BLOGIRADE | THE INDIA FILES
by James Killough
It turns out I spoke too soon about Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey. By the season finale, she’s had more comeuppance than she deserved, and she’s managed to move from super bitch to sympathetic heroine. I have to hand it to show creator and writer Julian Fellowes: superb job on the old character arc, there, dear chap.
Regardless of what happens outside the house, what is at the center of Downton Abbey is the dynamic between servants and their masters, which is always the basis for shows like this, that intricate Upstairs, Downstairs relationship drama, a perverse master-slave relationship that can be seen as a microculture of the whole employer/employee, ruler/subject dynamic of the world at large.
I grew up with live-in “staff” or “help,” or whatever euphemism works best to chase away the sour taste of having to use the word “servant.” And it’s correct to use a euphemism in our case because they weren’t servants as the term denotes in a Downton Abbey way. They really were there to just to help the family, and were treated in as egalitarian a fashion as possible, except for the fact they slept in the servant’s quarters near the kitchen where the laundry was drying, they never ate with us, they called my parents “sir” and “madam,” served us dinner from the left, cleared the plates from the right…. Well, I suppose we did our best not to have servants despite evidence to the contrary.