On December 25th of 2015, we, as a nation, breathed a collective sigh of relief: Downton Abbey, the popular PBS series cataloging the upstairs/downstairs drama of people living and working in a fictitious English manor, ended its reign of terror after six series. Today the movie, Downton Abbey, opens nationwide. It is our responsibility to notice the signs of mom radicalization at its earliest stages.
It will start innocently enough. Your mom will watch the first seven episodes of season one and politely request to take her tea in bed. She might have an extra saucy barb for your new boyfriend at dinner. Whenever you try to make plans she replies, “What is a week end?”
At first, you may laugh, because truly no person can resist the acting charms of Maggie Smith, but know that in moms these tendencies may prove to be the early warning signs of something much more sinister.
She will begin to seem far away from you. She walks about in a fog, presumably one inspired by an early 19th-century English manor. She stops listening to what those closest to her say and is instead caught muttering things like, “Poor Edith,” and insists you “Send a note to Mrs. Padmore.”
As this behavior becomes more normal, your family might notice that some funds are disappearing. It will start small, an Art Deco costume necklace here, a decorative brooch there. Eventually, bills will start to turn up for vintage hats and other millinery. You must be prepared to intervene long before she advances to tiaras.
You grow increasingly more concerned for yourself and your loved ones. It will begin to take a toll on everyone around your mom. You find you can no longer have a normal conversation with her without her saying with a sigh, “We really must get you settled.” Meanwhile, she accuses your sister’s boyfriend of being “dreadfully middle class.” She dotes on your brother’s son and is ever so pleased your brother has “produced an heir.”
Your father tries to be supportive but is going bankrupt trying to pay for a butler and a lady’s maid. You will insist he fires them, but you also can’t help but feel the guilt that comes with depriving poor Mr. Rodgers and Mrs. Carrow of their livelihoods.
Whenever you try to speak to your mom about it, she looks sad and says, “The war has changed us all so very much.”
As she continues to draw away from those closest to her, she will seek out other moms to share in her obsession. Initially, you are thankful to be spared the relentless conversations about Bates and Anna’s happiness. Sadly, though, it is through these new relationships that the most sinister mom behavior will begin.
It becomes clear to you that the moms are enabling each other. They begin on the message boards, addressing each other by rank, starting as maids and advancing to Ladies, the upper echelon of both their real and imagined worlds. They truly believe they deserve a life like the one they see on Downton Abbey.
Every interaction with your mom is now Downton Abbey-inspired. You invite her to a Mother’s Day brunch and she says she could never attend a luncheon without at least two footmen. She has also loosely suggested you marry your second cousin, dropping hints about his “good prospects.” You want to understand her passion, but she demands that you understand her as much as “Carson understands electric light.”
She is not your mom anymore, she is a Crawley. Just as you get ready to confront her, she insists on “doing the season” in London. One can only assume this is code for conspiring with other radicalized moms in person.
It is at this point that you must let your mom go. Cut her out of your life until she is ready to live to 2019 again. Luckily, many moms will return from London disillusioned upon meeting regular British people, having tea in an overpriced tea room, and taking in a couple of estate tours. This is your best hope at this point: that your mom will realize for herself that she has done one curtsy too many and return to her normal life.
Is it irresponsible of PBS to allow this movie to happen? Yes, of course, but the responsibility lies with all of us to take the time to speak to our moms.