Downton Abbey Causes Controversy

Reported by Jessica Hanlon.

Joanne Froggatt

The following contains spoilers.

Following its broadcast on Sunday night, popular period drama Downton Abbey has received over 90 complaints after it stunned viewers with a terrifying storyline involving the shocking abuse of one of its beloved characters.

Since airing the episode, The Independent reports that ITV, the network which airs Downton Abbey has received over 60 complaints about the storyline, whilst broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has received 30 complaints.

The storyline, which involved the brutal attack and rape of servant Anna Bates by a visiting valet, played by Nigel Harman, was watched by an average audience of 9.2 million viewers, with a peak of 9.9 million.

After resisting his advances, Anna was punched in the head by Mr. Green and dragged to a small room where he carried out his attack. Although the rape and attack was not shown, screaming and the sound of further striking could be heard off-screen as an exterior shot of the room was shown. In the aftermath of her attack, Anna was later discovered by head house-keep Elsie Hughes in her under-dress with visible cuts and bruises to her face.

Prior to the episode airing, a warning appeared foreshadowing to viewers that the episode would contain “scenes that some viewers might find violent and upsetting”, however it appears to have done little to adequately prepare viewers for the tragic scenes that followed.

A spokesman for Downton Abbey has defended the storyline saying “The events in episode three were, we believe, acted and directed with great sensitivity. Viewers will see in the forthcoming episodes how Anna and Bates struggle to come to terms with what has happened.” Likewise, both actors involved in the scene have spoken out positively about the episode.

In an interview with ITV’s This Morning, Nigel Harman who played attacker Mr. Green said that the intention was to be bold and shocking, commenting that “for a show like Downton it really leaped out as a bold and risky idea.” Daily Mail also reports that actress Joanne Froggatt is ‘proud’ of the show for tackling such a controversial storyline and thought it was a brave move from show writer Julian Fellowes and his team.

This controversy is the latest in a string of issues that have plagued the show since the sudden departure of Dan Stevens and Siobhan Finneran, following the lapse of their contracts at the end of Season 3. Criticism has also been leveled at the show since its return, with viewers and critics complaining it has become dull and boring. Needless to say, whether you are fan of the scene or not, there is no doubt that Julian Fellowes has certainly changed that perception now.

Downton Abbey airs on ITV on Sundays at 9pm.

Source: The Independent, Daily Mail

– J.H.


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  • Truly ridiculous how much controversy this caused. Sure the ideas were there, but it was filmed carefully and respectfully.