‘Outlander’ Mid-Season Premiere: Thoughts on the controversial “spanking scene”

Outlander 2014

Outlander returned for the second half of its first season this past weekend. I was both highly anticipating and dreading it. Why? Because it was going to have that scene.

As a fan of the book series, I knew the spanking scene was coming, and I had hoped that the show would skip over it, since I didn’t really like it in the book and felt like there was no point including it in the show. However, they went with it, and my first reaction was dismay by how comically it was handled. I understand the need to downplay the severity of the act; yet by doing that, it almost felt like it was no big deal. As I watched the rest of the episode, the spanking scene stayed with me and couldn’t leave.

I asked a couple of writers from The Young Folks’ staff for their thoughts as fans of Outlander. You can read them below.

Melissa Berne said:

So, I really didn’t like that Jaime wanted to spank Claire, when she clearly was not into it. They tried to make it seem funny, I feel, but I kept thinking “Oh hell no.”

However, I did appreciate that she hit him back and later on threatened him mid-coitus. Nice touch, Claire. It was a powerful scene because she was against it from the beginning and then set him straight about how to treat her.

Dana Cuadrado said:

“The Reckoning” had a very controversial scene from the eyes of someone in the 21st century. I love this book, subsequently this show, because despite how brutal or unpleasant certain scenes may be, they were never afraid to go there and be as historically accurate as possible. The scene between Claire and Jamie was very difficult to watch, but was necessary to demonstrate how difficult their marriage will be because of the fact that she is not from the same time as him. Jamie and Claire’s relationship in the book is constantly clashing. They fight mainly because they don’t understand each other. The differences in how they act and speak were pointed out several times in this episode, more so than any other. I think that scene between them is meant to really bring it the viewers’ attentions that their marriage is not going to be an easy one because of the differences in their values and ideals.

Claire is an outspoken independent woman of the 20th Century. Jamie is a strong and kind man, who was taught obedience through pain (a scene that was quite difficult to watch in the first half of the season). I can understand why some people would really be put off by the scene of domestic violence, but it is something that occurred in a time when women had zero rights in society and their marriage. I think it was worth touching upon in the show, especially knowing the mindset of Jamie after having been beaten for his wrongdoings for his whole life.

outlander only a woman gif

As fans of the show, our first impulse is to justify the actions in the scene. Yes, this is how women were treated back then. And yes, Claire got back at Jamie for his foolishness. Both are fair points that you can’t dismiss, seeing as the show is trying to be as faithful to history as much as it can. On the other hand, no one can deny the sense of wrongness of Jamie punishing Claire. Knowing his character, it came out of left field. Jamie never was the kind of man to follow the crowd; he did his own thing and has often been punished for it. So why does he now decide to follow this one societal norm? Jamie is clever enough to convince his fellow clansmen to forgive Claire without giving her a beating. I mean, you saw him temporarily mend Colum and Dougal’s relationship. If he can convince those two stubborn men, why couldn’t he talk his way out of beating Claire? My questions are just as aimed at the book as they are to the show.

After watching the episode twice more, I caught a few things that I hadn’t before:

  • I love when Jamie and Claire argue. It’s passionate and riveting. I like that Claire never really apologizes for not listening to Jamie and getting caught by the British. It isn’t until Jamie breaks down that she says she’s sorry. She’s apologizing for making Jamie feel hurt and scared, not because she was caught and almost raped.
  • That was a nice kick to the face, Claire.
  • Jamie isn’t so stubborn that he refuses to learn from his mistakes. After the spanking scene and Claire’s silent treatment, Jamie knows he wronged her. His pledge to never hurt her again is epically swoon-worthy. This is why we love Jamie because he tries his best to rectify his wrongs and be a better person. He empowers Claire in a time where women are made small. We learn that he’s a much more modern man than we initially thought.

I still believe we didn’t need that spanking scene in order to learn about those few things above. Nevertheless, the show did a good job structuring important character/relationship development around it. Now it’s funny to see that Claire and Jamie are more connected (literally) than ever. I’m excited to watch how the rest of the season unfolds for this beautiful couple.

outlander jamie claire reckoning

Outlander is rated TV-MA and airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.

Check out all of our Outlander coverage here. 

What are your thoughts on the spanking scene? Vote in our poll and comment on this post!

Gabrielle is 27 years old and lives in Chicago. She enjoys writing about film, TV, and books, but occasionally writes about music as well. In addition to writing for TheYoungFolks.com, she also the editor-in-chief and a co-founder. In her spare time, she’s either watching more movies and shows or reading more books, while continuously checking Twitter, which she may or may not be addicted to… Feel free to email her your thoughts, ideas and questions.
  • Eris

    Oh stop with the whining about that scene. This show is really true to the book, of course it has to be in it. It was funny in the book as well. And the times were different then, so i can’t understand why this should be a problem. History is something that does not change whether we like it or not.

    • True, but only because it was a “normal” occurrence back then doesn’t mean it was right.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Melanie

        When did writing novels or making movies become about doing everything that is RIGHT?? In this mini-series alone there is rape, killing, child abuse and everything in between but everyone wants to hone in on the adult spanking scene…why? Because it’s a “hot topic” in our time? But this ISN’T in our time… so WHY in God’s name is this an issue? Even if it were… It’s a story. It doesn’t have to be politically correct. It has to have a plot and some eyebrow raisers, it has to have intrigue and stir emotions. So let it stir you, and leave THE STORY and its characters be who they are. You want to write a PC love story in modern times, I say go right ahead. You don’t like to see that they spanked wives in 1745, move on to another story.

      • Melanie

        When did writing novels or making movies become about doing everything that is RIGHT?? In this mini-series alone there is rape, killing, child abuse and everything in between but everyone wants to hone in on the adult spanking scene…why? Because it’s a “hot topic” in our time? But this ISN’T in our time… so WHY in God’s name is this an issue? Even if it were… It’s a story. It doesn’t have to be politically correct. It has to have a plot and some eyebrow raisers, it has to have intrigue and stir emotions. So let it stir you, and leave THE STORY and its characters be who they are. You want to write a PC love story in modern times, I say go right ahead. You don’t like to see that they spanked wives in 1745, move on to another story.

  • Dsrrell

    He had already made it clear that if a man had put the clan in danger by not following orders, he would lose an ear or two to make a statement. Plus.if Jamie hadn’t punished her sufficiently, the head(s) of the clan would certainly do so–publicly, most likely. I would think he would tell her what he was going to do and to wail as loudly as possible because everyone was listening. He has always been her guide to understanding their customs. Not working with her was out of character.

    • That’s a very good point! I definitely could have seen them working together to fool the other men into thinking she was punished.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Weave77

    I don’t believe that it’s possible for me to disagree more with an article.

    First of all, Claire is completely ungrateful and unreasonable in this episode. Jaime, a man who agreed to forsake all other women for life (including his sweetheart back at the castle) simply to protect Claire, gives her a simple and reasonable order… stay put, no matter what. Yes, we the audience understand why she didn’t stay, but no one else does. At any rate, Jaime is forced to risk the life of both him and his friends in order to storm a well-defended British fort and, as he put it, rescue Claire with only an empty pistol and his bare hands. Against all odds, however, he is able to succeed with his suicide mission and prevent Claire from being raped (and probably killed).

    Yet, instead of being grateful for his selfless and heroic efforts, Claire is more preoccupied with shouting down any of Jaime’s attempts to scold her reckless behavior. I could hardly believe that she slapped and cursed Jaime for daring to point out that, because of her selfish disobedience, Clan MacKenzie could face serious repercussions from the British army and that Black Jack Randal has now made it his personal life’s goal to see Jaime dead.

    It gets even worse when Jaime informs Claire that she is going to be spanked. Despite the fact that her actions clearly deserve punishment (he points out that she would be flogged or lose an ear if she were a man), and it is expected of Jaime by the clan to punish his wife, Claire won’t have it. Instead of facing the music (as Jaime has done 3 times already this series, under much more unfair circumstances), she attempts to both escape and hurt Jaime… and ends up kicking him in the face.

    And then, after she is spanked, Claire acts like a sullen child, avoiding Jaime until he apologizes to her(?!) and details to her what exactly she put him through in order to get her back. Only after he swears never to spank her again (something that no man from that culture and time period would ever do, mind you) does she drop her cold attitude towards her husband.

    But what really killed me was how, during their enthusiastic bit of makeup sex, she fucking puts a knife to Jaime’s throat! With the blade practically cutting into his neck, she swears to murder Jaime in cold blood if he ever spanks her again. While you could maybe make the case that Jaime spanking Claire was domestic abuse, her threatening his life with a deadly weapon most certainly is! And, bear in mind, that this is a man who had just saved her from death and rape, at great risk to his own life, despite having no real obligation to do so. And that none of that would have happened if she had just obeyed his order in the first place.

    Quite frankly, I am disgusted with Claire’s character after the last episode. And seeing her loathsome actions being praised in articles such as this makes me more than a little nauseous.

  • Melanie

    When did writing novels or making movies become about doing everything that is RIGHT?? In this mini-series alone there is rape, killing, child abuse and everything in between but everyone wants to hone in on the adult spanking scene…why? Because it’s a “hot topic” in our time? But this ISN’T in our time… so WHY in God’s name is this an issue? Even if it were… It’s a story. It doesn’t have to be politically correct. It has to have a plot and some eyebrow raisers, it has to have intrigue and stir emotions. So let it stir you, and leave THE STORY and its characters be who they are. You want to write a PC love story in modern times, I say go right ahead. You don’t like to see that they spanked wives in 1745, move on to another story.

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