Welcome. If you haven’t watched a single episode of Downton Abbey I am here to try and guide you through the madness. Moreso, I am here to try and convince you to join the madness.
For any of you wondering why your social media feeds exploded last night with the (US) premier of season 3 here are a few reasons why people fell in love with the series. And by people I mean me.
*Proceed with joyous hearts indeed, no spoilers ahead*
Downton Abbey is an ensemble cast. The opening credits alone display 18 names. Since the show is based in a large house in the early 1900′s there are endless family members, lady maids, valets, etc etc. This means there is always someone to love, someone to hate, and someone you will love to hate. The show does a nice job of developing unexpected storylines (as well as the usual expected ones) that give insightful glimpses into what motivates each character. It’s the typical literary writing exercise of trap a bunch of people in an elevator and watch shit unravel only instead of an elevator it’s a huge house. And there’s money, class, and pride on the line.
While at times the show has speedy-wit akin to a Gilmore Girls’esque type dialogue, it never feels forced or unnatural. Maybe we’re thrown by their British accents? Either way the writing feels fluid. And it’s fun. Several characters, Maggie Smith’s character especially, rarely disappoint when they open their mouths. Plus, I mean, British accents. Hello.
Downton finds a lot of its tension in the “upstairs v downstairs” storylines. But the stories feel freshly handled since they are set before and after WWI when classism was being tested and shaken. Over the past year or so I’ve read a few articles comparing Downton to the 99% and the United States’ current economic situation. I would look up these articles and link them here, but I’m terrified of coming across any spoilers. So go look them up yourself, chump.
Though heightened, exaggerated, and soap-opera’y at times, Downton gives us contemporaries a glimpse into what life might have been like in that time. For example, did you know there were “servants balls” where the cooks and servants danced with their Lords and Ladies? Me either. Weird, right? And did you know being a lawyer wasn’t the most respectable job to have at that time? And there were people who went all their lives not knowing there was such a thing as a “weekend”? You get to watch how Downton adapts with the timeline of history. Education, people. It can be fun. And sexy.
Despite Downton being on PBS — so no nudity or graphic sexuality — the show is damn sexy. In the same way the moon, when half-concealed by clouds, looks sexier. In the time of Downton everything was more subtle and hidden. It had to be. If you wanted to have sex before marriage you better just do it with your eyes across the dinner table as you sip a tiny glass of wine. But this tension is what makes so many of the stories rich. We currently live in a world where everything is always out in the open all the time. Facebook statuses, twitter, tumblr, and blogs *cough*bark*cough* allow every person to share every thing. Whether you want them to or not. I can tell you all that I once french kissed a boy. In the street. In public. And I’m not worried about social-status-shattering-shame….and I can tell you I took a dump this morning. I picked my nose. I googled “itchy vagina” and went to the store to buy some cream (bet you weren’t expecting to end up here when you started the “sex” category. See what I did there? Sometimes saying less is more mysterious. And sexier).
6) The Jane Austen Effect
Jane Austen is pervasive in our culture. And she has been for a long time. But there are only a finite number of Austen novels. And even though they have been adapted into some fantastically fun modern versions (10 Things I Hate About You, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Clueless ) there are still only a finite number of stories. Downton does what Austen does best: witty social commentary. We are clearly still hungry for anything Austen, and this feels similar enough to satiate us for a while.
7) Pretty pretty
I know some of you couldn’t give a rats ass, but for any of you who enjoy fashion, architecture, or English landscapes: check yourself.
I recently read the quote “Great minds talk ideas, average minds talk events, small minds talk people” (or something like that, my brain is obviously too tiny to remember the quote precisely) and the quote pissed me off since ALL I talk is people. Doesn’t everyone? As humans we are inherently interested in each other. Downton allows us to watch family members, co-workers, lovers, and even dogs, try to live together. Why would we think about ideas when we can have flesh?