How Far is Too Far?

I was about to head to bed, but I can't do it without saying something.

I'm incredibly disturbed tonight. And you might call it trivial. You might say, "it's just real," or "it's just fiction." But is it really *just* fiction? Or is it a reflection of the world today, the failing standards of our media, our society?

I don't mean to get all heavy and focus on *issues* and you'll probably laugh when I tell you the cause of this.

But I was seriously disturbed by the latest episode of Downton Abbey tonight. Disgusted. Slightly traumatized. And disappointed.

It's no secret that Downton Abbey has had a phenomenal number of viewers, one of them being me. And yes, the show has touched on certain issues in previous seasons, but for the most part it's been something pleasant and fine, something I could enjoy watching, that I could have a feel-good happy dance inside that things would turn out okay and it was just a pleasant escape into an earlier time that I could enjoy and root for my favorite characters. I loved it!

Until tonight.

Even now hours after watching the terrible ending to this latest episode where Anna, one of the most beloved characters of the whole show, gets raped in a terribly heartless way while the rest of the family and servants are upstairs oblivious and enjoying themselves, was completely brutal. And no, the scene wasn't overly grotesque or graphic, but it was shattering enough to leave me shaken. How dare they take my show and add such a horrific scene? AND THEN to have her cover for the scumbag?? Intolerable!! I don't care what her reasoning was. It was out of character, and out of Mrs. Hughes' character to agree to cover for her and in a sense, him too. How many other servants have been thrown out almost the instant they screwed up? And then to have Mr. Green or whatever his name was do this and Anna bid him good-night to cover for him in front of her husband? Sorry, NO WAY.

(I hope you don't assume that I'm naive enough to not know things like this actually happen in real life. Just because I know it all too well doesn't mean I choose it as a form of entertainment, especially when it's thrown at me seemingly out of nowhere!)

As a writer, I understand the need to rattle your audience and have a bit of grief, to crank up tension to keep them interested and keep them turning pages (or in this case returning for the next episode). But this scene did not fit into the show at all, for me, and from the reviews, comments and responses I've read, I'm not the only one who feels this way. I don't care if it was *real*. We don't watch shows like Downton Abbey for realism. We watch them for enjoyment and escape, and I shut off that episode feeling violated myself, that they'd taken advantage of my love for this show and thrown something at me that didn't need to be in it. The rape scene to me was a cheap attempt at trying to keep interest. Let's see what else we can do to Anna and Bates. Before, with Bates' murder trial and the scandal with Lady Mary, at least you could finish watching with a semi-feel-good feeling, to be excited and anxious for what happened next instead of being left traumatized and disgusted. To me, they went against the quality and standard THEY HAD ALREADY SET for a used-to-be-amazing show, and I'm sad that out of all the garbage out there, now there's one less thing for me to watch.

I've been torn on saying this because earlier I read a fabulous post on not criticizing others' hard work on Jolene Perry's blog--and I totally agree with her! But I don't feel I'm being critical just for the sake of negativity. Where is the line between putting someone's work down just to be cruel, and being heartily disappointed, agitated, and completely swayed from ever watching another episode? Bad form, Mr. Fellowes. Bad form! You ruined it!

It brings me to thoughts on my own writing. Most of you know I'm LDS. And being such, I've been torn on having swearing in my books, let alone tackling other issues. I've been worried about coming across as hypocritical as I write this, because my books aren't, as they say, *squeaky clean*, but here's the thing:  the events in the books fit. And I don't think I am being hypocritical. I hope I never write something that offends another person, but I understand we all have different tastes, and things affect each of us differently. I'm sure other people will not agree with me or maybe not relate to my reaction to Anna's rape, and that's okay. But I'm so bothered by this. Did Julian Fellowes add it to make a statement of some kind? And if so, how low can we bend in order to make such statements? Maybe I'm not making any sense, and I'm probably so jarred because, out of Sybil's and Matthew's deaths, out of anything else DA has touched on before, this rape of a beloved character was far worse. The actress who plays Anna actually praises the writer for putting this in the show? I'm just disgusted. I wonder--did the actors who played Matthew and Sibyl know this was coming, and did that have some sway in why they no longer wanted to be a part of it? I don't know the answer. It's just a thought.

Whatever the case, it's sad, because they just lost one more viewer. And maybe that won't mean much to them. But it means something to me.

(For those interested, here's a link to the actress's, Joanna Froggatt's, comments on the whole thing:,,20775170,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines)



Morgan said...

I agree with you 100%, Cort. Lines are being crossed everywhere. It makes me scared for the world our children will grow up in. I haven't seen the episode, but I've seen the reactions everywhere!

And I totally know what you mean with writers throwing things in just for the sake of it... it's SO transparent! Good writers don't need to cross lines to create drama. They know how to do it with carefully crafting character and plot. (Not that some books/shows can't have such things--it just depends on the point and how it's portrayed!)

One thing I know as far as writing goes, I'm going to write the kind of books I want to read--and the kind I want my children to read. :)

Great post.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Whether in books or television, creators should mind their audience. I don't mind realism but if that's not what the show is about then they really crossed the line. Sorry the episode disturbed you so much. I've never watched the show myself but heard a lot of good things. Til now.

Trisha said...

I haven't seen any of this show yet - but having read your post, if I were ever to watch the show (which I did intend to) I would probably have a similar feeling to you. I don't like it when directors put something in a show that jars with the rest of the show, and is clearly there just for shock value and ratings.

Leandra Wallace said...

Oh, no! I've not watched this show yet either(my CP tells me I'll love it) but I can't stand watching anything to do w/rape, so this really disappoints me. I can understand your outrage! =(

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