Australian Council on Children and the Media

Downton Abbey

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Not recommended under 13, parental guidance to 14 (Adult themes and lack of interest for younger viewers)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Downton Abbey
  • a review of Downton Abbey completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 September 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to adult themes and lack of interest
Children aged 13–14 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes.
Children over the age of 14 Ok for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Downton Abbey
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild Themes
Length 122 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Downton Abbey is sent into a bustle of activity when they receive the news that they are to have the privilege of a visit by King George (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James). The Royal Highnesses are planning to stay overnight so Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) anxiously plans their visit and a parade in their honour. Downstairs the staff are excitedly preparing for the great honour but their hopes are soon dashed when they learn that the Royal Highnesses will be bringing their own entourage of butlers, chef, ladies-in-waiting etc.

The Downton Abbey staff are treated very rudely by the Royal staff and so Anna Bates (Joanna Froggatt) plans to get their revenge. Meanwhile, a Captain Chetwode (Stephen Campbell Moore) arrives on the scene and takes a personal interest in Tom Branson (Allen Leech). Lady Mary suspects he might be a member of ‘Special Branch’, come to keep a check on Tom’s known Irish Republican sympathies, but Chetwode has plans of his own. The Royal visit arrives with some hitches, plots and sub plots but all is well in the end.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Early 20th Century morals and culture; Adult themes; Plots against the King.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Andy Parker (Michael Fox) smashes the boiler in a jealous fit.
  • A man is seen pointing a gun at the King in a plot to assassinate him. Tom wrestles the man to the ground and he is subsequently arrested by the police.
  • The police raid a gay man’s club and place them all under arrest. There is a tussle between the men and the police. Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) is amongst the arrested men.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Nothing further that is particularly scary

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Nothing further of concern

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Nothing further of concern

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • None noted

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Thomas Barrow is propositioned by a man in a bar. They go together to a gay man’s club where men are dancing closely together to a jazz band. Thomas and the man kiss.
  • One of the male Royal staff is also attracted to Thomas Barrow. He gets Thomas out of jail and tells the police that ‘he’d rather be dead than be one of them’, when in fact he is. This man and Thomas also kiss.
  • One of the visitors, Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) has a housemaid, Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), who is her constant companion. It turns out that Lucy is Lady Bagshaw’s illegitimate daughter.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Several characters kiss such as Cora and Robert Crawley; Lucy and Tom; Lady Mary and Henry Talbot (Mathew Goode)
  • Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) is seen on a few occasions dressing and undressing down to her underwear. No nudity.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Drinking on several occasions and at many different venues such as at dinner; at celebrations; at supper; in the pub, etc.
  • Anna Bates gives the Royal chef a sleeping drug in his tea.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Blimey
  • Oh God
  • Tinker’s Arse
  • The police call the gay men “dirty perverts”.

In a nutshell

Downton Abbey is a light-hearted period drama which continues the story of the Crawley family and includes all of the well-loved characters from the television series. It is funny and romantic but due to its content and its length it wouldn’t hold much interest for viewers under 13. Parental guidance is recommended for 13 – 14 year olds.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Empathy
  • Kindness
  • Loyalty

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • The different moral attitudes in the early 20th century to today, such as the fact that homosexuality was illegal then and that illegitimate children were a shame to the family.
  • Was it right for Anna to drug the chef so the Downton staff could get their revenge?

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