Starz’s new fantasy series “Outlander” is pretty popular with a lot of mums. Not only have we heard that anecdotally from those around us, but Zap2it even referred to it in April as “‘Game of Thrones’ for the soccer mums.”
So is it true? According to ratings statistics, there’s some support for the theory.
“Outlander” is watched predominately by women. According to Nielsen numbers, 64% more women than men watch the epic period drama. Drilling down further, you’ll find an average 2.5 million women are watching the current season. One million of them belong to the older-skewing 25-54 year old demographic — which can be viewed as one indicator for the mum demographic.
Why are women flocking to watch the romantic adventures of a woman sent back in time and forced to marry a man she barely knows?
1.) Mums read the books and became hooked.
Many of the series’ fans started with the book series written by Diana Gabaldon. Spanning eight novels released between 1991 and 2014, the “Outlander” world has expanded to include short stories, a graphic novel, and a musical album. And Gabaldon is writing a ninth book for the series.
“It’s the history. It’s the story itself and the romance at the heart of it and it’s just these characters,” mum and “Outlander” watcher, Karen Mitchell, 60, told BI. “It’s the whole package. I’m an avid reader and I’ve read so many bad books in my life. This is not it. This is a book series that can really engage readers on so many levels.”
Mitchell, who lives near Portland, Oregon, said there was a fear for her and within the books’ fandom that Starz would make “horrible” casting choices. “Right with the first episode, even before, everyone became very happy with the way things were going,” she said.
Conversely, Mitchell’s daughter is also a fan of the TV series, but that’s where she discovered the story. She’s now going back to read the books.
A grandmother now, Texas native Connie Sandlin, 64, also read the books first and told BI she’s very happy with what Starz did with the series and is prone to say, “If it’s OK with Diana, it’s OK with me.”
2.) Mums like the characters’ family values.
Sandlin appreciates what the main characters Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jaime (Sam Heughan) stand for.
“They’re good examples of the real values we should have: loyalty and being honest, standing up for your family, making sure your children are well cared for to the best of your ability. As a mother, that all appeals to me,” she said.
3.) Women find inspiration in Claire and Jaime’s marriage.
“I like watching these two central characters,” Mitchell said. “Jamie and Claire navigate the rocky shores of marriage at different places in their lives. All of us bring our own lives to the books and it’s like watching, if you will, our lives in Jamie and Claire’s. We learn something about marriage from them.”
Sandlin found herself in a unique position in which she pulled inspiration from the couple.
“I started my life over again seven years ago with my husband when we moved to Costa Rica,” she said. “I learned from Jamie and Claire about taking risks and that wherever we were, we were home with each other.”
4.) Mums appreciate the show’s female point of view.
Aside from rare exceptions in which another character narrates an episode, “Outlander” is told primarily from Claire’s point of view.
“One of the reasons that female viewers are so drawn to the show is because you’re getting to see things the way a woman would see them,” Mitchell pointed out.
That’s not only a gesture toward Gabaldon’s books, but also a reflection of who’s behind the camera on the Starz series.
“The presence of females in the writers room, female executive producers, and the fact that [executive producer] Ron D. Moore is so attentive to what women might be thinking, how women might be viewing it, what a strong woman looks like, how a strong woman sounds and that women at any age can have full lives,” Mitchell said.
5.) But, of course, Sam Heughan as Jamie doesn’t hurt.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Sandlin of the casting. “I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role of Jamie other than Sam Heughan. He has the right body type and a kind nature.”
Mitchell agreed. “Obviously, Sam’s looks have drawn a lot of people to the show. The fact that he’s an honestly decent, nice man really makes it a much worthwhile pursuit to watch.”
“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
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