The Power of Choice in 'Downton Abbey'
On the last episode of the wildly popular PBS drama Downton Abbey, one character tells another: "You've broken the rules, my girl, and it's no use pretending they're easily mended."
The popular British import, set in World War I, portrays the aristocratic Crawley family and the cadre of cooks, maids, and butlers who tend to them, in all their relational and class-based drama. The show is all about rules, whether bowing to class structure or honoring commitments from the past. The rules present the extraordinary obstacles in this show … except that they're not so extraordinary, really, and that's one of the many reasons this show works.
Downton's surprise success is often chalked up to an unrealistic sense of nostalgia over an intriguing and lavish lifestyle at the turn of the 20th century, borne out by the inevitable market surge of "inspired by" books, clothes, food, and jewelry. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, but ...1