Downton Abbey Invades A Willing America

First the Redcoats, then the Beatles, now Queen Victoria.

The latest Brit invasion is the Masterpiece Theatre production: Donston Abbey. Cheerfully preceded in recent years by Upstairs Downstairs and other mesmerizing Victorian works such as Pride & Prejudice, Vanity Fair and Wuthering Heights.

What’s a nice girl like a Victorian heroine doing in a helter-skelter, smash-mouth American culture that lionizes NFL brutes, rapper troglodytes, and bare-knuckled pols..?

Here’s a theory. You mustn’t allow today’s bare-chested tough guys and their tattooed ladies in the sports bars to deceive you. As they already deceive themselves. You see, while Americans have always prided themselves in the quick quip and the fast draw, deep down somewhere resides a Victorian gentleman and lady trying to get out.

OK, I said it was just a theory!

And yet, there’s so much transparent logic to it. As our faster-than-a-speeding-bullet culture continues to pick up speed — 24/7 news cycles, blogosphere chatter, smartphone exchanges — the human animal here often finds itself exhausted, without knowing quite why. With all these digital tools, toys and talismans at our fingertips, we find ourselves on a breathless treadmill in which there is not a whit of time left for the form and formality of that Victorian zeitgeist charming us on the screen.

Really now, even the hottest fan and coolest financier has to respond to all those charmingly attired ladies and gentlemen speaking such luscious English and engaging in such precisely paced social rituals. All in settings and with servants that make our daily lives look disappointingly spare.

Oh, don’t expect the folks at the Super Bowl, on Wall Street or at the local PTA to openly admit a repressed longing for a time slower and seemingly steadier. Like I say, it’s only a theory. But here’s a corollary to the theory. Just maybe this majority of us repressed commoners are what makes democracy work in elections like this one. Generally speaking, we are not nearly as involved and passionate about our politics as are the zealots among us on the extreme right and left.

That being said, this is why most extremists never win the presidency. So much for the mad monarchs that British form and formality all too often generated.

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