Review: Downton Abbey

July 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Now, my brother knows I have a certain affinity for British accents and umpire waists. So, when I got home determined to read books and practice Latin, of course, as it is a brother’s duty to distract his sister from her intellectual pursuits, he introduced me to a PBS series “Downtown Abbey.” Now, it looks as though my translation of The Gallic Wars may have to wait.


“Downtown Abbey” follows the Crawley family, a well to do family trapped in a period of change and progress, most notably exhibited through their installation of electric chandaliers and the “demonic” telephone. Moreover, this series brilliantly depicts the downfall of social class structures while avoiding a overt sympathy towards the maids and butlers of the Downton Abbey. The Crawley’s are in danger of losing their family’s hold of the estate as Lord Crawley has 3 daughters and no sons and his nearest male blood relatives were killed on the Titanic. Underneath all of this drama lies a smaller social structure made up of the Crawley’s maids and butlers. These second-class citizens become aware of the family’s conundrum and work to keep the house in tip-top shape in order to help Mary, the oldest of the Crawley daughters, attain a husband.

Lord Crawley, arguably the most becoming of all the characters in the series, sympathizes with his “help,” yet sticks with business and is clearly concerned with the maintenence of his estate and retaining his fortune. Mr. Carson, the first butler, reflects Lord Crawley’s concern, as he acts as a mediator and father over the rest of the butlers and maids. These two father figures and their respective family structures show the separation of these two social classes but also, a certain degree of similarity. Mr. Carson does not deal with his own children, rather, he mediates feuds and supposed thefts with other adults who are under his supervision and authority. Presiding over equally petty arguments and situations concerning his three daughters, Lord Crawley carries all of the concerns of his family’s finances, progress, and even the looming war in Europe on his shoulders.

Throughout the first season of “Downton Abbey,” the Crawley’s, their maids, and butlers learn to cope with the women’s right movement in England, the movement of a dead Turk, and the movement of the “help” from one social class to another. This show exposes the origins of many modern cultural problems and also shows how society changed with such velocity in the 20th century.

Believe me, I know that this is a film blog, but, in light of the Netflix invention, I think that a tv series that can be watched “on demand” qualifies as worthy of just as much consideration as many of the films on “Instant Watch.” Thus, in the spirit of “Downton Abbey,” I submit to the Netflix “sign of the times” and wait in suspense for season two.

~

Mercedez Gonzales is a sophomore Literature major/ Latin minor at Ave Maria University.

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