Monday, March 12, 2012

Downton Abbey



A good lesson in patience is holding off watching any remarkably awesome series of a television show until there are plenty of episodes to enjoy, otherwise you'll be stuck waiting nearly a year for more, like I currently am for Downton Abbey. I thought two seasons was very good, but I'm at the edge of my seat and have no recourse till season three is out, who knows when.

I adore TV. I unabashedly love it. Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Walking Dead, and now Downton Abbey are all favourites. I also love Game of Thrones, another one I got into far too early. The Dude introduced me to it when, unbeknownst to me, there were only two episodes. When I asked for a third and learned I'd have to wait, I cursed his name.

While watching Downton Abbey, you can't help but wonder what life would have been like. You see the older generation put off by innovations like indoor electricity, a motor vehicle, a telephone and gramophone. It seems quaint. But thinking on it, until all those things which took place roughly in this decade of time, people could only see by candle or sunlight, write letters or send telegrams to communicate long distance, ride long distances by horse and buggy or train, and listen to music when people were actually singing and playing instruments.

That's a significant improvement in modern day convenience, isn't it? I mean, I'd feel hard up without my laptop. I'd be bored without a TV. Modern transportation and portable phones and music, never mind electricity are kind of not be done without.

I read Jane Austen from time to time, and thoroughly enjoy the BBC's Pride and Prejudice. Best adaptation there is out there. And watching Downton Abbey against Pride and Prejudice is incredibly interesting because they're set 100 years apart and have so much in common with very notable differences.

Downton Abbey begins with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, whereas P&P is set roughly in the early 1800s. The households are both in England, both involve families of the gentry, though the Bennets in P&P aren't aristocracy like the Crawleys are in Downton Abbey, but rather landowners.

What's amazing is that other than some modern conveniences, life between these two eras of time seems very similar. Women try to marry well, first sons inherit, other sons make their way how they can and try to marry well. Help is hired to live in the house, and there is no moving between classes. Then suddenly along comes a war and whamo, social change comes afoot.

Women are needed to be more useful and rise to the challenge and don't feel like going back into the shadows. North America becomes a land of opportunity and escape from a class system, whereas before it was developed it was a harsh and brutal landscape to consider running off to. And the fashion gets amazing.

And comparing the two reminds me a lot of the movie Midnight In Paris, where the leading man goes back in time to the '30s and experiences the amazing creative forces of Dali and Hemingway. It's funny to be nostalgic for a time that you never belonged to, especially a culture you're not a part of, but I get it. I feel it when I watch Downton Abbey.

No doubt I come from a line of seamstresses or maids or something. The likes of me wouldn't have had a chance for the prettiness of the time. And the sanitation issues would have been problematic, not to mention inadequate maternity care and the lack of equal rights for all. But it's hard not to romanticize a time when people dressed well for dinner, enjoyed tea and took pride in at least trying to speak their piece politely.

People get nostalgic for other times, too, and I can appreciate the glamour of the '20s, the charming fashion of the '50s, the excitement of the '60s, the sexual revolution of the '70s... skip the '80s. Bleh. And I miss the music and pre-digital-age days of the '90s, which is something I have a right to because I lived it.

I look around and wonder if in 40 years anyone will reminisce for now. The fashion is okay here and there, but is vulgar or boring in far too many pockets of society. Equal rights for all has never been better, though there's an attack on women happening now and it's shocking and makes me sick. I can only imagine in the future things will have greatly improved, so I can't see why someone would look back fondly on what is clearly a work in progress.

The digital age has pushed hardcore porn into the mainstream consciousness, and frankly I think the abundance of it is warping young men. Back when it was harder to get, one could hardly immerse oneself with it without paying through the nose and getting embarrassed at the video store. Now one can view it all day if they want to. Softcore pornography has invaded our streets, to the point it's been normalized and people don't even think it's softcore anymore, and I think it's warping young women and contributing to eating disorders.

Cell phones, although convenient, have created new atrocious social habits. People will go out with others and rather than talk and interact, will get out their phone and text people who aren't even present. On Facebook or Twitter, people will call out others and have inappropriate conversations online in front of everyone they know. A technological explosion has made electronic devices common and mainstream, nearly indispensable. As exciting as that is, it feels unsustainable. Probably because in its current state, it is.

There's politics ongoing now that are serious problems. Starting with the ill-advised war on terror in Iraq of all places, economic downturns and increased poverty and unemployment, Europe sinking financially, a fanatical religious right trying to scare people into an everyone-for-themselves way of thinking, while religious zealots breed and expand in record numbers during a time of overpopulation when our Earth has reached 7 billion.

Income and wealth disparity is on the rise, celebrity news and infotainment has never been hotter and people care less and less about even so much as voting. And no wonder because the political system is broken and no one is repairing it.

Actually, is it any wonder I love TV so much? TV's frankly never been so good. It certainly is an escape. It's possibly the best thing going on these days.

My mom used to say, "If you remembered the '60s, you weren't really there." She was a teenager back then and I mostly think she was joking around. But it shows a fondness for an era. I wonder what I'll say about the '90s when I was a teenager. Will it be fond? And the--What? The Zeroes? The Naughts? The millenium? Whatever it is, those are my 20s. What will be said about them? Will I be fond retrospectively? Hard to say. These are hardly romantic years in the 21st century.

We might be stuck watching period pieces if romance is what we're after. That and a more sustainable population. But there I go, romanticizing again. Can't be helped.

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