The ‘Outsiders’ Farrell Clan Features Complex Gender Roles That Are Both Progressive & Limiting, According To The Cast & Creators
The mythos of WGN America's newest show might remind you of Westeros, but the female roles will not — in the best way. The women of the Farrell clan on Outsiders , who live off the grid in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, are not swept to the side, and provide an interesting reflection of modern society in terms of gender roles.
"When we begin the series [the Farrell clan is] a matriarchy," says Gillian Alexy, who plays G'winveer Farrell. "We have Lady Ray is our leader, so to speak, there's a female in that prime position. We all have our roles within the tribe, just in terms of our survival." G'win has interesting, complicated relationships with both Asa and Lil' Foster that don't necessarily have to do with gender. Plus, Lady Ray is one cool older lady. She's right up there with Lady Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones and the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey, in my book.
Series creator Peter Mattei and executive producer Peter Tolan see the women in the tribe in slightly different ways that I think are both important. "Clearly a woman in power is something that they're comfortable with and happy with," Mattei says. "G'win, who's our primary younger sort of female character, provides a huge service. She's, in effect, the doctor for the family — and I think we originally conceived her as the best hunter of the family too. So I think everybody has multiple jobs. Nobody does one thing. There's no such thing as inequality of power between the sexes on the mountain."
"... Lady Ray is in power, but the men get all the attention," counters Tolan. "They're the loudest ones. They're the meanest ones. They still have all the power. But in my experience, a lot of places where I've traveled, the men seem to have a lot of power but behind the scenes the women are running things and I think that's kind of the way it is." He also describes G’Winveer as "probably the strongest character in the Farrells in terms of her personal integrity and her belief in their society and in their ways."
The concept of “power behind the throne" is certainly an interesting one, and a trope that has existed for a very long time. While it’s not an ideal situation for someone who actually wants to be in power, and can be interpreted as a harmful stereotype about women being manipulative, in situations like this, it can be a way for women to survive and have a serious impact in their community. I find it very interesting that the same clan can be perceived in many ways by two of the series’ writers; it suggests a complex dynamic for the Farrells. Perhaps power is relative in this world.
So, Outsiders presents a society in which some things are better than our own (maybe patriarchy isn't a natural instinct, think about that) while other things are archaic in their way. WIth modern culture removed, Outsiders definitely gives you a lot to think about in terms of gender roles.
Images: WGN America (2)