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Downton Abbey Draws First Blood Against Rambo: Why Downton Still Works

Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, and Laura Carmichael in Downton Abbey (2019)

Neither the star power of Brad Pitt in Ad Astra nor Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: Last Blood could stop Downton Abbey from a box office-wining debut of $31 million, which is part of a $72 million worldwide gross, according to Box Office Mojo. All that money, and no one had to put on a cape!

According to THR, more than half of Downton’s audience was over 45, including 52 percent who were 55 and older. Yet, we know that not every beloved PBS/period drama that gets a big movie budget can be so successful, so how is it that Downton Abbey could accomplish this despite being off the air since 2015?

Probably the best thing about Downton Abbey is that the show is very low stakes. Yes, people die, and there are the lingering inheritance issues, but overall, the conflict surrounding the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants is small potatoes. At its core, Downton is a character melodrama, and audiences connect to their favorite characters and want to watch their continued adventures.

I first started watching the show in college and became hardcore Team Sybil, Team Edith, and Team Cora. I loathed Mr. Bates, and while I appreciated her “bad-bitch” persona, I did kind of hate Lady Mary. Even despite not having finished the series, when I think about Mary, my blood starts boiling. Those emotional connections last and make you want to come back to revisit the characters. Despite dipping out after Edith was left at the altar by that bastard Sir Anthony Strallan, when I heard about the Downton Abbey movie, I knew I wanted to see it.

Unlike something like Rambo, there is enough going on in the television series that allows it to continue indefinitely. Due to its place in history, it can cover a wide breadth of issues. The film takes place in 1927, which means we haven’t even touched the Great Depression, the full rise of Nazism, the abdication, WWII, and more—all storylines that would make for another whole season, let alone a feature-length movie.

Rambo is done. It’s a series that I have enjoyed from time to time, but at this point, the things that made Rambo a relatable protagonist—a character addressing the PTSD facing returning Vietnam vets and how being exposed to torture desensitizes people to violence—are gone. Now, all the franchise does is focus on the violence. Plus, we’re supposed to see Sylvester Stallone as equally competent now as he was then, which just removes any stakes from the film. I get not killing Rocky, but the idea that Rambo just keeps on ticking is odd.

Downton Abbey delivers what it’s supposed to, a dated escapism that is so detached from our modern-day issues that you can just obliviously enjoy it. After all the mess in the world, even I can enjoy sitting back in a theater and taking in the satisfyingly tepid whiteness and aristocracy of the franchise.

To those DA fans out there, what did you think of the movie? I personally loved seeing Geraldine James as Queen Mary, because Anne With an E is my jam.

(via THR, image: Focus Features)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.