Warning! This post will contain more spoilers than River Song’s hair.
Okay, we ready?
“Anne with an E” is a Netflix series based on “Anne of Green Gables.” I should say loosely based. Very loosely.
I won’t lie – I’m in the “The 1985 version is the best” camp. I had a massive crush on Jonathan Crombie. I thought Colleen Dewhurst was perfection as Marilla. Megan Follows will always be my Anne Shirley.
Yet I can also admit, while I watched the series, I did bristle a bit that “Anne of Avonlea” took some creative licenses and changed a bit. But the spirit of Anne of Green Gables was in it, so I forgave it for being different than the books. I did not watch the third installment that they tried – because wow, way to jump the timeline to throw Gilbert off to war (in the books, it was Anne and Gil’s sons who went off to fight WWI).
But this new version? This “Anne with an E” version?
It’s just depressing.
Seriously. It’s depressing.
Anne with an E has PTSD from her abusive past. I’m not being facetious – several times, she gets so sucked into a flashback that she forgets where she is, stops what she’s doing. Then when someone reaches out to her, she’ll blink and go “Oh, sorry, let’s talk about flowers, shall we?”
Honestly, Anne with an E could use some major therapy. Again, that’s not being funny. Anne Shirley was a chatterbox – Anne with an E babbles manically. Anne with an E has flashbacks to when Mr. Hammond had a heart attack while beating her with his belt. Anne with an E talks about overhearing the Hammond’s sex life, laughing as she talks about how Mrs Hammond didn’t want to “pet his mouse” when he was drunk and often, it sounded like she was being murdered. Anne with an E runs in her skivvies through fields, nearly going over a cliff, because Rachel Lynde wounds her pride. Anne with an E is horribly bullied by the teens of Avonlea, being called trash and a dog, schoolboys barking at her when she walks by. Anne with an E literally gets sent away from Green Gables after the brooch incident, only to be found after several days of her avoiding going back to the asylum, choosing homelessness instead. To make up for sending her away, Anne with an E is adopted by the Cuthberts.
Adopted. Anne with an E becomes Anne Shirley Cuthbert.
That is where I was a bit “Oh no good sir! NO!”
They made Gilbert an orphan too. So he and Anne can have something to bond over. Except Anne was a bit too perky that she now had a fellow orphan friend and Gilbert was all “OMG Anne, it’s not about YOU!” – which, in all fairness, he had the right to say. Then Gilbert closes up the family house and goes to the city to work on the docks, giving up school.
GIVING UP SCHOOL.
The stuff and nonsense continues – Marilla joins a “progressive mother’s group”, where the ladies of Avonlea sit around talking about what a glorious word “feminism” is and hoping their daughters do more than just marry. But then, because Anne said that Prissy Andrews and the teacher must be having “intimate relations” after she and Diana spy on the teacher touching Prissy’s face, Marilla is shunned by the mother’s group. And is upset by this. Marilla, the pinnacle of strength and “I really don’t care what you think”, gutted by a mother’s group.
And Matthew almost loses the farm, has a near death experience, and the Cuthbert’s are now on the cusp of losing their farm, so they send Anne into the city to sell their worldly possessions.
Yes – they send the flighty 13 yr old that they can’t trust to keep a pie from burning to the city to barter their goods for money. It’s okay though, they send the farm hand who’s about the same age as Anne with her. He then gets mugged and beaten, the money he had taken away. Because why the hell not at this point?
At the end, as a cliffhanger for Season Two, Anne opens the door to find their new boarder – who is a sketchy dude we were allowed to see being sketchy, and possibly the one who mugged the farm hand boy. I don’t know, at that point, I was fast-forwarding through whole scenes because I just couldn’t take any more of it.
It was all so depressing. It was like “Okay, what bad thing can happen in this episode? Anne isn’t traumatized enough…oh, I know! Billy Andrews can angrily confront her alone in the woods so that the viewers aren’t sure if he’s going to physically or sexually assault her. But it’ll be fine, because Gilbert will rescue her. How’s that for a meet cute?” #truestory
Anne of Green Gables was a dreamy girl. Anne with an E is living one nightmare after another. Anne of Green Gables was full of optimism and innocence, even through trials. Anne with an E leaps from one tragedy to the next.
We all loved Anne of Green Gables because there was laughter and friendship, and kindred spirits. There were hardships, but it wasn’t a tsunami of troubles that Anne with an E deals with. Anne of Green Gables had hope. Anne with an E is waiting for the next wave to hit.
And to mess up the Anne/Gilbert storyline is a disgrace. Part of what made their story so good was that Gilbert liked her for her brain. He liked that she was his equal in academics. He appreciated her dreaminess. He liked that she didn’t fall for him just because he was cute. Anne and Gilbert were equals in ways that are still necessary to hear about today.
The funny thing is, I have almost no problem with the casting. Marilla and Matthew are well cast, Anne and Gilbert are decent even if they aren’t Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie.
We don’t need Anne of Green Gables to be darker, grittier, tougher – not when the other Netflix option for teens is “13 Reasons Why”.
No, we need Anne and her dreaminess, her optimism, and her silly mishaps with friends. We need Gilbert to fall for that smart, quirky girl. We need Avonlea to be a place of regular folks, sometimes snippy (I’m looking at you, Pye clan), but mostly decent people.
“Anne with an E” does not deliver any of that, and that’s why, for me, it’s fallen so short.