The Reasons of Popularity & The Mutual Effect between TV Show and Audiences
Some reckon that the genuine aristocracy exists in England. However, most of normal people have no chance to know the real spirit of aristocracy. After all, it is not considered to be aristocracies for people who are rich merely. Julian Fellowes’s British TV show Downton Abbey, premiered in 2010, presented a story happened in a fictional England manor called Downton Abbeyin England. Downton Abbeyshowed audiences all around the world what is the real British aristocracy in the early of 20thcentury through a popular and easy-to-understand way, which had won six Emmys so far as a successful British TV series show from PBS. The scholarly trend when discussing the reasons of the success forDownton Abbeyis to point out the reflection of social realistic meaning and cultural connotation from this popular show. Likewise, I argue that Downton Abbey is successful not only as Austen’s heritage and its timing of broadcast, but also reflects the change of women’s status and recognizes and digs deeply the necessity to study the relationship between modern TV shows and the audiences.
As a popular TV show, Downton Abbeyhas already paid attentions from scholars. Some reckons that the reasons of success for Downton Abbey are the attractive background of history, the layouts of scenes and the theatricality of the settings, etc. This research paper focuses the main reasons why Downton Abbeyis so successful and popular and the social realistic meanings and cultural connotations are reflected in this show behind those reasons. According to Palmer Sally (2013) in “An heir presumptive: Austen's legacy in Downton Abbey”,Downton Abbeyis regarded as the legacy from Jane Austen, for there are plenty of similarities between Downton Abbeyand Pride and Prejudice that written by Jane Austen. Palmer Sally suggests that Downton Abbeyis successful because of being treated as reasonable adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The same is found in other study, in “Upstairs and Downstairs: British Costume Drama Television from The Forsyte Saga toDowntonAbbey”, Degeyter Heather demonstrates that those novels and literature that are adapted by the typical literature from Dickens and Austen went beyond the limit of geography, races and gender. Additionally, Degeyter Heather reckons that the plots of abortion and rape inDownton Abbeyreflects the discrimination of women at that age in British and suggests the continuously development of sexual liberation of women (2016). In a similar study, Nesbitt Jennifer suggests that the changing of British women’s status in the early 20th century is reflected in Downton Abbeyin “The Absent Presence of Virginia Woolf: QueeringDownton Abbey”. Nesbitt Jennifer also indicates that the audience of Downton Abbey started to rethink the conflicts of injustice in social reality through the disadvantages of the inequity and hierarchy showed in this show. From others’ perspective, some research had showed the other reason of the success of Downton Abbey, which is the synergistic effect between television and publication. As seen in Nesbitt Jennifer ‘s study in “The Absent Presence of Virginia Woolf: Queering Downton Abbey” (2014) and West Nancy’ s study in “The worlds of Downton Abbey” (2015), the sales of some relevant offline products like book is regarded as one of the major reasons of the success of Downton Abbey. Moreover, the necessity to research the relationship between television show and its audiences is mentioned in both studies and Samuel K. Bonsu, Aron Darmody and Marie-Agnès Parmentier’s study in “Arrested emotions in reality television” (2010).
Downton Abbeyis considered to be the heritage of Austen who wrote Pride and Prejudice, which is regarded as one of the reasons why this show is popular around the world. The similarities between both literature are cultural background, the historical background and the character setting. For instance, Palmer Sally points out that “the most obvious similarity of both show is the setting of cultural background” (245). The background of culture and history is people’s life and human relationship in a British town on the condition of close-up and conservativeness from the late 1800s to the early 1900s in both of Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey. The other example is that the main character in both of them are girls who remain unmarried in the level of gentry. Therefore, Downton Abbey is treated as a perfect adaption of Pride and Prejudice. As Sally B. Palmer points out in her study, “Downton’s legitimacy as an heir and sequel to the blockbuster Jane Austen adaptations of recent years” (245). By means of depicting the conflicts between marriages only for matching, Downton Abbeyreflects rather truly the social historic feature and its essential characteristics at that age. In short, the effect from masterpiece is reckoned as one of the reasons of the success in Downton Abbey.
The effect from Austen for the popularity of Downton Abbeycan not be underestimated, the timing of broadcast for Downton Abbeyis speculated the other reason of success as well. Jane Mattisson demonstrates, “Downton Abbeycommemorates a time gone by and a major war that changed the shape of the world forever” (4). The historical background ofDownton Abbey is World War Ⅰ. And the timing of broadcast had been chosen as the centenary of World War Ⅰ in 2014. In this show, the destiny of Downton Abbeyis changed by the war in this show. For example, the abbey became the rest home for wounded soldiers and officers. Meanwhile, the destiny of characters in abbey also are turned by the war. For instance, Matthew Crowley wounded in the war and faced the risk of paralysis. It was a time when he could not stand by himself. Although those plots are fictitious, they are reasonable and touching, which resonates with audiences through motivating their motions. Except the timing of broadcast and the effect from Austen, the third reason whyDownton Abbeyis a successful show is considered to be the reflection of the changing of women’s status in the reality. Nennifer P. Nesbitt indicates, “Downton Abbeytrumpets its interest in depicting the changing position of women in twentieth-century England” (250). For example, in season three of Downton Abbey,Lady Edith learns to drive a car and Lady Sybil becomes a nurse to look after those war wounded instead of being a little noble girl who needs others’ protection. Audiences can realize that the women’s status are promoting continuously from those plots, which reflects the degree of social respect for women and their social status is changing over these years in reality.
Based on the above three reasons, the essential reason of the success ofDownton Abbey is regarded as the accurate grasp of the estimate relationship between TV show and its audiences. Downton Abbeyshowed what its audiences are looking forward most in three aspects: the background of story, the timing of broadcast and the reflection of the reality. It is obvious that TV shows are not independent of its audiences, they affects each other all the time. On the one hand, TV shows enrich audiences’ life as a approach of daily entertainment. Moreover, TV shows are playing a guiding role in cultural tide. According to a relevant study, “Television has a wide‐ranging influence on many facets of contemporary life including modes of thinking, social relations” (Samuel K. Bonsu, et.al 93). On the other hand, the economic effect brought by audiences is huge because of the popularity of TV shows. For instance, Jane Mattisson says, “The literary works that both stimulated and responded to the television series owe their popularity to the television series itself. All the works referenced here are available at reputable book shops and online” (5).
Although the role of TV in our life might become more and more important and influential, some might argue that Downton Abbey doesn’t recognize the important of the relationship between shows and its audiences. They would point out that TV shows and its audiences could never affect each other, for audiences would not be changed because of some fictional show. They know exactly the differences between both of them. Also, what happened in TV show would never happen in their life. What this perspective misses is the changing role of television nowadays. According to a relevant study, “If there is an avenue for demonstrating the dynamics that support the arrest of emotions in contemporary culture, then it is television. Arousing and managing emotions as a way of inducing television audiences to support a program is not news” (Samuel K. Bonsu, et.al 93). TV shows can motivate audiences’ emotion. When watching shows, they are experiencing what characters of show experience. They felt either happy or painful because of either the happiness or the misfortune of characters, which means TV show affects people’s life exactly.
In summary, The main reason of the success of Downton Abbey is the reflections of social issues in the reality. Moreover, the relationship between TV show and audiences is recognized by analyzing those reasons. Some reckon that people could never be affected by television, for it is just a tool for entertainment. However, shows come from reality but go beyond the reality. Actually, the primary cause of the success ofDownton Abbeyis the effect between TV show and its audiences. So far, as a trend in recent relevant studies, The role of television is not only a tool to inform messages anymore, instead, it has become a driver to guide the motivation of culture at present. And because of this the topic of this research paper is necessary and significant. At the moment, the interaction effect in the relationship between TV show and its audiences has not been paid enough attention for studying. Therefore, the correlative study about the relationship between media and people will be focused more than now, for the mutual effect between media and people will be more and more enormous in the coming future.
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