[Nearly every post you read here at OutlanderBTS.com is and will be stand alone. This one is not. It is an offshoot of my ECCC 2017 post and will likely make more sense if you read the ECCC 2017 post first…]
There were so many comments generated by the (now more than) 14,000 views of my ECCC 2017 post. Comments, of course, about Sam’s twirl, Nicole’s beautiful testimony, the photos, and how much people enjoyed it. But the overwhelming majority commented on “experience-taking” and Cait’s response to one fan, about which I wrote: “Personally, I kept thinking about this question and this answer off and on over the next few days. I feel like Cait missed the point.”
Now, one of the reasons I love to do (and let’s be honest, aspire to do is more appropriate at this point related to Outlander) interviews is to ask thoughtful questions of, and get thoughtful answers from, people I find interesting and want to know more about. In general, I try not to make assumptions about people’s thought processes, or presume to speak for them (especially people I don’t know). But I feel like I opened a can of worms, and then left this comment about Cait hanging out there. The options I see are: let it go/forget about it, ask Cait about it, or say more. I don’t have access to ask Cait, so far I haven’t forgotten about it, and the comments keep rolling in, so I guess I’ll say more….
When I approached Cait at ECCC for our picture, I was struck by how young she is. Despite being larger than life in this series, and a strong woman in her own right, she’s also just a 37-year-old with a very busy, high profile job, who happens to be playing an iconic role in a story which millions of people have internalized and experienced as life changing 😬 <gulp>. I’m not sure it would serve Cait or any actor, to carry the enormity of that around in her daily consciousness. In fact it makes me think of something Terry said in the Thru the Stones panel. She said that she’s not trying to do costumes according to the book anymore, because it’s too hard. She said, “I can’t be in everybody’s head, and it’s better that I’m not in anybody’s head, except my own… I just have to make the best costume I possibly can, and when I switch over and try to make what other people might be anticipating and thinking, or even what Diana was thinking, I lose me, and I lose whatever my natural flow is….”
I do think Cait gets it, but putting myself in her shoes (as best I can, without talking to her) I see that her experience has to be so different from ours. From day one, she and Sam were reading these books with time pressure, for a purpose: doing a job. And her every day since has been filled with the logistics, preparation and realities of playing Claire. I think the result is she is so close to the material, that some parts (like losing Faith), she gets in ways we never could. But as for the “being swept away at our leisure” angle that we millions have enjoyed and still do, no. I don’t think she has the time and space to relate to the material in that way. She is reading for her job, or acting for her job. When she watches the show, she is seeing herself and no doubt remembering the experience, or critiquing the product vs. being swept away by the storyline. She is “in” it, and the storyline continues. She is constantly looking forward, preparing for what comes next in being Claire. Of course Outlander has changed her life, and she realizes that her performance has impacted others (my conjecture).
“Your embodiment of these characters has profoundly, and I don’t use that word lightly, has profoundly changed my life. I mean it brought me out of terrible depression, and I know it’s done that for millions of other people. As performance artists, how does that affect you, that you have profoundly changed and altered the course of people’s lives?”
Here is that clip, with both Sam and Cait’s answers:
In my ECCC piece I wrote about this phenomenon, called experience-taking. “…my take on that question is that as readers of these books, (and as watchers of this show) we experience so many things with these characters. So many trials and tribulations, joys, and intimate moments. Going through these experiences with Jamie and Claire actually makes us more resilient and more empathetic as people. Experiencing their struggles and their tenacity to their core values, even through excruciatingly hard things, makes us stronger. It’s called “experience-taking,” and it’s a real thing. People aren’t just experiencing escape when reading Diana’s books and watching the show, we are actually being enriched by these characters and their experiences. This, in my opinion, is the reason there is such a devout following of these books, and this show. It’s not simply escapism.
Another moment in the panel that stood out for me, which I neglected to include in my ECCC post, was when Cait talked about how she was raised by her Irish parents. I have a ton of respect and admiration for this woman, and at the same time, she’s just a person, like you, like me, like Sam (it’s true!) She is an amazing Claire, and if my work ever does land on her radar, I hope that my admiration and respect shine through. I’ll leave you with this…