We are moments away from the official end of Droughtlander, almost an entire year after the air date of the final episode of Outlander's premier season (which was necessary to bring us the BEST version of this costume drama possible so, I can't complain!), and in celebration I thought I'd post my essay entry to a "contest" created March 14, 2015 by Costume Designer Extraordinaire, and all around cool chick, Terry Dresbach (these are the kinds of things that come up on misty spring mornings with a bunch of costume & apparel geeks - turned fan girls playing on twitter together) because the conversation had cropped up about how the men of the series sometimes get the lion's share of attention from a largely female audience when there's a really awesome heroine (who has carried the series into it's 9th book, due out in the near-ish future) to celebrate. So, in honor of Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser Grey (erm) Fraser (again) we were each to submit a formal essay just showing some good old fashioned love to a lead female character.
Without further ado...
Claire Beauchamp: An Eighteenth Century Riot Grrrl
Claire Beauchamp was born a wild woman; intimately connected to her sacred untamed nature from the start, vividly illustrated by the failed attempt at enrolling her in boarding school. Not even Uncle Lamb, and his unconventional child rearing methods can take credit for the ferocity of the ancient feminine burning within our young heroine. Orphaned, underestimated, and unexpected to have any sense of agency over her own person, this child quickly becomes her own advocate by demanding better, and more for herself, her life, and her future taking, quite possibly, her first step toward becoming the accidental feminist she spends the rest of her life being. Following no one else’s guidelines or framework for how a “liberated” woman is supposed to be, she however, observes, and sources from the lives around her in order to create the woman she is continually becoming, always incorporating the new material with who, and what she already, naturally, is. It is when she is faced with the input of others, or criticized that we see her internally question herself, and struggle to reconcile who she is with who others think she should be, and see her trying on different roles both in her present time, and her eighteenth century life when it is suggested that her approach to life or a certain circumstance is incorrect leaving us to witness a woman slowly suffocating beneath the socially acceptable mask of “propriety” culminating in an extreme, or desperate action to breathe again (shattered wine bottles, and ruined dinner parties come to mind), but always the return to center — her most inherent self is the conclusion.
Through Claire we learn that authenticity is not a glamorous or tidy business, and can only be dressed up in a package that meets societal expectations when society itself is no longer determined to deny its dire importance. Women are neither served, nor serve well whilst striving to attain a standard not created by any consensus of their own by altering themselves in order to be *nice, likable, or neutral. Claire may keep quiet to save herself, and those around her from dangerous situations (and sometimes even that’s a task!), but she’s never going to “shut-up” or play herself down in order to make other people more comfortable with themselves, meanwhile demonstrating an inclusion that is rare in female sisterhood even today. Claire is a spectacular contradiction; a one woman revolution coupled with Caitriona Balfe who comes across both personally, and on screen as someone as effortlessly unapologetically herself as the character she is portraying, I am reminded of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s words: Well behaved women seldom make history. Claire Beauchamp isn’t making history, she’s reinventing it.
*"Nice" to be read as what a patriarchal society determines a nice woman to be ie: docile, subordinate, pretty window dressing, not to be confused with good manners every human should posses and afford one another male or female.
Incidentally a Top Five was never chosen because, "There are too many great ones. Too many styles. Some are very beautiful, written by people with degrees in literature and english, some by those who don’t really speak english [sic] at all. Some long, some very short. But what they all share is beauty, passion and love. And after all isn’t that exactly the point? What I asked for?? All equally wonderful, and I refuse to choose between them." From the mouth of T.D. herself ... so, I guess we all won? Admittedly, mine is a little clunky in parts ... I haven't done this in eons, but yay, us! I'm not sure what we won, perhaps just the pleasure of "winning" itself, but really who needs a prize when this feast of imagination, and costume ecstacy hits our screens? Yeah, no one. It's that good.