Why I Don’t Want To Watch Wentworth

Wentworth, Wentworth, Wentworth.  That’s all anyone in the Outlander world has been talking about for weeks.  Wentworth and how no one wants to see it.  Or almost no one.  A reader corrected me.  Diana Gabaldon wants to see it.  I can see why as it’s a major part of her life’s work.  But almost no one else I hear from wants to see it.

So the question is why.  For myself, I can say that I don’t like to watch violence.  I pass up most TV shows and movies that portray acts of torture or violence as it is not entertainment for me.   And, as we know, there’s going to be a lot of both in the next episode.  The exception for me, when it comes to watching violence might be a movie like “Die Hard” which is more cartoon than legitimate film.  I’ve seen it more times than I care to admit because my husband and son watch it whenever it comes on the TV.  When the bad guy falls to his death, everyone cheers including me.  But we cheer because he is pure evil with no redeeming qualities and it’s so obviously not real.

In the case of Outlander, Jamie Fraser, is a man we’ve come to know and love.  To see someone we love become a victim of heinous acts of torture and violence is very, very hard.  Diana Gabaldon has created a character so rich, moral, good and strong that to see these things happen to him is almost beyond what most people can bear.  Yes, it is a television show and most of us know it’s not real, it’s make believe, it’s acting.  But the thing is, it seems real.  Sam Heughan brings such a pure, subtle and unflinching  portrayal to the screen that it seems real. The acting, writing, casting, costumes, sets, everything is so far above the level of what we normally see on the screen, that it has reached many of the audience at their core.

Outlander is setting the bar very high and making history while doing so.  This past week’s episode showed a character, Jenny, expressing her breast milk, a very natural act, as she had to leave her newborn baby a few days after she was born. I don’t ever recall seeing a female character’s breasts on screen for anything other than a sexual or violent reason.  To see breasts shown that way is so remarkable that a cable network in Canada edited out the scene much to everyone’s chagrin.  That alone is the only thing about Outlander that makes me laugh this week and is a topic for another blog, but it’s history-making story lines such as this that make it seem much more real.

The female protagonist, Claire, is also unlike any female we’ve seen portrayed in books or films.  Yes we’ve seen characters with some of her attributes, but I don’t believe we’ve seen one character embody them all.  She is intelligent, strong and brave.  She does not alter her actions or feelings for a man and yet she is feminine and beautiful. She has an unflinching moral compass, she’s a healer and she is always true to herself and her beliefs even though this often places her in danger.  And Caitriona Balfe who portrays her does so to the degree that the audience feels they are watching a person’s life unfold, not a character on film.  How often has that ever happened on the screen?

At the risk of bringing the wrath of hell raining down, another thought occurred to me.  Many Outlander fans are women and many of the book readers are women of at least 40 years of age who’ve been waiting a long time to see a film version of their favorite book.  Women of this age are not known for watching violence. Many of our husbands do, as well as our sons, but we don’t.  Most of us are the backbones of our families, nurturers who put others needs before our own. Those kinds of people don’t spend a lot of time watching violence for entertainment. And speaking of women over 40, that’s also a blog for another day as I’ve got a lot to say about the Outlander ‘granny’ comments and what it says about the commenter.

When it comes to the Outlander book series, I’m a self-professed ‘skim and cringer’.  I’ve always blurred my eyes and skimmed the scary parts for several lines and paragraphs and then focused back in when it was over.  You really can’t do that with a visual medium.  The most you can do is mute the TV during the scary parts and watch with a remote in your hand so you can mute when it gets horrible.  The sad thing is, it will get horrible, it will get terrible and I don’t want to see it.  Whether I watch the Wentworth episode remains to be seen, I still haven’t made up my mind, but one thing I do know. I won’t be writing a hilarious, zany re-cap about it.

Post Script: So many comments I’ve received are from people worried about the ratings.  The majority of my work life was spent in television so I know how the system works. What I’m addressing here are my personal feelings for and my tolerance of violence and torture.  Additionally, I know that these are brilliant actors and not watching is in my opinion not disrespecting them.



  • Glenda
    Posted 0Likes

    I can certainly understand those who wish to not see this upcoming episode, however, I urge everyone to at least have their TV tuned in during the airing of the episode, so the ratings stay up. I intend to watch it, as things of this nature don’t “get to me,” as it does for some and because Diana has seen it and commented on how well they handled this part of the story. Probably won’t be one that I’ll watch over and over again, however! One thing that I’ve learned after having watched the TV version of Outlander is to not go in watching the episode with any expectations. The production team has done a wonderful job at adapting book to screen and yet, surprising the readers of the books by changing things up a bit, which personally, I’ve really loved. So, I can guess what they may do, but am trying not to do that. So, come Saturday, I’ll have an extra shot or two of whiskey and sit back and enjoy it, if that is the right word to use. Again, keep the TV tuned in at least and if for no other reason, watch it to witness Sam and Tobias giving us amazing and brave performances.

  • szoomski
    Posted 0Likes

    Great article! I too am dreading it, because I know how real it will be! Nothing Ron D.Moore has done in this show has not been as real as possible! Plus the actors will make it more so. But, I read all of the scenes in the book, and felt all of the pain. I am with the characters through thick and thin! But I won’t like it. BTW thanks forbthecrestbof your remarks. Fondly, Granny (I ain’t dead yet) Norma D

  • szoomski
    Posted 0Likes

    Fat fingers : Thanks for the rest of your remarks!

  • dot65jean
    Posted 0Likes

    Very well said, my friend (and I do consider you that after the many posts I have read of yours)! I just watched another clip from the episode coming up this week. I cried even at that! The brutality, torture and sheer evil that we are about to see, not only in our mind’s eye (as we do when reading it) but to actually see is going to take every ounce of courage in the 67-year-old mind!!!! I cannot normally watch brutality to animals or human beings. I just cannot — never have been able to watch films of that nature. This is even more horrendous because I know that the rebellion did happen in Scotland — that is a fact! I know they were treated brutally after the rebellion and that is a fact! It is doubly hard to accept seeing it, because it actually probably did happen to some Scottish men in real life. God forgive us that we have become so accustomed to this form of “entertainment” that young people today think nothing of scenes like this in today’s entertainment! I shall be NEEDING your brilliant commentary after this weekend’s episode, my friend!

  • Glory Wipfli
    Posted 0Likes

    I am totally with you. I want to see it and support what I know they worked so hard on. It can’t really have been that easy for them to do this. (could it????) I know Sam looked so very exhausted in the photos at the end-of-the-season cast celebration last fall. He looked kind of like death warmed over to me. It was alarming. Maybe he was just drunk. I know actors live for scenes they can “dig their teeth into”. This is surely one of those.
    I just don’t watch torture scenes. I can’t get them out of my mind for years and years and years. I am not sure what I am gonna do. Maybe watch it with a cushion like Cait said and the remote to mute. I am not sure if whisky would help. I think for me being more clear and centered might work better.
    Out of respect for all their amazing ground-breaking work I am gonna try to watch it. I want to see how Clare gets in and I am wondering if there will be cattle and wolves. Don’t know how they could do that but I have been amazed by their creativity and genius. I am glad a woman wrote it and/or directed it.
    I am going camping far from electricity this weekend so I will be able to read how bad it was for sensitive people to watch. I know the men in my life have NO problem with stuff like this. Really glad you wrote about this subject Melissa. I have been staying out of the fray online. Another thought, I want to see Rupert and Angus and Willie too. Have been missing those Highlander boys.

  • OSuzyQuilts
    Posted 0Likes

    I too have read the books and know the potential of what will be aired this Saturday. I don’t like violence or violent films either, not too many war movies for me, don’t even think about watching gruesome horror flicks. I never thought about how awful it may be until I read your post. I’ll watch, but may have that pillow or quilt in hand to cover my eyes with?

    I never thought about Jenny’s scene expressing milk as not really ever having been done before, but it probably hasn’t. It was done well, too. But then breastfeeding was my bag, so the nudity part of it never really occurred to me, plus we saw her dress ripped before.

    I should warn my daughter and friends that are now watching the show. Wonder if they’ll have a warning before?

  • Glory Wipfli
    Posted 0Likes

    PS Melissa ~ I really liked what you said about women being the backbone of their families and the nurturers….and that those type of people, the Life Carriers, don’t usually watch violent movies, TV, etc. I was thankful to read that. I don’t know many women over 40 who enjoy violence. But I don’t know if my circle of women is “the norm”. The younger ones are more hardened to it it seems. I just felt like I was being a wimp. A wimp is the last thing anyone would say about me. I am a strong woman but sensitive to acts of violence. I love Diana’s writings so much. And I know violence is a part of life in many parts of the world. I am thankful not so much in mine. What dot65jean said above about realizing that men in Scotland were brutalized by the English maybe just like this….remember in DIA the execution specialists for hanging “traitors” ? These books have made me reflect on so many things my ancestors and conquered people the world over have suffered. What a writer Diana is. So thankful to her for these characters I have come to love.Thanks for your great observations Melissa. xo

  • Bonnie Mc
    Posted 0Likes

    I will not watch for the very reasons you mentioned. I cannot knowingly go into any movie/television show with overt violence and torture. I also skimmed through those parts in the books. I will check the comments, but won’t watch it. I’m sorry to miss the work of our dear actors but no…not this.

  • jetric
    Posted 0Likes

    Well-said, Melissa. So many ways to approach this. I generally do not watch violence either. Over the years certain scenes from movies, TV and books have traumatized me and/or I’ve been haunted by them long after the experience. Some scenes I’ve actually blocked out; I am unable to recall what happened during some particularly grotesque acts of cruelty or torture. In the case of Outlander, although none of the characters are real people their stories have touched me in a genuine way. I’m not the kind of person who can say “it’s only a movie” because the feelings that movies, etc., elicit are real—fear, sadness, melancholy, horror, etc. And I feel them intensely. That being said I’m still going to try to watch this week’s Outlander. I’m on this journey for the long haul and by watching I feel like I’m honoring the plight of these characters I’ve come to love. Although I don’t know if I’ll make it through without breaking… Jacqueline

  • rynawolfe
    Posted 0Likes

    I totally respect all who chose not to watch this episode. Like suggested above….I hope you will have the TV on with the volume off and in another room so it counts towards the numbers. Maybe you can help with the live tweeting to try and trend the show and give STARZ more reasons to keep it going. I myself can’t see the show till Sunday’s (living on a boat I have to rely on someone to record for me and get it to me) – but I have been doing the live tweets to try and trend.

    A thought – most of the comments here seem to be focused on the negative, the pain and torture. Not Jamie’s sacrifice in doing this to keep Claire out of harms way or his steadfastness in the face of pure evil. Jamie would not have become the man we all so greatly admire without the forge of Black Jack. It sucks – but it’s true. The best and truest metals are refined in the hottest fires.

    • Glenda
      Posted 0Likes

      Good point ryanwolfe! I totally agree that the story of Jamie & Claire’s love for each other / their partnership that is formed, really begins at this dark place. The beautiful story would not be what it is without this moment in the book. Looking forward to seeing what Ron and his team have created and especially, looking forward to Tobias, Sam and Cait’s performances. Emmy worthy, I have no doubt!

  • Auntie Lamb
    Posted 0Likes

    I will be watching with my family (husband and 18-year-old fraternal twins). We agreed that if we could handle the sex scenes together we will try to work through the violence and perversity. Not that I don’t expect it to be difficult.

    One thing I will NOT like, though, is any attempt to eroticize the violence. I know for both of the male characters this is an aspect of the torture (going by what Jamie says in the book); but I fear that TV — even in the hands of a very good creative team — is not a medium that would do very well with showing the subtle reasons behind the differences between Jamie’s and BJR’s responses to the violence. I say that because I profoundly believe that rape is not an erotic act, and any depiction of it must avoid the least suggestion that the rapist and victim are having romantic sex, even though both rapist and victim may have erotic and/or unavoidable physical reactions to the rape.

    Also, I have already read disturbing anticipatory comments from some people which blame Jamie for his own rape, saying that he should have “outfought” or “outwitted” BJR, thus avoiding the rape. Really? We’re back to blaming the victim, which I cannot abide. ANY hint on the part of so-called fans that this violence is somehow Jamie’s fault is utterly repellant to me for what it says about societal attitudes towards actual rape victims, both male and female. That will bother me longer than any fallout from what might be shown on-screen.

    As to the non-sexual violence (if it’s even possible to distinguish the two in that way): We will grit our teeth and try to get through it. The foreknowledge of the specifics (hand, branding, beating, etc.) may help a bit.

    Like a lot of people, I have thought about the worst things I have ever seen on screen (small and large) in thinking about what’s to come. There’s been a lot of terrible stuff, and granted I have never seen any of the Al Qaeda/Isis actual murder/massacre/beheading videos; but the worst thing I have ever seen on TV (in that it can keep me up nights) was the actual euthanizing of a healthy dog, done by the San Francisco public television station back in the 1970’s, as part of a documentary meant to inspire people to neuter their pets. The video resulted in a MASSIVE revolt against the station by subscribers (including me); but the city of San Fran now leads the nation in no-kill shelters. Why the real death of a dog bothers me more than actual war, crime, natural disasters, or fictional violence says more about me than anyone/anything else, I guess.

    Lastly, if you want someone to join you, pitchfork raised, to do battle against those snarky, smug, not-funny, and totally-repulsive “Granny”-bashers: I AM SO YOUR GIRL!! I have despised these loathsome creatures for ages now; and I’ll enlist in any army that’s out to take ’em out! You go, Melissa!!


  • Susan Neal
    Posted 0Likes

    I am a huge Outlander fan, but like Melissa will not watch the last two episodes. I agree with her and others that the torture in the book was hard enough to take. I understand the necessity of including what transpired at Wentworth prison as it illustrates the sacrifice both Jamie and Claire make because of their great love for one another. From the reviews I’ve read, however, the show has taken the Wentworth scene a step further than the book, making it not only lengthy but even more graphic and violent. I’d argue that this was unnecessary as we’ve been given a very clear picture of Black Jack, so flashes of the prison scene would have done the trick just as well. At any rate, I know that if I were to see it I’d never be able to get it out of my mind. I am truly sad that I won’t be able to enjoy the end of this series. I guess I’ll just have to wait until next year. Let’s hope the creative team won’t feel it necessary to revisit the scenes too much in Dragonfly In Amber! Thanks, Melissa, for speaking up.

    • Linda Smith
      Posted 0Likes

      Since I’m responding more than one year after you wrote, you may not see this, but I just want to express my agreement with you about BJR’s torture and rape scenes of Jamie, which went on for, including flashbacks, 3 episodes. This was gratuitous in my estimation, and I think there is a disconnect between Hollywood and viewers, especially older viewers like me. We didn’t need to see these brutal very sexual scenes played in 3 episodes to get the point that Black Jack is a sadistic, twisted, evil man. And that is why I don’t care to see much of Tobias Menzies in Season 3, in spite of my recognition that he is a fine actor.for me, Outlander is a love story between Claire and Jamie stretching over 50 years, a marvelous achievement of author Diana Gabaldon and magnificent acting abilities of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.

      • Thank you for responding. I realize that I, personally, have a low threshold for torture and violence that most others can tolerate. Having said that and not because Tobias is a brilliant actor in my opinion, I actually do want to see Frank in future eps. The memory of him haunts Claire and influences her for the rest of her life. That’s not to say I don’t want to see Jamie & Claire together because I do. I adored the Ep Diana G wrote. She very brilliantly tossed in humor and remarks between them that signaled the depth of their relationship.

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