For those of you not familiar with the PBS series that ran from 2010 through 2015, Downton Abbey is a chronicle of the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants in the early 1900s.
You would think a television series about snotty but loving rich people and crabby but loving servants would be boring, to say the least. But I’ve watched this series twice already, and am enthralled by the people and their morals and choices during that time period. It is well acted and easy to be pulled into their mini dramas.
The Vox website calls Downton Abbey “… maudlin, sentimental, and overwrought.” That may be true, but my point is not the “right” or “wrong” of the serie’s intentions.
I love a book or movie that can actually bring you into another time, another world. A storyline that makes you reflect on what you believe today compared to what they believed “back then.”
I often bristled at their morals, their choices, their personalities. The series hits upon everyone’s weak spot. This person is such a beast, this one is such a simpleton. This one is hiding an out-of-wedlock child, this one can’t read.
But I found that I don’t have to agree with their way of life to enjoy their way of life. A true storyteller brings you into their world with little effort on your part. Their effort, on the other hand, is often amazing. They research the time period, the language, the location, and the morals of the time. They research the gossip of the time, the belief systems, and even the weather.
Downton Abbey has made me rethink some of the things I have written in the past. Or perhaps has made me question my presentation of the times my characters landed in. Not that anything I have written is wrong — it just makes me want to be as accurate and accepting of the times as the stories deserve.
I have seen movies where modern lingo is meshed into ancient Rome and Egypt. I have read books where modern morals take the place of puritan values just so the lovers can meet — and love. And although the end result is still entertaining, it’s not reflective of the beauty of times other than ours.
I am smart enough to know that there was indeed — and still is, to some extent — a large divide between the upper class and the working/lower class. That not all rich people are as accommodating as the Crawleys. That not everyone who was a cook or lady’s maid enjoyed their position in life. But it is a glimpse of the prejudice and morals of the early 20th century.
I will be done with the second round of D.A. soon. I have learned a lot from the Crawleys and their life from 1912 through 1925. And I look forward to the next series that will give me ideas from their era. I will listen to the thoughts and emotions of those who lived all those years ago, and try to hone my characters closer to the truth.
Are there any shows, books, or movies that have influenced your creativity?