What can I say? Sunday nights belong to Downton Abbey. I live vicariously though the dinners, odd customs and layers of skirts, and by watching the Downstairs Ladies comb the seemingly endless hair of their Upstairs employers, only to hide it under a bun that comes out only at bed times. Bedroom hair… romantic and hidden. Inspiring of romance, yet existing as the norm. Cutting it would have been shocking. They chat about the gossip of the day, and the secrets that you wouldn’t dare tell anyone else. I listen, jealous of the closeness and decadence. After all, someone who helps you bathe is just about as close as one can get in a relationship. Paid loyalty and trust earned by years of devoted service.
Clandestine train trips to London, and an entirely separate world beneath the first floor, where the servants gossip, and carry out often very nasty plans indeed. PBS, I love you!
As we first met the family many years ago, they were dealing with the ramifications of the sinking of The Titanic, and as they close out season 5, we see social changes afoot. Still socially proper, but Jazz music, talk of race and even carefully styled long hair cut into bobs are now common-place, leaving characters like Mary Crawley to slink into her parents home seeking approval at the shocking cut of the times.
I envy their titles, and their horses, and their busy self importance as they fill the day with nothing, all dressed up as if something quite important was about to happen, impressing all by merely entering the room. What’s not to love? What’s not to relate to? Are there any of these characters to whom I can actually relate? Somehow, Lady Edith, sometimes unlikeable with her seeming odd sense of bad luck, and her sharp tongue when necessary, strikes a chord of similarity with me. Significantly younger than I am, she is the “me” of my youth. Sadly, the season finale of Season 5, sparked something else in me.
Times change, hair styles and music change, but the issues remain the same. Love and money, money and love drive us and divide us. Family, betrayal, death and of course, illicit love for both young, and as we saw this season, the older ladies of Society.
Last night, as it has been for the past several years, the season has ended, leaving viewers wanting more. For those of us self claimed, distant relations of the Grantham family, we must wait until next year to see our loving relations.
So, what am I left with? As always, it is the words that stay with me. Even Vanity Fair is moved by the words of the Dowager Countess. The writers use the words and phrases of the time, yet the issues are no less relevant today. Money, power, even rape has come under the microscope of the writers. Female power has to be taken; it isn’t the norm. The victim of rape is on the defensive, and those who should inherit by title cannot do so by virtue of their gender. In seasons past, inheritance rewarded a distant male cousin, rather than the daughter under the same castle roof.
In last night’s season finale, one such example struck me, so, as usually, I wrote it down to further think about it. Lady Grantham, the matriarch of the family laughed and said ” I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man”. Interestingly enough, immoral to her, meant essentially the same as it does today, in certain circles. She was being propositioned. I know my own mother certainly would have called that immoral. Same idea, one hundred years later. Instead of relating to Lady Edith and her usual troubled situation, I most certainly identified closely to that fear of Lady Grantham, that no man will again look at me, and feel desire. Was I done? Was I washed up? I had my bite(s) of the apple. How many chances do we get to find love. It was a painful connection as I looked in the mirror after the show, my hair overdue for a touch up.
Of all the quotes, and the beautiful use of language… of all the veiled threats and double entendres and clever prose that you might miss if you aren’t paying attention, of if you are chewing your popcorn too loudly, this was the quote of the season for me. It made me laugh initially, then tear up, as I related to how she felt. Me? Relating to the elder Matriarchs of the show. Last night, I was no Edith. My heart shared that lonely space with Lady Grantham. Two older ladies, Lady Crawley, and Lady Grantham had male suitors. ( Maybe there is hope for me as well!) Heck, Lady Crawley, had two. Such hopeful times, they lived in! No Match.com for them.
People don’t change; needs and wants don’t change. It is just the avenue that gets us to where we want to go that has changed so drastically through the years. And while, I live in hope of receiving at least a few more “immoral propositions”, I hope that they will be the propositions of old, full of romance, rather than of the newer type of which I have become accustomed. Maybe all I need is a downstairs maid!