musings on Downton Abbey

Most of you have heard of a little Masterpiece Classic series called Downton Abbey.  I saw everyone raving about it for a while on Facebook, but in my usual desire to stay behind-the-times, had resisted the temptation to get caught up in a British drama. I wasn’t even curious about it. I amaze myself sometimes.

But then a few weeks ago I was having a little bout with culture stress and decided I needed to turn my brain off for a while. So I did. In one week I watched Season 1 and Season 2. I relished afternoon nap-times and free evenings, just me and the colorful bunch of Downton residents. The days following my Downton ingestion I think I may have said a few words like the Dowager, a few like Mary, and when I was in the kitchen it may have been a little bit like Mrs. Patmore when she’s trying to get dinner on the table.  Needless to say I fell in love with the series as many of you have as well.

I’m going back now and watching the series a little more slowly and chewing on it a bit. As such I’m noticing things I didn’t see when I was solely interested in the plot development–particularly as it pertains to a pair of lovebirds I won’t mention right now. So here are a few musings from a new Downton fan. At this point I should warn you, there are spoilers in this blog post. There. You’ve been warned.

Meal Time Manners – I love that the family dresses up and has dinner together every night. It’s important and expected. Now, I’m not saying I’ll be putting on my black dress every evening (oh wait, black is just for mourning and girls in black don’t get kissed according to the Dowager Countess) but I could probably stand to not look like a Holly the Haggard Housewife, even if I feel like it some days. I also want our kids to know how to behave at the table and not lick their plates and eat mashed potatoes with their fingers. Sometimes I’ll look over and my sons haven’t even touched their forks and we’ve been eating spaghetti. And no offense to the Holly’s of the world, it started with an H.

Aesthetics are Essential- For me, this is definitely true. When my house is in order I feel better and even more productive. When there is an Evererst-sized pile of laundry, dishes covering every inch of counter-space and this house is in a state of disarray, I feel out of sorts. Downton Abbey and everyone in it is expected to look a certain way. Clean, orderly, inviting. The servants particularly have to be conscious of their appearance and their actions because…

More than Just a Servant they are representatives of the family they serve or at least this is what Carson hammers into them day after day. Some certainly see it as a just a job, but for many of the servants they feel the pride of being a part of something bigger than themselves and gain their identity from it. This easily applies to modern life, too. What do I represent to the people around me? When they see me what impressions of America, motherhood, Christianity, ect, do I leave people with? Scary thought.

People Need to Feel Useful Season 2 brought this truth out. This particularly applied to the women of Downton who rolled up their sleeves during the war and found out there was more to life than tea-time and fancy gowns. Others were left struggling to understand their place in a changing world–bless Lord Grantham’s heart! Even gentlemen need to feel a sense of purpose in their day-to-day lives, even if it is just managing a grandiose estate, having a weird, albeit brief liaison with a maid, and walking your dog.

British Love is Alive and Well I’m an American and I’ve always been fascinated by Britain like so many other ladies I know. And I confess I do wonder whether or not Brits find us at all interesting or if it is still a bit like Cora’s relationship with the Dowager Countess, who clearly thinks Americans far inferior, even though Cora has the money. Here’s a quote to the point: Cora (the American daughter-in-law) “I might send Mary over to visit my aunt. She could get to know New York.” The Dowager (played by Maggie Smith says) “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”

So there you have it. Some of my observations. Feel free to leave your own below or let me know who your favorite character is… Mine’s Lady Mary with all her good and bad points she has tremendous to potential to be great or tragic. Ah, so long to wait until Season 3!