While Outlander is a Real Winner for Women it Totally Fails Disabled People

Below is an excellent post by CrippledScholar on Outlander’s portrayal of the disabled Laird Colum MacKenzie (The MacKenzie) – here is a small foreword from me:

Yes- I had these exact same feelings, all of the exact same thoughts, when it came to Colum’s disability and portrayal in TV – now I talked myself into the idea that “with current medical technology it’s possible that there aren’t all that many actors/people with bowed legs” but frankly that’s a horrific thought process on my half trying to excuse their use of an actor I KNEW wasn’t disabled (because I’ve seen him in “Not Another Happy Ending” and some other shows/movies). I was still annoyed that they used a non-disabled actor for a disabled role – but I tried to rationalize it- and I shouldn’t have- because there is NO rational reason in this day and age to NOT use a disabled actor to portray a disabled character – there’s only discriminatory excuses. Anything people come up with it is a poor rationalized excuse – but not a legitimate reason – such examples as:
“Oh – he starts out as not disabled so we need to see the transition! So he HAS to be non disabled to portray the first part of the movie!”

Which asserts non-disabled people are totally capable of acting disability having never been disabled but a disabled actor OBVIOUSLY couldn’t fake being abled/well – no matter how often they go about that in their daily lives because they have stuff to do, while also artfully dodging that it’s just crappy screenwriting to excuse using a non-disabled actor for a disabled character and the script could be rewritten neatly enough if any effort was put in.

“Well he has this scene where he gets out of his wheelchair and walks/dances normally.”

Falsely implying and asserting that all disabled people are poor wee lambs that desire CONSTANTLY to be abled people so we should take pity on them – not portraying them as people who might actually be concentrating on dealing with their life as is and finding ways to love/like their life as is and not be constantly comparing themselves to abled people (guess what? Disabled people I know are NOT constantly comparing themselves to abled people in a “Oh woe is me – I wish I was like them.” sort of way – the comparisons I see are “I wish they’d bloody listen to me – they’re ignoring me and making me more disabled by society than I actually am by my disability.”). Stop pressing YOUR narrative onto THEIR story.


Colum MacKenzie complete with CGI bowed legs on able-bodied actor Gary Lewis Colum MacKenzie complete with CGI bowed legs on able-bodied actor Gary Lewis

Outlander is returning to the Starz Network today. It is a popular series based on the novels of Diana Gabaldon. I admit I like the show. I read the books first so of course I cringe where the show deviates from the original.

The show is well made and truly entertaining. It has also been lauded for its complex portrayal of women and female sexuality. These assessments are pretty accurate though I take issue with the casting of the female lead. Jenny Trout describes her like this;

“[Caitriona] Balfe is slender, but her stomach isn’t flat and her breasts are natural. The lack of body hair is a bit disturbing, given the time period, but watching the actors together, the viewer sees two people being intimate with each other, instead of two sculpted dolls switching between acrobatic…

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