While the show may have taken off for PBS, especially with the female viewers and the male significant others who pretend that they’ve been watching to appease the female counterpart there is one glaring issue. This is just as much a guys show as a girls.
Editors Note: This article contains spoilers
How can a PBS masterpiece classic be a guy’s show? Well, I’m going to attempt to lay out some of the things that I’ve taken from the show that have made it appealing to me, not my wife. My wife had no input in this, because she is a FEMALE who doesn’t understand what it is to be man. (I love you hun)
The Earl is the true man of the house. His family has owned the estate for generations and while he (and assuming his ancestors) had never had any kind of paying job because they’re rich bastards, they’ve lived a life apart from the general population that is almost unheard of to American audiences. Ok, maybe when we watch Cribs on MTV or some special about a Wall Street douchebag. This is ENGLAND! They’re Nobles, dignified and for some reason, us Americans as fascinated with English Nobility and their silly systems. You’d expect him to be some kind of jerk that gets off on treating his staff like crap and raising a bunch of spoiled brats that are taking after dreadful old dad. This is far from that though. He is a kind man, treats his staff with dignity and even goes out of his way to help them. From paying for his cook to go to London for eye surgery and aftercare all on his pocket to keeping Mr. Bates as a footman when some of his other staff were trying to get him fired for incompetence. For some reason, he just clicks with me because in a way, I want to be that kind of father, fair, but assertive when need be. He’s no pushover even though he has a kind heart, you have to admire him for that. He’s a tough nut when he has to be, well, except when his daughters coolly play at his heart strings.
The second season was set during the First World War. While the Earl never went off to fight overseas, nearly all of his house staff and his heir to the estate and funds fight in the name of Britain. While it’s not Saving Private Ryan material of fighting during wartime, it’s just enough to be cool. What we really get is the psychological aspect of soldiers and officers that returned home from that front. If you didn’t pay attention in your world history lessons, the first World War was the first true industrialized war but was still fought with outdated tactics of “Storm the enemy line!” never mind that they have machine guns now mowing everyone down like cattle. The house turned into a place for Officers to recover from their wounds, some psychological, most dismemberment in various shapes and forms. Issues from heroism to family members being killed for cowardice, to the socialist uprising of Russia are all grazed upon and done in a thought provoking way.
I can’t NOT talk about the fact that nearly all of these Royals married purely for money, money, money. The Earl himself took a wife that was American because she was the heir to a vast fortune made in the States. See, the Royals don’t have jobs or any real way to make money anymore. The only way to keep the family estates and the mortgage payments paid is to marry some rich broad, hope that somewhere down the line you fall in love, and make sure you have a male heir. Rinse, Wash, Repeat. How the issue of money and the estates come up are very interesting. You see a lot of older (late 30’s, 40’s) Gentlemen trying to woo these 20 year old daughters of the Earl into marriage because they want the girls inheritance. The girls ACCEPT that though, since well, that’s just life. It’s hard to dress fancy every day, for every meal, live in a gigantic house with other houses on the estate for guests, have a full staff of butlers, footmen, Valets, maids, and a chauffeur without some kind of fortune.
Then there is Thomas, the character that you’ll love to hate. Remember that kid growing up who always seemed to get away with shit even though everyone knew he was doing something? He knew he was some kind of snake who got off on torturing people but doing it in a way that doesn’t get him in trouble. That’s Thomas. I’ve shaken my fists at the screen during his tirades to chuckling at his demise and swift getting kicked in the balls for being a cocky bastard at the end of the second season. Watching him grovel his way back into a position at Downton was justice well served. Though, he’s still around, but you have to at least have a bad guy to root against.I could ramble on and on about the virtues of this show, Mr. Bates being well, Mr. Bates, the guy that for some reason you find yourself rooting for. When someone who keeps getting handed the shit end of the stick and just takes it with a dignity and sense of honor that for some reason can make you think about what kind of man you are. His devotion to Anna has on more than one occasion had me looking at my wife and giving her one of those shared smiles between someone you love deeply. Matthew being thrust into the life as heir to Downton but not giving a crap and wanting to go back to his “normal” life as a middle class Lawyer. He can see the absurdity of it all yet find a way to make himself a part of it. Matthew survives being nearly crippled in the war yet still finds himself torn between two women he loves for differing reasons. He’s a ultimate “I didn’t want this life, but I’ll make the best of it” story.
So, my fellow Man. Don’t wait for your female significant other to spring this show into your viewing schedule. If you’re the forever alone guy, (Single) you got nothing to lose! Unless you fell like you’re pets are giving you weird looks, to which you can send them to the animal shelter. There is nothing wrong with Downton Abbey, we should all be watching it while we wear fancy hats. I now wear fancy hats all the time just because of this show to prove how much of a man I am. Why don’t you join me good fellows?