The first Downton Abbey film gave us Thomas Barrow, played by Rob James-Collier, a gay butler whose sexuality was explored throughout the film by way of a short-lived romance with the king’s royal dresser.
However, in Downton Abbey: A New Era, currently playing in theatres, Thomas Barrow’s story gets more of a spotlight and his experiences as a gay man are presented under a warmer more optimistic light, with bright hope for his future.
For LGBTQI fans of both the show and western television, the introduction of this storyline back in 2010 was a milestone moment.
Thomas Barrow is an openly gay character; while in this moment in time this alone may not be much to celebrate, in 2010 this was relatively rare in Hollywood, considering shows like Will & Grace were the height of mainstream gay representation.
At this time streaming services which have now majorly streamlined production and allowed more marginalised stories to be told, were also not yet around.
It must also be considered that the vilification is a true representation of the time period, considering even speaking about subjects that were perceived to ‘promote homosexuality’ was banned in the British public schooling system until 2003.
Thomas Barrow of the 1920s, living an openly gay life, played by an openly gay character, was a milestone moment for 2010, and the Thomas Barrow of Downtwn Abbey: A New Era, is almost as equally iconic.