by The Collected Mutineer
I have a confession. Sometimes, I tend to be a purist. I try not to be because varying expressions and interpretations of media are at the very heart of modern fandom. But sometimes, the things I experienced during my formative years are set aside. In their own way, they’re sacred and therefore separate from the way I engage with fandom as an adult.
For a long time, Anne of Green Gables was one of those sacred, pure things. Specifically, the films from 1985 and 1987 starring Megan Follows. So when I heard that a new show called Anne with an E was being developed, I felt staunchly against it. There’s was no way that any version of the classic story could possibly be better than the films I’d grown up watching. *old man shakes fist at cloud* Well, long story short: I eventually caved and watched the two seasons on Netflix. And I’m so glad I did. Here are five reasons you should watch it, too.
I think a lot of people would agree that the overarching theme in the Anne books (yes, there’s more than one—eight in fact) is overcoming loneliness. During her years as an orphan, Anne never fit in anywhere or with anyone. You could argue that her innate loneliness is why she conjures up such dramatic stories in her head, why she has imaginary friends, and why she desperately wants real connections with people like Diana. The show drives this theme home in a way that other incarnations haven’t, partially due to the flashbacks we see of Anne’s time in the orphanage and with foster families. It’s beautiful to see a young woman learn that she does, indeed, have a place in the world, where she is loved and wanted. It’s a powerful message that people need as much now as they did in 1908.
Diversity, Diversity, Diversity
A welcome change in the series is the addition of characters who don’t fit into the turn-of-the-century white heteronormative box. A key character in Anne’s life is revealed to have been in a loving, long-term, same-sex relationship. New characters of color are introduced. And while some in Anne’s world might have trouble accepting them, Anne knows what it feels like to be alienated—and is quick to count them among her friends. Though not part of the original source material, these changes mesh perfectly with the series and its message of inclusivity regardless of circumstance. Some critics even called the series “woke.”
Other adaptations of Anne’s story haven’t fully explored the background of certain characters like Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert—or even Anne herself. In my favorite version of Anne of Green Gables, there are all of five minutes detailing what Anne’s life was like before she moved to Avonlea. This series doesn’t shy away from illustrating character motivations and backstories. Some are influenced by the books while others are new to the script, but they all add a depth of character that I think Lucy Maud Montgomery would approve of.
If there’s one thing I admired about Anne while I was growing up, it was her undying creativity and imagination. She saw things the way I saw them, and as a young introverted bookworm who also didn’t fit in with the crowd, this was massively important to me. Every incarnation of Anne has been creative, but there’s something about the way that the cinematographers of Anne with an E approach it visually. We don’t just hear Anne describing a whimsical scene to Diana: we see her exploring nature and imagining a different world. From her bedroom at Green Gables to the woods of Prince Edward Island—every place is the right place to be creative, and it is filmed beautifully.
Anne’s Brand of Feminism
To me, Anne has always been a feminist symbol. But it’s really refreshing to see this series’ take on her own brand of feminism. Anne might be young, but she knows she’s as good as any boy—she says as much in episode one when Marilla isn’t sure about keeping her. Education is even more important in Anne with an E than in the movies from the 80s, and the influence of Miss Stacy is even greater. In the source material, Miss Stacy’s teaching methods are unorthodox and liberal for the turn-of-the-century. In the show, this is portrayed wonderfully, and it’s not hard to see why she becomes a mentor and role model for young Anne.
“So,” you’re asking yourself. “Should I watch Anne with an E?” If the list above wasn’t enough, or if you just skimmed it looking for the important bits, here are a few more reasons why this might be the show for you. You’ll enjoy it, if:
- You love fresh takes on literature
- You like previous incarnations, but wish they were more diverse
- You want to immerse yourself in 1900s farm life
- You’re looking for creative inspiration
- Did I mention the kid who plays Gilbert Blythe is really cute??
Anne with an E is available to stream on Netflix.