Good news for those suffering from a severe case of "Droughtlander"! Two more names have been added to the cast of Outlander Season Three: Charlie Hiett and Gary Young.
Hiett will be playing Thomas Leonard, a lieutenant turned captain who finds himself in charge of a navy ship called The Porpoise. The young actor said he was "delighted and excited to be a part of the show" on his Twitter. See if you can spot him in the trailer for The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder at Road Hill House:
The announcement of Gary Young's character, on the other hand, has been met with mixed reception. His character in the books has quite the reputation, and for all the wrong reasons— so much so that fans were predicting (and at times, hoping) that he would be left out of #Outlander Season Three entirely. So what's all the fuss about?
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Meet Mr. Willoughby
Gary Young will be playing a Chinese character by the name of Yi Tien Cho— or as Jamie renames him, "Mr. Willoughby". Jamie encounters the homeless man living on the docks, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. He maintains a consistent presence throughout Voyager, the novel Season Three will be based on. However, fans of the show have suggested that the show would be far better off without his presence.
Author Diana Gabaldon has been criticized for more than a few details from her Outlander series, but Voyager has to be the one novel that's generated the most controversy. The book has been called racist due to its depiction of ethnic characters, and Mr. Willoughby is one of them.
It's not so much Mr. Willoughby's lifestlye that's drawn criticism — he sleeps on the docks and steals food to survive — but the depiction of his ethnicity. His dialog in the books is written with a heavy, clichéd accent, and Claire frequently refers to him as a "Chinaman"— a term that is now considered a slur.
Furthermore, he's a raging alcoholic and sexual deviant, and is shamed for his notorious foot fetish. He also despises white people, and makes little effort to hide that fact.
A Problematic Purpose
Considering Voyager was written almost 25 years ago, it seems strange that the show writers would want to include such a questionable (not to mention offensive) character. Does the show really want to be known for what could be interpreted as a racially insensitive caricature?
His character doesn't exactly play a huge role in the narrative, either. Gabaldon has stated in the past that she wrote his character into the book so she could have a reason to include acupuncture, which cures Jamie's seasickness— Mr. Willoughby is a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. To be frank, it seems like a fairly poor reason to invent such a cringe-worthy stereotype of a character.
Racist, Or Just Historically Accurate?
Of course, it mustn't be forgotten that Outlander is, at its core, a historical drama. It's set in the 1800s, a time when table manners were considered far more important than political correctness. The way Mr. Willoughby is perceived and treated by his Scottish neighbors is incredibly telling of a rather xenophobic time in Scotland's past— and in that sense, a fairly accurate depiction of history.
But there's a fine line between painting a clear picture of a specific time in Western culture, and being flat-out culturally insensitive. Could his character have not been included without the embarrassing accent, incredibly stunted height and sexual depravity?
What Does This Mean For The Show?
To be fair, Outlander has never shied away from showing the darkest depths of its characters, flaws and all. Angus, one of the show's most iconic characters and Claire's close friend, never shied away from reminding us of just how crass he could be.
We're only up to Season Three, but already Outlander has made a controversial mark on TV. The show divided audiences over its depiction of domestic abuse when Jamie punished Claire for disobeying him by whipping her with a belt, as well as its graphic rape scenes.
Mr. Willoughby's character could go two ways. If portrayed in a similar manner to the novel's original character, there's no doubt going to be an uproar, and potentially a drop in viewers. After all, modern TV audiences aren't too fond of racial stereotypes.
On the other hand, a change of direction from the books might just be what the show needs to restore faith amongst both fans and naysayers. There's no telling yet which way the show will head, but let's keep our fingers crossed that the producers make the right choice.
What do you think about the inclusion of Mr Willoughby in Season Three of Outlander?