Skip to main content

The Empathetic Upper Crust




Tonight marks the (American) return of the hit British television series Downton Abbey. For the uninitiated, the show takes place in England during the early twentieth century, when noblemen were, well, noble, and servants ran vast estates and were, for the most part, content with their lot in life. Or so the story goes. Actor and Academy Award winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes is the creative force behind Downtown Abbey, and writes with an empathetic flair for the human heart. It is this empathy that has, in my opinion at least, made the conservative Fellowes' production such a big hit, on both sides of the pond.

Irin Carmon of Slate.com is challenging this notion, wanting an answer to the question of "Why Liberals Love Downton Abbey." The piece struck me for a few reasons. For one, it picks up on the aforementioned stream of empathy that seems to embody the upper class of Abbey. For another, it doesn't shy away from asking why we (at least we as Americans, whose nation is founded upon the throwing-off of the British aristocratic shackles) are such suckers for this stuff. Because what is likely an undercurrent to Carmon's piece (and even my own thoughts) is that the conservative Fellowes' portrayal of the upper crust is, very probably, rose-coloured.

For an encapsulation of what drives Julian Fellowes' view of the British aristocracy that he crafts so lovingly in Downton Abbey, one need look no further than what he told the Guardian publication recently:

”At the risk of sounding sentimental, I believe the monarchy stands for a fairness that we like to think represents us. I hope ‘Downton’ has that kind of decency about it.”

So there you have it. The "decency" of which Fellowes speaks is brought to the fore during a scene in the first season when Matthew Crawley (heir apparent to the Downton estate) shows some lethargy at embracing the notion of being waited-on by servants, and remarks on how not all of the staff is necessary, and some should be let go. This makes the Earl of Grantham bristle, and fire back with (and I'm paraphrasing here) how there is a duty for the overseers/nobility to keep the lower class/servants employed. What would the downstairs people do if they were suddenly without jobs? How deep and far-ranging would the cuts go? At the end of the speech, Matthew is rather shamed into agreement.

If only real life worked in such a way. It is an unfortunate reality that those at the top tend to make decisions based on financial savings and gain first, and people second. One wonders if it has ever been different? And this drives at the heart of Carmon's piece, that so many of us (perhaps not just liberals and Occupiers) feel disdain and discouragement at what is perceived as our abandonment by the upper crust, the power-holders, the 1% if you will.

Perhaps this is part of the inviting charm and comfort of Downton Abbey? Fellowes' distorted decency aside, the show provides us with a reassuring fantasy that people -- regardless of how much money and how many titles they may have --- are inherently good. That they may not be perfect, but that they will always look out for the lesser among us. That they will not cut some of us loose, simply because it financially attractive to do so. This is, of course, fantasy. The real world doesn't work in such a way, and likely never did. But television isn't the real world. And that's what makes Downton Abbey such wonderful escapist fare.

Comments

  1. You have done a great job by sharing this informative post. I would like to appreciate your good work and also would like to encourage you to keep it up.
    php web development

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

Third Death

My father has had three funerals. The third (though perhaps not final) one, was last night.
In reality, Lewis died in 1997. Cancer. Aged 52. He had a real funeral. I was there. The next two funerals occurred only in my dreams, yet they seemed real at the time, and their impact during the waking hours was keenly felt.
You see, during the intervening nineteen years, Lewis has come back to life in my dreams, many times. It is more than simply having a dream about him. During these nighttime images, it is noted that Lewis shouldn't be there, that he died of cancer and is resting six feet under. How, then, could he be alive and, seemingly, healthy?

Thoughts on an Election

Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.
Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.