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For all who watch ‘Downton Abbey’

March 4, 2012
Messenger News

"That's the girliest column you've ever written," a co-worker said to me after I wrote about a decoupaging class that turned into a discussion of current and classic soap operas.


But soaps aren't just for women, no matter how much men might protest.

When I was still eating lunch at home with my parents and sister, I can remember my dad insisting he had no interest in "All My Children," which was running on the TV in the living room as we eavesdropped from the kitchen table. I wonder then how he knew who Erica Kane was? He also recognized Donna Craig from "Days of Our Lives," - who currently, by the way, plays Lauren on "The Young and the Restless."

Soaps were popular long before they hit TV screens. Charles Dickens' serialized tales that ran in English newspapers were little more than printed versions of "the stories" that decades of viewers grew to love on the small screen.

Soaps tell continuing tales of heroes and villains, happy endings and tragic conclusions; there is honesty and deceit, circumstances that interfere with people lives, in short - they are "Downton Abbey" without the historical setting and cool costuming.

"Downton," which recently wrapped up its second season on PBS, isn't a soap. Ask any man who watches it.

During a social outing this winter, Jim - generally regarded as my partner in crime and most other things - and I talked with another couple (and one of those people was indeed a man) who said they don't answer the phone if it rings during "Downton."

On a not-too-distant Sunday, as Jim and I were watching the newest episode, after first watching a repeat of the previous week's episode - because it is really addictive Jim blurted out something one of our Minnesota friends had just posted on Facebook about one of "Downton's" characters.

That friend is a man. The two other posters discussing the episode were also men. All of them are historical re-enactors, but none of them re-enact the Edwardian period, so they can't pretend they're doing research.

Last weekend, we asked another friend - a historical site director in Wisconsin - if he also watched "Downton." He promptly produced a printout of the "Downton Abbey" paper dolls that one of his friends had downloaded for him.

The conclusion, plain and simple, is that men do like soaps - they just have to fool themselves into thinking their soap is something else.

Barbara Wallace Hughes is the managing editor of The Messenger.



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