Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Smith’

maggie-smith-downtown-abbey-tIf you are not a Downton Abbey viewer, then you have some explaining to do! Sherrylee and I just finished Season 3, but now, days later, I find myself still thinking about some of the drama—sure, some of the melodrama also—and I do miss the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Lady Violet Crawley, played amazingly by the great Maggie Smith.

Downton Abbey has been broadcast in 200 countries worldwide and has had at least 120 million viewers!  I’ve been asking myself this morning what is it about this very British, very Edwardian period piece, that speaks to the whole world?

One of the ways to analyze narrative, whether TV, film, or literature, is to find the points of dramatic conflict or tension.  For instance, in Downton Abbey, the following points of tension are fairly obvious:

  • Tradition versus Change  –  The house and estate themselves represent ancient values and the fact that they are hardly financially viable—one of the main tensions running through the series—is because the world outside is changing in previously unimaginable ways.  WWI is (and was) the dramatic end of the old era—but not everyone at Downton knows that!
  • Upstairs versus Downstairs – The downstairs world of those in service, though intricately connected to the upstairs world of the lords and ladies, operates its own systems and personalities in both dramatic contrast but also a surprising degree of similarity to their superiors.
  • Dominance of men versus equality of women – The very first dramatic moment of the series occurs when the Crawley family with only daughters cannot continue at Downton because of a tragedy unless one of the daughters marries the heir-apparent, since only men can inherit titles.
  • Privileged social class versus democratic middle-class values – The new male heir-apparent to Downton is a distant relative who has grown up middle class. As another example in later episodes, the Crawley’s youngest daughter marries the chauffeur, creating still further class tensions in the family.
  • Inherited wealth versus mercantile values – The idea of the estate turning a profit is beneath the Earl of Grantham, but not the heir-apparent who later becomes co-owner of the estate.

I do not intend to allegorize Downton Abbey, but I can’t help but observe some obvious similarities to our yet-to-be serialized melodrama in churches today!

I wonder if a series called Old Campbell Street Church would go as viral as Downton Abbey?   Do you think we could develop the theme of Tradition vs. Change? What about the role of men and women?  And I have a pretty good idea we could do inherited values vs. current values!

The first episode might be something like this:  The Campbell family has been the wealthiest, most influential family in the Old Campbell Street Church for seven generations. The oldest male Campbell has always presided over the eldership, but the current Campbell family only has daughters, so the question of continuity of power is acute!

To make matters worse, the oldest and prettiest daughter has fallen in love with the youth minister, a talented but uncredentialed young man who did not even attend one of the big Christian universities!  The fear in the Campbell family is that if these two were to marry, the Campbell daughter would be doomed to a life of youth rallies and summer camps and that her husband, in an abuse of his family connection with them, might try to introduce new songs into the traditional worship.

The tensions increase further when the youngest Campbell daughter runs off with a Young Democrat!  Will she ever be allowed to return to the Old Campbell Street Church after having shamed the family?  And how will their children be raised?

Ridiculous, isn’t it!

Let’s just pray that God never has to watch this channel!


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