The phrase “Female Director” kind of pisses me off. I know how naïve that makes me. I don’t know how Hollywood works except from what I’ve read, but I do know there’s nothing inherently masculine about the title of Director. I know that every last director I worked with through school, save two, were women. The academic world rarely resembles the real world, of course. It can take generations for the ways of the ivory tower to trickle down into the mainstream.
That’s why, when Ronald D. Moore says that he insisted that the director of The Wedding be a woman, I have to put my initial gut reaction aside and applaud. What I would have given to hear him say something more like, “I wanted the best-qualified director available for this assignment, and the best-qualified director was Anna Forrester.” She was, after all, given the evidence of the spectacular work that made it to screen. Any way you look at it—the performances, the cinematography, the costumes, the lighting, the editing—I just can’t imagine anyone having done a better job.
We’re not to the point that Moore could have said what I’d wanted to hear him say, however, any more than we can pretend pay equity exists or that we live in a post-feminist era. Until we reach a time in which a term like “female gaze” is not only irrelevant but absurd, entertainment will need Moore-like strategy to tell stories authentically. It is, and it will continue to be vitally important that leadership choices are made, conscientiously regarding gender (not to mention race, religion, economic history, sexual identity and orientation, etc.) as a vital component of the eventual script, episode, film, or a franchise. May we one day get to a point that Kathryn Bigelow directing The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty is just as unremarkable as Rob Reiner directing a so-called chick-flick.
Someday, including a detail like Frank calling his wife “Mrs. Frank Randall” and Jamie calling her “Claire Fraser” will seem as obnoxious as something from the mouth of Archie Bunker. That time hasn’t arrived, yet. Without extensive polling, I highly doubt that many male viewers picked up on the nuance. I’m willing to bet that most women did.
Frank sprang a civil ceremony on Claire without prelude (a diversion from the novel picked to pieces by hundreds of my blogging, critiquing predecessors), whereas Jamie insisted upon a proper wedding replete with ring, gown, kirk, priest, and blood vow. Someday, this will seem like cliché and hackneyed writing. For now, it is daring and highly relevant. I venture that most men watching didn’t feel the weight of this with nearly as much gravity as the female viewers.
Each of these examples are as much a credit to Forrester as they are to episode writer Anne Kenney, whose background and talent I expounded upon in my review of The Way Out. Faced once again with multiple story lines to cobble into an hour, the jarring non-linear chronology of the episode is another stroke of brilliance. Leading off with the flashback and smash-cutting to Claire and Jamie’s first kiss does two things. It puts the audience just as off-kilter as our protagonists, primarily. It also indicate’s Frank’s presence in Claire’s mind during her wedding to Jamie without being overbearing. Besides, it lets us see the first kiss twice, once from each participant’s perspective.
Not in the Show (NITS)
There are a lot of notable omissions in the screen adaptation:
- The ring heard ’round the world: I’ll admit that was just as surprised by the change from using Black Brian’s cabochon ruby-set gold band to using one crafted from the random sporran key. To paraphrase the overwrought English slogan, “Keep Calm and Trust Ron.” Besides, any chance to see Rupert and Angus in action is fine by me (betcha didn’t know what a bow or blade were before this show aired, either!). I do love that the MacKenzie men take up their assigned bridesmaid’s responsibilities with so much aplomb, Ned’s plus-one strumpet notwithstanding. This is female writing and direction at work. Did you think that the venue, finery, decor, and reception fare just fell into place on their own? Would that every maid of honor were as eloquent as Murtagh.
- Don’t ask me no questions and I won’t tell you no lies: “We have nothing now between us, save—respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies.” I really hope this line of Jamie’s makes it into a future episode, but I can’t imagine where it’ll fit. After the transformation of Jamie and Claire’s relationship in this episode and 108 Both Sides Now, there’s already more between them than respect. On the other hand…
- …Jamie lies twice in the screen adaptation. Clearly, the key from which Claire’s ring is made has more significance than he lets on. Also, Book Jamie comes right out and admits that part of why he marries her is because he wants her. Screen Jamie only says that he’s done so to keep Claire safe from Randall, a lie by omission.
- Begets and Regrets: We only get Jamie’s meandering lineage stories in a montage. Granted, all of this dialogue was shot and made it to the DVD extras reel, so hardcore fans can still see them brought to life. For the orchestration of the episode, however, I’m completely comfortable with how this passage was presented. In the novel, we needed the exposition. For the show, all we need to know is that Claire’s being brought into Jamie’s confidence, and that they share information about one another than they didn’t have before, becoming more comfortable with one another as a result.
- Sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much: There are a few mentions in the novel that physical touch, namely holding hands, eases the conversation between them along when they’re feeling nervous or distant. I’m chalking this up to showing versus telling. I’m much happier to see the two of them make this connection and see the results.
Not In the Book (NITB)
Beyond the ones I’ve already described or alluded to, there are a number of added phrases and passages worth talking about. Chief among them are the business involving Dougal. For one thing, Dougal doesn’t insist that Jamie “thank him properly” in the novel, nor does he doesn’t warn Jamie about being too eager to return to Claire. Neither does Dougal hit on Claire with the smarmy “sampling other pleasures” line. I did feel like these two inventions were a little overdone. Like, we didn’t really need any further proof that Dougal’s a cad. Rather, I would have preferred to get the aspect of Dougal’s “keep your enemies closer” strategy communicated. Claire knows too much about Dougal’s Jacobite fundraising. Keeping her out of Randall’s hands isn’t just a matter of benevolently protecting her, but of protecting himself, as well. Getting her out of Leoch is as much about self-preservation as it is about goodwill at the expense of the imperialist British occupiers.
Was there anything I forgot to address about this episode? Oh, right…
I think that the national GDP took a hit in the days following the initial airing of this episode, in the same way that worker productivity drops during March Madness and the days leading up to and following the Super Bowl. I wish that someone out there would ballpark the number of hours fans have dedicated to dissecting and kvelling about all the stuff that, let’s face it, we really tuned in to see.
This is my take:
- Round 1-Sex of the Mind: Talk about carnal knowledge. This coupling was about contractual consummation, but it was also about putting theories and suppositions to the test, seeing if reality would life up to the hype. Jamie had only a vague understanding of logistics, a smattering of bad Highlander locker room advice combined with knowledge of barnyard and forest creature procreation. What’s special about how this scene was shot was the utter lack of objectification. Boots, sassy thigh-high and ribbon-gartered hose, shirt, and chemise remain on and intact. What’s more, sustained long and medium camera shots predominate. I’m no expert when it comes to sex scene cinematography, but I do know that, most of the time, they’re fast-cuts of close-ups. Three seconds of sloppy kissing. Three seconds of hips thrusts. Three seconds of snarling male. Three seconds of breathless panting female. Three seconds of jiggling breasts. Some heaving, some moaning—maybe, maybe a gratuitous male rear view, and then… done. In The Wedding, we see splayed legs, fumbling hands, unintentional body crushing, and an awkward afterglow.
- Round 2-Sex of the Body: It’s been reported by several sources that Forrester’s direction to Caitronia Balfe was to whisper something in Sam Heughan’s ear. The genuine look of surprise caught on Jamie’s face just as things really heat up supposedly is a reaction to hearing her say, “let’s fuck.” And then they do. Do they ever.
- Round 3-Sex of the Soul: This time, it’s about union. It’s about a spiritual connection. It’s about confidence, trust, vulnerability, possessing, and surrendering. It’s about abandoning themselves and entering a realm of utter oneness. It’s everything that millions of fans have anticipated ever since they read Chapters 14 and 15, and the reason millions more ran to the store to finally buy their own copies of the novel. It’s the reason the back and pause buttons on remote controls nationwide are plumb worn out.