second series of theΒ Star Wars films can fit into this category as well. The original three were, and still are, a nostalgic part of my childhood. The last three were only watched for Ewan McGregor–and by the third film, even he could hardly get me through it.

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I always carry some kind of bias with me in regards to book and film series, tending to see them as a whole instead of their individual parts. I can’t help but have positive (or negative) slants regarding actors, directors, screenwriters, etc. before I even view a film for the first time; it’s unavoidable, really. Sometimes that bias helps and sometimes it hinders but most of the time I can see the forest for the trees. On the occasions that I can’t though, do I keep trying in hopes that some switch will suddenly be flipped, or just bow out while I’m ahead?

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I’ve pretty much bowed out with the continuing book series of Outlander, for instance (I adore volumes 1-4 but I gave up after number 6) but I think it’s easier to let go of a book series than a television one, for some reason. It’s so easy to binge watch things these days, which can be an entirely different experience than hanging on week to week. I’m a big fan of the television series Lost but was not an original watcher. I binge watched the series during the summer before the final season aired, and fell in love with it. Waiting week to week during that last season though was torture! Considering how different some of the seasons were from each other, and how many of the storylines never came to fruition, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it if I had watched in real time.

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I think I’ve hung on this long with the Starz version of Outlander out of obligation: so many of my family and friends know my love for the story and look to me for opinions about it. so much so that I think some of them were surprised that I didn’t visit the real life sites when I went to Scotland last summer. I won’t say the characters and situations didn’t cross my mind on my travels but Scotland isn’t Jamie Fraser to me. I guess the question is: how much of Outlander-Starz, is?

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18 Comments

Posted by on April 9, 2015 in Books

 

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18 responses to “I Pledge Myself to Thee…sort of

  1. morrighansmuse

    April 9, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I belong to the “in the book” group. I haven’t seen the Battle of the Five Armies because I was so disappointed with DOS it didn’t make any sense to keep going. I read the Outlander novels so long ago and even met Ms. Gabaldon at the Scottish Highlands Fair, but I stopped reading around book 4 or 5 and have no intentions of watching the series simply because I’m just much of that book camp that I’d just be disappointed. I think they’re really geared towards those who’ve never read the book that even after they end up reading the book, will be more forgiving of the onscreen changes. There are some book adaptations that stand out for me though, with Mystic River and Silence of the Lambs coming to mind.

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    • KellyDS

      April 9, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      with Outlander, much like with The Hobbit movies, there’s a level of manipulation that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like being told how to feel; the cues for where to laugh and where to cry are not at all subtle πŸ™„

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      • morrighansmuse

        April 9, 2015 at 8:16 pm

        LOL it is definitely very obvious in visual media. That’s why they have awards for editing – we just don’t see it among the acting awards. I feel that Outlander (series) has an agenda going on though in regards to the dynamic between older woman/younger man. While in the book, during the time Gabaldon wrote it, it may have been a simple fantasy venture for her (after all, she admits to writing it for herself and has said that had she known it would be published, she’d had omitted certain parts of it), now it’s not just a fantasy anymore (as far as the relationship aspect). But then that’s where the manipulation comes in, I guess.

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        • KellyDS

          April 9, 2015 at 9:03 pm

          I think that’s one of my biggest problems with the series. Jamie seems so young. in the book we know his actual age but he seems older, shoulders responsibilities like he’s older. I like both older and younger men, so I’m not against the age difference, it just seems more noticeable to me in the television version. it never dawned on me that they might be doing that on purpose, capitalizing on it. ugh.
          as for manipulation, the latest episode dealt with him punishing her. that’s always a controversial scene for new readers of the book. I’ve never had a problem with it though b/c I’ve felt it’s appropriate for the time period. but in the tv episode they put this jaunty music behind it and he’s chasing her around…and I feel like that was the coward’s way out.

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          • morrighansmuse

            April 9, 2015 at 9:08 pm

            I wondered how they filmed that and the music would have turned me off entirely, giving it a BDSM spin instead of something that was part of that time period. I sensed the manipulation of Jamie as being too young in the series (gave it a cougar vibe more than anything) and prefer to keep my own vision of manly Jamie intact in my head (no offense to the actor who’s a cutie but looks way too young).

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          • KellyDS

            April 9, 2015 at 9:20 pm

            yes, no offense to Sam Heughan b/c I enjoy his real life self but he’s not really Jamie. yet, he is Jamie within the altered framework of the tv series. if I were someone else, I’d really like his Jamie. but I’m me, so it doesn’t quite work–that sounded so messed up! LOL!
            the “beating” scene though, it’s not “spanking” and I think they walked the line there so that some could draw the conclusion that it could be. especially when he throws in that line about “I never said I wouldn’t enjoy it” πŸ™„

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          • morrighansmuse

            April 9, 2015 at 9:24 pm

            I don’t think that line was in the book LOL if it wasn’t then they just bordered on kink (I have no problems on kink considering my theme for poetry month is D/s but it just feels so manipulating) which in sure thrills so many viewers

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          • KellyDS

            April 10, 2015 at 7:01 am

            oh, it was in the book. a little tongue-in-cheek to lighten things but since it was among much heavier themes, you had the choice on whether you acknowledged it or not. in the tv version it wasn’t *part* of the scene it *was* the scene. leading up to the scene they kind of made Jamie a wuss about it too. we know he was scared about almost losing her and we know he doesn’t want to punish her for it b/c she’s so proud but book Jamie just sucked it up and got on with it.

            you don’t even want to know how they changed the scene of her getting caught in the first place! it basically undermines the whole Frank/Claire storyline.

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          • morrighansmuse

            April 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm

            LOL I don’t want to know then! The whole book to screen just doesn’t work for me. I’ll keep my imaginary Jamie and Claire, thank you very much πŸ˜€

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  2. Servetus

    April 9, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I’ve always been in the “the book is better 95% of the time” group, or thought so, at least, but I have to say that in the last year or so I wonder if it’s just that i tended to have read the book first before I saw an adaptation, i.e., maybe I’m in the “what is familiar to me and beloved is better than the unknown” group. Then again I’d usually just rather read than watch tv or films.

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    • KellyDS

      April 9, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      there are pros and cons to both of them, I think, depending on the story. a book can give more attention to detail by describing it and is able to really set the scene and flesh out individual characters, but a film can make it all appear more alive b/c you can see it and there’s also that instant gratification appeal of having the story condensed at times–Cliffs Notes for those who have already read the book πŸ˜‰

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      • Servetus

        April 9, 2015 at 9:18 pm

        oh, sure, I’m not arguing for one or the other. I just tend to fall on one side of this. The big wildcard for me has been The Hobbit, where I had read the book first and like the filmed so much better. I think it’s because the book never made me really imagine anything. In general my main defense of Peter Jackson has been that he made me understand at least one version, even if it’s not everyone’s version, of what Tolkien might have wanted a reader to imagine. (Seeing LOTR made me read it; I hadn’t managed to get through it before then.) So maybe the problem is that particular book or author. Otherwise on the whole I prefer my own imagination to a filmmaker’s.

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        • KellyDS

          April 9, 2015 at 9:24 pm

          I felt that way about the Harry Potter movies πŸ™‚

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  3. jholland

    April 9, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    I totally hear you. I have read the first 5 books, stretching back to my high school years, but haven’t picked up the latest several. Nonetheless, I was really looking forward to the series. And I do like the series, I appreciate the cinematography probably most of all. But I’m still not sold on the casting of CB for Claire, at least as far as physical characteristics, she’s basically the opposite of how I always pictured Claire. And although many rave about their chemistry, I don’t feel it the way that I *want* to feel it. SH as Jamie is a little closer to how I pictured Jamie, and he’s a pleasure to watch on an aesthetic basis, but overall, I’m not obsessed with Outlander. I’ll keep watching, for sure, but it hasn’t lived up to what I’d hoped it would be. By contrast, I think the Game of Thrones adaptation has far surpassed my expectations as a huge and long-time fan of the books.

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    • KellyDS

      April 10, 2015 at 7:38 am

      oh, I am so happy that you’ve said this; I’m not alone! (I especially like that you said you don’t feel the way you *want* to feel) I don’t see the chemistry between the two main characters either (and I see too much chemistry between Claire & Frank), though I don’t think my dislike for Claire in the tv version has as much to do with the actress herself as it does the script (apart from the minor complaints that she’s too skinny and doesn’t have whiskey colored eyes πŸ˜‰ ). Jamie/Sam is enjoyable to watch if I pretend that he’s someone else but when I’m reminded that he’s Jamie, it just doesn’t fit :/

      what did you think of the Colum/Dougal scene in this past episode, how they used them to clue the viewer in on things? (the Jacobite funds and who Hamish’s father is, etc.) that really got under my skin.

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      • jholland

        April 10, 2015 at 12:23 pm

        Good, so I’m not alone. It’s not that they have no chemistry, it’s just that it’s not as intense as it’s supposed to be. And yes, I’d agree that her chemistry with Frank was better, when from the book I never felt that she’d had intense, passionate chemistry with Frank. Some chemistry, but not full on chemistry. It’s as if they reversed it, and she has some chemistry with Jamie but intense chemistry with Frank. No bueno! LOL

        I didn’t mind the scene with Colum and Dougal that you refer to. I do understand that they need to convey that information somehow, and so it was acceptable to me. I actually liked the mid-season premiere more than I thought I would. I didn’t have a problem with the spanking scene in the book or the film.

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        • KellyDS

          April 10, 2015 at 1:18 pm

          yeah, logically I know they had to get those plot points across to the viewer somehow but the way it was thrown at us altogether like that gave me whiplash, LOL! I don’t like that they’ve made Colum so gruff and intimidating though. I felt he was much more sly in the book, a grandpa like figure one minute and a manipulative leader the next.
          I don’t mean to be so negative, there are some things that I really do like, particularly Geillis and Capt. Randall. I like the way they’ve made Jack more human, how we’re left teetering on the edge about whether he should be trusted or not. Frank though, he’s the biggest conundrum for me. I like him, don’t get me wrong (I liked him in the book too) but they’ve made us so sympathetic to him that I fear how that’s going to impact later events :/

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