COLUMN: Our Abbey-normal lives

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

They killed off Matthew!

If that sentence does not instantly register with you, there is a good chance you have a wife or significant other who can provide enlightenment.

Downton Abbey. The latest in an impressive list of period dramas presented on PBS’s workhorse series, Masterpiece Theatre, had its season three finale this past Sunday. In the final scene, Matthew Crawley, heir to Lord Grantham, husband to super “rhymes-with-witch” eldest daughter Mary and generally all-around swell fella was seen dead in a ditch, his car on top of him. Women, and men of questionable sexuality, gasped in horror knowing their favorite character would no longer be on their televisions on Sunday night—unless he makes a cameo on The Walking Dead.

And while fans of Downton sat with jaws gaped wide, they could at least take solace in the fact that Matthew is reunited in heaven with his true love, Lavinia Swire.

Too soon?

Some people may consider what I have typed so far to be a spoiler. I disagree. In its modern definition, a spoiler lasts a span of a few hours to possibly one day. And the only people that care about the Downton finale who did not watch it Sunday were probably living in a cave in Tibet. And if they were living in a cave in Tibet, they most likely have found an inner-peace that would preclude them from being angry at me for exposing an alleged spoiler.

OK. I can sense your bewilderment. Why is this important? It isn’t. That’s the point. Downton Abbey is one of those TV shows that people watch and love unabashedly because it allows them to escape from their lives. Much like sci-fi shows, period dramas take us to places for an hour or two that maybe aren’t better than the current day, but they are significantly more interesting.

Why else would Downton have a cult-like following? Women love this show with a cat lady-esque devotion. The irony is that the original storyline of Downton was finding a male heir because women were prohibited from inheriting land in England early in the 20th Century.

This is a misbegotten fantasy world. There is only one place on Earth in the year 2013 where women are happy to be second class citizens who spend all their time hunting for rich husbands to give their life meaning: Brigham Young University.

I never understood those snobs who boasted about never watching television. TV is awesome! Of course, too much TV can be bad for you—but, so can anything you do to excess. And the quality of the television shows you watch can have a good effect on you. I admit that I occasionally watch professional wrestling. But, I am much more inclined to watch a really good historical documentary; or a wildlife show.

In all things, moderation.

And television is not just an escape from the real world, but a conduit to what is happening out there beyond our living rooms. If you watch the local news, or one of the 24/7 news channels, there is a chance you will be slightly informed. Mostly, you will be numbed with prattling fluff.

This is the world we live in. The news, as presented on TV, provides us little comfort. It is conditioned to incite us based on the lowest common denominators. Stories of high importance, such as North Korea, the Middle East, Obamacare and, local to Utah, our continuing problem with dirty air—which could very well lead to a disturbing trend of mutant zombie baby births come October–are dumbed down in TV news. Most of us have had enough of it.

Forthrightly, I just don’t want to write about the paramount stories right now. I can. I should. I won’t.

I need a break. We all need a break! I am currently reading a book on the Tudor Dynasty of 16th Century England. To balance that out, I watch Adventure Time with my kids. And when Sunday came, I sat down to watch the season finale of Downton Abbey. And then Matthew died horribly, just moments after holding his newborn son.

The escape became the trap. Real life (as in, good people die young and tragedy is one phone call away from altering our lives irrevocably) reached out of my obnoxiously large television screen and smacked me upside the head. My daughter is still angry about it!

And the Twitterverse? More vicious than a starving pit bull. Downton fans found an egress to their rage via social networking. Downton’s creator, Julian Fellowes, as well as actor Dan Stevens, who played Matthew, and refused to sign on for a fourth season (thus, dead in a ditch), were the main targets of what can only be described as frothy bile.

Downton fans were so in love with what these two men had given them, that they became apoplectic when it was taken away. This is a disturbing bent on the modern axiom of “I hate you, don’t leave me!”

And this brings up the rhetorical question each of us who wishes to hide away from the real world and all of its foibles and dilemmas must ask ourselves.

If we can’t depend on fictional, wealthy English aristocrats to live forever, what hope is there for the rest of us?

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