Are You Ready for Some Downton Abbey!

There arose, in the comments of my previous post, both a question about, and a defense of, Downton Abbey. So, why exactly have I banned Downton Abbey? Easy: For the same reason I banned pro football in my house.

Let me explain.

I have a friend who hates his job. It’s just above entry-level. It’s not exciting, challenging, or terribly rewarding. He works with (and for) a fist of women who are fat, gossipy slobs. To make it worse: His wife is a low-level executive at a major corporation. She is the bread-winner, and his income is rather superfluous. They use it to pay off their accumulated debt.

For years, every several months, my friend would ask me: “Hey, Cane, do you think you could get me on where you work?”

“Well, you’d have to have the skills I have. You need to get training.”

“Oh, ok.”

And then we’d go back to our beer and cigarettes and crack jokes, or maybe he’d start telling me a story which was ostensibly about the difficulties of raising children, but was actually about how his wife doesn’t contribute enough to that process. This is, of course, assuming he got permission to come hang out with me. [1]

This friend is certainly smart enough to do the work I do, and his logistical skills are better than mine. He could definitely do my job, but he won’t get the knowledge. This guy knows every name and statistic of every NFL starter, and has for the past 20 years, but he can’t be bothered to get a couple certifications that I could use to sell the rest of his experience. He spends hours every day watching sports broadcasts, watching sporting news[2], playing Madden, listening to sports radio in the car…

The common refrain is that he needs to man up, and it’s true. Yet, he’s already keenly aware of that. The mirror tells him this every day of his life. My saying it one more time won’t do anything but confirm him of the opinion that he’d better get used to the pain of being a lesser man. So, what could I do? One thing for sure: I knew the NFL wanted my friend in this state. They want his life devoted to professional football. They want his wife working to buy more crap to justify more Super Bowl commercials. They want him fantasizing and idolizing the life other men lead. So, I said, “To Hell with the NFL.”

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

To be clear: That’s my charity for my neighbor. Forgoing pro football is not an imperative for everyone who would be a Christian. It’s not the law. I’m not even recommending it.

Now that we’ve made a full circuit of my perspective you hopefully have a better idea of my perspective on the utility of entertainment, and how I judge what is good to consume. Taking this back to Downton Abbey, I wrote:

“[…] I put forward that the major dilemma of season one–Mary’s fornication and it’s, ah, resolution–was picked precisely because the one thing they [the producers of the show] knew all women can agree on is that banging a foreign prince and getting away with it is just too hot to ignore.”

To sum up the action under discussion: A Turkish noble visited the noble family in residence at the show’s title, and the eldest daughter (Mary) took him to her bed almost immediately after meeting him. That’s where he died. The women of the family conspire to hide it–not only from the public–, but the father and future suitors.

Of all the women on the show, Mary is the prettiest and the most broadly sympathetic for modern women. She’s mouthy, bored, and derisive of anything except what strikes her fancy. Because of the expense of television production, it is in the best interest of the producers to use their most enticing hook in the first season. They need to get viewers to commit to watch it every week so that the advertising companies will offer more money to run their ads around the show.

The hook is this: “Imagine being your beautiful entitled self, but in the past; back when clothes were more elegant; back when there were horses and castles; back when you could really earn a risky thrill by fornicating with the irresistible foreigner.”

The conspiracies of the women is a major theme of the show, and the first time we see fully see it is in the cover-up of Mary’s fornication. The argument has been made that what we need is more of this conspiratorial action by women; that a missing piece of today’s social puzzle is women pulling levers behind household thrones to machinate good works, and that Downton Abbey provides a pretty good template for how that works. It’s my opinion that to say such a thing is to admit to having fell for the ruse. Yes, women’s conspiracy and impudence can be put to very good use and is too often missing in the background of Christian affairs. Playing upon this truth is how they get the conservative-minded sort of folks who like a good period piece to accept it. This way they get the introverted and extroverted sluts hooked; all with Dad’s approval.

I don’t know about other households out there, but this is something to which the females of the Caldo family are remarkably susceptible. And it’s not a movie, but a series; something to which you have to make a commitment of many hours to watch and understand. Even if every episode after the first two seasons are gen-u-ine conservative hallmarks, I cannot forgive the deep cynicism used in those twelve episodes. More importantly: I’m not so stupid as to think it just flies right by my wife and daughters without whispering in their sinful and relatively undiscerning minds that they are missing out on some really good fucking and drama.

Before you start harrumphing that nearly every show worth watching has some form of perverted content in it, let me spare you: You’ve missed the point. What I ban is not based upon whether I agree with the actions of the characters, but whether I believe the show has a corrupting effect on the neighbors who live in my house. It very well could be the case that this doesn’t tempt your neighbors…but the fact that it’s a hit show–from Britain–speaks against that possibility…that and the fact that American women practice fornication almost universally.

[1] I adore his wife. She’s very sheep-y, and I believe would follow his lead if he took it. At least, that was true a few years ago. Now they’ve established patterns, and breaking patterns is painful even when it is helpful. Resetting mishealed bones is no work for sissies.

[2] Sports broadcasts and news are a double-whammy because cable/satellite is expensive. In the age of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant the only reason to have cable is for the sports. Very often one of the bills that send women to the office to act as other men’s wives is cable/satellite. It’s part of a larger cycle of pushing women to “produce” in the corporate fields so that they can be “better” consumers. Then, having developed a taste for consumption, feel compelled to “produce” to obtain and justify that consumption.

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21 thoughts on “Are You Ready for Some Downton Abbey!

  1. Poor Mr. Pamuk.

    I like the show, mostly the sets. I watch for the rugs. Is that like reading Playboy for the articles?

    I do think its nice you guard your girls from harm. I’m not allowed to watch anything on bravo.

  2. Yes, women’s conspiracy and impudence can be put to very good use and is too often missing in the background of Christian affairs. Playing upon this truth is how they get the conservative-minded sort of folks who like a good period piece to accept it.

    I’m not convinced the conservative acceptance runs this deep intellectually. It feels old, which is what modern conservatism is fundamentally about. But just because it is “period” chick crack, doesn’t change the fact that it is chick crack.

    My wife however found a version of Downtown Abbey on youtube we could enjoy as a family:

  3. Dalrock – I had never seen DA before, thank you for illuminating me. Now I see that it is clearly a show of high quality and rare depth, soaring high through the same rarified air (!) as classics such as Benny Hill.

  4. @Dalrock

    I’m not convinced the conservative acceptance runs this deep intellectually. It feels old, which is what modern conservatism is fundamentally about.

    {unnecessary pedantry}I think we’re describing the same phenomenon. The “playing upon” is a series of subtle cues and patterns that fit with the conservative mindset. This, in turn, is what evokes the “feeling”. “Feeling”–in this usage–being another word for “subconsciously processed”. It dresses up the narrative in a conservative uniform, which gets it waived through the moral gatehouse of the conservative. This registers as a feeling more than a series of subtle thoughts. {/unnecessary pedantry}

    @Velvet

    Poor Mr. Pamuk.

    Indeed. I reflected on this last night as I was writing the post. Poisoned by that queer, Thomas? Those people ruin everything. And to think, poor Mr. Pamuk probably even heeded Thomas’s suggestion of sodomy; albeit with a different port. We could safely assume this because when Pamuk enters Mary’s room he tells her no one will know about their tryst, and she will still have her virginity the next day. Well-played Mr. Pamuk! Of course, many possibilities exist: She might have slobbered on his knob, or perhaps they merely played slap and tickle until he shot his wad on her nightgown. There’s no reason to believe he merely meant to deceive.

    It was good of him to think of her future. Such a considerate man–with dark Turkish looks and a posh English accent!–should be spared from fags and death.

    What?

  5. Re Downtown Abbey, I didn’t miss much. I always thought it was this artsy fartsy old British crap that pretended to be conservative on the surface but was really about back hall shenanigans. Bring me back my Benny Hill and my Monty Python!

    When I realized the only shows I watch on cable were my fave NBA team games, I was thinking, what the heck am I paying $60-70/month for? Love my fave team, don’t love the bill. Guess what, cable companies, I lost the bill. Be happy to stream that team’s NBA games to hi-def TV for $10/month. But they’ll never do it.

  6. @Velvet

    As I’ve said: Downton Abbey is not ok in my estimation, and if you get snippy without realizing I will give better than I get then you have mistaken me for a reasonable man. I realize you’d prefer it if I’d not make you look bad, but nobody made you say out-loud that you love the show, and then come on my blog and be flippant. Downton Abbey is the one that introduced the filth that I’ve spoken. If it bothers you that I’m engaging it on its level, then perhaps you’d be wise to not provoke me with “Poor Mr. Pamuk.”

    The writers of the show did not try to make us believe that Mary and he were playing thumb wars. I received the message loud and clear, and so did you. In fact what I wrote is precisely what they intended. There’s too much money for coincidence. It is their intent for the viewer to ask themselves, “Oh my goodness, what does Pamuk mean by that?” You just don’t like me pointing it out because this porn is porn you like. If I had written with the same derision and sarcasm about some high-production plot-line driven skin-flick you would have suggested a toast instead of a timeout. You wouldn’t have said what they produce is “just a show”; you’d have joined me in the ridicule.

  7. Cane Caldo, are we fighting? I am not invested in the show, or the issue, to the extent you appear to be, which is why I am careless about discussing it. I don’t even remember the storyline at issue except that he was the hottest guy on there so of course they killed him. I’m sorry if I offended you, it certainly wasn’t my purpose. I like the rugs. That’s it, that’s all. Mr. Pamuk is just another rug. Rug porn. It doesn’t influence this household beyond that.

    As far as making me “look bad” I’m pretty sure I’m my own marketing team, there, and fulfillment department and customer follow up. You haven’t that scope, I’m afraid. I’m actually better at it than you could ever hope to be.

    Happy Thanksgiving. I’m sorry if I was flippant about something more important to you than I realized. You’re one of my most valued virtual acquaintances, will you forgive me my error?

  8. BTW, “Poor Mr. Pamuk” was a line your beloved sheep-y wife character said more than once, because she was sorry he was dead, and being smuggled about in a sheet and thumped down the stairs like a hay bale. He was a person in the world, and despite his moral bankruptcy he deserved better than dying humiliated and foul. That line is not one of simple pity, but one of the neighborliness you describe in your op, as I understand it.

  9. @Velvet

    Cane Caldo, are we fighting?

    We were, but we don’t have to. And I gladly forgive you.

    My fight is not with the fictional Pamuk; neither is it with you nor my girls, but with the writers and producers who create and push this stuff. The whole situation is crafted with intricate detail to be a bad situation that women will like–just like the porn men watch. And I’m not arguing that you don’t watch it for the rugs.

    The fact remains that none of us can possibly be impervious to what we don’t recognize, and that they include the rugs and the castles and the horses and the Dowager Countess as the cover to get otherwise sensible women to enjoy some porn but remain guilt-free. If you notice it, you can catch it in your filters. My girls are not very good at that, and–frankly–don’t want to be. I find this is true of women generally.

    For the record: I did have a bourbon, and it was grand, and make me sleepy. Now I’m off to catch a nap before I wake-up at 1AM to smoke a turkey. You TC girls, second only to Dalrock, are responsible for this blog. I am thankful for you.

  10. While if you judge that its deadly for your family it is your affair; and I can’t defend Mary’s character at all. However, I would _expect_ shows set in a fallen world to have bad eggs. The sex is also never glorified and Mary isn’t shown as being strong for having engaged in it. Mary doesn’t succeed except where she gives in and marries the less savory beta (I have a feeling that ends poorly which is why I haven’t seen anything past Season 2). The snarling maid is effectively destroyed and tries to reform. The fairy in particular is an interesting character because, well, he’s the bad guy. I’m sorry I can’t even imagine _pitching_ that in modern Brittan. I can see why reactionaries like our ilk would not like it but I don’t think its near as bad as you paint it.

    I think you also skip over the Duke/Footman relationship and the relationship between the “good” older maid (name escapes me…its been a while) and said Footman…or whatever the old sergeants title is.

    Since we’re on TV, how about Longmire? I think that show is amazing. Good fallen characters. A troubled alpha sheriff with a soft spot for his dead wife. Close male friendships. The chicks are, well, normal is probably the best and saddest word. Fortunately, it doesn’t concentrate on them too much. If the show begins to focus on the daughter and the deputy I might lose interest but they are mostly a side story. Bonus in its probably the only good “acting” Lou Diamond Philips has ever done.

  11. I’m with you on Longmire. We just found it on Netflix and are captivated by it. The scenery, the directing, the music, and the actor playing lead….all top shelf. Lou DP, agreed.
    We have only 3 episodes under our belt.

  12. The series does dip with a romance you are about to hit. But it never reaches the point where it overwhelms the Sheriff.

  13. @GKC

    I would _expect_ shows set in a fallen world to have bad eggs. [..] I can see why reactionaries like our ilk would not like it but I don’t think its near as bad as you paint it.

    There seems to be the mistaken impression that my desire is for some kind of purity in art. No.

    Look: there exists a context–pop/current culture–that is totally out of our control. If I examine the show as if it existed outside that context then I might say: “Hey, that show is fine.” (It still bores me.) In my opinion it is very stupid of conservatives to do this, and this is how they lose the culture war. It’s not a coincidence that every year Disney makes a movie about strong entitled princesses that either reject their father, or he is simply not around. It doesn’t matter to them either way, because the main point is to make movies that highlight strong females who do not need a father to succeed; that all their sins mistakes make them the beautiful heroines they were always meant to be.

    I do not buy the line that women filter out the things we want them to filter out; the “bad eggs” as bad, for example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say–of a pop hit they’re singing–,”Oh, I don’t pay attention to the words.” It’s lie. It’s a flat-out lie, and they think they can sell it because they know men want to believe women are angels; that they don’t want dick; that they don’t think about sex; that they don’t linger on John Mayer’s much discussed sexual merits when they listen to his songs; that they don’t want to be the most beautiful and haughty princess who lives in a castle and has a potentially dangerous but ultimately harmless liaisons with foreign princes. Women don’t exist in a moral vacuum; waiting to be pulled towards or spared from bad eggs. They love them some bad eggs. (Which is why I detest the stupid idea that women like strong provider types, and that why they like bad boys is because they are actually displaying provider tendencies. My experience is they liked me bad.)

    I tried Longmire a few months ago, but it bored me, too. However; I do have a post in the works on the Jesse Stone series; which I imagine is a favorite of conservative women.

  14. It bores me too. That’s my chief complaint about it. Id like to say I dislike being caught up in things like that too, but it would not be true. I was caught up in Lost, Breaking Bad, and Walking Dead. Cannot paint much virtue on those canvases. I liked the vicarious feelings they render, which is exactly what Cane is referring to when he observes what the ladies like in these things. Some may get that special feeling from floor coverings, I wouldnt know.

  15. @Empath

    …Breaking Bad…

    Now imagine that we lived within a culture where cooking meth was something most men tried at least a few times in their lives, and there were a bunch of cartoons about kids sneaking off to sell over-the counter meds against their parents’ wills. Finally, imagine it is considered bad form to berate men for past experiences of selling drugs; that those are precious moments that build character, and make men a great catch.

    Seriously; it’s hard to even imagine. You can get a bit closer by replacing slinging meth with violence, but even that is a stretch. Most men I know have never been in a real fist fight; certainly never started one. As one who has done both many times (and more than once as an adult) there are certain shows I don’t watch.

  16. As to Jesse Stone, if you read my recent post about the correlation between the press to churchian norms and the ultimate acting out of girls, that fits perfectly. I can list off the approved TV shows for conservative Christians and bet it would coincide with what you, Cane, may list, but more, would coincide with the actual lists of preferred shows they love to love. Not all of them have the element you are suggesting, but they all have the herd mentality aspect like the one you see whenever the Baptists in Atlanta get busy making another movie like Fireproof.
    Matlack, Murder She Wrote, for older ones, Psych, White Collar, for newer ones. The list is extensive, and are displayed like merit badges

  17. I get the analogy about slinging meth, I got the point even before. Yes, all those things celebrate the means for the decay of the female member of society. Its a wink wink nudge nudge celebration of the carousel, or even milder forms of rebellion.

    I cannot find a similar hook in walking dead, dispatching zombies has little to offer in terms of real life vicarious experience. But I can still hope, and watch the evening horizon, can’t I. Yesterday, as some desert was being prepared, my wife found some sugar had lumped up, and some Caro type syrup was past its sell by date, but sealed. I always have to remind my group, when the zombie apocalypse comes, lumpy sugar and sell by dates become less important…..now go sharpen your garden tools kids

  18. I don’t get bored by Longmire, but then I like good solid forward progress and he does that. Isn’t this thread about the harm of titillation after all?

    I also appreciate the analogy and if it doesn’t work for your clan all the better to ban it. However, one quick point: I do think they tell the truth that they don’t _hear_ the words but they do _listen_ to them (akin to Holmes “you see but you do not observe”). My wife blushed when I read out the lyrics to a few of her old favorites. That doesn’t mean they weren’t having an effect, but that it was passive. I think our Dark Overlords are very keen on that mechanic.

  19. Pingback: The Extended Bible Battle Halftime Show: On Longmire | Things that We have Heard and Known

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