Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rules and accountability

A few weeks ago I came across Downton Abbey on Netflix, watched an episode, and was hooked. I watched all of the first season in a few days. The series does much well but something that particularly appealed to me was its refusal to use class as an easy way to assign virtue or vice. There are earnestly ethical, deeply flawed, kind, self-centered, characters at every level of the social hierarchy. And, very realistically, all of those traits can inhabit the very same person. This review offers another reason the series works so well:
On the last episode of the wildly popular PBS drama Downton Abbey, one character tells another: "You've broken the rules, my girl, and it's no use pretending they're easily mended."

The popular British import, set in World War I, portrays the aristocratic Crawley family and the cadre of cooks, maids, and butlers who tend to them, in all their relational and class-based drama. The show is all about rules, whether bowing to class structure or honoring commitments from the past. The rules present the extraordinary obstacles in this show . . . except that they’re not so extraordinary, really, and that’s one of the many reasons this show works. ....

...[M]y favorite aspect of Downton is its emphasis on humans’ agency and accountability despite social and economic barriers. The characters are never excused for their choices by circumstance, class, gender, time period, or even the unfairness of the rules to which they so tightly cling. .... [more]
Her.meneutics: The Power of Choice in 'Downton Abbey'

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