Downton Abbey


Nostalgia is good for you. Americans it seem love Downton Abbey and weep over the history they never had. Nostalgia sells. I should know that better than most. Writing is an act of nostalgia, an attempt to capture the past that’s never been, or to re-create the past as we remember it. This can be applied equally to fact or fiction. Downton Abbey is  set on that golden past when everybody knew their place. The master was always right, even when he was wrong. Everybody dressed up, even the servants, especially the servants, for we would never want to confuse them with people that mattered, people with the right kind of education and accent, people that knew which fork and knife to use, people that bought other people and made them bow and scrape in their presence, people that made those socially below them use secret doors and tunnels underneath their Gothic piles, built and maintained by other people that didn’t matter, so that they could avoid sharing the air with people that really mattered, those same people who required help to get dressed and cleaned, people that needed other people to stand to attention and hand them the right spoon and fork, people that never bent down when they dropped something, people that had their trouser pockets sewn shut, because they never needed to carry anything,  lived in luxury, as was their due, people that didn’t like Johnny Foreigner much, were suspicious of women that wanted anything more that to dress well and undress when required, and hated the workshy even more, people who believed that some people have a God given right to punish the poor for their sins, to enforce a moral code that didn’t apply to people like them, to fight for what they believed in, or at least employ the right sort of people to fight for what they believed in, which was, of course, the rights of maintaining their wealth and property.

You probably guessed I’ve never seen an episode of Downton Abbey and you’d be right. I’d be waiting for the servants to poison the soup and rid us of these parasitic growths. I don’t need to watch Downton Abbey. We are returning to the eighteenth and nineteenth century narratives of the rich employing increasingly more servants to maintain their big piles. Narratives of the rich being so much better deserving than the poor.  Having servants to shop and clean, and bring their children up, speaks of a certain kind of class.  Truth is crueler than fiction.

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