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'Downton Abbey' Creator Julian Fellowes Just Perpetuated A Dangerous Myth About Rape

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DOWNTON ABBEY
ITV

Spoiler alert: This piece gives away key plot points from Season 4 of "Downton Abbey."

This morning, Julian Fellowes responded in the New York Times to criticism that the rape of the character Anna in the fourth season of "Downton Abbey" was outside the scope of brutality viewers have come to expect from the show.

"It was very important that it should be completely clear that it is not the victim's fault at all," Fellowes told the New York Times' Dave Itzkoff. "This was a chance to make the argument for the innocent rape victim who has done nothing to deserve it."

Is it possible that the 64-year-old Mr. Fellowes is not just a chronicler of a bygone age of horrifying small-mindedness, but a keeper of the flame? How is it that a man who is capable of writing so eloquently and with such mastery of the English language felt that "rape victim" needed to not only be modified by the word "innocent," but that "innocent" then needed to be defined?

How is it that a writer who seems so determined to examine issues of sexual orientation, racial discrimination and gender inequality can promulgate one of the most dangerous stereotypes about sexual assault?

When we continue an outdated public discourse that allows rape victims to be put in two categories, the blameless and the wanton, we take culpability off where it belongs -- on the perpetrator.

If I pull out my wallet, that still doesn't mean I want you to steal it.

On "Downton Abbey," Julian Fellowes' characters are preoccupied with how their behavior reflects on their name, their title, their house and their country. He has not represented his generation, his gender or his country well today.

If he truly believes that innocent rape victims need an argument made for them then I can't wait to see next season -- will Jack Ross be the recipient of a beating he didn't bring on himself? Will it be a chance to show the "innocent" lynching victim, the one who has done nothing to "deserve" it?

Or maybe he'll flip the script entirely and just give what he seems to feel is overrepresented: the old slatternly rape victim. The one who was really asking for it.