Downton Mania

January 12, 2013

I do not share the current mania for Downton Abbey. Wonderfully produced and acted it remains as much an upper class soap opera as its predecessor, Upstairs Downstairs. And further for me it represents the world of privilege into which my parents were not born, but from which they and their parents suffered. A twisted and deplorable world of class distinction and snobbery only exceeded in bizarre and revolting effects by the Indian caste system. I suppose the series might illustrate some of these social injustices clearly, but the overall impression is of a somewhat desirable gilded age. Gilded for a few, indeed, a very few. And there is resonance with some analyses of current dispositions of wealth and favor in our own time, here in the land of the free. The flight of wealth upwards in the last twenty years shows a less than favorable adherence to the ideals of Thomas Paine, our illustrious Founding Fathers, and more of an utter indifference to anyone but ones self. Why, there is even a magazine called, Self! Sure, it is less about money than about self-esteem, dieting and better sex; as most glossy mags are; but what the name implies is really rather sad. And did I say soap opera? Yes, Downton Abbey is a soap opera. Very good for Public Broadcasting, an institution I support fervently, and for this reason I ask you to watch it with some care and acknowledgement of the real history of the times, support your local public broadcasting station, but don’t ask me to watch it with you.

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