Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life

Downton Abbey Episode 2

Downton Abbey, Episode 2= Unnecessary Violence



Anna gets raped.  It’s tough to watch and not entertaining.  It felt like the exploitation of a very serious crime against women for shock value.  I’m not loving it.

Below is a link to Joanne Froggart explaining how she prepared for the scene and description of the moral high ground Julian Fellows believes he took in the filming of it:

She says, “Julian… was adamant that we wouldn’t depict that kind of violence against a woman on the screen and that’s something that he didn’t want in a show of his, that he’s a part of…”

Yes.  The actual penetration wasn’t shown, but we were treated to a sexual assault, beating, and a long clip of Anna’s screams as she is raped, which were cut cheesily with the aria. I don’t think this is the moral high ground.

The gentlemen over at wrote excellent review of this episode that I loved:

They discuss how Anna’s character was completely morphed to add drama the rape scene.  Anna, a reserved, proper, soul was inexplicably flirty-McFlirtyton with a man not her husband for a solid hour.  A disturbing implication that “she asked for it,” haunted the episode, intentional or no.

Presenting rape in a moralizing fashion carries much responsibility.  Especially in light of the fact that the show’s writers and producers believe believe that “Julian’s written that in a way that is not gratuitous at all… He’s done a beautiful job of hitting the right note with it.”   Obviously, I’ve not seen the rest of the season and do not know where this storyline will go.  In my opinion, the only way Julian will “hit the right note” is if this agonizing storyline includes the victim receiving mental and physical intervention, the victim or someone else speaking out against the crime, and punishment for the attacker.

I understand that these were not common outcomes of rape in this time period, and I frankly don’t care.  Rape is not entertainment, and if Julian Fellows is going to moralize on it, he should empower his female characters and punish his victims.

It seems to me that the writers of Downton Abbey are beginning to use devastating traumas facing women as shock value bits cloaked in moralizing story-lines.  The shocking episode of last season was Sybil’s painful death in childbed.  Sybil’s Death was much like Anna is Raped.  A long, agonizing sequence with a woman screaming, writhing in pain, and the ultimate devastating trauma: death.  Another example of a female character victimized by men. (Her father and her father’s doctor).   The moral of Sybil’s Death storyline was that family must stick together at all costs.

Matthew’s death scene was cartoon-like compared to Sybil’s.  His suffering was shown with a quick, still shot of a car on top of his dead body.  We didn’t hear his screams, didn’t witness his bleeding, or experience any element what would’ve been a torturous death.

Why the difference between the suffering of men and women in the last several episodes?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that the use of very serious traumas for entertainment is not my favorite.

If this is the direction Downton Abbey is going, I will pack my bags for greener pastures.


Author: katycov

Katy teaches private voice lessons through Covington Music Studio and authored the inaugural blog for the Atlanta Master Chorale from 2016-2017. Additionally, Katy floats the high notes in the soprano section of the University Musical Society Choral Union. She has been a choral and general music teacher for Farmington Public Schools in Farmington Hills, MI, served as Director of Children's Music at the First United Methodist Church in Ypsilanti, MI, performed at Magnolia in the Baldwin Theater production of "Show Boat" and is a proud recipient of a Bachelors of Music in Voice Performance and Music Education from the University of Michigan. When she's not singing, she's caring for her two young kiddos, hard-working husband, and crazy dog (let's be honest - she's usually singing then too...) She's been singing since before she could talk, and is thrilled to continue to her music career in the Detroit area.

2 thoughts on “Downton Abbey, Episode 2= Unnecessary Violence

  1. I think most male writers find it impossible to write about rape in a sensitive way no matter what their intentions are. I do think it is important to include the war, the trenches, the prison, the work house, and yes, even the deaths in childbirth, and the impossibility of reporting a rape for a woman in Anna’s position in that time period. I don’t like everything about how the show is done, but I love the overall story and how it makes us think, and discuss, these things. I love your blog Katy.

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Nancy. And thanks for your continuation of the discussion. Maybe the entire intention was to get the topic of rape into the public forum, in which case the show has scored a point for the good side.

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