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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Downton Ranty

Spoiler warning for Downton Abbey season 6 episodes 4 and 5.

So Tom Branson, Irish revolutionary turned fortunate son, now loves American-style capitalism. BLECH.

Downton Abbey drowns in fantasy-based nostalgia for an aristocracy doomed by historical circumstance, threatened by unions and socialists out to destroy civilization, and ultimately rescued by free-market capitalism. Unlike Upstairs Downstairs, which he shamelessly ripped off and turned on its head, Julian Fellowes has no real sympathy for the lower classes, who walk a razor-thin line between menial employment and starvation; he treats their revolutionary chatter as adolescent ranting, because obviously what everyone really wants is to win the lottery like Tom Branson and get a free ticket to the good life. Fellowes is far more sympathetic to the “hardships” of the aristocrats and the threats to their social status and vast estates; all they need to do is chill on the snobbery and they'll be good peeps. Because while the servants are childishly ranting about Marx, their betters are embracing Jews and Irish revolutionaries. Because, yeah, I bet THAT happened a lot among the aristocracy between the wars.

Downton invites wonder at the splendors of the upper class's vanished lifestyle -- maybe even raises questions about its sustainability -- but stops well short of indignation at the injustice of a system that supports such artful gluttony.  One wonders if Fellowes even sees the irony in Robert Crawley puking blood all over the lavish table and evening wear, which the servants will have to somehow render spotless by morning.

And speaking of irony, here's an interesting parallel to chew on:

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