A Male Yankee Slob’s Look at Downton Abbey
Last Sunday, there was a two-hour fundraising show on how Downton Abbey is made. I’ve also seen the documentary about Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed.
I enjoy the series, (not sure how many men do). I’m a history buff, so I enjoy the history. It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw in my sarcastic two cents and wonder where I would come about in all this. I’m a Yank. Imitation castles are built as manor houses by wealthy people in our country.
The fact that the United States rebelled in against King George III and Lord North doesn’t mean Americans hate aristocracy or don’t desire its trappings. Part of this is personal. Dame Maggie Smith is the aunt of a childhood friend, though this does not mean I can wrangle an introduction. I am not sure how much my friend speaks with her aunt. So there, just wanted to mention the six degrees of separation there.
I am a Yank, but I am also an Anglophile. I enjoy things British ranging from Winston Churchill to Monty Python. One of my next books will be some essays based on a Facebook page I have called ‘How Monty Python Has Ruined My Life.’ I will expose my favorite character now, it is Mr. Carson. Not sure why, but there you have it. I imagine castles and sieges.
What if the Grantham’s were run out of their castle by the crazy Frenchmen, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? I am trying to imagine Lord Grantham with the male staff, the men from the village, and the Pythons. Lord Grantham as King Arthur. “If you do not surrender the castle, I shall have to take it by force.”
Well, they do at the end, of course, because Lord Grantham never left, and this is just another case of Python hijacking my warped mind. I am not one to cheer for the aristocracy. I don’t want to be them and know where my place is; a working class techie with some curiosity for the world, and who also happens to write. I know where I stand and am not ashamed.
One problem with me being an aristocrat. I hate wearing suits and don’t wear white shirts. When I see the men in the family at dinner and the staff in the white shirts, I cringe. For me, white shirts are magnets to attract sauces. Mr. Carson would fire me. Lord Grantham would fire me as his son. Elizabeth McGovern does an excellent job as the Countess of Grantham. Ironically, I was just watching something Ms. McGovern narrated called The Unknown Civil War. “I am an American Civil War buff,” she narrated with the same gentle voice she has in Downton Abbey.
I found it interesting she was made Jewish (I am). That is not mentioned much in the series, but American heiresses were marrying into the British Aristocracy. I bring Winston Churchill up again. His mother, Jennie Jerome was American. Some detractors felt his boisterous personality came from his mother. Shirley MacLaine played Cora’s mother and I hate to say it, I met women like the role Ms. MacLaine played growing up. Paul Giamatti played her brother. I admired his father, scholar and baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti.
Sorry, just having a sideways moment, back to Downton. Allen Leach as Tom Branson. So the IRA is in the house? (Like the line in The Quiet Man, “So the IRA’s in this too?)” Also a Socialist to boot? I am thinking of the American Presidential campaign and Bernie Sanders. Tom married into the family as well, but it wasn’t social climbing. Now, he may be off to Boston. (I am married to a South Boston girl, so my interest perked up). I root for Tom. I also root for Mr. Bates. His only error with Anna’s rapist was pushing him in Piccadilly Circus and not doing him in on a lonely Yorkshire moor. Lady Rose.
Ahh, interracial interest in the 1920’s. Gary Carr, who I enjoy watching in Death in Paradise, plays a Chicago jazz singer, and he does a good job, with the accent. I get that; I have written one interracial and a friend talked me into writing another one. I can’t even imagine that in the 1920’s. I also had to remember this was in England, not the United States. Lady Mary was relieved when Jack told her he would not marry Rose, in the present but a better world. I just remember the look on poor Mr. Carson’s face when Jack walked into the servant’s area.
Then, Mr. Carson asking Jack if he would ever go to Africa. Many of the staff would never have seen a black man. I like the cook Mrs. Patmore, and I root for Daisy to better herself. Then there is Thomas. Pure evil, but with his own secrets and demons. You have to admire Baxter’s courage in admitting her past to Cora and Cora’s smack down of Thomas.
They have been through a lot. The Edwardian Era, World War One and now the Roaring Twenties. If you have ever been to York Minster, you see the names of the men from the Yorkshire Regiment killed in the war. Just mind boggling. Really was a lost generation. I enjoyed reading about the cast visits to New York, the Q and A they did in PBS and the visit to the Knicks game and to Washington and the White House, when Prime Minister Cameron was visiting President Obama.
I look forward to Season Six and wonder how it will end. The show is not just for the ladies, I have enjoyed the history, but no, Mr. Carson, with all due respect, I will not wear a white shirt.