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Thu Jan 9, 2014, 03:29 AM

 

Aristo Fetishism in Downton Abbey

The Big House is where the nice, kind, decent, pragmatic, charitable liberals just by chance happen to be the rich folks upstairs and the reactionary, even stuffier, tradition-upholding homophobes lurk down in the scullery. I love Carson the butler (brilliantly played by Jim Carter) as the avatar of the “deference vote” that keeps Britain’s big and little c conservatives in power. Really I do love Carson. SOMEONE has to uphold standards when Lady Mary screws a (gasp)Turk to death...

Here’s the thing they omit from this stupendously successful tosh. Summer or winter in real life you freeze your bum off in those big draughty impossible-to-heat halls. I’ve been there. Now try to imagine an episode at the Abbey where the doorbell rings and a new guest arrives: a young American reporter (me) so morally soft, O GOD THE HORROR!, he has along with him his own Valor paraffin heater. Can you just hear hear Maggie Smith sniffing...?

That was my experience when for a period I was “taken up” by the English lower aristocracy and higher gentry in their Downton-style country houses for shootin’-and-huntin’ weekends and sometimes longer. The real life OR Book Going Rougeversions of Lord Grantham were gracious and charming…until they spied my Valor heater in hand... For one thing, burning paraffin awfully smells up the place. For another, the very existence of a Valor is a rebuke to a stately, ordered, stoical way of life where enduring cold used to be, and perhaps still is a mark of upper class virtue.

Ben Disraeli, who more or less invented the “One Nation” wheeze, was one of the more clever prime ministers. (And Jewish yet!) One Nationism trumpets a view of “organic” society in which we all, regardless of political disagreements, have our God-given parts to play under the paternalistic guidance of a wise and tolerant Lord Grantham clone. (UK’s current leader David Cameron claims Disraeli is his favorite politician.) Nation matters more than class. Indeed, this patrician-conceived “philosophy” – a pragmatic response to lower class turbulence – is trotted out periodically when, in the good old Yorkshire/Lancs phrase, “there’s trouble at t’ mill”. That is, the restless natives threaten to riot. As soon as the proles cool off it’s back to free market capitalism. Tick tock. Like a cuckoo clock.

Disraeli, the Tory genius at muffling class hatreds in periods of quasi-revolt, is a direct ancestor of the Tory peer Julian Fellowes – Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford – the writer-genius of Downton Abbey with his incredible talent for keeping plot lines unfouled (well, almost) and lack of talent for creating real human beings on the screen. Reality is not what we want in a stylish soap, is it?

Parenthetically, Julian Fellowes battled successfully against a change in rules of royal succession so that his wife, a distant relation of Lord Kitchener, could become a Countess. In his private life no One Nationer he. But in public he sounds almost like Rodney King...
In response to critics who crabbed about Fellowes fawning over his own class in Downton Abbey, he pleaded that “it is possible for us all to get on, that we don’t have to be ranged in class warfare permanently.” Right on, Julie.

Why is Downton Abbey so popular? Of course it has nothing to do today’s rage of the 99% against the one percent which, as in Disraeli’s time, threatens to get out of hand.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/08/aristo-fetishism-in-downton-abbey/

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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply Aristo Fetishism in Downton Abbey (Original post)
El_Johns Jan 2014 OP
RainDog Jan 2014 #1
El_Johns Jan 2014 #3
RainDog Jan 2014 #4
solarhydrocan Jan 2014 #2
MADem Jan 2014 #5
Cha Jan 2014 #7
MADem Jan 2014 #11
Cha Jan 2014 #12
Warren DeMontague Jan 2014 #6
solarhydrocan Jan 2014 #8
MADem Jan 2014 #10
Warren DeMontague Jan 2014 #13
MADem Jan 2014 #9
TwilightGardener Jan 2014 #14
alarimer Jan 2014 #15

Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 03:52 AM

1. Lord Kitchener, for me...



haven't been able to bring myself to watch D.A. I'm tired of the aristocracy.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:06 AM

3. The other Lord Kitchener:

 



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Response to El_Johns (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:12 AM

4. Yeah.

Part of that whole Hatfield and McCoy plot of northern European royalty fighting one another...

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:04 AM

2. It's popular because it's a fantastic show

Exceptional acting, direction, cinematography, writing and costumes. British TV is light years better on average than US tv. English actors actually care about their craft more than being "famous".

The world agrees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_Downton_Abbey

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:16 AM

5. Well, the author is very old, but he wasn't even born when the fictional "Carson" was

directing the downstairs staff, and the clueless Lord Crawley was fucking up the running of the estate upstairs. By the time he got to visit with his paraffin (i.e. kerosene) heater (no wonder they looked askance--they probably feared he'd burn the joint down) the whole Great House system was on the skids--the staffs of hundreds were down to a dozen or fewer.

He's also waaaaaay behind the plot line with this diatribe, as well. There's plenty of demand to adhere to tradition from both groups (see Lady Mary dressing down Carson for stepping out of his "place" to encourage her to get involved in the management of the estate in the season opener, as an example).

Downton Abbey is popular because people like nicely-accented soap operas that are period pieces. He's right about one thing--the viewers aren't in it for the brutal reality, they're in it for the assorted story lines. Anyone who had an ancestor "in service" and is old enough to have talked to them knows that the work was hard and the hours were long and the pay sucked. You can't make a series out of that--a movie, maybe.

The viewers enjoy the clearly defined characters. They love witty repartee, and they like the costumes and scenery and customs and they enjoy being shocked by the attitudes, to include the anti-Irish racism and the sexism. They like travelling back in time to the period between 1912 through the roaring Twenties.

It's formulaic, but it's amusing. Not completely accurate, but not way off the mark either.

This guy's hatred of Julian Fellowes is rather visceral...such a waste of emotion! Who gives a shit...the guy should just let it go.

I'm betting Julian (raking in the dough) Fellowes doesn't give a squeaky fart what Clancy Sigal thinks. He's too busy counting his cash and enjoying the ride that is Downton Abbey. If he can sell the prequel idea (going back before the turn of the century) he'll be in clover until his dotage.

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Response to MADem (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:34 AM

7. Yeah, I like Downton Abbey, too. Good acting, writing,

and directing. And, the historical references are interesting to me.. Mrs Patmore trying to tame the electric beater springs to mind.

I don't like seeing the episodes end... that's always a good sign.

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Response to Cha (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:57 AM

11. I got pulled in (majority rule) at the start and quickly got hooked! nt

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Response to MADem (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 05:23 AM

12. :)

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)


Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:35 AM

8. The Brits themselves did the best spoof

on Red Nose Day. This is hilarious.

Upstairs Downstairs Abbey with Jennifer Saunders as the Dowager and Kim Cattrall as Cora

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Response to solarhydrocan (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:56 AM

10. Ha...Thomas, the Evil Footman!

That was funny--Kim Cattrell nailed Cora; they all got the essence of their characters...and the "looks" at the end...

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Response to solarhydrocan (Reply #8)


Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 04:47 AM

9. OMG that is some FUNNY SHIT!!!! I am SO glad I clicked on that link!

Chicken lady! Is your other car a bike? It IS a bike....!!!



Thanks for the laugh!

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 11:45 AM

14. I am interested in the class tensions and divisions--I wasn't born in a time or country

where there was a servant class who were treated like amusing, sometimes naughty or wayward little children, to be managed by the aristocrats. The interpersonal relationships among members of the SAME class (the romances, etc.) within the show don't really interest me as much. It's still amazing to me that only a hundred years ago, the servants weren't really employees or staff, but seen as truly lesser beings, treated with patronizing kindness if they were lucky.

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 9, 2014, 11:55 AM

15. I hate this show

I made it through three episodes before I realized it was Dallas/Falcon Crest (see how old I am) with British accents.

I LOATHE aristocrats with liberal pretensions. And really loathe the "staff" for not seeing that they are no better or worse than the people they work for. There are no "betters", there are only people. Yes, yes, I know this takes place in a different time and place, but it just pisses me off for some reason.

Plus it's a shitty soap opera.

I did, however, like "Breaking Abbey," (Funny or Die, I think) where they lord of the manor was making meth to make ends. Now that's a show I would watch.

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