Saturday, 23 December 2017

Finding Myself in Each Downton Character

For the Downton fans. Everyone else, move on.

I've been re-watching Downton Abbey, and going through all the emotional upheaval all over again (though I cheat and fast-forward through the unpleasant bits). But while feeling all the feels (why did you die, Matthew?), my INTJ brain was identifying with several of the characters, and not always in the most flattering light.

Am I Lady Mary with her cool, calm, emotionless manner, a T (of Myers-Briggs) with all a T's faults and strengths- logical, the opposite of a drama queen, keeps her head in every circumstance, and capable of expressing her thoughts forcefully and confidently. She seems to be unable to resist nasty digs at her sister's neediness and weakness, flowing no doubt from the biggest flaw of an extreme INTJ- a lack of empathy. But she has a streak of softness brought out by love, and a battle between her softer and harder sides.

Or am I the Dowager, a very similar character to Lady Mary with her biting wit, her sarcastic tongue, her skepticism, and her boundless confidence? No slip will go unnoticed or unremarked when the Dowager is around. There seems to be nothing that would shake her, no social situation she is not in command of. And she will ALWAYS have the last word!

Or am I Lord Grantham, with his authoritarianism, his love of the way things are, and his dislike of change? He likes to get his own way, always thinks he knows best, and is rather high handed about making decisions for others. He gets annoyed when people challenge him, and doesn't give in very gracefully. Not that much of a team player.

Or how about Mrs Crawley with her high-minded idealism, wanting to not only save the world, but be personally involved with every aspect of saving it? She has a knack of trying to making people feel guilty, not hesitating to point out injustice, and people's complicity in it, regardless of tact or diplomacy. But she truly has a good heart, and would never shirk an unpleasant duty if she believed it to be right. And if ever anyone was in need, everyone knew she could be relied on to help, and to fight for the underdog.

I'll tell you who I'm not- Lady Sybil with her sunny, sweet, kind nature, unruffled by other people's nastiness. Or Lady Grantham also with a sympathetic and warm manner, quick with a friendly word and a charming smile to bridge awkward silences, a little gullible in her sympathy for Thomas and O'Brien. I don't think I'm like Thomas, who is just needlessly nasty all the time, and loves plotting and weaving webs of deception.

I will say I'm occasionally like Miss O'Brien, when I feel sour and bad-tempered and want to pour cold water over everyone else's enthusiasm. But hopefully I control myself a little better. Most of the time. I don't feel at all like Edith, who just seemed bitter and resentful most of the time, because she hasn't received the love and affirmation that she craves. I'm not like Bates, he's far more of a brooder than I am, and seems to have an anger problem, even though he is a man of integrity.

But who would I really like to be like?

I wish I could be a little more like Matthew- he's just kind, down to earth and wholly himself. He believed in Mary, and loved her into the best version of herself. He wasn't overly dramatic in his love, but just HAPPY and unashamed to be so. He was balanced, good-tempered, and while he wanted to do what was right and just and helpful (like asking Tom to be his best man, and encouraging Edith to write for the papers), he did it with a much lighter touch than his mother.

I wish I could be a little more like Anna, who is truly kind, dependably so. She had a genuine good-will to all, and was willing to get involved to be kind. She never seems to be moody and rarely has an uncharitable word for anyone. I would consider my life well- lived if that could be said for me at the end of my life. She went through so much suffering, but it sweetened and deepened her goodness, instead of turning her bitter.

But you may be surprised who I think the real hero of the show is- Mrs Hughes!

To me, she embodies one of the most central maxims of the Christian faith- mercy triumphs over judgment. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, but that never makes her judgmental or unmerciful. On the contrary, she has such a strong sense of mercy that she innumerable times gives second chances to those who have done nothing to deserve it. She always offers a way out, a way to move forward. Unlike Carson, she won't rub it in when someone messes up, nor will she dole out quick condemnation or a word of blame. What a gift! If only more of us were like that! Compassion does not require that we betray or water down the truth. But love for truth does not require that we be harsh, cold or rigid when it comes to people. The sooner Christians learn that lesson, the sooner the world will be transformed.

Also read: The Downton Abbey Episode That Made Me Bawl My Eyes Out

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