I have been outed by Downton. I really thought I had things under control until Downton Abbey entered the picture; now everything has gone to hell. I am late to the party at Downton Abbey; I only just began watching it two weeks ago on DVD and I just … can’t … stop. It’s distressingly absorbing. Yes, the acting is superb; the writing, spot-on; the sets, too much to be believed. The peek into turn-of-the-century Edwardian life, a life so radically different from our current age, is mesmerizing. I could stop there and say that I am ensorcelled by all of the above, but it’s more than that I fear.
One of the basic tenants of both spirituality and psychotherapy is that it is critical to come to terms with who you really are and to embrace the real you, shadow and all. I thought I was succeeding on this front until I began watching Downton Abbey. Now, to my dismay, I see that my self-acceptance was but a gossamer facade. I fear I have been outed: Downton exposes a part of me I try to keep tucked away in a pied-à-terre in my mind. Now my prodigal portion has returned, hidden no longer, and Downton is to blame. The love that dare not speak its name has pushed itself into my bedroom, and I can resist no longer.
I am irretrievably in love with Downton. I want to live in its embrace. In my mind, I do. It’s home, and I don’t want to leave it. At the end of each disc, I find my pronunciation and language have changed like Madonna after a week in Scotland. I look around and think, This is not my house! This is not my life! How is anyone supposed to go to Downton and remain unchanged? It’s impossible. It’s wicked and cruel, really, to attend those dinners and get all dressed up and then have to come back to consensual, mundane reality to vacuum and do the dishes and the laundry. It’s wrong. I think it must be some sort of plot by the British to confound us and make us sorry we ever left the continent in the first place.
The strange part about my Downton obsession is that I am a very modern woman who speaks her mind and lives in blue jeans. I do not care much what other people think and I do not follow the rules. I like my independence, and I like my work. I do not hide my feelings. I am not superficial. And yet something about this show has me in its thrall. Certainly the beauty, the spaciousness and ease (at least of life upstairs) is enviable. The civility and order are comforting, albeit constricting. I’m aware of the dark underbelly of that era, but I’m also aware of the dark underbelly of our own.