Downton Abbey: The Storylines

Thursday, May 7, 2020

This entire post will contain spoilers for the show so please read with that in mind!
CW: Rape, sexual assault 

For the past week, I have spent all of my time with the illustrious Crawley family once again. I've watched Downton Abbey since it first aired in 2011. I love period dramas in all forms (TV shows, movies, books, etc), and Downton Abbey was no exception. I distinctly remember falling in love with the world, the characters, the setting and so much more. I saw that the entire show was on Amazon Prime, and with nothing but time on my hand, I began my re-watch. In this post and the next few, I'll share about my love for this show by talking about my favorite characters, stories, and the costumes/set for this show!

RMS Titanic

This is probably one of the most well-known events in history which is a fitting way to begin this show. Patrick Crowley and his father, the heir and heir presumptive of the Earldom, end up drowning. Their death means that a distant cousin of the Crawleys is now the heir to the earldom. It was fascinating to see how even the upper class are affected by this event. We obviously know that the poor people lost their lives the most, but there were repercussions for the others as well. It goes to show just how badly planned this entire voyage was.

World War I

World war one is called the great war for a reason and I truly appreciated how it is depicted in the show. Downton Abbey is converted into an officers convalescent hospital and forces all of the members of the Crowley family to take a part in the war. This really showed a shift not only in the society as we know it, but also just in terms of how the world was going to change. After the end of the first season, we had an inkling that big change was on the horizon. It took a world war of course for those changes to really come into fruition. I really appreciated how we didn’t begin the show with World War II because I think that would have been the easy way out. We have an entire season of understanding who these characters are and why they are the way that they are before everything they know is destroyed. This really lead to us having a better understanding of who these characters are and why we should care about them.

LGBTQ+ Representation

This is probably the most unexpected aspect of the show but I am so glad that they included it. In too many instances where we have a historical show, the creators like to pretend as if the LGBTQ I a plus community did not exist. It’s not always easy to watch homophobia on screen but I think that it serves a good way of showing that it did exist, how far we have come,and how far we still have a way to go. I especially love the fact that we know people of this community existed, and that they have always existed and that simply ignoring them does absolutely nothing.

Women Working

One of the first ways we see this storyline truly take effect on the show is during world war one. At this time, all of the women have to take part in serving the world somehow or another. Even Cora takes a position in the convalescent hospital and really helps run the entire organization. This is also when we see the biggest change in Sybil as she becomes a nurse. She is also the first Crowley to truly understand that the world will never be the same afterwards. Women, even those of the upper class, were no longer only going to be required to be housewives. They had a lot more opportunities now and the chances to actually fight for them. Now that they understood what working outside of the home was like, and understanding that they enjoyed working outside of the home, there was no going back.

The End of the Aristocracy and the Rise of the Lower/Middle Class

As much as we want to assume that the arrival of Matthew Crawley is the biggest catalyst of the show, I truly think it was the beginning of World War I that really changed everything. Not only did the war change the dynamics of the household, it also changed the dynamics of the entire world in which the Crowleys have functioned for so long. The Crowleys are not only the representation of the upper class, they are also the representation of the aristocracy that has existed in England for so long. After the war, the entire being of the aristocracy came tumbling down. An entire class of people that thought they were immune to the changes of everyday life now had to change everything about their life. The aristocracy no longer held the power that they once had and now have to understand how to live their life.

On the other side of this coin is the rise of the lower and middle class. People who never had any power we’re finally gaining a foothold in a society that had worked against them for so long. The war showed that at the end of the day a person is a person and it was possible to not be held back by one’s birth. World war one really ravaged be lower and middle class and forced this large majority of the population to truly understand where they stood in society. They now knew that they had more power and that they could leverage this power to their benefit.

Grief and Healing

A part of me knew that there would be character deaths in the show but I was not prepared for how much they would affect me. I didn’t realize how large of a part grief and healing would play in the show. But I will admit that it was done very well in the show. Not only did characters such as Mary and the dowager Countess and Isabell Crowley have to battle their own grief, but characters such as Anna and John Bates did as well. There was an understanding that grief and the eventual healing from that process was a universal feeling.

This show is also a very good depiction of the fact that grief does not affect everyone in the same way. The ways in which we process our grief is also vastly different and no one way is the right way for everyone. While some characters might become more closed off during their grief, others might lash out in ways that hurt others. After all, no one truly wants to be grieving the loss of a loved one and this leads to people not understanding how to process. The healing process is also different for everyone because there is not one timeline that fits best for all.

For example, I really loved how we saw the difference in how Mary grieved Matthew and how Isabella grieved Matthew. Mary, as Matthew's wife and now the mother to his son, has lost her husband at such a young age. They had just begun their life together and it was cut so short. Isabell, on the other hand, as Matthew's mother had to come to terms with the fact that both her husband and son were now dead.

Anna's Sexual Assault 

This is one of the plot points that I am incredibly conflicted by. While a part of me understands why it was included, another part of me really dislikes it. Yes, I am aware that anyone can be sexually assaulted and that isn’t never the fault of the victim. I never want to come off as implying that so I want to put that out there.

If there is one thing that I really took away from the storyline, it was the fact that we really have not gotten as far in society as we think we have. We continue to blame the victim, we continue to question what they were wearing, or how they acted, or a variety of other ways to blame them. Even today, a lot of victims are afraid to name their abuser because they are terrified of the repercussions. At the same time, it is often the people that we are closest to whom we have the hardest time opening up about our experiences.

Moderns Inventions 

Hair dryer
Electric whisk
Electric toaster

What do y'all think? Are there any story lines I talked about that you also liked? Or are there any story lines you think I should have mentioned? 

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