(Spousal) Abuse in Historical Fiction… or “Bear with me as I rant about why excusing abuse as ‘part of the times’ does injustice to the victim, the abuser, and the period.”

For those of you who do not enjoy rants about social justice or feminism, I’m sorry. I’ll return to my regular blogging very soon.

Recently, I did a review of Diana Gabaldon’s historical fiction/romance novel, Outlander, in which I clearly outlined my reasons for condemning the book as sexist. About half way through the book, the protagonist, Claire, is violently beaten by her lover/husband, Jamie, as punishment for endangering him and his clan. While I could have accepted the scene as a pivotal point in Claire’s character development or point of tension between the main characters, I could not bear the fact that: 1.) Jamie admits to enjoying beating her, 2.) Claire forgives him almost instantly, 3.) Jamie proceeds to rape her the next day, and 4.) after said abuse, Claire tells Jamie she loves him for the first time. For these reasons, I stopped reading the book about halfway through.

Now, I have also voiced my support for the TV show, Outlander, as I believe it shows promise of taking what was originally a very engaging and unique story and removing the problematic elements. Characters in the show have said that they despise rape and hopefully, that has set the tone for the rest of the show’s run. Other interviews have also showed that the show’s lead actress has feminist values, and in general, the Starz series is praised for being more feminist than Game of Thrones.

However, I am still wary and will continue to be wary until I see how Starz handles the infamous beating scene. While some sources claim that the beating scene will be included, there is no indicator of how it will be handled. My hope is that they change their mind and cut it (since it hasn’t been filmed yet) or they handle it in a way that does not romanticize violence and domestic abuse.

Supporters of Gabaldon’s book and the scene excuse the behavior as “part of the times,” and yes, spousal abuse did happen in the 18th century.


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Outlander 1x04 : The Gathering

oh no this tv show is wonderful. I need to read the books.


Same here. If there is any kind of rape or abuse in the show and the show breezes past it or expects viewers to view it as romantic, I will stop watching.

But luckily, the show is diverting from the book in small but significant ways: there are much more obvious hints in the show that Dougal doesn’t entirely trust Jamie, the witchcraft hints and stuff in episode 3 do not appear until later in the book (thereby deviating from the storyline and order of events), and the characterization itself is much more dynamic than it appears in the novel.

Now, I’m not sure how the showrunners will handle it, but they seem to plan on including the beating scene. I’m not sure how it will play out, but here’s an article that hints at it:

Another critic asked if a pivotal scene from the book where — spoiler alert — Claire is harshly physically punished by her lover Jamie (Sam Heughan).

“It’s in the book and it’s in the show,” said Moore, who wore a kilt to the panel. “It’s certainly an explosive scene. It hasn’t been shot yet, it’s down the road a bit. It’s a shocking moment, but its an important part of the development of the characters and we’re going to go for it.”

I’m not sure what is meant by this or if it is accurate, and I’m not 100% opposed to it happening if it is treated right. If they use the beating as character development, to turn Claire away from Jamie and create tension as opposed to romance, I’m ok with that because it will cause viewers to look at abuse with a critical eye (hopefully) and see that it is not ok. If the show runners use the beating to motivate Claire to return home or perhaps even create psychological conflict within Jamie (like, he beats her because society says he should but then questions his whole life and values because of it), it could be ok, if done right.

But if they include the beating and it is romanticized or excused in any way I’m am going to be 100000000% done with the show and no amount of “I love you” in Gaelic will bring me back.

Also, for your further cringe: Diana Gabaldon said in a Q&A session to one of her actors, “Please take this in the sense that it was meant, but I’m really looking forward to seeing you raped and tortured.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.







A video made for the Museum of Cluny, and its “The Sword: Uses, Myths and Symbols” exhibit. It tries to dispel some of the beliefs that are still prevalent today about the weight and mobility of fighters in plate armor and show some of the techniques used in combat against armored opponents

I’m always pleased to see videos like this. It’s as if people won’t believe unless they’re shown (and there are always some who go “ah, yes, well, in aluminium stage armour it’s easy.”)

Well, the Museum Cluny video, like the Royal Armoury demo team, uses real steel armour: those two pictures at the start show the originals; the video uses reproductions because no curator will let someone take two exhibits from his museum and roll them around on flagstones. Mike Loades in the UK has been doing similar armour demonstrations for years, as has Tobias Capwell of the Wallace Collection. Eventually the old “clunky, immobile, in with a wrench, out with a can-opener” image of plate armour will go away – but I won’t hold my breath. (That shade of purple isn’t a good complexion anyway…)

Even the faster demonstrations of these combat techniques are still dialled back to about half speed. Try to visualise how much quicker and more brutal this would be if the two fighters meant business, when the first rule was Do It To Him As Quickly As Possible Before He Does It To You.

Writer and swordsman Guy Windsor writes about doing motion-capture work for a computer game; his completely authentic techniques couldn’t be used because they were so small, fast and economical. The game needed big swashing movements because the real thing looked unrealistic, too insignificant to be effective…

You won’t see a “killing fight” (full speed, full power, full intent) recreated very often, either on documentaries or in museum exhibitions, because it’s very, very dangerous for (when you think about it) obvious reasons. These techniques from 600-year-old fight manuals were how men in armour maimed and killed other men in armour - and since they’re the original material, not a re-interpretation after 600 years of being diluted down to sport-safe levels, the techniques will still maim and kill men in armour. Even a blunt “safe” sword is pointed enough (first demo on the video, 1:54-59) to go into a helmet’s eye-slot and through the skull inside…

But if you’re lucky enough to see a full-speed demo between fighters in real armour using wasters (wooden practice swords), be prepared to pick your jaw up from the floor. It is awesome. And also as scary as hell.

Comments on comments:

"Pretty much proof positive that the people who claim that skimpy female fantasy armor is for increased maneuverability don’t know what they’re talking about."

They know exactly what they’re talking about. They want to see T&A on fantasy game and book covers, and since they don’t have the balls to be honest about it, this is their excuse.

It amazes me that the old saws about Western armour and techniques are still going about, because surely two minutes’ thought would let you know that of course knights had to be able to get up off the ground…  Europeans were wearing armour for centuries, why wouldn’t they develop techniques of fighting in it?

It’s easier to laugh (do the same people laugh about samurai?) and repeat what “everyone knows about armour" than it is to waste that two minutes thought. Thinking might reveal something to mess with set opinions, and that would be annoying…

Biggest pet peeve: People commenting on the weight and shape of armour restricting mobility…

As before - “everybody knows" that European armour is massive and clunky because that’s what "everybody knows.” God forbid they should ever apply the “if it was so useless then why was it used" logic to anything. Because then they might realise that what "everybody knows" is wrong.

I’m going off to (not) hold my breath for a while… :-P

I saw this video in the fascinating special exhibit at Cluny last time we were in Paris. So pleased to be able to have it on tap, because it was most excellent.


As previously mentioned, the most important factors in considering armor design for a character are:

  • What does it have to protect them against?
  • What do they have to be able to do?
  • What is available?

These suits are show casing some great armor made for a person who needs to protect themselves against swords and arrows, fight and lead troops on the battlefield and had access to a lot of money and an skilled armorer.  Unsurprisingly, they are super practical for their intended purpose.

The argument that they might wanted to trade off protection for a little more speed doesn’t hold up because once these guys got into battle it was simply ridiculous to think they’d be able to keep track everywhere an attack might come from.

Basically if you want to survive a battle, you want to be as well protected as possible, and as that video shows: The upper limit to how well protected you can be and still move freely is pretty damn high!

- wincenworks




Summary: The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a…


Yeah, the book made me cringe so hard I had to go read something happy and fluffy.

I wholeheartedly support the TV show, though. It seems like it is doing a lot to fix the problems of this book, and I really hope the show does well as it produces more seasons. Outlander has such an interesting premise that I was sad that the book was so poor, but I’m so glad Starz has the good sense to use creative liberty well!





Outlander 1x04 : The Gathering

oh no this tv show is wonderful. I need to read the books.



*takes them off her to-read list*

also going to read your review now :D

Aw, thanks! Yeah, the book has some MAJOR things going on that I REALLY didn’t like, but it looks like the show will change that. *crosses fingers*

Book Review… Bruce Sterling, “Heavy Weather”


Summary: They call themselves the Storm Troupe and they hack heavy weather, They chase the monster storms that twist erratically across the Southwestern badlands laid to waste by the green- house effect. They survive on scrap, grunge, free software, danger, and the charisma of their leader, the brilliant mathematician Dr. Jerry Mulcahey. Equipped with military-surplus ‘smart” vehicles, networked laptop computers, and virtual-reality gear, the Storm Troupe is chasing the ultimate storm: the F-6 tornado. Few, outside the Troupe even believe that an F-6 is possible. Yet something unmistakably monstrous is brewing in the wrecked atmosphere over America’s Tornado Alley. But no one in the Troupe, not even its brilliant, driven leader, guesses the real nature of the F-6 or the shadowy forces unleashed in its twisting fury. Not until it is too late…

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