London - The Anti-Snobbery of ´Downton Abbey´ The creator of the hit television series on class and comfort in our increasingly uncertain times. Julian Fellowes, the creator and writer of "Downton Abbey," doesn´t take long to say what he thinks is the message of his smash television drama. "I think the—well, not even the subtext, the supertext—of ´Downton,´ " he says not five minutes after we sit down for coffee Monday morning at the Savoy Hotel in central London, "is that it is possible for us all to get on, that we don´t have to be ranged in class warfare permanently—that for the general public,
FTA: "I think America has dealt with—I mean, this is simplistic and of course I don´t live in America—but the impression I get is that there is not a kind of obligation to dislike those who are better off or be frightened of those who are worse off . . . The Americans, I think, are better at seeing themselves as a kind of community—that the important thing is to be American."
That used to be. The media, entertainment industry, and politicians have created rifts for their own gain that may be insurmountable.
This is perhaps one of the best shows on tv now. My 81-y.o. mother and I´ve been hooked for a year, having watched the first season on Netflix, the second season on Hulu, and now the third season on PBS. There are so many compelling characters. One thing, however, we have to watch with the close captioning, because sometimes those Brits just cannot talk plain English! :-)
I highly recommend Fellowes´ two novels, "Snobs" and "Past Imperfect," both of which are variations on the theme of class in Britain. "Snobs" may be the better of the two in terms of character and construction, but they´re both very worthwhile.
I believe Americans are as Julian Fellowes describes. It is just our un-American Dear Leader who does not understand, or who does understand but has become fixated on class warfare as a weapon of distraction.
I love Downton Abbey and have watched it since the beginning. There are many characters from different classes and many points of view are represented. Each has frustrations and problems caused by cultural pressures and world changing events. I don´t know about it being "anti snobbery". Grandmother Cawley has a pretty rigid sense of class.
I love the show - superb writing and acting. We are a divided country and we can blame it all on the left or we can do our part to reverse it. The first step would be to stop using divisive terms like "low information voters", "makers & takers",etc. It starts with us.
To # 9, Downton Abbey is the perfect example of why Romney was correct in ending the taxpayer subsidies. DA is a BBC production, and other than broadcasting series, PBS has zero to do with show. Which begs question, what in the world is PBS doing with our money?
Absolutely the best show on TV. The ensemble cast is amazing, the writing is superb, the sets and costumes are just beautiful. Last week´s episode was the best hour of TV I have seen in years. I recommend to all of you that you watch it.
Part of the appeal to me is that I would love to live like the upper class did in England between the wars. They had servants, beautiful homes, did nothing but entertain and be entertained. What´s not to like.
Now being a scullery maid might not be so peachy....
The best part of Downton Abbey is that the characters are realistic. The staff aren´t all always-wise, downtrodden victims. The family aren´t always arrogant snobs. At one political rally, it´s the socialists who bring in some thugs to cause trouble. The characters are very affecting and the scenery and sets are fantastic!
Read a little history. Many American Jewish millionaires married their daughters to English aristocracy looking for what they felt was social clout. There are Jews throughout the best family in England to this day. Anyone remember Churchill´s mother, Jennie Jerome from Brooklyn? And the character´s name was Levinson.
Many daughters of the new found rich in America married into English society,taking millions of American dollars with them. This helped the English Lords and Dukes to keep their castle like homes from ruin. Marshall Fields daughter Ethel, became a Countess, Consuelo Vanderbilt became the Duchess of Marlborough..It was a way to get a title and be in high society..Amerians did not have titles and the only way to get one was to marry into English society. What brought the English high society down was the opening of trade between countries..the Lords who had the serfs working the land no longer grew their own food, they could buy imported products cheaper. The one product that really caused the downfall of the lords and dukes was American Wheat. Most servants were not treated as nicely as Downton Abbey protrays...the servants were there to take care of the the Dukes and Duchess. Most of their work was done before the house woke so they were not seen by the Lord and Lady of the manor... I love this show...and wait all year for the next 6 segments....
As a former expat, I´ve always said that I´m never as aware of how American I am until I´m around a Brit. This series validates my feelings. It may be soapy, but isn´t it interesting to see similar character arcs developing within the aristocracy and within the staff? Shirley MacLain couldn´t hold a candle to Maggie Smith. Her script was mostly 2-word sentences, and she looked like a clown. Hopefully, an excuse to write her out of further episodes will be forthcoming, to save her any more embarrassment.
Fabulous series. The third season is now available on DVD in stores, which we just took advantage of.
Superb acting and a window into England´s royalty mindset and class-divisions at the time. I doubt much has changed among the Brits, but a lot has changed here in America regarding class differences.
Many would insist there are no class differences here but that is no longer true, thanks in large part to the Left´s demonization of "the rich" against "the disenfranchised."
While in Downton Abbey´s structure there is dignity in work even at the "lowest" levels of society, in America, there is no dignity in work at all, except for the few remaining Americans who find honor in working.
For L.Dotters not familiar with the show, do try watching from the beginning. Maggie Smith, as always, steals every scene just with a lift of an eyebrow.
This season´s addition of Shirley MacLaine is a mystery to me. She´s abyssmal and too many plastic surgeries have taken their toll. Meowwww....
Have been a fan of the show before the first episode. We most certainly have snobs in America as shown by our very one Snob-in-Chief who has made it a habit of seeing how many first person pronouns he can use in his blathering pronouncements.
Good point, #22. Fellows turns our expectations inside out. Yes, there are the wretched excesses of the evil rich, but there are plenty of evil poor in this series as well. It´s the evil poor who do the most damage. I really like the way Cora (the American) looks at the class/religion struggle in DA and shakes her head in bewilderment. Fellows is right--Americans don´t care about such things. Obama has used class and race to gain power. He is the aberration, the anti-American.
Love the show! My 87 (tomorrow) yr old mother enjoys, too, although the words are a bit mushy sometimes. Bought seasons 1 and 2 and will probably buy no. 3 soon. I was reading about plot lines for no. 4, and they may get racier (more gay storylines for instance). I recognize that the human condition has not really changed since the Garden, so I do hope Julian does not bow to the PC crowd. I have already detected some phrases and words that seem a little more suited to today.
I enjoy the show and just started watching it recently. My grandfather left England and migrated to Canada after fighting in WWI to get away from the very class system portrayed in the show. That class in England inherited enormous wealth and landholdings by birthright. I believe we are headed in that direction because the Democrats are making it impossible to create new wealth since most of it will be taken in taxes. The old wealth held mostly by leftists will continue to be passed along. We are all headed to become servants of the Government I´m afraid.
Agree that the costumes and set-shots are gorgeous. The plot themes are borrowed badly from any number of works by Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Trollope, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Edith Wharton, to name a few. If you´ve seen "Upstairs Downstairs" or "Brideshead Revisited" you can tell how derivative and water-downed this series is. A few clever lines does not make for world-class TV, but it does make for good entertainment.
With a series that includes about 16 characters, at best you get just a couple of clever lines per character, but no real character development; every character is a caricature: the ditzy American wife with money, the dashing heir to the family estate, the scheming and ugly maid, the stern butler with the deep voice.
But its appeal is that the speed and frequency of changes scenery and clever bon-mots matches perfectly the speed and frequency needs of a generation that lives for sight-bites, sound-bites, mobile phone photos, and text messages.
Having said all that, I would sell my grandmother to live in the library of Downton Abbey!
I am watching ´´Upstairs Downstairs´´ for the first time, on Netflix, and Downton Abbey is somewhat of a clone. The same things occur,there are similar characters..even down to a cook that screams at the scullery maids.I like them both, but this has been done before.
When my BH first brought this to my attention,I dismissed it as just another chick flick. But, I am a sucker for anything with Maggie Smith in it, so I sat down and watched one episode all the way through. Now, I´m hooked. Don´t want to miss a minute of it. As to PBS, they are not necessary. DA would have found commercial sponsors on one of the networks. The network would have been far better off sponsoring DA than the drivel they have on now.
Please forgive the double post but #28 mentioned something that we have so obviously lost in our "developed" world and that is the dignity of work. The sense of honor and the standards of conduct down to the lowest kitchen maid are sadly gone from today´s world. And one tip, use subtitles, if you have them, as British speak can be hard to understand.
I never thought of America as having a class system until I began observing politics and saw the straight line connecting the Ivy League law schools to our three branches of government. This is why our elected politicians look down their nose at the voter. They argue on the floor of Congress for the cameras, but enjoy drinks together at the club afterwards. We ARE the ignorant masses for continuing to send them back.
Personally, I have developed a crush on the gentle ´´Carson´´ aka Jim Carter.
Didn´t you just love this quote FTA? ´´That is written because they have to say something,´´ Lord Fellowes says of his detractors in the British press. ´´And in this country, you have to say something nasty.´´
Downton Abbey is television at its best. With the exception of the very few, the characters of the series treat one another with graciousness, courtesy, and respect and the characters that don’t display those qualities are scorned by the others - sometimes subtly but effectively with only the lift of an eyebrow. Impeccable manners and dignified and honorable behaviors are absolutely expected of the characters at all times. One character, Matthew, has struggles with an issue that results in painful soul-searching and self-criticism – he holds himself to stern self-examination, the concept of which is sadly unfamiliar to many modern viewers. I love the graceful decorum and civility of the characters of the program and think that many of us miss and yearn for the virtues displayed - perhaps that is why the production is so beloved.
Downton Abbey gives us a delightful glimpse into life from a past culture. This series is so well produced, when I watch it, I feel Scotty has beamed me up and become totally transported back in time. What a respite and a treat from the present state of affairs we now have. Thank you Julian Fellowes. Five stars.
I love DA and have seen every episode. The rumor is that three characters die this season. Last Sunday´s death scene had me absolutely riveted to the tv. Even now I see that scene in slow motion in my mind. Heartbreaking.
My wife and daughter love this show. I´m indifferent to it. I read the WSJ article yesterday and found it interesting that Fellowes is himself a Lord. The lord and lady of Downton Abbey are portrayed as a couple of twits, as is the dowager countess. They have no marketable skills, and aren´t smart enough to take care of their own affairs. They have valets, as they can´t seem to keep track of their own clothing or get dressed without help. The lord´s mismanagement of the estate and its money bring it nearly to ruin, saved only by other people´s money earned through hard work and careful investment. In the last episode, Lord Grantham´s intransigency led to the death of his youngest daughter. I have a feeling it will be the lord´s new son-in-law who ends up saving everyone´s bacon so they can continue with their meaningless lives, being waited on hand and foot.
#25. A strong demurral. The Great War caused the destruction of the English upper class and the British Empire. Britain, our major trading partner since 1783, became the wealthiest nation on earth because of trade. Sir Noel Coward´s Three Act Play ´Cavalcade´; from which the DA soap opera is derived; definitively explores this theme.
I just started watching this series last weekend and am hooked. I´m midway through the 2nd season (watched the first on Netflix and found the second on Amazon). I like the complexity of the characters and appreciate that the family members are not portrayed as one-dimensional, evil rich folks and the servants are not all virtuous poor people. Even the villains surprise you now and then with their humanity.
1) The Super Bowl with the GREAT 49ers playing the pathetic Ravens.
2) The Super Bowl post game where the 49ers GREAT Jim Harbaugh accepts the Lombardi Trophy after trouncing brother John´s pathetic Ravens.
3) And later on, Downton Abbey, a GREAT TV production and possibly the GREATEST costume dama ever put on TV.
One other thought, if you like DA I suggest you get a copy of Follett´s "Fall of Giants" which is set in England over the same time frame with similar class-based themes, WWI action, etc. A GREAT read.
You are correct that Obama does not understand Americans freedom and democracy. He prefers to bypass Congress and bomb Libya and throw Mubarek and Ghaddafi under the bus, who were both dictators but American friends. Low information voters do not understand that Obama hates America because he is a Kenyan marxist and probably a muslim. I bet that Barry Soetero was a naturalized American Citizen and Barack Obama does not exist legally except for a phony SS#, from 1891 that once belonged to a man now dead. If Republicans were smart, they would be yelling this information about the bogus Obama SS# from every roof top loud and clear until every low information voter had heard it.
For those of you who don´t have Netflix like me, but are Amazon Prime members, do you know all episodes are available free? I had been an Amazon Prime member for at least a year before I realized there were hundred if not thousands of free movies and TV shows available to me. I renewed the second year because it paid for itself in free shipping within 3 or 4 months. Before I realized it had free video goodies.
My wife and I are hooked on Downton Abbey. We´re both history buffs and Anglophiles. While it´s true that the series probably treats the upstairs/downstairs divide as more genteel than it usually was, it´s nice to see a series such as this where the characters all have the feel and motives of real people, rather than caricatures.
One has to understand that the term "class" in English parlance did not refer to economic status, but to social status. One could be poor and yet still "upper class", as we´ve seen on Downton Abbey. One´s social standing was determined from birth and was almost totally fixed until the day you died. In America, we usually refer to the upper-class as the rich, but our classes are quite fluid compared to the English social classes. In fact, in America it´s more of a "gradient" than a system with sharply drawn lines between classes.
A few very rich merchants and captains of industry were able to buy their way into the English aristocracy in those days, but they were typically held apart from the "true" aristocracy of the blooded.
It is good to hear heartwarming affection for Downton Abbey and how it is portraying the march of change through the 20th century. The very fact that we have taken these characters to heart speaks of the skills of Fellowes´ writing, the director and the actors. Enormous attention is paid to detail. For those that decry it´s social statements,calm down, it is after all entertainment and in these dreary days of Obamanomics it is wonderful to be transported on Sunday evenings to another world and even so,to see the eternal situations of the human condition play out.
I love ths show and am hooked, but I do think Mr. Fellows has bowed to the criticism, as much as he claims not to have. The 2nd and 3rd seasons have creeping and annoying PC stuff, the characters are more shallow, i.e. the ones with the social standing have become charicatures. They were so much more likable and real in the first episode.
Oh, just relax and enjoy the show. Follow the characters´ personal dramas and forget pondering the social justice messages. Almost all of theatuh and literature is trying to propagandize you. You outfox the authors if you ignore all of that and just keep your tissue box handy and view it as a soap opera.
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