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Julian Fellowes defends Downton Abbey rape plot

Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey

Story by Jack Foley

JULIAN Fellowes has defended Downton Abbey‘s controversial rape storyline following the backlash the episode received from fans on Sunday night (October 6, 2013).

Over 60 people complained to ITV in the wake of the development, which saw Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) attacked by Lord Gillingham’s valet Green (Nigel Harman).

The scenes involved Anna being held and kissed against her will and slapped across the face. But the rape itself took place behind closed doors and was aired well after the 9pm watershed.

Fans, though, took to Twitter to air their distress and describe the storyline as exploitative. An as-yet-unconfirmed number also got in touch with regulator Ofcom.

But seris creator and writer Fellowes has moved to defend the storyline, insisting that it is in no way designed to be gratuitous.

In an interview with the BBC, the 64-year-old said: “The whole point of the way we do things on Downton is we don’t do them gratuitously. We are interested in exploring the resultant emotions and the effect these things have on people.

“If we’d wanted a sensational rape we could have stayed down in the kitchen with the camera during the whole thing and wrung it out. The point of our handling is not that we’re interested in sensationalising but we’re interested in exploring the mental damage and the emotional damage…

“The whole rest of the series, for her story and for Bates’s story, is seeing how she negotiates her way through this. I don’t think we ever have a sense that she leaves it behind.”

Fellowes went on to say that it was in the show’s nature to take characters “to the brink” given that past seasons have dealt with death and injury during the First World War, a death during child-birth that led to the shock departure of a key character, and even a Christmas Day fatality.

Downton deals in subjecting a couple of characters per series to a very difficult situation and you get the emotions that come out of these traumas,” Fellowes continued. “When you handle very difficult and sensitive storylines, the minus is that they do expect more work from the audience but the plus is they can take you to a helpful place in terms of self-analysis.

“The fact that [viewers] engage with it is sort of what you pray for as a programme maker, because with most series that’s not happening. It’s always a compliment that everyone gets so involved in the show.”

Related: Joanne Froggatt proud of Downton bravery over rape plot

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