Most people I know are ardent supporters and followers of “Downton Abbey,” The hiatus that exists between film seasons leaves many in a state of melancholy and dejection as they wonder what to watch on a Sunday night. The standards the show sets are so high that run of the mill offerings are dull in comparison.
So I was surprised to read a recent column by Maureen Dowd of the New York Times. She spoke of her immigrant Irish family suffering from discrimination in this country, and being forced to work as house maids and in other low status, low earning jobs. She equates the characters of Downton Abbey with the caste system, elitism, and class snobbery.
All those terrible things to say about my lovely little fantasy show? The one with the pretty costumes of the early 1900s and stylishly finger waved hair styles? The one with good manners at dinner tables and at parties?
After reading daily newspaper stories I need all the escape I can get. One page has a story of war, the next of famine, the following of political scandal, greed, avarice, bull and mendacity (a favorite expression Big Daddy’s in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”).
What is so great about despicable reality? Why is ugly reality a better choice than the intriguing, romanticized world of past British life? Am I doing anyone any harm by indulging in glimpsing gossipy, scandalous intriguing lives of the pre-computerized world.
I know the difference between pretense and reality, but at least the show is honest in its presenting fictional characters. They’re not all heros, and they’re not all honorable. Reality too often means presenting real people committing secret acts of deception and dishonesty.
Too much reality can addle the brain! I don’t want to live my entire life bombarded by horror stories any more than I have to do so now.
Once in a while it‘s a treat to watch a show or movie, or read a book, and park your brain at the door.
Comments on: "FOOLISH FANTASIES?" (36)
I always become rather amused at those who express horror and dismay at all aspects of the old class system. I have known, and known of, those who lived in it at all levels and who were more satisfied with their station in life than most of those today who labour (and I mean it!) under delusions of equality while being entrenched in far more restrictive circumstances than those servants and tradesmen ever suffered. One of the many major differences is that the upper classes then did have some idea of how to behave – which is more than can be said for those of the current era.
You tell ’em, colonist! You expressed my view very well, thank you!
I love Downtown Abbey and my brain is with me while watching it, life is too short to be saddled with the imperfections of our society. Great post! 🙂
Thanks for your comment; I certainly do agree with you.
Definitely been doing a lot more reading lately, thanks to my new tablet!
Oh, those are wonderful; I just downloaded the best seller, “Goldfinch.” Almost everyone I speak to is reading it and loving it. The only thing I don’t like about reading on the tablet is that it doesn’t give the page numbers that coincide with the book.
Enjoy your new toy!
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a well-crafted story. Mine lean more toward movies like “Charade” with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. How many times have I imagined myself in her stylish clothes, uttering the same quips. Enjoy your show, Ronnie. I’ve heard my friends talking about this show and they love it, too.
My favorite reality TV show, and the only thing I really watch, is “Project Runway.” Now, that’s fantasy and ludicrous as my wardrobe consists mainly of Life is Good T-shirts and jeans. 🙂
I’ve never seen Project Runway, but my daughters think it’s terrific. That just means that you are young in your tastes, Judy!
Agreed that we all need a fantastical reprieve from the seriousness of life. I was just commenting to Elisa Ruland yesterday how a sense of humor, I am sure, helps one age well. As for Dowd, we all have our opinions and our perspectives, and our voices are what we get to share, sometimes to provoke others, whether intentionally or not! Aloha, Ronnie!
Aloha, Bela. I usually enjoy Maureen Dowd’s column very much; this is the first time I remember disagreeing with her. Of course the issue is so earth shatteringly important that she has to take care about her future reputation as a journalist…
I love Downton and got hooked last year when I was home recuperating from surgery. It does portray a time when there was snobbery and elitism, but the show is well written, the costumes are amazing and it is fun to fall back into history. It’s not supposed to be a documentary. Sit back, relax and enjoy.
I’ll think of you when we watch it Sunday night, Paprika. Popcorn, anyone?
I enjoy Downton very much and think a little escapism is probably good for us. I also think the show does little to promote elitism, and instead shows the hierarchical structures as injurious even to the landowners. And in fact, it is often members of the downstairs staff who exemplify finer character than those upstairs in all their foolishness. I think I can figure out what is historically accurate and what is not and can think critically enough to distinguish between a fairy tale and a history book. I’d like to read Dowd’s article and see if I can better understand her point. I’ve felt the storyline has been very sensitive to what it meant to be poor, in particularly a poor woman, at that time. Maybe I’ve missed something elemental because I happen to like the downstairs characters the most. 🙂
Thomas is so delicious evil, and Daisy and Mrs Patmore so singleminded in their tasks. I think of all of them, the butler is the character who holds them all to their role in society.
I agree! Too much reality is too much. I love escaping into history and a culture of refinement. They interject some reality though don’t they? Enough to keep us hooked anyway…..
Yes, enough to keep us hooked; and how reassuring that when someone dies it’s really because the actor or actress was offered a better role to play.
Sure, escapism is fine. However, I still can no longer watch this show. First of all, it’s just a soap opera with better scenery. And second, I really can’t tolerate the whole notion of women and men needing to be dressed by their servants. These “finer things in life” were afforded to so very few in that era – sadly, that continues to be the case. I guess I’m the lone negative voice of your commenters so far, but, so be it. I suppose that, if I want escapism, I want real escapism, like The Lord of the Rings.
A thoughtflul response! Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and comment.
I so agree with you Ronnie – I love watching elegance, good manners, beautiful food, architecture, clothes – all the gifts that civilisation has allowed us to develop and enjoy…
The finer things in life are worth treasuring as well as trying to do something about the things that are not so fine!!!
I enjoy the escapism and also the realization that even among the beauty and luxury are characters with major life difficulties and problems.
Great post, Ronnie! I haven’t gotten into Downton Abbey yet, but I often think about how anything we find pleasurable can be placed into a guilt-inducing light. I am now going to go park my brain at the door by watching something on TV (maybe “Shark Tank”).
Guilt-inducing light or GILT- inducing light?
Gilt inducing light sounds like more fun … and shinier!
Yes, but it doesn’t create quite the same meaning…
Nothing wrong with wanting to escape and enjoy a show or two or five! We have to worry so much about being pc all the time in our real lives but we need the time to not have to think and just be. I just started watching DA and although I am a bit lost because I haven’t watched any other season – but I’m loving it!
I agree and love the hour of escape from reality once a week.
Great post. Don’t take tv so seriously– DA is great fun!
Great fun is something we all need more of.
I love Downton Abbey too and watch very little tv – OK, I get my fix of bad news from CNN. The show also illustrates how the class system is showing signs of being broken down ever so slowly and how absurd it can be. Maggie Smith has the best zingers. I have also watched “The Paradise” and “Last Tango in Halifax” to get my British fix. I haven’t visited your blog for some time but I can’t seen to keep up so it is not because I don’t enjoy your posts!
We also enjoyed “The Last Tango in Halifax,” but don’t know anything about “The Paradise.”
I’ll have to look into that show.
Great post, Ronnie…I am also a huge fan of Downton Abbey and enjoy the show for what it is–well created, well-directed and well-acted (are any of those things really even words??? Oh well, I’m sure you know what I mean anyway.) Downton Abbey is one of the very few shows that I miss since I decided to cancel my satellite service, but what I do instead is buy the series on DVD and then can watch it to my heart’s content. I’m impatiently waiting now for Season 4 to be shipped to me in early Feb and when it arrives I’ll schedule a Downton Abbey marathon for a couple of days. (So no spoilers, please, because I’m trying to hide my head in the sand until I get my DVD). Glad to know I’m not alone in rejecting reality television for what it definitely is not–well-created, well-directed and well-acted! Happy 2014.
Hi, Sylvia; it’s good to hear from you again. I hope you are well and going into 2014 with good thoughts. Thank you for commenting. What you’re doing is wonderful, and you don’t have to wait a whole week to watch a new episode. Enjoy!
Totally agree that it is comforting to watch a show where the characters have good taste in dressing as well as excellent table manners. Our Dickens Victorian Village had a Downton Abbey Weekend this year complete with teas and fashion shows of the time. It was well received and will be expanded for next season.
How delightful; will people be dressing the part of Victorian characters?
Our modern, contemporary world, it seems, can’t imagine a story without blatant sex, violence, crime, war, violence, mayhem, and obscene language. Thus we are saddled with this genre. Thankfully there are reruns of oldies on some of the cable channels that are decent enough for family viewing. What ever happened to our sense of decency and morality? I’m no prude, by any means, but I’ve had a belly full of the trash that is forced upon us as “art” these days. (ok, I’m off my soapbox now!) Happy day, Ronnie.
I thing the best way to protest is to refuse to watch those shows and movies. The problem is that they’re not being made for our approval. We are no longer the audience they seek. They’re going after the young people’s money, and those young people seem to like this brand of entertainment.