Comic Con Q&A…Diana reminds me again why I love these books.

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Like many in the fandom, I’m experiencing an Outlander hangover.  So much to see and watch in the last few days! My pre-occupation has been ratcheted up to walking-zombie status!  My head hurts from excessive goodness imbibing. I’m thinking, my sister-in-law might have had the smarter and more sensible approach. She just didn’t watch anything!  A moratorium on all things Outlander till August 9th and then they will feast! Literally. That girl has a great pre-premier Scottish/Outlander spread planned!  I’m sort of envious of her restraint, but…I…can’t…stop…watching….and…listening. Sigh.

Fans have been soooo generous with their pics and tweets! I’m grateful to them! Really. You guys were great!  In addition to the fan reports, I watched everything Starz posted and linked.  How cute was Sam taking over Instagram and Graham’s Scotch Talk (loved the laid out on the floor pic) ! But, per usual for me, there is one tidbit I can’t stop thinking about. It’s toward the end of the Comic-Con panel and Diana is discussing writing the books. There seems to be a lot of discussion about the books romantic elements. Is it a romance? Is it an adventure? Will men like it? Loved Ron’s response that he thinks PEOPLE will like it because it’s a ripping good yarn!  In addressing this issue, Diana comments that there are a lot of story lines about falling in love, so SHE decided to write about staying in love…for 50 years. God, I love that woman.

Unlike a Romance novel, Jamie and Claire’s love story doesn’t stay in the falling in love honeymoon phase. Thank The Lord.  As some of us were discussing on Twitter, if they had, the stories would have held our interest for no longer than the time it took to read them.  Instead, many of us re-read the books over and over and never seem to tire of what is revealed between those pages.  Herself writes about what happens after people fall in love. She writes about the dynamics of enduring love, complicated relationships and the irony of life. This is what truly engages her readers. She gets deeper. As a fan tweeted, ” She gets that life doesn’t end at 20″.

I chuckle when I think how little luck she might have had if the books had started at Voyager.  What would the pitch have sounded like? “Well, it’s the story of a couple in their mid to late 40’s who reunite after 20 years of longing for each other”.  Knowing our youth obsessed culture not sure how much interest that would have riled up!  But, those of us who love these books know Claire and Jamie’s age won’t matter to the reader. They won’t notice how old Jamie and Claire are because of “who” they are when they are together.  That is what attracts us.  It’s fascinating.

Diana has given us a look at a committed loving long-term relationship. If you’ve read my blog before you know how much I appreciate Ms. Gabaldon’s ability to write a poignant scene. Claire’s trip to the printer’s shop is full of those scenes.  Let’s start with the scene after Jamie realizes Claire has truly returned to him.  They are holding each other and Claire notices they are both trembling with,”…longing of twenty years streaming down our faces”.  They touch each other’s features in wonder. I believe I could barely breathe when I read this scene.  The intensity of their need of each other was palpable.  Not the intensity of lust, but of need. Deeper. She writes about depth.

I love that they do not fall in to bed right away.  We get to see the delicate dance of their becoming reacquainted with their lost other half.  They are shy with one another; she lets us feel their insecurity,  “…Will ye take me__and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew…” Deeper.

And even when they do at last come together physically Jamie lets us know that this romance isn’t just sex,

“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”.  And she replies, “ It was lonely without you, ” I whispered,” so lonely.”

Sigh…. Definitely one of my favorites.  The product of an almost 39 year-old marriage, I can relate. In my husband’s presence, I become me. I can be me because of the trust and care I know exists.  My own Jamie once said, “I know everything isn’t perfect, but people would kill to have a relationship like ours”.  I get deeper.

The rest of Jamie and Claire’s story is no less engaging. Diana continues to write of their struggles with the big things in life. She also had the foresight to know that enduring love reveals itself in the everyday. The reader doesn’t only see Jamie and Claire in the big crisis-filled moments.  The reader can come along as they build a life together in the seemly mundane activities that make up the bulk of most of our lives.  In my opinion, this is where true love gets revealed. It’s easier to step up to the plate in the big moments because their’s not much choice in the matter. However, to choose to act out of love everyday?  A hero’s work. These books are more than romance; they are a monument to real love.

 

Pre-wedding…I mean viewing…jitters…..Outlander on Starz!

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imageScrolling through my Twitter feed today, I noticed a lot of similar sentiment being expressed. Outlanders are feeling anxious, jittery, antsy, distracted.  These feelings seem to be centered around the rapidly approaching premier of Outlander.  I took a look at myself and realized I was feeling a lot of the same things.  And, I think I may have felt these emotions before…..where….when? OMG!  I felt this way before I got married!  What does that mean?! 

Anxious: full of mental distress or uneasiness due to fear; greatly worried. That makes sense for an approaching wedding! You are uneasy thinking about your future. Is he the right one? Did I make the right choice? Will everything be ok? Yeah, people feel anxious before they’re married.  Outlander premier? Why do I feel anxious about that?  Ron Moore.  Was he the right one? Did he make the right choices? Will everything be ok?  Sam and Cait. They are so sweet and nice. Will everyone think their performances are good. Will the critics like them? I’m anxious about the success of the series about people…characters…I love. There. I said it. 

Jittery: having a feeling of nervous unease.  I can remember having a jittery feeling before my wedding.  Were the flowers okay? The dresses and tuxes? Will people show up? Is the time alright? Will they like the way we wrote our vows?  Wow. I’m worried about wether people will “show up” to watch Outlander and wether they’ll like what they see. I NEED them too! I have time (and some money) invested in this! I want people to say, ” Did you watch Outlander? Wasn’t it beautiful? The scenery. The costumes. The dialog. Perfect!”  I’ve been talking about this to everyone! My literary reputation for good taste is at stake!

Antsy: restless, fidgety, impatient, eager.  I couldn’t hardly wait for my wedding day! And the closer it got the antsier I got.  I wanted it to happen now!  Plans were done and invitations were out.  Time seemed to crawl and didn’t know what do with myself.  Sigh. Feeling the same way now. I don’t know what to do with myself. The the pre-planning is done. The film is in the can. The day and time are set. There is nothing I can do but wait and time is c…r…a…w…l…i…n…g! I check my Twitter and talk to my peers. All we do is share our anxiety and fear, as someone told me today, that we might explode from excitement! Come on August 9th!

Distracted: having attention diverted.  Be a soon-to-be married bride and try to think of anything but your wedding day.  You have no focus. Everything reminds you of your wedding. I wondered how I was able to keep my job the weeks before my wedding because I sure don’t remember what I did while at work.  Be a soon-to-be rewarded Outlander fan and try to think of anything but the premier day. You have no focus. Everything reminds you of the day you’ll get to see your characters and story come to life. And…I know some folks who might be in danger of losing their jobs, or families, or spouses over their Outlander distraction. Someone told me today they were watching the new Time Warner Youtube videos in the bathroom at work. I’ve heard some children have had to learn to speak “Outlanderese” to get their mother’s attention and I personally know MY husband’s patience is wearing thin. I’m getting the eye-roll when the words Sam, Cait, Jamie, Claire or Diana says come out of my mouth. I’ve been given the “all things in moderation” speech.

I hope this analogy helps explain what I’m feeling.  Mostly, what I’m feeling feels…well…pretty amazingly wonderfully great, except for that fear I might explode from excitement.

 

Frank….what’s a man to do?….

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Frank.  An enigma. I like him.  I dislike him.  But, do I understand him?  There is the challenge and I mean that literally.  Recently, one of my readers inspired me to take a closer look at Frank.  So, here I am trying to find some empathy. After all, to quote Jamie, if Claire loved him, “…he must have been a good man”.

Jamie has always been easy for me to understand.  I know what motivates him and sustains him.  We’ve had eight books and a lot of character revealing situations from which to draw that understanding.  I can write about Jamie, but Frank?  Up until this point, I just hadn’t thought too much about Frank and certainly hadn’t much to write about him.  I think it’s because Jamie and Claire seem to be meant for each other and that trumped everything for me including Frank. Actually, that might say something more about me than it does him.  But, why doesn’t Frank evoke the strong emotions I feel for some of the other characters?  Certainly some of his choices are to be admired; taking Claire back, loving Brianna….  but, he also cheats and lies.  I’m not sure I’ve truly looked at the WHY of any of these actions!  Guess it’s about time I did.            

Where to start? Hmmmmm. The beginning? No, makes too much sense.  That damn letter in the desk drawer?  It did help me understand why…naw.  Where did Diana reveal his character? What situation was so stress-filled that we saw the real Frank…..? Got it, …the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do?  What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?

When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  What started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted bumpy mess.  Frank and Claire chose to remain married in a situation ripe for a divorce. Their reasons? Complicated.  I wish I could say Frank stayed because he loved Claire too much to leave her.  I wish I could say Claire stayed because she still loved Frank.  I can’t.

 You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.  I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

So, what did we learn about Frank the night he died? What did his behavior and words tell us about him as a man and a person? Well…I’M still troubled over the studied casualness in which Frank told Claire he was leaving her.  They were spooning for God’s sake!  That seemed pretty cold.  Did he think she really wouldn’t care? Or, that she didn’t care and his being casual was a defense mechanism.  Claire’s response to this matter-of-fact announcement was very telling, “this one must be really special”. And Frank’s response to her knowledge?  No apology. No remorse.  Some surprise.  “I thought I’d been discreet”, he pronounced.  So, urbane.  He then laid all the cards on the table and announced he was taking “his” daughter with him. 

This pronouncement resulted in a shouting match between Claire and Frank. I get the feeling that this was the first time in twenty years that they had truly communicated their feelings.  Frank reveals his bigotry and jealousy.  When Claire denies having an affair with Dr. Abernathy, Frank doesn’t argue.  Deep down, I think he knows she is still the honest woman he’s always known her to be.  I think he was looking for a reason to blame her for his choices.  Claire then reveals that Frank’s infidelity hurt and that it mattered.  Frank speaks aloud the truth of it all, ” … not enough”….Not enough…. And he’s had enough. He’s had enough of waiting for Claire’s love to return to him. He’s had enough of finding solace and maybe revenge in someone else’s arms. He’s had enough of being reminded there is another man and damns Claire’s face that shows everything she feels.  He’s taking the only thing left to him.  The daughter he loves and I believe he thinks he’s owed, “you’re hardly ever home anyway”.  The tipping point of the whole evening is when Frank allows himself to be vulnerable enough to ask Claire if she could have forgotten Jamie.  She simply answers, “no”.  Finally, unable to avoid the truth, Frank leaves. In Claire’s defense, she told him the truth from the beginning.

So, what motivated them to stay together?  At first, I think Frank believed that Claire had been traumatized and as Claire said, “he wasn’t a cad”.  He didn’t leave her then because she was alone and pregnant and still his wife.  His identity as a man wouldn’t allow him.  And, I think he still loved her.  On the surface it seems very admirable.  But, I can’t stop comparing Frank to Jamie.  

What would Jamie have done if Claire told him some wild story about time-travel and standing stones?  Oh wait, she did. The reactions were very different.  Frank’s reaction was disbelief, anger and a smashed vase.  Jamie, probably not able to believe this story anymore than Frank, reacted with compassion and a willingness to try.  Once it became evident that Claire was sane, Frank became curious and began to investigate her story. After two found letters, the reader knows that Frank believed Claire enough to prepare his daughter for a possible future in the past and leave a gravestone where he knows Claire “might” find it.  He believes her story, but he never tells her that.  He knows the man Claire loves survived Culloden and that she might be able to return to him.  But…he doesn’t tell her…he’s afraid she’ll leave.  When Jamie finds out Claire’s story is true and there is a husband with a prior claim, he lets her go.  Despite loving her with all his heart…he lets her go.  Frank’s reaction is totally understandable, but it seems I may have been right in the first place. Frank’s biggest sin is that he is not Jamie. 

At first, Claire stays with Frank because she is too depressed to care.  Without Jamie nothing really matters.  But, then comes Bree.  It becomes obvious that Frank loves Brianna.  Jamie is gone and after all, Claire loved Frank …once.  So, she stays and tries.  With a shared love of Brianna between them Frank stays and tries.  He tries, but, Frank isn’t Jamie.  In fact, I’m not sure Claire would have ever have been truly happy in a relationship with Frank. In a way, a way that matters, I think Frank’s modern sensibilities were more archaic than Jamie’s.  Jamie’s view of Claire as a woman and wife was much more open-minded.  Frank had beliefs about marriage, a woman’s place in that marriage and a woman’s place in the world that seem geared to keep Claire in her place.  I guess I never felt Frank truly understood Claire.  He tolerated what he saw as idiosyncrasies.  Oh, every once in awhile he surprised me with his insight, like watching Brianna while Claire went to med school.  But, he didn’t make this “sacrifice” for her.  He made it despite her. He was a smart man, he knew it would just be easier to give in.   Jamie wanted Claire to feel happy and fullfilled.  He loved her because of all of her idiosyncrasies.  He was proud of her, he fought for her right to be herself. Frank wanted Claire to fill his expectations.  I do have empathy for Frank. He wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he was probably a great guy.  He certainly was a great father.  His intentions were good. None of what happened was Frank’s fault, he was a victim of fate. And after  all, Claire did love him, once.   I feel sad for Frank because he didn’t know that he never stood a chance against Claire’s love for Jamie.

 Claire first cries over Frank the night he dies. She cries a second time for Frank in their bedroom on the cusp of returning to Jamie.  Trying to make sense of the sadness that was their relationship, she tries to say goodbye.  She realizes that they had said goodbye… twenty years before on the green hill of Craig Na Dun.

 P.S. The response to this post has been amazing. Lots of discussion! It was brought to my attention that Diana had a few things to say about the topic (pages).  The biggest thing I took away from reading her response to the Frank question was that we only see things from Claire’s perspective. Her bias and possibly self-serving reasons for viewing Frank and his behavior as she does should be considered when talking about Frank. She said Frank is an honorable man and that we don’t know the whole story. So….keep that in mind!

Aug. 9th will change everything…..what I’ll miss…Outlander!

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imageSo, yesterday was interesting.  I didn’t get much writing done because we fans experienced a virtual onslaught of Outlander news and images.  I’m pretty sure my heart and breathing rates were scary! But, I’ve had a good night’s sleep and I’m sitting here processing the whole PR event.  I’ve come to the conclusion that August 9th is going to change everything and there are going to be some things I really miss.

1. Speak Outlander

Was lesson 12 really the last one? What will I do without Adhamh urging us to “say it with” him? I’m sure I’ll still see his tweets and photos around Twitterworld because the man is verra popular. He meets with fans when they visit Scotland and solves any and all Gaelic issues, but I’ll miss those videos!

2. Tweeting with the cast and crew

I hope marketing people are gonna take a look at the social media interaction between the fan base and the Outlander Starz cast and staff because it’s been a singular experience.  From the very beginning, they have made us fans feel apart of the process.  As a result, they have generated a lot of good will and loyalty. I think some genuine friendships have been made!  They have been so open to questions and chatting with us. Heck, even the stars’ drivers get in on the act! Those boys can eat!  At this point, a fan can tweet a cast member and have a reasonable expectation of getting a response. Send them some bake goods or a care package and they know who sent it to them. I think there truly is a feeling of “family” with this bunch. We know stuff about them personally and care about them.  But….I’ve been worried since the beginning that these actors have no idea what’s about to hit them. And after the premier?  I think the current fan base will experience an influx of newbies and that will change things. I welcome the numbers (hey, I want season two), but I’ll miss the closeness.

3. Maril and Matt

Love these two!  I’ll miss Matt’s beautiful POTD of scenery of Scotland. Wow! Really Matt they were breathtaking and kept us excited to see our characters in these settings. Maril, a fellow fan and the queen of squeee, gave us words heard on set that helped us speculate about what scenes were being filmed.  So much fun!

4. Terri and the costumes

I learned so much about the effort it takes to create an epic period film.  She was so generous of her time and shared information about historical clothing.  I hope I still will get to see pictures of her puppy in puppy prison or muddy and wet from a romp across a Scottish field.

5. Seeing DG experience her novel come to life

This is new for Herself too!  I’ve been so excited for her.  Who gets to experience something like this!? She shared her thoughts and journaled her experiences for us.  We got to feel like we were on this journey with her.  I loved seeing her on set and her interaction with the cast and crew, right Sheugs?  Her books are wonderful and she deserves the attention she’s receiving.

6. The shared excitement

I guess this is what I’ll miss the most. The novelty of sharing the dream of our beloved books and characters coming to life.

I’ll miss these things, but I remind myself that we are days away from SEEING Outlander.  This was the goal after all!  So, I’ll say goodbye to the old good things and hello to the new good things!  Thanks everyone! Squeeeeeee!

 

Outlander and the media…..middle-aged women…why the bad rap?

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imageI am very protective of Outlander and Diana Gabaldon.  I have a personal stake in the success of her books and Outlander Starz who had the foresight to recognize an excellent story!  I NEED them to succeed! It’s a matter of honor! ( like I have had anything to do with anything)  I would go to battle for them against any media big or small!  So, when I see the merest hint of disparagement, I can feel my ire rise.  My blood begins to boil with the need to defend.  A misguided journalist calls my beloved books romances only?  I will write a comment of clarification the likes of which has here to never been seen!  I know…brutal, but that’s how I roll.

When writing about Outlander the media often uses the same potentially disparaging remarks like the “R” word.  There is, however, a remark the media uses that I just don’t get.  Bored middle-age housewives.  I THINK they mean to suggest that the books or t.v. series’ value should be questioned because “middle-age women” are fans.  Why? What’s wrong with middle age, taking care of a home, being a woman, or being bored for that matter? 

Aside from the FACT that these books have been read by people of different age, race, culture, genders, and walks of life, why choose middle-age women as your barometer for unworthy reading or watching material?  There is a lot to like about middle-age!  Middle age comes with some definite perks! Would we go back to our 20’s? shiver Not without what we know now!  Experience is the foremost benefit of middle-age.  We have had more time to read and bring a wealth of real-life experience to bear while we read.  In my opinion, that makes us better able to judge a books’ literary worthiness. We’ve been to the circus and seen the dog and pony show!  We can recognize what is good!  Now, note I did not say, hip, cool, groovy or hawght <g>, I said good.  We can see the potential for deeply examining the wonder and irony of life found in the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s books. We appreciate her ability to reveal the human experience in a way that allows us to feel.  

I find it very disturbing that in addition to disparaging middle-age, it seems being a woman disqualifies us as purveyors of what is worthy.  Really? Look around.  I believe that the world is full of …women… who work, pay taxes, run for office, educate, raise families, run charities, serve in the military, run and create businesses, heal and write.  And, us middle-age ones often have enough money to buy books AND movie channels! Not sure some folks understand that women are a force to be reckoned with!  But, take it from this middle-aged woman who tries to create a loving home for her family and at times is bored (not while reading Diana) some t.v. Execs and media moguls are about to find out!

A woman we should care about….Claire

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If you are like me, you’ve been watching the Starz channel for possible glimpses of Outlander. The tease definitely was and the disappearance trailer gave me goosebumps!  I’ve been searching for every image I can find. The sheer beauty of the costumes and scenery of the down-under clip left me speechless (and inspired to play it over and over). But, the trailer that I can’t stop thinking about is the one where the cast is commenting. The lines that keep running through my head are spoken by our beloved Ron Moore, “we are going to try to make you believe this really happened to this woman…This is a character you should care about…”

I’m loving the direction he is taking. Despite all the focus we fans tend to place on the sheer magnificence that is Jamie, Ron recognizes that this has always been Claire’s story. Her story to tell. He wisely asks us to come along and watch Claire make sense of the unimaginable. In that clip alone, Cait Balfe made me feel Claire’s resolve and anxiety as she adjusts her unfamiliar 18th century clothing, stiffens her spine , raises her head and “fakes it till she makes it” down the hall. I’m seeing the pragmatic, strong woman I loved in the books. As readers, we saw everything through Claire’s eyes, heard her thoughts and experienced her feelings and I am thrilled that Starz has decided to let us do the same. As a result, I believe the viewers will care about Claire because they’ll discover she is a woman worth caring about.

We can put ourselves in Claire’s place:

We may not have recently fallen through some standing stones, but I’ll bet we’ve all found ourselves strangers in a strange land at some point in our lives. People will care about Claire because on some level they will sympathize with her struggles.  She is a woman alone trying to figure out how to survive without a rule book. There aren’t many of us who have not had to navigate our way in a new job, new place, or establish relationships with strangers. Viewers will know how Claire feels because we’ve all been there 18th century or not. They’ll admire Claire for her tenacity, pragmatism, and strength. They’ll feel sorry for her because she is a modern woman forced into a submissive role and that won’t sit well with Claire or the viewer.

Her love story:

She is a war bride. Many viewers will care about Claire because they know what it feels like to be separated from the person you love. They’ll understand the joy of her second honeymoon with Frank and feel the devastation of her losing him so soon after their long wait to be together. Viewers will admire Claire for her devotion to Frank and her determination to return to him. But, …what about Jamie? The viewers will struggle with Claire as she tries to not fall in love with him. It’s a battle they’ll both lose. What’s a woman to do?… The viewer will want to see how she’ll deal with her forced intimacy with Jamie and her eventual capitulation. Claire becomes a woman in love with two good men. Many viewers will be able to relate.  And, the sex?  Claire is a sexually confident woman and thank God Starz won’t shy away from some of the best sex scenes ever written.

She’s real:

Claire is a woman with strengths and weaknesses just like us. Readers can tell you why they admire her and some can tell you why she makes them crazy. But, most agree that she is genuine.

I believe the characteristic I most admire about Claire is her lack of guile. She’s a terrible liar. Everything she feels shows on her face. She isn’t motivated by greed, or fame, or political gain. She is just as she appears to be and what she appears to be is a kind woman who cares about the people around her. She is a good person. In a t.v. (and real-world) full of characters with ambiguous moral character, I think viewers will be ready to root for a character with a redeeming character. <g>

We’d like to be like her:

Viewers will care about Claire because they will recognize she is a woman to be admired and emulated. I recently asked some Caitriots (Caitriona Balfe fan club) to tell me what they liked and disliked about Claire.   I received a lot of responses and I noticed that most of the responses fell into particular categories, like ….

Claire’s passion; a two-edged sword:  The viewers of Outlander Starz will find plenty of reasons to admire Claire for her passion.  If she believes in something she has no problem commiting.  She blazes ahead and jumps in with both feet, often…to the detriment of herself and others. This impetuous-ness seems to be the thing readers most admire about her and yet, it drives them nuts.

She’s smart:  The Caitriots found lots to admire about Claire’s intellect.  They used words like; ingenious, clever, adaptable, and resourceful.

Her personality:  It was noted that Claire could be stoic when she needed to be, but most times she uses humor to help her cope.  Claire can laugh at herself and life. She is witty and at times scarcastic, but never mean.  She just knows life is easier to swallow when you can see the humor in situations. We could all learn from Claire’s ability to laugh.

Her bravery: One of the most frequently cited of Claire’s admirable qualities was her bravery.  Readers noted that no matter how scared she was Claire felt the fear and did it anyway. They said that she was a loyal and responsible person and that she had the courage to make difficult or unpopular decisions.  They also laughingly noted that she doesn’t back down from anyone, “she doesn’t take anybody’s crap”.

Dichotomy: Claire doesn’t seem to fit the mold for women in either the 18th century or her own time. She is unapologetically unique.  She is strong and yet vulnerable.  She takes on traditional male roles and yet remains wholly feminine.  She is strong-willed and yet pragmatic.  She is compassionate and yet as ruthless as the situation requires.

There were two Caitroits that really summed up why Claire is a woman to care about, they said; “She makes the best possible life for her self with dignity, humor and compassion…” and she ” makes you think deeply about life, relationships and spiritualism; what’s really important…”   We care about Claire because she is a woman who cares about the important stuff.

Starz and Ron Moore are betting that viewers will find Claire and her story fascinating and relatable.  I’m betting they will too.

 

 

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