Margaret Brown

“RIGHT AWAY M’LADY”: AN EXAMINATION OF SOCIAL CLASS AND GENDER WITHIN WOMENS RELATIONSHIPS IN “DOWNTON ABBEY”

April 10, 2021   /  

Name: Margaret Brown
Major: Communication Studies
Minor: Environmental Studies
Advisors: Dr. Melissa Rizzo-Weller, Dr. Natasha Bissonauth

In this study, I analyzed the British historical drama series Downton Abbey and examine the interactions between the women characters based on social class and gender dynamics. Downton Abbey is a media portrayal of the wealthy, aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the early twentieth century in Britain. The show focuses on the lives of the Crawleys, and their servants based on real life events such as the Titanic crashing, which is where the series begins. Using Sonja Foss’s feminist critique, I examined seasons one, three, and five of the series and looked specifically at the female characters. From my analysis I found three major themes that encapsulated the interactions between women of the television show: resisting societal norms, personal vs. interpersonal relationships, and restrictions of the female gender. One major conclusion from this study is how women did not follow gender norms that society imposed on them during this time. Women in the series earned an education, obtained jobs below their social class, and resisted the submissive expectations for their gender. I conclude this study by offering the limitations of this study and recommendations for future scholarship.

Margaret will be online to field comments on April 16:
2-4pm EDT (PST: 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

32 thoughts on ““RIGHT AWAY M’LADY”: AN EXAMINATION OF SOCIAL CLASS AND GENDER WITHIN WOMENS RELATIONSHIPS IN “DOWNTON ABBEY””

  1. Good work Maggie, that’s my teammate!!! So question, from someone looking for a new show to watch, would you say Downton Abbey is a good and enjoyable show, or should I watch something else?

    1. Thank you Katie!!! I definitely think you should watch Downton Abbey especially if you are into historical period drama shows! If you are I have so many other shows to recommend too, but Downton Abbey is my favorite!

  2. Wonderful work Maggie!! Your IS is super interesting, especially because I recently started watching said show! I’m on season 4 or something 😉 Who is your favorite female character and why?

    1. Thank you Rose!!!! To answer your question I think my favorite female character would have to be the Dowager Countess (Violet). She always brings laughter into her scenes and I think that aspect adds another layer to the show that it is serious, but can also be humorous.

  3. Mags, I’m so proud of you! You put in a lot of hard work to make this IS outstanding, and it shows. Do you think the way you critically analyzed this show will affect your ability to relax and enjoy other popular shows? Or are you now a feminist critic for life?

    1. Thanks Em!! I think after performing a feminist critique on a historical period show will make it hard for me to watch other period dramas and not analyze what is happening in a particular scene, especially because my background on feminist movement and studies that I reference in my IS! In terms of other television shows I do not think it will happen as frequently, but I will definitely notice something about a show to think more in depth about.

  4. Maggie we are so proud of you and all the hard work you have put into your IS, you should be so happy with all you have accomplished!
    I definitely view Downtown Abbey thru a different lens!
    We love you!
    Mom and Dad❤️

  5. What an interesting topic, Maggie! I really enjoyed your analysis! What was one thing you found most interesting when looking at Downtown Abby through different feminist lenses?

    1. Thank you so much Ashley! One thing I found most interesting looking at Downton Abbey through a feminist lens is all of the social norms that the women had to follow. When I first watched the show before doing this analysis I did not notice all of them, but after going through for this project I noticed a lot more of them that I glanced over! Women during this era were under a strict watch of what they could and could not do, for example when Lady Mary (one of the daughters) went to London with one of her love interests they had to go far away where no one would catch them as if they were seen together not married it would be detrimental to her social standing.

  6. Good job Maggie!! So proud! I’ve never seen Downton Abbey, but this definitely made me want to watch and see how your I.S. connects to it!!

  7. I’ve never watched Downton Abbey, but your presentation has intrigued me. 🙂 Congratulations, Maggie, on the completion of your IS.

  8. Hi Maggie! This is awesome! GREAT show. I think this is so important to talk about. Also, I’m very glad to know that it is historically accurate 🙂
    I’m so happy for you! CONGRATS!
    I am curious:
    Do you think shows in today’s time period do a better or worse job of demonstrating social constructs?

    1. Thank you so much Rebecca! To answer your question, I think shows in today’s time period are challenging these social constructs more and more, but it also depends on the show as some still conform with certain social constructs. For example, I am currently watching Grey’s Anatomy and I believe this show goes against social constructs such as gender roles that women should stay home with the children, while the men work. Grey’s Anatomy defines this social construct as we see a lot of women stepping up into roles that are higher than their significant other, or working side by side with their significant other. In terms of this certain gender social construct I think a lot of shows are challenging this and giving women more important roles in today’s television shows!

  9. Congratulations again, Maggie! It has been a pleasure watching this study evolve all year – your hard work has paid off, and I hope you celebrate your success.

    1. Thank you, Dr. Weller! I would not have been able to get through this IS process without your constant support!

  10. Margaret!! Super interesting topic and definitely makes me want to finally watch Downton Abbey especially through this lens of feminist critique. See you soon!

  11. Wow Mags, this is so amazing and I’m happy to say…I HELPED PROOF THIS MASTERPIECE ONCE! I love you so much!

  12. First off congratulations! Secondly, I would like to ask you a few questions about your IS for my quantitative methods class.

  13. Congratulations Maggie! I loved you video and really love your topic (I just finished watching the last episode of Downton Abbey last night). Understanding women’s rights and feminist theory is so important when watching a show like this because it demonstrates how the feminist climate was during that time period and how that translates to viewing it in modern day. Great work! Also Maggie Smith was the best character of all time no doubt.

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