On Sunday night, an estimated 9.2 million viewers tuned in to watch British period drama, "Downton Abbey." Right at the beginning of the episode, the viewers were warned about scenes that they "might find violent and upsetting." However, the rape of Anna Bates, played by actress Joanne Froggatt, was not something that they were expecting to watch. The creator and the channel are facing a backlash. Twitter has exploded with protest and viewers are calling the episode "disgusting" and "disturbing."
Joanne Froggatt plays Anna Bates.
Commentators on social networking sites and on media have called the assault scene "sick," "manipulative," "sensationalist," "gratuitous" and a scene added to "spice things up." ITV, the channel that airs "Downton Abbey" in the UK, and broadcast regulator Ofcom have received a number of complaints against the episode.
In the episode, Anna Bates was raped by Lord Gillingham's valet Mr Green (Nigel Harman) after she snubbed his attempt to kiss her. There were no explicit visuals of the rape but screaming and violent beating sound were used to show that a sexual assault was taking place. The assault scene was followed by a scene of a crying Anna.
Julian Fellowes, creator of critically acclaimed "Downton Abbey," and actress Joanne Froggatt have defended the scene. Fellowes said to the BBC that they don't do thing "gratuitously" on "Downton Abbey."
"We are interested in exploring the resultant emotions and the effect these things have on people," he added.
In an interview with BBC1's Breakfast, Frogatt called the scene "brave" and that she was "really proud" that "Downton Abbey" was handling the issue. The actress also believed the episode was not "gratuitous."
"He (Fellowes) does very much go on to explore the emotional journey of Anna and Bates," the actress said. "He's done a beautiful job of hitting the right note with it. I think we all just felt a big responsibility to get it right."
"The complex and loving journey of Anna and [her husband] Bates has been central to the narrative of the show. The events in episode three were, we believe, acted and directed with great sensitivity," a spokesman of "Downton Abbey" said as quoted by The Telegraph. "Viewers will see in the forthcoming episodes how Anna and Bates struggle to come to terms with what has happened."
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