A character review of Mr. Stevens

When I discuss The Remains of the Day, I’m going to refer to the film version. Emma Thompson plays a brilliant supporting role, and her character truly shines in the movie. Let’s dissect and compare to period dramas about servant life.

The Remains of the day: a depressing story

Stevens is an exceptionally strange man. He reads sentimental romance, is very solitary and expresses no outwards emotions. I’m quite convinced he’s a sociopath by his portrayal  in the film adaptation. And then there’s Miss Kenton, his confidant and housekeeper, who tries her best to connect with him. She’s very much the opposite of Stevens; heartfelt, kindhearted and sincere. Their relationship is most unfulfilling whilst they inhabit Lord Darlington’s manor together. They argue over anything and everything, from Stevens Senior’s ability to work, to the German maids’ ability to work because of their Jewish heritage.

Eventually, she goes off to marry another man because Miss Kenton cannot bear her unrequited love for Stevens any longer. This is in part because the under-maid gets married to her sweetheart, despite being naive and poor (qualities which she dislikes). Eventually, Mr Stevens realises his mistakes; not just about serving Lord Darlington too loyally, and about the German Nazis. He meets his comrade, now Miss Benn, for lunch and then a stroll around the beach pier. They talk, about how her life has changed, highlighting the lack of change in his life. Mrs Benn remarks how her life became better once her daughter was born. As he says goodbye to her on the bus in the rain, Stevens comments that he was “too busy serving to notice” any discussion that happened. Even at that point, after his employer’s death, Stevens never once reaches out to Mrs Benn. Historically accurate? Maybe, but it lacks the passion that stories such as War and Peace has.

Downtown Abbey: the recovery of a lost plot line?

Let’s talk about Anna and Master Bates in this series. There are hints of Jane Eyre in this romantic subplot, because Master Bates is married before they meet. Like Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens, they work together. Their marriage is shadowed by the fact that Anna is late in getting married, and could be past the age of childbirth (with many miscarriages in her  marriage). Fortunately, their ending has a more satisfying outcome, with understanding employers and starting a family. Downtown Abbey is set up like a happy family, as Anna is close to Mary and Edith, whilst Sybil married the chauffeur Tom. Carson and Mrs Hughes marry as well, much to the celebration of the family and staff. With Edith as an editor of a magazine and Mary in charge of the household without the need for a husband, it’s a more modern take on aristocratic life.

The conclusion? Downton Abbey places more emphasis on the lives of the noble family living there, without detaching from human emotions. Whilst Remains of the Day uncovers the secret lives of servants, whilst removing them from current household affairs (to a degree).

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Science fiction is not science fact

Keyboard warrior rant: Round Two

People often believe that gamma rays, hover cars and alien life forms are possible. Then there is the grey area of time travel, telekinetic communication and the human zombie virus. State, however, that dragons, gods and magic are just as plausible as aliens and the “hardcore science” fans glare at you (before returning to watch¬†The Big Bang Theory¬†whilst chatting with their virtual/Facebook girlfriend). Nobody has, to date, suggested that dragons may well be aliens. The people who believe that science fiction is truly educational probably also believe that the world is about to end.

1. Brainiac: teaching kids that dangerous chemistry is fun

I am not sure how the BBC managed to air myth busters for kids with science, but it happened. Maybe it’s that the Brainiac cast used goggles, or that some of their explosions had to be enhanced – most notably, the alkali metals experiment.

Admittedly, not all of the experiments were dangerous, and the crew (probably) knew what they were doing. But, nearly every stunt performer says “don’t try this at home”, and it’s never been said on the show. Let’s not mention the scantily clad attractive women on the show – Remember Thalia Zucchi from “How Hard Is Your Thing?”? What about John Tickle’s busty nurse? If you’ve never seen the show, or don’t remember, here is a brief montage:







Anyway, Brainiac was 1/3rd boobs, 1/3rd explosions and 1/3rd actual science. For this reason, it may as well be science fiction.

2. Doctor Who

Don’t ¬†get me wrong, I LOVED this show (especially with David Tenant as the Doctor). And, considering the large number of crappy science fiction out there, there’s definitely been worse. But there are some concepts in the show that are just plain ridiculous. The sonic screwdriver has a few flaws, namely being that it can open any door…..except a traditional one with a doorknob. Also, the TARDIS defies the laws of physics in just about¬†every¬†way – the reason scientists believe that you can only travel forwards in time is because of the speed of light, and there are no wormholes in space to take you back to the past (which is the only hypothetical way you could get there).

3. Star Wars

I’m probably going to get hate mail for this, but here we go. I honestly believe the mass appeal from Star Wars comes from two things: physics students’ geeky desires to build a light saber and spacecraft, and mass marketing. In the original films, I had a bit of a problem with Han Solo’s attitude towards Leia. As for the more modern films, the main thing wrong with them is their over-dramatic plotlines. So Anakin Skywalker was actually once a good guy and became evil, so what? Othello and Hamlet both do the same damn thing. Then we have Kylo Ren, who is not actually evil but instead is living a narcissistic fantasy after idolising his granddad.

4. Jurassic Park

Ever since this film was made, the planet went nuts for re-creating dinosaurs from amber tree sap. So, dinosaurs are fascinating because they’re extinct. But absolutely nothing is scientific in the movie whatsoever – if ¬†it was, we would’ve already done it. Sometimes I think that movie was only created so someone could make an actual theme park.

5. The Draenei in World of Warcraft

Yes, because satyrs and fauns are actually aliens from outer space – not dissimilar from Scientology logic about divine deities. I’ll admit that the WoW franchise is less sci-fi and more fantasy, but the Draeni are not their strongest race. I’m going to classify the Draeni as sci-fi because they’re alien beings with advanced technology. Why I don’t like them? They’re more original than the other races, but their design as extraterrestrial fauns bugs me.

6. Digimon

So, this is virtual pet; a Tamagotchi combined with Pokemon evolution. How original, just combine two Japanese franchise from competing businesses and merge them into a single toy. Admittedly, Digimon wasn’t anywhere near as popular Tamagotchi or Pokemon, because there’s nothing original about them. So, why is Digimon classed as sci-fi? Apart from the apparent use of gadgets and digital world (just like in¬†The Matrix¬†and¬†Spy Kids)¬†in the anime, I really have no idea.

7.¬†Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy¬†

I’ve heard far too often that dolphins are sending warning messages by cackling, and it’s all thanks to Douglas Adams. Infamous for coining the answer to life, Everything and the Universe as 42 (from a mathematical point of view). Adams was only joking, but scientists have insisted on proving the phrase to be true. In all fairness, i don’t¬†think¬†Adams was trying to make his book sound like actual science fiction, but the readers have taken it far too seriously.

So, what do you think of all of this: is my pronounced judgement too farfetched, or does this post have a point? Share your thoughts below.