‘Anne With An E’ Thoughts, And Other Anne Reading

Where my kindred spirits at?

We are mere days from the Netflix premiere of ‘Anne With An E,’ but I had the pleasure of viewing the first two episodes earlier this spring when my Canadian TV signal was coming in. There’s a lot to be excited about,  so I’ll just mention a few things now:

  • In an epic Meeting Of The Canadian Cultural Icons, the opening titles of ‘Anne With An E’ are set to The Tragically Hip’s Ahead By A Century, giving the song a new meaning and perfectly encapsulating Anne.
  • The aesthetics are phenomenal. The ‘Anne With An E’ production strove for authenticity in its sets and costumes, but certainly also to meet a modern appeal. To wit: the puffed sleeve dress won’t look as ’80s as the one in the (dearly, deservedly beloved) Megan Follows version. Yes, that ’80s dress was historically accurate, but the choice was one that complimented a 1980s aesthetic; the choices in this production, similarly, are historically accurate but complement a 2017 aesthetic. That is to say that many of the rooms in Green Gables are beautifully bare and folksy, like a Kinfolk spread. Both the CBC and Netflix premieres included flower crowns and a flower wall. The town shots of Avonlea are a little more ‘gritty’ and a little less Little House on the Prairie. The colors are at once washed out and sepia-tinged. It’s just PRETTY, in a way any production set in Prince Edward Island should be. You can see what Anne’s swooning over.
  • ‘Anne With An E’ does depart from the books, for better or worse. I hate to bemoan too much imagination in a discussion of Anne of Green Gables, of all things… plus the (dearly, deservedly beloved) Megan Follows version strayed from the books in its own ways. With this adaptation helmed by Breaking Bad writer Moira Walley-Beckett, safe to say things are considerably darker. There are two arguments to be made here. The first is that Lucy Maud Montgomery knew darkness as a child, as her mother died when she was very young and her father effectively abandoned her, but chose a light and optimistic outlook in the Anne novels. The second is that the darkness is implicit in the Anne series anyway. We know Anne was overworked and abused in her earlier placements, and we knew of her loneliness in the orphanage. Her use of imagination as an escape permeates Anne of Green Gables, especially. She does face rejection and fear abandonment; she cannot remember being loved.
  • However, some plot devices that were used to increase the dramatic tension in ‘Anne With An E’ felt unnecessary. The classic Anne debacles – the hair dye, the ridgepole, the Lady of Shalott business, good Lord, the cordial – are enough.
  • I think Anne Shirley was always a feminist, but ‘Anne With An E’ couches that in more modern terminology. For instance, Anne tells Marilla that girls can do anything boys can. It struck me as anachronistic, but then I remembered my niece who I’ll be watching this with and realized that it’s not for me. I’ll take some improbable dialogue if it’s to a good end, especially in a children’s series. I’d compare it to the 1994 adaptation of Little Women that way.

  • Finally, if there’s one reason to give this adaptation of Anne a chance, it’s Anne herself. Amybeth McNulty is the closest to the Anne of my imagination of any actress so far. Anne is aged up to 13 in this series, and Amybeth really does look like a 13-year-old who sees herself as scrawny; it was hard to suspend disbelief when the wonderful Megan Follows looked 17 in the first movie. Amybeth has just the right intelligence and spirit behind her eyes to make a convincing Anne, effectively conveying Anne’s disappointment, trauma and high-flying spirit. If I was 15 I’d totally want to be bosom friends with her.

The take-away: ‘Anne With An E’ – or any Anne adaptation – won’t meet muster for some fans of the 1985 CBC series Anne of Green Gables, but there’s a lot to love if you judge it on its own merits. I’ve loved Anne since I first read Anne of Green Gables in second grade, and I enjoyed the episodes I saw of ‘Anne With An E’ enough that I’m anxious to see the rest of the series. You could say that some liberties were taken with the stories, but you could also say that there was plenty of scope for the imagination in the original texts.

Other Anne Reading
Marilla Cuthbert Was a Creepy Church Hag

My analysis of Marilla Cuthbert – whom I love, of course – as a creepo who kind of did try to buy a child to do chores. And if you have enough cash-money to buy a human child, you can buy her the ugly sleeves she wants, right?

Gilbert Blythe, Dream Man or D-Bag

Is Gilbert Blythe a swoon-worthy match for Anne or a total jerk who should leave her alone? Both? Neither? Or is the problem with Anne herself? Join me on the journey to unravel basically every weird romantic situation I’ve ever been in.

Anne of Green Gables 2013

Several years ago there were rumors of a modern-day Anne of Green Gables adaptation. I tried to parse out what, exactly, that would look like. Mr. Phillips and Prissy Andrews? Yeah, that’s a Dateline special waiting to happen.

Questions, Comments, Concerns: Anne Of Green Gables

Because I’ve never skipped an Anne of Green Gables adaptation, I wrote about the PBS version that aired in November of 2016. Takeaway: it was fine, I guess.

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3 thoughts on “‘Anne With An E’ Thoughts, And Other Anne Reading

  1. The saving of Minnie May (and a few of the other things) are coming. They are still only part way through the first book when the season ends and, the way they are going, won’t be half finished it by the end of season 2. Things that miraculously occur in the books take time to happen in the series. Diana goes from being the sort of person who just tries to smooth things over to someone willing to take a stand. Some risks pan out, other risks backfire royally.

    I like this Gilbert portrayal better since he is not a habitual teaser of girls but seems driven to act out of character in order to get Anne’s attention. He may still be a bit arrogant at times, but very decent. Billy Andrews has been recast as the anti-Gilbert – who judges a girl on her past, her looks, sees female IQ as a drawback and hates being bested by one. You will love Jerry – Anne warms to him once she stops seeing him as her potential replacement. There is one point where Anne (the shepherdess) threatens to kill Jerry (the cat) if he doesn’t stop singing (drinking the milk) – which just makes him sing louder. Matthew learns the hard way that Anne values his quiet gentle nature and could care less about that which patriarchy considers the only important thing in a man.

    Trying not to give away any plot. Your articles a very interesting.

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    • What a great comment – now I’m even more interested to see the rest of the series. I think moving slowly through the first book is a great choice, especially since they went with younger actors, and then it makes more sense that they didn’t try to pack in so many of the classic Anne moments in the first two episodes. Billy Andrews, huh? That might be a good move – making Gilbert even more dreamy (always loved Jonathan Crombie, but this young actor seems like he’s perfect for the role, too). Guess I’ll find out tomorrow!

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  2. Pingback: Mr. Rogers Is Pure In Heart | Cookies + Sangria

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