Monday, January 21, 2013

The Left Does Not Hate the Rich

Leave it to Fox News to fundamentally misunderstand the culture, the political spectrum, and America all in one brash moment of ignorance.

Stuart Varney claims that the popularity of Downton Abbey represents a threat to the left in some way without really understanding that there is a separation between American political culture and popular culture.

Downton Abbey's success has occurred largely because it represents a change in the way Americans have traditionally viewed Masterpiece Theater. Instead of being stuffy and ignored, PBS has a genuine hit on its hands. It is genuinely popular because it is a high quality piece of British television and nothing more. It is done in such a way as to guarantee that it would be a hit with anyone who likes good storytelling. The politics of early 20th Century Britain have no resonance with Americans anymore, not the least of which is the storyline running through Season 3, which centers around Irish independence.

There is a personal connection to the story because of the themes that hit home, and in classless America, the class structure of Britain becomes evident in the way that the story is told. And this happens largely because the aristocracy portrayed here is largely benevolent to the subservient servant class below them. The wealthy have little or no place in Downton Abbey; having wealth means nothing to these people if one is not born to a peerage or a place of social rank. Self-made people need not apply. And there is a marked difference between the servants and the served, one that is exemplified by the fact that they actually get along with one another.

So, for Varney to think that America suddenly embraces the rich because of this show is absurd. The show has nothing to do with wealth but with class and Americans are suckers for a good story involving people who have fabulous lives mingled in with people who have to wait hand and foot on others and struggle. Americans love a good melodrama, and that's what they're getting from this show.

The American left has never hated the rich; the American left embodies the idea that the rich can be benevolent, and that's why you have the limousine liberal smear from years past. Varney gets it wrong; the right in America is responsible for the demonization of the wealthy because it fetishizes their right to screw people over. The left is the saving grace of the wealthy, giving them a veneer of kindness and respectability when they often possess neither.

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