Ranty Friday — That Downton Abbey Scene

If you haven’t seen last Sunday’s episode yet, look away now.    This post contains a spoiler and if you are planning to watch it over the weekend ahead of this week’s instalment, then as much as it pains me to say it, sod off now.

Right.  So by reading this bit, you confirm you have seen it and know the scene I am talking about?

So here goes.

That scene where Anna is attacked by a valet of one of the guests.   Yep.  That’s the one.  The one now being referred to as “the rape scene”.    I am not ranting about the scene but the people who appear to be up in arms about it.


Why on earth are they up in arms about this being a story line?

“It’s a family and drama and I don’t want this on my TV”

Oh get over yourselves.   There is far worse on Eastenders / Hollyoaks or Coronation Street, all of which air before 8pm most nights.    This was aired, as it always is after 9pm.  The watershed by which most TV channels judge when to show their “edgier” dramas.

And Downton is just that.  A drama series.   By it’s very nature there has to be drama in order to make us keep watching.   And Mrs Patmore failing to get a cake to rise is not going to keep us gripped, is it?

I am wondering how many people who have since complained about the story line that sees a lady’s maid get attacked actually watched it.  Lest we forget that only 2 people complained about Brand and Ross’s phone call to Andrew Sach’s grand daughter immediately after the call.   By the time the episode made the headlines over 2000 had.  I still maintain that the majority that complained never heard it.

This scene was done as sensitively as such scenes can be.  In fact I thought it was very well done.   It is referred to as a rape scene yet we don’t see Anna being raped.  And in fact there is no mention of that word.    What we hear are screams, we don’t see her being assaulted.    We see the aftermath of her looking a mess.   We see her refusing to tell her boss what happened, just that she is clearly upset and needs help.

The reality is that I am sure this happened during the 1900s.  Of course it did.   Servants had no rights, and to complain would have meant almost certain dismissal.  No job, no reference, no roof over their head.   Staff were almost sitting ducks for abusers who were certain to get away with it in the majority of cases.  Who would report it?  Who would believe the lowly servant  if they reported it?  And by reporting it they lose everything.

Men abused other men.  Child abuse was just as rife then as it is now, but thankfully by society talking about it more, cases are now reported.  Men abused women.   It happened.   And I see no reason why TV dramas shouldn’t touch on the subject.

Why are people complaining to OfCom about it?  There was a warning at the beginning of the programme that the show contained scenes some viewers might find upsetting.  Yet they continued to watch and then complained?  Behave.

I watched it online and had to click various boxes on the itvplayer site to confirm I understood there were upsetting scenes.   So we can’t say that ITV haven’t warned us.  And we can’t criticise the writers for making it gratuitous, it certainly wasn’t.

What next?   Nobody should die in Midsomer Murders because it is effecting house prices in Oxfordshire?


Ranty Friday is a weekly linky for people having a rant, old or new.  Do link up, or go and read other blogs that have linked up

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  • I must admit I didn’t see the episode, but was rather shocked at peoples reactions to it, you’d have thought it was some wild gang bang the way some harped on!

    And yes, much worse is seen on other programs!

  • I adore your last line – adore it 🙂
    I was shocked, and didn’t like it (who would) because it didn’t fit my perception of what Downton is about. But reading this post has made me think about it and yes, actually my dislike is a bit sanctimonious – I just want Downton to remain all fluffy and lovely, which is absolutely no reason to complain to Offcom. You are right, as ever.

    • Thank you!

      I want DOwnton to remain fluffy too but I guess life isnt like that now, and it wasn’t then either so it makes sense for the creators to touch on this subject.

      Will be interesting to see who the rest of the series plays out. I hope she is not pregnant and Bates doesn’t hang as suggested by Not My Year Off up further on!

  • Completely with you! I think it was very well done, moving and upsetting, but assault upsetting. As you say abuse was rife and if he is trying to show what life was like then it needs to be inlcuded

  • I totally agree with everything you say, it was something that happened in those days and, while it’s hard to watch, it should be part of such a drama.

  • I can’t believe people complained about it. It was after 9pm and it wasn’t even graphically shown. I wasn’t pleased about it because I just want Anna and Bates to be happy and have a baby. Now Mr Bates is going to find out and then beat Mr Gillingham to death with his walking stick and he’ll be hanged and then Anna will be left widowed holding the rapists baby 🙁 and if there IS a baby then we know someone has to die for sure because those are the rules of Doomton Abbey. Poor poor Anna.

  • Well said. Yes, it was upsetting because rape is and because Anna is a well loved character. But yes, it’s a TV drama trying to depict a period of time accurately and in such a way that draws us in so we will continue to tune in. I thought it was quite clever, actually. But i will admit I was surprised by the dark turn.

  • Excellent post and downtown hasn’t actually been all fluffy at all, we have had murders, sexual assaults (first series on Mary) but it’s all done through great acting and written so well we don’t actually need to see the gory bits and we can only assume it was Rape, we have seen much worse like you say on ther programmes x

  • I haven’t watched this weeks one, but I have heard people say it was quite a difficult, emotive episode. I can’t think why people complain about it when there are far worse things allowed on TV. Some people are too sensitive. I think if you’d been a victim of assault or rape I could understand it being triggering or distressing, but for your average person fr

  • I don’t watch Downton if I am honest but did think the furore around the episode was stupid. In fact, I am fed up with people complaining about TV programs full stop. Do what I did when sexbox was on……TURN IT OFF!!

  • Brilliant post. I don’t watch Downton but I have to tell you I could have died laughing at the what next, no murders in midsommer line. *applauds*

  • I did watch that scene and was shocked. It made me feel very uncomfortable. As of course it was intended to. It was not the fluffy Downton i expected it to be and I think that is why people are so up in arms about. They were caught off guard and did not see it coming. Not that any pre-warning would have made it any easier to watch but complaining to ofsted is as you say, as ridiculous as complaining about midsummer murders x

  • I do love Downton and I was doing the “oooh no, not Anna” while it was happening, but rape happens every day sadly and like you say I’m pretty certain that it happened in the 1900s and that servants had little or no right to complain, I also doubt anyone would have listened. I do think we have in a way become a society of sugar coating, everything must be hearts and flowers or people complain. They did actually announce on UTV before the episode started that there would be scenes of a violent sexual nature, that some viewers may find distressing.

    Personally for Downton, I’d be more concerned about any of the men who end up with Mary or Edith, they are bound to meet an untimely end or end up widowers!