Downton Abbey: Rich people problems since the 1900s.

Downton Abbey was written and created by Julian Fellowes. It’s a British television series, and is in one of my favorite genres, period dramas. It began airing in 2010 and is up for a fourth season this year, and as expected for the rest of the television series that grow in seasons, critics like it.

One thing I adore about period dramas is that almost everything they say takes time for me to understand. Maybe it’s just me and my limited vocabulary, or maybe it’s because I’m Asian and not British, but honestly, it’s the best part of watching this kind of stuff. Everything they say sounds like poetry. It’s not just the accent, but because period dramas are contextualized in the 1900s, people didn’t have useless terms like “swag” or acronyms like “LOL”. 

downtownabbeyIt’s like encoding a whole conversation in an episode can almost be classified along with the brilliance of Shakespeare, whom we by the way don’t understand all that much either. Sometimes I even wished I lived in a period drama because everything was so elegant and so classy. Those were the days when vintage wasn’t looked down on for being mainstream or being an overused filter for Instagram. Vintage was actually part of everyday life for them. The soundtrack of the series even features John Lunn and the Chamber Orchestra of London. How venerable can this series get? Imagine an orchestra playing in the background of people just sitting down and talking about the weather. It’s so oddly alluring.

The series is arranged in a fictional county estate called Downton Abbey, but was further qualified into the County of Yorkshire, which is a real and existing place. The story focuses on an aristocrat family, the Crawleys, and more often than not, their servants. Among the cast are British icons such as Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, and yes- even Maggie Smith! If you loved her as Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter, you’ll love her even more in Downton as Cousin Violet. She isn’t the usual strict professor, but she’s awfully witty and quotable. Apart from my bias for the perfection that is Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, you’ll might want to keep a handkerchief nearby because (not to spoil you, but to warn you) the story can seriously get depressing. It’s like you’ll just get used to people dying all the time or getting in horrible life situations. Heck, the first episode already talks about one of their cousins dying.

Since the setting of the story is in the post-Edwardian era, the transition from aristocracy is quite evident. Because the Crawleys are aristocrats, factual events in history were brought into the story and they affected their family and their staff and operations. Notable events that were relived in the series include the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and World War I in 1914. In layman’s terms, the whole story is about rich people problems in the 1900s. With the exemption of the parts in the story that include all the drama of their servants, that’s the gist of it. I don’t label the series as being about “rich people problems” in a bad way. I label it that way because it honestly amuses me so much. Worrying about bloodlines, finding suitable husbands, going horseback riding, meeting princes and having tea time isn’t something common in our world anymore. Well, except for the conyos of course, but they’re the modern species of rich people with their own problems. For those in the modern bourgeoisie, we have never had to worry about saving a mansion or saving the servants who work for the mansion because it isn’t our “duty” to. We don’t have to worry about finding an heir to our fortune, or worry about finding a husband for our eldest daughter because it was against the law. It’s so awkward how the law actually defined that inheritances could only be assumed by the eldest son- and if the eldest were a daughter, she had to have a husband. For the Crawleys, Lord Grantham and Lady Grantham only had three daughters- Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Sybil. Gosh, even their names are beyond civil! No one in this day and age calls me “Lady Reyna”. I’m an only child, so I guess I won’t have to worry about finding a husband before inheriting anything.

Before Downton Abbey, I wasn’t sure how “velvet” could be personified, or even physically experienced apart from being a color, or in these days, a part of a cupcake name. The series has really uplifted my vision of class. It’s funny how we all just generally worry about the same things no matter what era we’re in. It’s just that the circumstances are always quite different. The problems haven’t changed all that much, but the solutions might have.

The disappointing part of this review will probably be the revelation of a bias- I feel closed-minded for having to admit this, but I didn’t even finish the third series. Don’t be discouraged though, the costumes, the elegance and the shiny places didn’t die down, one of my favorite characters did. So, if you decide to watch Downton Abbey and end up worshipping a few couples, please expect to go down along with the couple as soon as their honeymoon ship sinks, because trust me, it will. In my case, I pretended the whole thing ended in the first episode of season three because after its Christmas special, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it anymore. Don’t be discouraged though.

If you’re a fan of English literature and fiction that are dated back to the 1900s (or even before that) like Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, “Sense and Sensibility”, and “Emma”, or Judith McNaught’s “A Kingdom of Dreams”, then Downton Abbey is a period drama that you really wouldn’t want to miss out on. If you’re a modern-day rich person and want to feel connected to your rich ancestors, the series is available on both Blu-ray and DVD for you to spend on. For those who belong to my sphere of the modern hierarchy and are close to being classified as servants but do honestly enjoy the genre, leech off of free downloads.

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