SPOILERS*: This post contains spoilers for Upstairs/Downstairs Season 2 and Doctor Who Series 7.
First Downton Abbey, now this.
Downton Abbey disappointed me early, because most of the characters were unlikeable and the stories were depressing. I watched through the end of Season 1 anyway, because I’m kind of a completist. The new sequel series to Upstairs, Downstairs, by contrast, was sweet and uplifting.
Until Series 2. Now I’m disappointed.
Agnes and Hallam Holland were a nice couple in the first series. This year, their marriage hit some rough spots, and I thought we might get a demonstration of the principle “marriage is hard; stick with it anyway.”
But no. After this week’s episode and the previews of next, it looks like we’re getting that hackneyed old trope “marriage is hard, so cheat on your spouse.”
Contrast that with Amy and Rory Williams of Doctor Who. They had more obstacles in their marriage than anyone in a stogy old historical could imagine. Cybermen, the Silence, the rebooting of the universe. Oh, and their daughter was kidnapped and they didn’t see her again until she grew up. And she grew up to be a time-traveling adult sent to assassinate the Doctor.
And that’s just a sample. Hallam can put that in his martini and swill it.
In Doctor Who’s recent midseason finale, Amy and Rory demonstrate with sacrificial love the principle “marriage is hard; stick with it anyway.” (Over at Speculative Faith, E. Stephen Burnett did a great analysis of this story and its counter-culturalness compared with the typical entertainment industry view, which Burnett summarizes as “stable relationships make for dull stories.”)
In the Christian submarket we’re not likely to fall for that view. My fear is that too often we focus on courtship rather than marriage. This is certainly true in most of my books. But as I work on the sequel to Alara’s Call, I’m enjoying the process of taking the couple into the “stick with it anyway” phase, which is only going to get harder for them in book three.
Karen Hancock did a great job of this in Return of the Guardian King. I’m having trouble thinking up other examples, though. As I think about marriage in Christian fiction, I can only recall a few historical series in which the couple that gets married in book one lives happily ever after, offering sage advice to the courting couples in successive books without ever hitting the “marriage is hard” phase.
As Christian writers, we should be as good at glorifying marriage as Steven Moffat did in his Doctor Who scripts. Not just the happily ever afters, but the sticking with it through the rough patches. We could use more characters like Amy and Rory in Christian speculative fiction. What examples of this have you seen?
* — I trust I am not the only one who now reads the word “spoilers” with River Song’s voice.