Let’s talk about Canadian television. I lived in a border city for 3 years, and spent some quality time with Canadian TV. It’s mostly made up of American shows, hockey, people talking about hockey, Tim Hortons commercials, snow – just, like, programming about snow, because Canada has so damn much of it, and people who generally look all healthy and financially secure and smug because they all have health care. Every once in a while, you get a Degrassi in there. The piece de resistance of Canadian television is the 1985 CBC adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.
As a dramatic, bookish redheaded child, I was more or less obligated to love Anne of Green Gables. If you loved her, too, you will remember a few things about her. She was an orphan who always had her head in the clouds, she was outspoken but always meant well, and — oh yeah, she lived in the 18-fucking-hundreds or something. So when I heard that Canadian TV was adapting Anne of Green Gables to a modern setting, I was a little confused. None of the plotlines even make sense in 2013. Clearly, a couple tweaks are in order. Frankly, I don’t think Tim Hortons will even sponsor this mess.
Here’s what will happen if Canada brings Anne Shirley to the new millennium:
Matthew and Marilla are the worst people ever
The entire premise of Anne of Green Gables falls apart when you move it to this millennium. In the 1908 novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Matthew and Marilla order a boy from the orphanage in order to help Matthew with the farm work. They end up with Anne instead. In 2013, buying children to do manual labor is pretty illegal. An 11-year-old girl going to stay with elderly siblings who live together – because they buy her to do work – wouldn’t test well with today’s audiences. I think the only thing they could do is have Anne come from some sort of foster care situation, which would work with the prejudice ol’ Rachel Lynde has against her. Still, though, the show wouldn’t work if Marilla’s this warm, fuzzy older lady who just wants to help an underprivileged girl succeed. She sort of has to be a brittle church-hag who tried to buy a little boy for chores.
Bath Salts Are The New Raspberry Cordial
Remember when Anne invited Diana over for tea, then accidentally got Diana drunk on raspberry cordial, then they weren’t allowed to be friends for a while? Most parents still wouldn’t like the kid who got their daughter drunk, but I think raspberry cordial has lost some shock value in the intervening hundred years. It even sounds like an old-timey refreshment you’d have at tea-time. Nowadays, to get the same punch Anne would have to come across bath salts, sprinkle it on some food, then be all surprised when Diana goes on a drug-induced face-eating rampage. Or, Diana would have an allergy attack and Anne would mix up Zyrtec with Xanax and get Diana all spacey. You got to admit, for such a smart girl Anne could be a little dense sometimes.
“Carrots” Isn’t Really An Insult Anymore
You’ll remember that Anne and Gilbert’s hate-to-tolerance-to-friendship-to-love trajectory began with Gilbert mockingly referring to Anne as “carrots.” In 2013, any teen girl would be like “that’s all you got, Gil?”. In the modern adaptation, instead of calling Anne carrots, Gilbert’s going to set up a Facebook page called “Anne Shirley is a Fire Crotch,” and it’s going to get 300 likes in the first day. Anne won’t smash a slate over his head, she’ll create an unflattering gif set of Gilbert and post it to her tumblr. Josie Pye likes Gil’s page, obviously, because in 2013 as in 1890, Josie Pye is a freaking bitch.
Prissy Andrews and Mr. Phillips? Hello, Sweeps Month Drama
100 years ago, the weird moon-eyes Prissy used to make over Mr. Phillips was supposed to mean that she was a horrible suck-up who would probably marry him after she graduated at 16 or whatever. In 2013, it still means that Prissy is a horrible suck-up who will probably marry Mr. Phillips when she drops out at 16 or whatever (or 18 – not sure of the law there). However, it also means that Mr. Phillips is a total pedophile, which explains why he was so damn creepy. For a 3-episode arc, Anne of Green Gables will become a legal drama as they sort this whole mess out.
Green Hair Dye: Unlikely
Hardly anyone’s given me shit about having red hair, and the dozen-ish times that it has happened it didn’t bother me. So, I don’t think that a 2013 Anne Shirley would be so distraught over her auburn locks that she’d buy hair dye from a peddler and turn it green. I’m thinking she’d be more likely to lose her hair in a knockoff keratin treatment attempt. If the producers want to have a Very Special Episode, maybe Anne could get hooked on bootleg diet drugs or get a suspicious mole excised because she’d been tanning away her redhead complexion. After 100 years, teen girls are still trying wacky things to look better, but I think that carroty hair would be the least of Anne’s concerns.
Puffed sleeves are SO 1908
Anne waited years to be old enough to wear puffed sleeves. Like many young readers, I wondered what exactly that meant but imagined it to be the most beautiful sleeve configuration possible. Then, I saw the movie, and was horrified by these sleeves that looked like they were stuffed with wadded-up shopping bags and cribbed from a 1980s bridesmaid dress. I don’t know what the modern answer to puffed sleeves would be — something that’s considered too grown-up for a young girl, and which looks absolutely ridiculous. Is it half-shirts, now that those are back?
Anne Shirley is now 45 years old
As far as I’m concerned, Megan Follows is the only Anne Shirley. Since nothing about a modern-day Anne of Green Gables makes sense, I don’t see why we need to be all accurate and have a 13-year-old in the role. Let’s just stick with Follows. There may as well be something good in this whole debacle.
Matthew doesn’t die
If we can move Anne of Green Gables to 2013, we can do anything with the story, right? So, let’s let Matthew live and spare all of the little illiterate kids that psychic trauma. Children who have read the book can just keep that development to themselves.