meta-tv-viewing: starting downton abbey on the anniversary of the titanic sinking

Is that a spoiler? I don't even know.

Upon the recommendation of pretty much literally everyone I've ever spoken to about it, I finally got to watching Downton Abbey last Sunday, after an ill-conceived six PM nap turned into being WIDE awake at midnight. Conveniently, it was the anniversary of the Titanic, which is the day the show opens on.

Also conveniently, we (the people living today, right now) are approaching the 100-year anniversary of World War I, which begins at the end of the first season of Downton. Well played, Julian Fellowes.

Though, he also penned an ITV miniseries about the Titanic, which was less than well-received, to be polite. So to say that he had not planned this out meticulously would be a mistake.

Anywho. There's a really neat series happening at MentalFloss that categorizes the events that led up to WWI, discussing them 100 years after they occurred. It gives a nuanced picture of the rumblings of war, which started further back than I would've guessed.

I've always been a fan of historical fiction, especially that which shows the everyday lives of normal people in the time of a turbulent historical event. For instance, the disaster of the Titanic profoundly impacts the lives of the inhabitants of Downton by killing off the heir apparent, as Papa Downton (or Lord Grantham, if you want to be all accurate about it) has not managed to sire any sons. I don't think that's really a spoiler, since it happens in the first ten or so minutes of the hour-long first episode, and the entirety of the show is more or less centered around the conflict of Heirs Heirs Everywhere and Not A One For Mary.

Okay, that's a lie. There's only one heir. And he works a day job! Matthew Crawley is the best, man. He's a lawyer and seems sort of like a normal guy, even a successful one, in our modern views, but the fact that he's employed is of severe distaste to the Granthams. (Great line from the Dowager Countess on this one, played epically by Maggie Smith: The family is quizzing Matthew about his work, and asking how he plans to run the estate if he's going to keep his job, and he says, "Well of course I'll have time after work, and on the week-end," with a sort of Britishy pause, and then DC says, quite acerbically, "What is a week end?" It's hilarious. Watch it. You'll see.)

The show is fraught with romance. Everyone is having romances all over the place, though very few of them seem to involve any physical contact. The air at Downton is so full of sexual tension, it's a wonder that literally everyone is not pregnant. If you're on Tumblr, you've almost certainly come across someone 'shipping at least one pairing on Downton incredibly hard - commonly [mild spoiler] Anna and Bates, or Mary and Matthew, though I'm personally really rooting for Daisy and William, because they're both just so nice and sort of dumb! And they'd be great together! I'm also sort of into the idea of the driver, whose name I can't remember, and Sibyl, because it would be so dramatic and very much like the time that Sibyl wore a pair of pants, but even more so, because those pants were sort of stupid.

ANYWAY. I'm not sure why this show is so compelling. It may be because it's just incredibly hilarious. I have not spoken to a single person to date who isn't in love with this show. Sure, sometimes there's moralizing that's incredibly trite, but then also sometimes [major spoiler] you take a lover and he dies almost instantly and you have to enlist your mother and your maid to help you move the body. It's that sort of highbrow English comedy that makes me love Downton. And, of course, yelling at Mary through the screen, about how she's so dumb and Matthew would be so great for her if only she'd stop being such a snoot.

There's also the element of Upstairs Downstairs about it, where you get to see a breadth of social classes from the time period, and learn things about the incredibly confusing status of the lower class - for instance, did you know that being Second Footman is a higher position than being a stablehand? I had no idea! I guess if I had thought about it, I might've guessed, because being a footman involves wearing a tux and being a stablehand involves wearing an apron, I guess? Maybe. Who knows. I'm not British, nor am I living in a manor.

If you don't like Downton, tell me in the comments.