BLOGIRADE | THE INDIA FILES
by James Killough
It turns out I spoke too soon about Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey. By the season finale, she’s had more comeuppance than she deserved, and she’s managed to move from super bitch to sympathetic heroine. I have to hand it to show creator and writer Julian Fellowes: superb job on the old character arc, there, dear chap.
Regardless of what happens outside the house, what is at the center of Downton Abbey is the dynamic between servants and their masters, which is always the basis for shows like this, that intricate Upstairs, Downstairs relationship drama, a perverse master-slave relationship that can be seen as a microculture of the whole employer/employee, ruler/subject dynamic of the world at large.
Servants and masters from "Downton Abbey." Very much like a small corporation.
I grew up with live-in “staff” or “help,” or whatever euphemism works best to chase away the sour taste of having to use the word “servant.” And it’s correct to use a euphemism in our case because they weren’t servants as the term denotes in a Downton Abbey way. They really were there to just to help the family, and were treated in as egalitarian a fashion as possible, except for the fact they slept in the servant’s quarters near the kitchen where the laundry was drying, they never ate with us, they called my parents “sir” and “madam,” served us dinner from the left, cleared the plates from the right…. Well, I suppose we did our best not to have servants despite evidence to the contrary. Continue reading
Very aptly, I am the son of a Mad Man. In the 60s and 70s, my father was with one of the larger ad agencies that are referred to from time to time in the dialogue of Mad Men. He accepted a position to head up the Italian operations of that agency, the purview of which was expanded over time, but we the family were based in Rome while he traveled around. The real reason we were there is probably because the US was afraid to lose Italy and France to the communists during the 70s, so we sent some of our “businessmen” over there to help bolster the interests of democracy. If I were in a pitch meeting and had to do a mash up of references to describe Dad, it would be Mad Men meets The Good Shepherd.
If Dad has a quibble with the authenticity of "Mad Men," my only problem with "The Good Shepherd" is the women in my world just didn't look like that, which means it was eerily real.
I won’t delve too much into The Good Shepherd aspect because much of it is conjecture, albeit conjecture based on high probability. Dad has expressed a desire in this last chapter of his life to tell me his story, and I would like him to feel free to do so without fearing that it’s going to end up in a blog side by side with some willfully salacious anecdote that involves sodomy, haute couture and Class A drugs. Suffice it to say, there is a reason the period we lived in Rome is referred to as the anni di piombo, “the years of lead,” referring to the flying bullets and the bombings that seemed to be a part of our daily lives. After we left in ’79, things calmed down in Italy considerably. Hopefully that was just a coincidence. Continue reading