The more I think about it, the more it becomes obvious:
Points of Similarity Between Mary Crawley and Scarlett O' Hara
Both are the oldest of three daughters. They get along with the younger but a have a terrible relationship with the middle one. (Scarlett and Suellen bicker over who gets to wear their mother's brooch to the ball; Cora tells Mary that she must "tolerate" Edith.)
Both are (IMO) spoiled, willful, and arrogant. Both refuse to change their behavior throughout their stories and thus alienate people who once cared for them.
Both have indulgent fathers who overlook their behavior and kind mothers who try to correct it.
Both make marriages to an obvious choice to save themselves from stigma. (After being rebuffed by Ashley, Scarlett overhears the other girls cattily talking about how she threw herself at him. To save her honor, she agrees to marry Charles Hamilton, who has been fawning over her at the barbeque. After her cousin's death, Downton needs a new heir and Mary needs a new fiance. Low and behold, in comes Matthew. Falling in love was a nice icing on the cake, but obviously it was the "elephant in the room" that Matthew should marry Mary, since it was convenient for everybody. If Matthew had snubbed Mary, it would have been a double sting, sine she would have been scrambling to avoid the dreaded "old maid" label.)
Both middle sisters are willing to screw their sisters/family at one point. (After the war, Scarlett says that Suellen would happily marry her well-off suitor Frank and leave the rest of them to starve. Edith almost ruins her sister's/family's honor by revealing the Turk affair.)
Both Mary and Scarlett show no compunction in riding roughshod over people to get what will make them happy. (Scarlett tries to steal Ashely Wilkes from Melanie because she has a crush on him. Later, she demands that her husband give her money to save Tara. Mary badgers Matthew when he has moral concerns about what to do with his money. She wants him to spend it on her so she won't have to downsize to a "mere" 8 servants and a "fairy palace".)
Both mess with their sister's marital prospects. (Scarlett steals Frank Kennedy away from Suellen to get his money. Mary scares off Sir Anthony the first time because she wants revenge over the Turkish affair. No matter what you think of who was justified doing what to whom, that whole affair and its aftermath was just tawdry. Neither Mary nor Edith came out of it looking good.)
Neither Mary nor Scarlett have good marriages. (Scarlett's marriage to Rhett Butler descended into bitterness and recriminations. For Mary, hounding your reluctant husband and then freezing him out when he attempts to discuss children is not a recipe for a happy marriage. While Matthew hasn't exactly cooled towards her yet, he certainly isn't as frisky as he was shown to be earlier. Nor have we seen the lover's sparks that flew between them pre-marriage flying lately.)
Part of the reason they have bad marriages is they cling to an ideal that doesn't exist/is rapidly disappearing. (Scarlett pines for Ashley throughout her marriage to Rhett, even though clearly she and Ashley are not suited. Mary wishes to cling to her old way of life, even though England is going through tremendous upheaval at the moment. The suffragettes are marching, laborers are striking, and wealthy estates are beginning to sink under all their debt. Downton is certainly not the only one in trouble.)
I'm guessing that, like GWTW, our sympathies will soon shift to the husband. In Matthew's case, I'm guessing that he'll either pack off to Manchester to live in quiet separation (too dull), or more likely, have a blazing row over managing the estate.
Babbred - interesting comparisons. Well thought!
Was it Cora who promised to support Tom, or was it Mary? I know she had that talk with Mary, but I don't remember where Cora stood on the whole thing.
Re: the comparisons of Mary and Scarlett O'Hara: IMO, Mary and Matthew don't have a bad marriage. Whatever their disagreements, they usually manage to resolve them to the point where they don't go to bed angry. Matthew realizes that Mary is a willful and opinionated aristocrat, and Mary realizes that Matthew is sometimes too noble/self-effacing for his own good. They seem to be good at popping each other's balloons when the moment calls for it.
Re: Isobel not being present at Sybil giving birth -- it could make sense that she didn't stick around, because she is only distantly involved since it doesn't concern Matthew. She may not have known about Lord Grantham's plans to bring in Sir Stuffypants for the birth. But I'd agree that it would be just as believable that she would want to be nosey, and worm her way into the medical side of things.
The problem is that the actress playing Sybil wanted to leave the show for good, and Julian F didnt' want to lose Tom in the bargain by writing them off to Ireland, only to be mentioned by the others in passing. So, he had to come up with a believable death scene. I'd say overall he made a pretty powerful episode from it. And we get to keep sexy Tom! :lol
Great article in today's (2/2/13) Wall Street Journal about Julien Fellows. It's an interview with him about the Anti-Snobbery of 'Downton Abbey'. He contrasts American viewpoints with what he says is a "century of being encouraged to dislike each other" in the UK. Also he compared the orderly world of DA to our "disordered world". Fascinating reading. Wish I could link the article here but WSJ.com won't allow.
Here's the WSJ article. Not sure why it wasn't linking for you, LG :shrug
The Weekend Interview with Julian Fellowes: The Anti-Snobbery of 'Downton Abbey' - WSJ.com