Depression, bullying, robbery, and child abuse. It should come as no surprise that they are some of the topics explored in Breaking Bad producer Moira Walley- Beckett’s newest television series. What is surprising, is that the new series is a re-imagining of the wholesome novel, cherished by generations, Anne of Green Gables. It’s the Netflix series, Anne with an E.
Based on the novel about a plucky, quirky, imaginative orphan girl, Netflix’s series Anne with an E, is a darker, serious, modern, re-imaging of the Anne of Green Gables story.
When I first heard the news that Netflix was developing a series based on Anne of Green Gables, I was highly skeptical. My skepticism deepened when I read a comment that the plan was to make Anne’s story “more edgy.” I couldn’t fathom it. I felt that Anne never has been, nor ever could be edgy.
Like many young girls, Anne of Green Gables was my very first fandom. Anne was the first fictional character I fell in love with and obsessed over. The obsession has continued into my adulthood. To tweak a quote by Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights, Anne is more myself than I am.
Up until this incarnation and PBS’s recent movie reboot of Anne of Green Gables, us Anne obsessed claimed actress Megan Follows and the 1985 mini-series version, to be the be all and end all Anne.
I am not edgy. I am a geeky, awkward, overly enthusiastic, dreamer. I worried that Anne with an E’s Anne could never be my Anne.
As I sat and binge watched the show, two things happened. First, Diana explains the social rules that the girls must follow during lunchtime. Anne becomes completely overwhelmed and zones out. Their social tenets make absolutely no sense to her. The harder Anne tries to fit in, the more mistakes she makes, and the more she is disliked by her peers. Pretty much my tween and early teen years.
Then there is my absolute favorite quote. Anne looks in the mirror and says,
“Today will be better. I’m not going to do anything weird or say anything wrong.” I have given myself a similar pep talk so many times throughout my life, and I knew for sure that this Anne was also my Anne.
Anne with an E’s Anne Shirley arrives to Green Gables a broken girl. It makes sense. She has been neglected and abused her entire childhood. Not only does she have to adjust to living in a normal, stable, environment for the very first time, she has to do it while going through the most turbulent time in one’s growing process, adolescences. The changes occurring in her life are happening at a rapid pace. Her past coping skills are proving to be unacceptable in her new world. It’s a lot to handle. There is a lot of stress.
The team behind this version of Anne, continue to give the character relatability, vulnerability, and authenticity. She’s still imaginative, quirky, and uses big words, but her wounds run deeper than her on screen predecessors. Were I a tween or teen today, I believe I would latch onto this version of Anne, just as much as I did to 80s Anne.
What I Loved Most
I’m sorry, Jonathan Crombie, may you rest in peace, you were my very first on screen crush. You taught me the importance of choosing to marry someone who will be my best friend forever, but Lucas Jade Zumann might be my favorite Gilbert Blythe.
He’s intense and soulful (that snowflake scene). Truthfully, it may just be the fact that he’s given significantly more screen time, because in this version of the Anne story, Gilbert is given his own journey.
That is what I love the most so far about this version. The format allows the story to unfold in a slower, unfurling fashion. We not only get to see Anne’s story, but other characters’ stories as well.
We experience Marilla exploring who she is, perhaps for the very first time in her life. I squeed so loud at the John Blythe flashback, I think all of my neighbors heard me. Matthew has a little blossoming romance. Gilbert must struggle with grief and an uncertain future. We even get to follow along with the hardworking, charismatic, Jerry, the Cuthbert’s hired boy, as he figures out his place in the world.
I think these separate journeys will create a fantastic web of storytelling that can last for many seasons.
I do hope that in future seasons we will get to spend more time in Diana’s head space. I think actress Dalia Bela is the best Diana Barry to date. I would love to see Anne’s sidekick have a little more substance than she’s been given in the past.
Things I Was Not in Love With
Not really a dislike, more of a miss. I miss witty, sarcastic Marilla. I thought that Marilla’s dry, snarky sense of humor was a great opposite to Anne’s comical quirkiness in the 1980s version. Maybe that was more of an acting choice actress Colleen Dewhurst made, but I longed for a clenched teeth, exasperated, Marilla eye roll.
I felt adamantly against Matthew trying to commit suicide. From everything that I know about the character of Matthew Cuthbert, he’s always been the silent glue holding things together. He’s the steady hand behind the scenes, keeping the peace and smoothing things over. No matter how dire the circumstances, Matthew would find a level headed way to solve things, and he would never do anything intentional to separate himself from his Anne.
I missed feeling warm and fuzzy at the ending. The ending of season one of Anne with an E was tense and worrisome. I don’t think I’m ready for Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, Anne of Green Gables edition.
Though I had my doubts, I think the team behind Anne with an E did an excellent job re-telling the story of Anne of Green Gables.
Anne Shirley is a broken young woman, working towards wholeness. She is an Anne who is trying to make sense of her world. An Anne for the girls of a generation who are growing up in a more diverse and complicated time than us 80s girls did with our Anne. I believe Moira Walley-Beckett is developing characters to empower women and men of all ages. I look forward to following all of the characters’ journeys in Anne with an E, season two.