Last night, my family and I went to see Brooklyn in Annapolis. I’d heard great things about the movie, and as I host an Oscar Party every year, I thought it might be beneficial if I saw a couple of the films nominated so I could play an active role in actually caring about which one might win. Over the last several years, I’ve grown tired and weary of shoot-em-up-bang-em-up dramas, war films, and just overall incredibly troubling content, not to mention extreme violence and gratuitous sex scenes. In my blissful state driving home, after fully enjoying director John Crowley’s film, one thought kept going round and round in my head: the world needs more Brooklyns and Downton Abbeys.
This isn’t to say either production is without its horrors, sadness, a wee bit of sex, or ties to history. In fact, that is what I love about both. As an adult who has become interested in learning more about history and appreciating historical context, I find both Brooklyn and Downton Abbey enjoyable in that regard. Understanding the time and place, the unfolding events of that period, and how people engaged with one another is vital to interpreting those years the best that we can. Taking historical work and putting it into a meaningful context, full of characters we both love and love to hate, is what gives dramas life.
Brooklyn allows us to get to know the 1950s period of time—and what Irish immigrants who were sent on boats to come over to our country “for a better life” were going through; once we become attached to a character, in this case, a young girl named Eilis (played by Saoirse Ronan), we want to know her story, how life in America changes her, and whether or not love will win out in the end with an Italian-American guy named Tony (played by Emory Cohen). The film is beautifully directed with great shots of Ireland and Brooklyn, along with a cast that offers winning performances.
Likewise, Downton Abbey’s run seems as if it’s been cut short to me, and I’m sure to many others. This is a great compliment to the show because we love it so much. Many of my friends and I are going to go through withdrawal when Julian Fellows closes the script on this sweeping drama. I’ve loved every moment of being connected to the Grantham family, their gorgeous Abbey, the plot, the characters’ plights, and, of course, Maggie Smith’s one-liners. This show has given viewers much joy; it has been something my family and I enjoy talking about, and we learn about that period of time, the distinction of the class system, and how really, in the end, despite wealth and power, we are all just people. Here in the United States, we are holding our breath until next weekend’s Christmas Special and finale of Downton Abbey, so please don’t tell us what happens. We want to be surprised. (I’ve done my very best to avoid all forms of social media so that I do not learn the outcome.)
And so the thought I leave you with tonight is this—we need more of this type of entertainment. Give us history lessons in an entertaining way. Let us learn about the people of the time, the pressures, the changes, and the battles they fought in a way that makes us care and want to know more—both from an historical perspective and from a human perspective.
I, for one, will be looking forward to what’s on the horizon.