Sunday, October 27, 2013

Downton Abbey Hurt Me Deeply *SPOILER ALERT*

***** SPOILER ALERT*****
Do Not Read This Unless You've Already Watched Series/Season 3 or 4 of Downton Abbey Or You Don't Mind Being Spoiled

***** SPOILER ALERT*****
Do Not Read This Unless You've Already Watched Series/Season 3 or 4 of Downton Abbey Or You Don't Mind Being Spoiled

I've been a fan of Downton Abbey for quite sometime and I had been missing this show terribly. PBS only shows the occasional rerun after having Downton in heavy rotation for months at the start of the year. Yesterday, I decided to spend part of a lazy Saturday watching some episodes from last season online.

I went to the page and simply clicked on the first link from the last season available. The minute I saw the opening I realized what I had done. I had stumbled across the newest "series". The newest season/series is already playing in the UK but won't be available in the US until January unless you watch online.

I said I would only watch one. Then two. But like a child gobbling down too many sweets when mum isn't looking, I clicked on that third link and my night, I think my life, was forever changed.

***** SPOILER ALERT*****
Do Not Read This Unless You've Already Watched Series/Season 3 or 4 of Downton Abbey Or You Don't Mind Being Spoiled


***** SPOILER ALERT*****
Do Not Read This Unless You've Already Watched Series/Season 3 or 4 of Downton Abbey Or You Don't Mind Being Spoiled

In Series 4, Episode 3, a much beloved character, Lady's Maid Anna Bates is raped. Violently, terribly raped. Punched, slapped, beaten, dragged screaming into a room off the kitchens and raped by the valet of guest at Downton. Made worse because, in Alfred Hitchcock Fashion, beyond the initial brutal punch and seeing her being dragged off, that's all that's shown. The rest is only heard in screams and slaps, interspersed with clips of everyone else oblivious upstair listening to a famous singer.

To say that I was shocked and appalled is an understatement of the greatest measure. In a series where I am prone to squeals, giggles and belly laughs over the Dowagers one liners and Cora's incessantly lovely head shaking. Where I'm given to sympathy and sometimes tears over every character's least struggle and disappointment. Where for three years I've breathed this show in like the scent of a lovely flower and was looking forward to many more. One of my favorite people on this show was raped.

I'm not sure I can watch this show again now.

When I first saw this, I sat stunned, alone, in the dark of my bedroom. So I turned to the one source I thought could assuage my grief that was building by the second. I went to Google and typed in two words:

anna raped

In a world with thousands of woman name "Anna" and where "rape" is a horrible, but not uncommon word, that's really all Google needed to know to give me a digital pat on the back and steer me to the correct pages. Fans in the UK were angered, shocked, much as I had been on watching The Peter and The Bull episode of Family Guy which depicts a brutal rape that, even in a cartoon, left me ambushed and sickened. I have never watched Family Guy since. If it comes on, I change the channel.

I don't know if I can do the same with Downton Abbey but I may have no choice. I never thought there would be a need to stop watching this show, but, especially coming after the deaths Lady Sybill and later Matthew Crowley, this was one violent act gone too far.

I initially felt that the fans were over-reacting. I felt this episode was akin to an All in the Family episode where Edith Bunker was raped. I felt Downton Abbey had been shocking but I didn't think the episode went to far, especially in an age where brutal, gorey murder and the resulting autopsies are a nightly television staple and Law and Order SVU has shown much worse. It never dawned on me until just now that Edith managed to escape her attacker.

Anna does not.

I couldn't sleep. So I did what any fan would do. I watched the next two episodes available. In an effort to understand and perhaps to put off going to sleep. I was definitely more disturbed than I realized. The aftermath of Anna's rape featured prominently in the two subsequent episodes.

Bleary eyed and uneasy, I finally fell asleep.

And I dreamed I was raped. In living color. Violently, terribly, fully, no reprieve from any detail, raped in my dream. I spent hours in my dream trying to flee my attacker, living out the life of woman who has just been raped. The confusion, the terror, the physical pain from every scrape on my skin to bodily fluids down my leg.

I cannot describe the hideousness of this. The palpable relief of waking up and finding myself safe in my bed. The terror of realizing that even in my own bed, I wasn't safe. My bed is now the place where I've witnessed two rapes take palce. Anna's and mine.

I could not go back to sleep.

I cannot watch Downton again. I simply cannot "go back" to that house.

I've been robbed of so much and I just wanted to watch a show I liked.

I don't know what to do.

I'm crying now so I'm going to stop.

Posting this, editing it and adding the links I've calmed down and stopped crying. But I have no idea what to do. I think I'm going to have to talk to someone.

I think I'm going to have to stop watching Downton Abbey for a long while.

I feel entirely stupid for letting a television show effect me this much. Then again, my past is not exactly free from this type of assault.


Update 8Nov2013
I'm not the only person who feels this way. Also, I am going to a few sessions of counseling over this. I won't be watching Downton Abbey for a good long while into the future, if ever.


  1. Thank you for posting this. It is exactly one of the reasons I so emphatically declaim the prevalence of fictional rape scenes in media, especially their use as a plot device. It is an assault to the mind, and the broadcaster can protest all they want that they "warned audiences" about "violent scenes"--but did they include "trigger" warnings? Of course not, and having to explain to anyone he difference between a fistfight or a battle scene and a rape fills me with weary disgust. Even if one has never been raped it is profoundly disturbing--and is any woman truly unaware of this ever-present danger? I write a blog on recovering from domestic abuse: I will follow you and you can follow me, if you want. I am so sorry that the writers of this show and the network played havoc with your emotional and mental welfare, and I hope with all my heart that you can recover soon.

  2. I've had a few months to think about it and I've reached a few conclusions.

    Downton Abbey is a "fuller" show than most hour long dramas in the US where even the most violent shows are broken up with commercial breaks and are edited for such.

    Dowton packs a lot into an hour because it's not edited for American network television. There's no time to remind yourself of the warning and say, "oh, it must be coming after the break."

    Downton completely forgot about the online audience and did not put a warning into the Opening Credits of the show. Like it or not, there are 50 million ways to watch this show online. As I said, I stumbled across the new series entirely by accident looking for old episodes.

    From what I understand, they seriously underestimated the violence they were depicting and how their editing made it even more brutal.

    I understand that the warning came a week before in the UK and people were actually making jokes about what could possibly prompt Downton to have a violence warning. There were humorous suggetions like Mrs. Pattmore having a bad burn or Lord Grantham having to appear in black tie again.

    There was shock, outrage and many protests. In the end Fellows and Co. have decided it was "a bold move" and that anyone who was hurt by this just "doesn't get it."

    I hope they come to realize it was unnecessarily violent and just plain wrong to do to their character and the viewers.

    As on Tweeter said, "It's like having a murder on the Teletubbies."


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