Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Downton Abbey: No God Allowed

Except for anti-Catholicism, Downton Abbey has steadfastly ignored the theme of religion throughout its run. The chapel has shown up when weddings were celebrated, but otherwise the vicar has had little to do.

This article explains why: we can't have historical accuracy when atheists might be offended!

The trials and tribulations of the Crawley family have enthralled Downton Abbey viewers for six series. But some have questioned why Christianity, which would have formed a central part of the lives of the aristocracy in the early 20th century, is largely absent from the show.

Now the man tasked with ensuring the historical accuracy of the series has revealed why Downton does not do God. Alastair Bruce, who serves as the show’s historical advisor, said that executives in charge of the series had ordered producers to “leave religion out of it”, for fear of alienating an increasingly atheistic public.

Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that the Crawley family is never shown in the process of sitting down to dinner, with the action instead shown from part-way through the meal. This, Mr Bruce said, was to avoid having to show the characters saying grace.

He added: “In essence you hardly ever see a table that isn’t already sat at. We never see the beginning of a luncheon or a dinner, because no one was ever allowed to see a grace being said, and I would never allow them to sit down without having said grace.

“I think that the view was that we’d leave religion out of it, and it would’ve taken extra time too. I suggested a Latin grace, but they decided that was too far, and no one would’ve known what was going on.”

Here's where it gets silly:

Mr Bruce said that he was even banned from featuring napkins folded in the shape of a bishop’s mitre, for fear of breaching the religious edict. “Everyone panics when you try to do anything religious on the telly,” he said. “I still wish we could’ve got some decent napkin folds, but I was always left with my triangle.”

I liked the show when it was set in World War I; there was briefly some real historical impact to the family's response to the crisis that decimated English youth. Otherwise to me it has become a period costume soap opera. Perhaps the producers should have trusted their audience more: surely atheists are a little more broad-minded than that!


  1. The atheists would be offended so no mention of God. Very interesting and deeply important article. Thank you.

  2. They would be offended. Yesterday the president of the bead society that I belong to opened the monthly meeting with some announcements. Among them was the announcement that next month's meeting would be a Christmas party. (She herself is Jewish.) At the end of the meeting she had to announce that what she really meant to say was that next month's meeting would be a holiday party. Obviously someone had complained. It is soooo stupid.

  3. Speaking of offended Atheists - can you tell me why this one feels offended?

    Is it because I compared his history skills to those of Kent Hovind or is it because I actually pointed out that if he thinks we should have a text of Emperor Titus mentioning Jesus "had he existed", he is somewhat gullible?

    You might know more of these easy to offend Atheists than I do.

    Correspondence of Hans Georg Lundahl : Arguments with AronRa : Flood and Moses, Carbon 14 Rise in Atmosphere, Jesus, Hercules