I Really Do Need a Butler

I watched my first-ever episode of Downton Abbey over the weekend. It was an entirely surreal, out-of-body experience. You might first be thinking to yourself, “Lorca, you’re an English teacher and an author and a generally all-around badass…how is it you haven’t seen Downton Abbey before this?” There is a great explanation: I’m lazy. I would have had to stand up to turn on the television, and plus it comes on really late at night and I like sleep more than I like Maggie Smith. (And btw, her character plays a real sniveling bitch. Just sayin’, PBS. I kept waiting for her to yell out, “Ten points from the kitchen staff!”)

I do admit that I fully enjoyed the four and a half hours of my life that get sucked out of my soul while watching it. It’s like the British are trying to stick it to the Americans by saying, “We’ll teach you not to steal our TV shows and horde them for yourselves, acting like you are all somehow cultured for having watched it! We’re going to make THIS one have episodes that drag on forever and have no commercial breaks! Take that, you Monty Python-stealing hooligans!”

After the show went off and my eyes refocused, I tried to stand up and go to bed and the most horrible thing happened. No one opened the door for me. I swear to you I stood there waiting at my bedroom door for about ten minutes before I realized I am not actually a member of the Downton clan and therefore do not have servants who open doors. It was horribly confusing. Everyone else I had just seen for the entire episode walked up to a door and someone opened it. I wasn’t really sure what to do with my hands at that point.

Then, after kind of getting over myself for my lack of household staff, I had a truly sobering thought. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, who watches programs like that and gets all dreamy and starry-eyed about the show thinks it would have been so cool to live back then because they are mistakenly deluding themselves into thinking they would have been part of the aristocracy. Compared to the seven or eight random snots who waltz through the house having doors opened for them and sherry glasses poured for them, there were like 53 servants running around doing the opening and the pouring. Statistically, we all would have been kitchen staff or laundry wenches.

With my luck, I would have had to start my scullery career at the bottom and work my way up, you know, like being all jazzed that at fourteen years old I had been hired on in the giant mansion and my first job would have been Oven Tester, so I was the person who had to stick my head in the oven and hold it in there to see if it was hot enough since apparently thermometers didn’t come along until episode 23. If I was really good at my job, I could work my way up to Chief Butter Churner, supervising the crew of people who worked tirelessly to put butter on the table.

I do feel like I should point out to the universe that if I ever were fortunate enough to somehow end up as Countess of Something, I would be really awesome to my servants. Just in case the universe was waffling on making this happen.

18 thoughts on “I Really Do Need a Butler

  1. My wife watches that unspeakable tripe and I have to leave the room in a socialist rage. I point out to her from time to time that she and I are the first university graduates in the history of our families and back then we would have been poor and ragged. I also point out to her that neither of us can be horrible to waiters or waitresses and always apologize when people do stuff for us so how would we cope with having servants? I couldn’t have someone clean up after me. If I became rich I’d still do the washing up, make my own food and clean the house as having someone do something for me that I can do myself is just an admission of weakness for me. Anyway there are some brilliant single episode or three episode dramas from the BBC and Channel 4 UK over the last 30 years that have shown up the elitism, snobbery and abuse that the UK class system has been responsible for over the last 500 years. Funnily enough our class system still exists really; there’s a ruling elite and an aristocracy in the UK still and they really do still run the country; Parliament is just a front for a civil service who are there by patronage of the Queen. Check the new year’s honours list and aside from athletes and celebrities there’s a long list of unheard of people who have been working in Whitehall keeping the country the way the Queen and her acolytes want it. Downton Abbey sucks as far as I’m concerned.

    • I often pray to God that HE give me the chance to prove just how awesome I could be to people if He lets me win the lottery. Of course, America is ruled by an elitist ruling class as well, but ours got to be elitist rulers by stealing money from their employees, their own companies, the taxpayers, etc.

      • Me too, Lorca! Unlike Richard, I think about how much more awesome I could be if I didn’t have to waste so much time washing up, etc! Seriously, cleaning up is a time waster that takes away from all the other awesome things we could be doing! 😉

      • Yes I suppose the ruling elite in any country are usually criminals.As for God, I don’t think God is a He, but then I don’t think God is Yahweh the god of the old testament. I think God is something else, neither male nor female. If you want to win the lottery I’d pray to a lesser god… one of the old male ones, like Krishna, they like a bit of flattery and dabble in human affairs. Yahweh is a bit unreliable and selfish to be honest. One of the female Greek/Roman gods might be helpful it’s hard to say. Of course praying to Mammon himself might work, after all he is the god of money. Whatever you do don’t ask the demigod Jesus for money as he has very different ideas about it. On the whole I’d come up with a good plan to steal a lot of money, it’s certainly the quickest way to get rich, as the ruling elite of most countries would tell you.

  2. Last year, my sister gave me seasons 1 & 2 on CD and I loved it! Maggie Smith’s character is great– but you need to see the other episodes to get her! I don’t want to be a servant either. But on the other hand, I had full time ‘help’ once and it is correct that you don’t get much privacy. I complained about that at the time but now I’m sorry I did! Who cares about privacy anyway!

  3. It’s comforting to know I am not the only one late to the party. I watched the first season just a couple of months ago. But, I don’t see it much different then my life now. My parents are trying to marry me off, too and something keeps happening to my suitors. Poor Mary. I feel her.

  4. I’m laughing. Great post. And yes, Downton Abbey seems to be dragging on and on for hours. Frankly, I think it’s Britain’s way of getting back at us for the Revolutionary War.

  5. I have never deluded myself into believing I would have been part of the aristocracy, although apparently I somewhere have some distant relatives who still are part of the aristocracy! It might be a bit much to maybe look them up and introduce myself, do you think?

    FYI, it is possible to buy one’s way into the aristocracy if one has enough money! Better go write some more books… and then sell the movie rights.

  6. Me too! Me too! Me too! While I was helping my parents my mom and I watched Downton Abbey for the first time! I’ve decided I’m going to be in charge of the kitchens and do a bang-up job. And yes, you will be my oven-tester. We can singe your eyebrows off. What do you think?
    I don’t want to be an aristocrat because apparently aristocrats have zero privacy. Better to be a servant. The servants know everything that happens upstairs, yet take pride in discretion.

  7. I saw a neat show called “Secrets of Highclere Castle”. It was about the house used in Downton Abbey and the current Lord and Lady Carventon. They don’t have an army of servants anymore either now that people won’t work 100/YR. My personal servants are made by Whirlpool, Kitchen Aide and GE and I’ll bet my life is still easier than that of Lady Whatever 100 yrs ago!

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