Why are so many Americans watching the British television series Downton Abbey? Sure, it’s a well acted period drama, but is there something more that attracts and fascinates us?
Millions of Americans have been entranced by the ups and downs of an earl and his family and the servants who attend them at Downton Abbey. The series began with the turbulent events that led up to World War I and is now dealing with the even more disruptive changes that roiled through British society following that conflict.
While these developments are the cause of many of the family’s difficult moments, it is how the family and its servants react that attracts and fascinates most viewers. The history is interesting, but the journeys of each character as they deal with their intellectual, emotional and psychological challenges are the stars of the show.
And, that’s what draws Americans to it. The series is actually a dramatic interpretation of how people deal with change – profound, permanent and often incomprehensible change. Their experiences are a mirror image of what is happening in the United States today. We watch Downton Abbey because, in a very real sense, we are watching ourselves.
The United States is traversing a period of monumental change. All of a sudden, what we have understood, trusted and used to advance our careers for the last thirty years no longer works. No matter how good we are at our work, despite whatever successes we have previously achieved, many of us now find ourselves looking over our shoulder in anxiety.
So, it makes eminent good sense that we would find Downton Abbey compelling viewing. Deep down inside, we hope we will find something we can use to protect ourselves. And, there’s the danger in our fascination.
You can’t rise to a challenge, you can’t make change work for you by watching someone else deal with it. You can only do so by engaging it yourself. By taking it on and shaping it to your benefit. By being active. Watch Downton Abbey all you want – I know I will – but work at being a Career Activist.