Birgit Goethals

Birgit Goethals is a main character in the Dutch-language Belgian television series Clan. It was also aired under the title The Out-Laws in the UK.

Birgit Goethals
Birgit Goethals 2.png
Portrayed byRuth Becquart
Appears inClan (known in the UK as The Out-Laws)
Debutepisode 1: "Bloedband" ("Blood Ties")
Year2012

Character creation

In an interview with the actress, she says that she has read books about the topic and has talked with people from the organisation "Rent-an-autist",[1] which organises interviews between autistic people and the general public.

Biography

Early life

Birgit "Bibi" Engelen (née Goethals) is one of the five Goethals sisters. Their parents died when they were young, leaving the eldest sister Eva to raise her younger sisters. Birgit was a skilled crossbow champion, having won multiple national and international competitions.[2] However, she had to give up the crossbow after losing her right eye in a car accident[3] during which Jean-Claude Delcorps was driving,[2] something she has never forgiven him for. Like her sisters, she lives in the fictitious Belgian town Vredegem (roughly translating to "Peaceville"), where she works as a library employee.

Murder plots

The series focuses on how four of the sisters try to kill the fifth sister's husband (Jean-Claude), who is an unbearable prick. Birgit is the first to come up with the idea of murdering Jean-Claude and enlists Eva to help. Eva is initially reluctant but does end up joining because she has some of her own scores to settle with him. The other sisters, Veerle and Rebekka, join in later, each having a unique reason to want to get rid of Jean-Claude.

Autism and personality

Birgit is the most volatile of the sisters and the driving force for many of the murder plots. Scenarist Malin-Sarah Gozin states that Birgit's autism is an advantage for plotting the murder, since she can put in a lot of work and prepare their plans to the smallest details.[4] Birgit puts a lot of research into their murder plots, coming up with novel killing methods and reading many books on topics from physics to poisonous plants to contract killers. Initially, she and Eva came up with the idea of snuffing out Jean-Claude. When Birgit brings up concrete plans to Eva, the latter does not find this a good idea, stating that she was tipsy and just joking when the idea came up. Birgit counters with "I don't make jokes, Eva", however later in the series, she does show a sense of humor and jokes around with her sisters.

Overall she is a successful woman and has established a job and family for herself. The only real sources of conflict between Birgit and her environment are Jean-Claude, who among other things mocks her for being particular about the way her food is arranged on the plate, and the impulsive and bohemian Rebekka.

Birgit often keeps to the background but speaks up when she needs to, often being frank and not afraid to butt heads. Though she has the least problems with her conscience when it comes to doing whatever is necessary to get rid of Jean-Claude, Eva and eventually Veerle and Rebekka do join in on the action.

There are many small nods to her being autistic in the series - such as asking to separate white and black chocolates, gently swaying while reading a book for research or arranging orange slices on her plate, and being visibly upset when Jean-Claude doesn't put sauce in the spot she wants him to.

Her being autistic is mentioned within the series itself (the character is derogatorily referred to as "autist" in episode 1 and 9), and confirmed in interviews by the actress [1] and the scenario-writer [4]

Family

                                  ?━┯━?                                 Hermin━━┯━━Gaston                                       │                                  Delcorps │ Delcorps                                     │                                           │     ┌──────────┬────────────────────┼──────────────────┬───────────┐            │        │          │                    │                  │           │            │    Eva       Veerle━━┯━━Wouter   Birgit━━┯━━Boris    Rebekka    Goedele━━┯━━Jean-Claude   Goethals   Goethals │   Cox    Goethals │ Engelen   Goethals   Goethals │  Delcorps                        │                   │                               │              ┌───────┼───────┐       ┌───┴───┐                           │                               Emilie   Noor   Sander  Ruben   Bjorn                       Bloeme


  • Eva Goethals: eldest sister and matriarch of the family.
  • Veerle Cox (née Goethals): second oldest sister.[5] Veerle has a rather nervous disposition which sometimes conflicts with Birgit's no-nonsense approach to their murder plans.
  • Goedele "Goele" Goethals-Delcorps: third oldest sister.[6] Goedele is married to Jean-Claude, the primary target of the murder plots.
  • Rebekka "Bekka" Goethals: youngest sister. Birgit and Rebekka regularly butt heads throughout the episodes, with Birgit thinking that Rebekka is irresponsible and doesn't take things seriously, and Rebekka believing that Birgit doesn't take her seriously. Although they don't always see eye to eye, Rebekka does defend Birgit when the latter is described as "that half-blind autist you're always shitting on", saying "I won't let my family get insulted."[7]
  • Jean-Claude "De Kloot" Delcorps: brother-in-law. Like every other character, her relationship with Jean-Claude is mutually negative.
  • Boris Engelen: husband. They are the only couple without relationship troubles in the series.
  • Bjorn Engelen: youngest son.
  • Ruben Engelen: eldest son.

International remake

 
Sarah Greene as Bibi Garvey in Bad Sisters
Clan received an Irish remake under the title Bad Sisters on Apple TV+ in 2022. The remade version of Birgit Goethals is called Bibi Garvey, portrayed by Sarah Greene. Though Bad Sisters is a very close adaptation and Bibi retains a lot of the autistic traits seen in original character, she is never said to be autistic. For a comparison between both versions, see here.

Trivia

  • Clan, along with the character of Birgit, were parodied in the Belgian sketch program Tegen de Sterren op (season 3, episode 6). Birgit was portrayed by Clara Cleymans.
  • Her exact full name is inconsistently shown throughout the series. Her last name is generally stated to be "Goethals", like all of her sisters. However Jean-Claude's obituary lists her as Birgit Goethals-Engelen, and the principal of her son's school refers to her as "Mrs. Engelen".

References

External links