Published on September 30th, 2014 | by Daniel Dalman0
Outlander (and Survivalist Fantasy)
Shows like The Walking Dead inspire survivalist fantasies — what about shows like Outlander? What would you do if you were flung back in time?
I’m just going to come right out and say it — I think about Outlander a lot (it airs on Showcase on Sundays at 8pm). If I’m not practicing my Scottish lilt, I’m picturing delicious hunk of ginger eye-candy Jamie Fraser (played by) shirtless, as he often appears on the show. If not that, then I’m repeating the posh dialogue Caitriona Balfe delivers so perfectly as the protagonist, Claire. If the timing isn’t appropriate for such thoughts or the situation doesn’t allow for line recitals, then I am thinking about how, if I were to be flung through time to the 1700s, would I survive.
If you’re not watching the fantasy-drama-historical-romance, all around multi-hyphenate, Outlander (which is currently mid-way through it’s season one run) then you are missing out. The drama, sexual tension, and allure of the series is just ramping up. The program, adapted from the best-selling Diana Gabaldon book series, introduces us Claire Beecham, a British WWII trauma nurse and her husband Frank, as they reconnect emotionally (and sexually) on a second honeymoon in the Scottish highlands. After being separated for most of the war, Claire and Frank, who comes across as a bore and a know-it-all in the few scenes we see him in, come to Scotland on what seems to be a historical-trivia/sex-in-random-places game of bingo. I don’t know if we are supposed to care about Claire’s life in the 40s though, because it comes across as merely a set up for the real premise of the show, which revolves around Claire time traveling back to the 1700s by touching some Stone Henge-esque magic rocks.
Though the ride there is less fun than a trip in a Delorean, upon entering the year 1742 Claire has to survive life as both a woman and an ‘outlander’ (read: Brit) in the Scottish realm of men with beards and harsh faces and rougher manners who all look remarkably similar. Save for that one hunk of eye-candy previously mentioned. Claire is friendless, except for Jamie, whom she must nurse (and disrobe) back to health after a shoulder injury. Despite these obvious distractions, Claire is desperate to get back to her own time. Thankfully her skills as a nurse, and the fact she had studied herbal medicine prior to her trip through time, makes her survival two hundred years in the past a touch more successful than the average person could hope for.
Because of the ‘fish out of water’ element of the show, it’s only natural the series brings about the same type of survivalist fantasies one mulls over while watching a horror movie, or an episode of The Walking Dead. Questions like, “How would I survive? What would I do?” ring through your brain. What makes Outlander so interesting is the historical context. In many a round table discussion I have made it clear that should the zombie apocalypse take place tomorrow, my survival plan would include saying goodbye to those I love and running head first into the crowd of flesh eaters — unwilling to live life in a world gone to hell. However, when it comes to Outlander, I participate in the how would I do it discussion. I don’t like picturing the decline of society, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the creation of it.
Unfortunately, the answer to how I would survive is that I probably wouldn’t. I would be burnt at the stake, or impale myself on a particularly sharp farming implement, or catch the plague within minutes of my arrival. I have few skills that would translate to success, or survival in another time period. Without access to a power outlet, my ability to navigate the world would last about as long as an iPhone battery.
Claire though, has fewer hang-ups. Which is why, I think, her creator made her a slightly less-modern woman. Someone who grew up without Wikipedia, satellite television, and a 7/11 that had survived the horrors of the Second World War would have a better chance of surviving any time period better than the majority of the population today. Speaking for myself, I would give up all hope and accept defeat the minute I assessed the bathroom situation of 1742.
And that’s just the basics. I don’t know anything about the sociopolitical background of the 1700s. I’m not a 100% sure if it is the 18th century? Or the 17th? I forget how that naming works. While Claire is ‘tapped’ in the castle nursing the Laird and his compatriots, I can’t help but feel like I would be subjected to living life as a serf in some sort of communal sod hut. My job would probably be something akin to the character Dennis from Monty Python and the Holy Grail slopping around in the mud, or if the position was open, town idiot. Even with a position, and even if I was able to pull at the heartstrings of those around me to gain sustenance, due to my susceptible modern day immune system I would probably be carried off by the microorganisms in my first bite of undercooked sheep’s stomach.
As the episodes continue I hope that Claire acclimatizes to life in the past, and releases a touch of the sexual tension built up between her and Jamie. Though through her adventures I like to think that I could learn a bit about how to survive without many modern conveniences. So far all I’ve got is: don’t touch any magic rocks.