Downton Abbey, the British TV series, is a huge favorite in the English speaking world. With sharp dialog, sparkling sets, and fabulous clothes, who doesn’t love the Sunday night extravaganza of opulence and biting rejoinders? Being historically true to its times, it is a favorite of our duchesses.
It is such a phenomenon that Downton Abbey is going to shape what we see and read for the next several years. Ordinarily, we duchesses stick to historical fact. Today, I am going to take us on a journey of futuristic fantasy. Or, more bluntly put, my best guesses.
1) An emphasis on older women who speak their minds. We’ve seen some of this in the Margaret Thatcher biopic and the Marigold Hotel movie. With Maggie Smith’s outstanding Dowager Countess (who could forget her reply to the newspaper magnate, when he said they’d never meet again, “do you promise?”), supported by Mrs. Crawley and her determination to bring good nursing care to the soldiers near the front lines and Shirley MacLaine’s nouveau-riche American force of nature, older women will become central in more “big” stories. The Dowager Countess’ lines get repeated around my house by young ladies who appreciate a good barbed comeback. Who doesn’t like to see, or read about, a woman of experience finding new paths or branching out and facing down all her naysayers. We hope that will be ourselves one day.
2) An emphasis on large family sagas. These were very popular thirty years ago in Dallas and Dynasty on TV and complex tales of relationships surrounding a privately owned business or fortune. We’re seeing a renaissance now in Downton Abbey and the Borgias, disproving the theory that our attention spans are now as long as a thirty second commercial. If the story is compelling enough, readers and viewers will stick around.
3) Rich guy/poor girl tales have been around since Cinderella put on that glass slipper. What Downton Abbey brings us is the poor guy getting the rich girl. Lady Sybil married the chauffeur. The Earl of Grantham lost his rich wife’s fortune. Anna’s husband is in jail, and while she is only rich in freedom, she’ll be trying to prove his innocence and seeing life while all he sees is stone walls. I predict more of this in our future.
4) And the obvious. More interest and production of movies, TV, and books in the Edwardian, WWI, Roaring 20s and Depression time periods. More breath-taking costumes working their way into modern fashions. We’ve seen this with Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire and Warhorse. There will be more. I love this time period, and if everything that comes out is made with the same high quality as Downton Abbey, I can’t wait.
Twisted plots, revenge and grace, sharp words, poignant moments, fabulous wardrobes, and Isis, the retriever. Who could ask for more? I expect Downton Abbey to inspire some wonderful fiction in the future.