Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Downton Abby: Or Dynasty Done Properly

Season three of Downton Abby has aired here in the States. And with this year's cliffhanger ending I caught my breath and asked the empty room, "Who shot J.R.?"

Then I remembered that was Dallas and it happened a very long time ago. And then I remembered how much people still talked about Dallas and Dynasty when I lived in England. (By the way, pronounce it DIN-ess-tea please.) Somehow folks couldn't—I supposed—come to grips with American-style over-the-top prime-time soap opera fantasy. I kept being asked why did they write that kind of story if it wasn't really the way we lived?

At the time I didn't think much of it. I thought it was just something fun to wind us Yanks up about. After all, plenty of Brits were there every episode for Eastenders and Home and Away, the Aussie import. How could American soaps be that odd? Like fussing about Coke Cola, it seemed a reason to gripe that we were turning them into the 51st state.

With all the Downton hype I think I finally have my cultural studies answer. Britian was jealous at America taking early honors in the pop-culture phenomenon of prime-time soap operas disguised as regular drama. They don't mind at all when we adopt and adapt their cultural norms: The Beatles, et.al. but they are the older culture and naturally meant to take the lead. Actually Britain feels nature-bound to take the lead so now they can over the top more than we did.

On the one hand Brits with Julian Fellows doing the writing that Downton Abby has street cred for life-in-a-big-country-house reality. On the other, even he is subject to actors, money, time, and whatever else goes into making a successful show.

But, really, does it matter? Downton Abby is fun. Soon it will even more Dynasty than ever. And, as always, if Britian would like to consider becoming the 51st state they'll need to fill in an application, be ready to fire the queen and dissolve parliment upon receiving statehood status.

Whew, I need some shopping therapy. Selfridges here I come!!!

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