You guys, I'm breaking up with Downton Abbey. I've had it. I've had it with the unrelenting gloom. I've had it with the wrongful imprisonment. I've had it with war injuries and senseless deaths of every kind. I've had it with stupid random illnesses and car accidents and losing the family fortune and feeling sorry for the bad guy. I've had it with people making nonsensical financial and relational decisions just to draw out the plot line. The emotional manipulation in this show is so bad that it parallels several important facets of an abusive relationship.
1. Do you feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
You know when I start to feel afraid? Anytime anything good is happening to the people in this show. Because that means the other shoe is about to drop. Have you finally made a connection with the man of your dreams? He will suddenly decide he is not worthy of you and cut off all contact. Are you pregnant? Don't get too excited. Either you or the baby is going to die. Unless, of course, being pregnant is the one thing that will get you shunned and make you impoverished. In which case you will both live long and miserable lives. And getting happily married is just asking the universe to smite you and your kin.
2. Do you feel you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
I don't ask for much in my brainless entertainment. I am easily amused. Show me people picking out wedding dresses, cooking, or even cleaning out their spare rooms and I am hooked for a season of benign voyeurism. So it's not like the bar is set very high. But here's what I don't want: cancer scares. You know why? Because I've had them myself. So watching that episode was not escapism by any stretch of the imagination. Rather than escapism, Downton Abbey serves up emotional manipulation and pain, episode after episode.
3. Do you wonder if you're the one who's crazy?
Of course you do. This show is breaking records for PBS. 10 million people watched the first episode of season four. It's just as popular as Breaking Bad. And let's not even start on the box sets (disclosure: affiliate link below), related books, and sold-out tours of Highclere Castle.
Here's the good news: it doesn't have to be this way. The pain can end. And it all starts with you. Walk away from the TV, your laptop, or your tablet. Take a deep, cleansing breath. You feel better already, don't you? Soon the balm of time will start to heal you of all the losses you've felt.
Oh, and one more thing: if you are having these kinds of feelings and they aren't being caused by a dumb TV show, but by a real person in your life there is help for you too. Call 1800-799-7233 to talk to someone at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Hope is on the way.