All the Feelings: Thomas from Downton Abbey Edition

So we’ll just skip past the part where I jump up and down and cry with joy at the complete adorableness that was Anna and Bates’ reunion after he walked out of the prison door, and squealed with delight to see them kissing in the woods and walking hand in hand to see their new house, shall we?

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Anna and Bates are my FAVORITE!!! *squeals*
(I can haz a Baby Bates plz?)

But we’ll just skip past that part because while I could go on and on and on about all the reasons why Anna and Bates are my favorites, the real topic today is:


Thomas. Or, as Shirley MacLaine apparently called him, the Evil One.

Thomas is the necessary bad guy- the guy we love to hate. Every aristocratic household, office, classroom and tv show needs one. We all know one in real life. And everyone who has ever taken Creative Writing 101 knows that for your bad guys to ring true they need some not evil qualities as well as some realistic reasons for their evil actions. At first I was bothered by the fact that the evil one on the show is also gay, because it lends to the connotation that all gay people are evil. But as the third season comes to an end we see it’s actually the other way around– Thomas is a jerk because the world has been super hard on him because he is gay. I mean, other reasons too, but this is a big one.

They planted the seed for this all the way at the beginning. We meet Thomas and hate him (obviously) because he is mean to everyone but especially Bates. But then we see the Duke being an even bigger asshat than Thomas. The Duke looked through Thomas’s room and stole all his letters, then burns them after telling Thomas “I mean, I’m not actually gay, I just enjoy messing around with you. But after all I’m a powerful important man and you are basically nothing.” Then after destroying the letters he manages to be snobbish and condescending while at the same time basically calling Thomas a whore.


I mean, if this is an example of the kinds of relationships Thomas has had in his life, it sheds some light on his less-than-delightful personality. I’ve had the misfortune of spending months of my life in a not-relationship with someone who wouldn’t admit she was gay. Things that are not fun. So I feel kind of bad for Thomas.

Thomas makes a few comments over the seasons about being pushed around because he’s “different.” He nearly has his life ruined by Mr. Turkish Hottie when he misreads the signs and thinks that they are speaking the same unspoken language. Whew– close call! But this can’t be the only time this has happened. Living in constant panic that you’ll say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing and be found out. That sounds… well… a lot like my adolescence. *shudders*

Can we really blame Thomas for his icy exterior? Last night he let his wall down a crack when he said to Bates, “I envy you, the happy couple and everyone’s so pleased for you.” When Bates says, “maybe you should try being nicer,” Thomas says, “It wa being nice that got me into this.” This exchange says a lot in very few words. After three years of being (possibly a tad too much) attached to Anna and Bates getting together, after being overjoyed that Bates is free and he can live with Anna in their very own house we see see the whole situation from Thomas’s point of view– that this is a life completely denied to him. Even if he finds someone to love who loves him back they will never be accepted. And I suddenly find myself siding with Thomas.

There are many people in my life who would not be thrilled to attend my wedding. I likely will never have my father walk me down the aisle. My mother could not give me any advice for my wedding night. The risk of rejection we all take when declaring our love is heightened and expanded when one is queer. Moment after moment of “typical” family interactions on Downton Abbey will never take place in my life. Or in Thomas’s life, even if he was a nicer person.

A hundred years since 1920’s England reality has not changed as much as I’d like. Gay people can’t get married everywhere. There are still a lot of people who will never be happy for two nice girls to settle down together. There are still many places where your boss can fire you for being gay, while finding plenty of other reasons to fire you so that “you’ll find there’s nothing about it that’s difficult to explain.” (Oh Carson,  you make me sad sometimes.) I guess I can take comfort that at least you can’t be actually arrested for being gay… most places.I was happy to see Downton Abbey deal with Thomas being gay, and was pleased how they chose to do it. They didn’t shirk from showing the stark reality, but the characters we love responded with kindness. Mrs. Hughes isn’t shocked or disgusted, Bates is the good guy we love to love. Even in the midst of Carson’s disheartening insults he says he knows Thomas didn’t ask to be gay. Robert wins the prize with his completely unfazed comment,

“If I’d cried blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me at Eaton I’d have gone hoarse in a month,”

and how he talks Alfred out of ruining Thomas’s life by getting him arrested. Of course, it’s much easier to be calm about something that doesn’t affect you at all. I imagine it would be a completely different story if Lady Sybill had wanted to run off with Anna rather than Branson. (I mean, I’d want to run off with Anna– lez be honest.)

So it turns out that Thomas isn’t completely evil, or good, or any one thing. He’s a complex combination of qualities and actions, just like we all are. I love to hate him and hate to love him and love to love him and hate to hate him.

And in general have all the feelings.


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