A friend recently told me she and some friends had gone to tea at a local pastry shop to mark the end of Downton Abbey. They enjoyed tea and scones while sharing their favorite episodes and characters from the show. Among the items discussed was which character each of them would want to be.
I have watched all six seasons of the show, and I loved getting to know the characters and their relationships, but I never thought about which character I would want to be.
I asked which character she would want to be.
“Lady Mary,” she said without hesitation.
“Why?” I asked incredulously. “She is such a b–ch,” I added.
My friend explained that she wished she could be as direct as Lady Mary and as determined to get what she wants. She liked how Lady Mary was unapologetic in her quests and conquests.
She concluded with, “Everyone wants to be Lady Mary.”
“Not me!” I declared.
I then listed Lady Mary’s negative character traits—she is bossy and demanding and cold to her sister.
My friend saw Mary as indomitable and sure of herself. She saw Mary’s reconciliation with Edith at the end of the series a sign of Mary’s ability to be compassionate. I conceded that their reconciliation was a good sign, but Lady Mary still had a long way to go in my opinion.
We seemed to be looking at the same person through a different lens. What I saw as character flaws, my friend saw as admirable traits. What I saw as things that needed to be worked on and changed, my friend saw as attributes.
And then it occurred to me—as I was enumerating what I saw as Lady Mary’s negative traits, I was also listing my own. I can be bossy and demanding and I have been called some version of one tough broad more than once. I am not comfortable feeling vulnerable and I hate being blindsided and looking stupid.
“Maybe I already am Lady Mary,” I blurted out. My friend did not disagree.
I could see it. The tough exterior, suppressed emotions, keeping everything under control, her loyalty, and the way Lady Mary protected those she cared about. Yes, I could see why my friend did not contradict my declaration. I really am quite like Lady Mary.
In the final episodes of the show, Lady Mary does soften somewhat. She and her sister reconcile and she listens to Tom’s wisdom and advice about love. She allows herself to be vulnerable and risk love again.
Maybe there is hope for me yet.
But, upon reflection, the character I would want to be is Mrs. Crawley. She is so wise, sensitive, understanding and insightful. She is accepting of most everyone (except Lord Merton’s wicked sons) and loves her cousin Violet despite the Dowager’s sometimes acerbic tongue.
Maybe I will watch the series again—through a different lens.