ITV has received a number of complaints following Sunday night’s episode of the popular costume drama. Many viewers were left ‘shocked’ and ‘distressed’ after Anna May Bates (Joanne Froggatt) was attacked and raped by a guest’s valet. Although a warning alerted viewers to the episode’s content before it was broadcast, many viewers felt the scene was inappropriate and took to Twitter to express their concerns. Viewer Lucy Raine tweeted: “I am genuinely so distressed at what just happened on Downton Abbey I feel sick.” It has been suggested by Daily Telegraph writer Katy Rink that Downton creator Julian Fellowes is ‘at risk of alienating loyal [fans].’
However, Dr Pam Cox, a social historian at Essex University, who presented last year’s BBC series Servants – The True Story of Life Below Stairs, claims that the episode reflected real events. “It’s all too realistic a situation,” she said. “Female servants were abused and harassed. There was a hierarchy within the servants’ hall and butlers and valets were in a position of power.”
It is not the first time viewers have been left reeling by the drama. The Christmas 2012 episode caused widespread criticism after the death of Matthew in a car crash.
The television drama reached a peak of 9.9 million viewers on Sunday and was recently nominated for 11 Emmy awards.
Downton Abbey is broadcast on ITV on Sundays at 9pm.