Time Traveler's Wife Creator Responds to Accusations That Storyline Promotes Grooming

The new HBO adaptation of The Time Traveler's Wife, starring Theo James and Rose Leslie, is catching heat for a particular plot element. See how the show's creator responded.

By Daniel Trainor May 13, 2022 11:13 PMTags
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The Time Traveler's Wife is dealing with some present-day criticism. 

Theo James and Rose Leslie star in the new HBO Max adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 novel about Henry (James), a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unpredictably and his wife Clare (Leslie) who is forced to adapt to life while he's gone. 

At certain points of the story Henry travels to the past and spends time with Clare as a child, raising red flags that he groomed her to be his wife. Grooming is the act of building emotional trust and connection with someone in order to later take advantage of the person, often in exploitative and abusive ways.

Critics have taken issue with the plot point. The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Meyer wrote in her review: "With its Twilight-level trite dialogue and worldview, lack of adventures and alleged love story that is more like a grooming story."

RogerEbert.com's Nandini Balial agreed, writing: "the pair strike up what the series would like to call a friendship, but I prefer to think of it as straight-up grooming. From ages 6 to 18, [Clare], in her own words, shapes her libido around Henry."

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But the show's co-creator Steven Moffat says naysayers are missing the entire point.

"That's not what the story is in the book or the film or the TV show. He's married to her," Moffat told TVLine. "He meets her as an adult, he falls in love with her, he gets married to her and then he's flung back in time, through no fault of his own, and is confronted with the childhood version of the woman he already loves. Even more so in the TV show version, he absolutely makes it clear that he's just a friend."

In the book, Henry visits Clare when she is just six years old.

Macall B. Polay/HBO

Moffatt argues that Henry is a responsible man who has "tremendously strict rules" about how he interacts with Clare when he travels back in time. In fact, he says it's Clare who has largest impact on the trajectory of their relationship.

"If one of them changes the other, Clare changes Henry," he said. "Clare is exactly the same person as a little girl as she is when you see her in her seventies. Henry flows around Clare like a river around a rock. He makes himself the man she wants him to be because he loves her."

The Time Traveler's Wife was previously adapted into a 2009 feature film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.

The latest adaptation of the The Time Traveler's Wife premieres May 15 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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