Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anne with an E Review: More like Anne with an Egads



Like a lot of bookish little nerdgirls with vivid imaginations and access to a library, I grew up totally in love with my fictional kindred spirit, Anne Shirley. I read all of the books throughout elementary school and middle school, wherein I learned several very important things, like 1) life is better with lots of scope for the imagination 2) tomorrow's another day with no mistakes in it yet 3) puff sleeves are of grave importance 3) Gilbert Blythe is the perfect book boyfriend.


*dreamy siiiiiigh*
Then I saw the TV adaptation from 1985 with Megan Follows (which I owned on VHS because I am from the generation of LONG AGO, children, back when you had to HOLD DOWN THE BUTTON TO REWIND THE WHOLE TAPE BACK AGAIN, oh how did we live) and yup, confirmed, Gilbert Blythe is the business. I loved that that adaptation was so loyal to the spirit of Anne and the feeling of Avonlea, how it was all nostalgia and every day magic, shenanigans and childhood adventures. It felt so COSY and full of the pretty prettifulness that is Prince Edward Island. And, of course, well, Gilbert.



Yes I am a shallow as a kiddie pool but I don't care, GILBERT BLYTHE OKAY

Anne of Avonlea, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables the Sequel, is also splendid, though I prefer the first half of it to the second. It takes a lot more liberties with the books, basically inventing/merging an entire extended storyline, but it hits most of the right beats, is funny and Anneish, and has my beloved Gilbert in all his Gilbertness.

We do not speak of the third Anne movie, which is a bizarre, entirely invented, factually strained WWI movie with a random baby in it, and it's only worth watching for Anne and Gilbert



and especially for this scene which yes I just watched on Youtube six times in a row DONT LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT HOW MUCH THEY LOVE EACH OTHER OH GOD HOLD ME


What. I'm not crying. YOU'RE CRYING.

So, after that very long intro, you can probably see that I have a deepheld, lifelong affection for Anne Shirley in her original incarnation, and in her secondary one to boot. So when I heard that Netflix was releasing its own modern Anne of Green Gables adaptation, I was filled with equal amounts of extreme excitement and utter dread. Which of those feelings panned out?

Why, I should have known it would be the dread. ALAS AND ALACK.

spoilers for the show here and there, because honestly I GOTTA RANT.

It baffles me why the makers of this show sought to adapt a cheerful story seeped in nostalgia into something bleak and grim. I'm not a person who thinks that all adaptations ought to be faithful to the word to the original source material (though often they're stronger when they are), but if changes are made, they should be clever ones. The changes in the Netflix series are just completely depressing. Like, oh my god, I wanted to drink straight bourbon while watching Anne SUFFER FROM VISCERAL PTSD and be RELENTLESSLY BULLIED by proto-meninist schoolboys.

oh, hey, I wonder who he voted for

The first moment I realized there was something rotten in the state of Avonlea is when Anne is SENT AWAY FROM GREEN GABLES BY MARILLA. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN? WHAT WAS THAT? WHY ON EARTH? We all knew she'd be back, or there'd be no show! And Matthew Cuthbert, shy bumbling farmer grandpa, of all earthly people suddenly turned into a Victorian era Liam Neeson chasing after his taken daughter and like what on earth, who signed up for this?? Who clicked on an Anne of Green Gables adaptation seeking this?


I HAVE A VERY PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS

No, honestly, I want to know who they were trying to hook with this. It can't have been people who grew up loving Anne, because there's none of the original spirit of her to be found here. You can see the bones of her story underneath. Sometimes events occur as they did in the books, but they unravel beneath this gloomy pall that makes even the most lighthearted of Anne's misadventures into something shadowed and bleak.

Time and time again the story twists sideways into the direction of unparalleled tragedy. Matthew is not just shy, sweet, silent Matthew. No, he's got a TRAGIC LOVE and AND GRAPPLES WITH SUICIDE. I mean?? What? What???

YOU PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT NOW MATTHEW CUTHBERT 

Show!Marilla gets invited to a feminist book club. Like, for real. Gilbert and Anne don't bond over adorably competing in class. No, Gilbert's FATHER DIES, something he surely did not do in the books, and they bond over being tragedy orphans. And like, Book!Gilbert is also v popular among the ladies, but like, dafuq is this

Gilbert I will break ALL the slates over your head

OH AND ALSO THE SLATE DOESN'T EVEN BREAK. LIKE. THEY COULDN'T EVEN FOLLOW THROUGH ON THAT.

 In the books, when Anne goes to school, she's accepted for the first time in her life and immediately falls into the tiny dramas and adventures of being a young girl among other young girls. In the show, she is bullied so deeply, so thoroughly, so horribly, that I honestly felt sick to my stomach. Instead of saving little Minnie May Barry with her childcare knowhow, Show!Anne LEAPS INTO A BLAZING BUILDING AND SAVES THE DAY THAT WAY. And don't even get me started on the cliffhanger.

This has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it should be here

And then there's the PTSD flashbacks of how abysmally Anne was treated before she came to Green Gables. In the books, it's alluded to that life was no picnic for her, but Anne has retained her Anneishness, sinking into her own imagination to cope, and now that she's finally in a place of love and comfort, she can grow and live. But Show!Anne is still suffering from her abuse (which is portrayed in horrifying, excruciating, brutal detail). On the surface, this sounds like a really good attempt at realism; certainly L.M. Montgomery skated over the ickier aspects of being an orphan in the 1890s, though she still mentioned that Anne suffered pretty horribly at the hands of her former foster/employers. There were still heartbreaking revelations, like Anne admitting that she was so lonely that her only friend was her own reflection.



But turning the Darkness Dials up to eleven in all aspects does something funny to Show!Anne's character. Her flights of fancy become less endearing, less admirable, less charming and become...troubling. Uncomfortable. She appears broken, almost manic, and it's honestly very difficult to watch. Anne's glorious imagination and irrepressible spirit are the hallmarks of her character, and the whole book series is about how she brightens the world around her with those innate tools. But in the TV show, those quirks come off as a desperate, almost deluded side effect of her trauma, and they deservedly freak people out. And it's painful to watch.

I will say that the setting is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS, and truthfully, the acting is wonderful, even the actress who plays Anne. It's the script and the direction that take her character into deluded territory, and I think under better circumstances, this girl could be a great Anne. It's just such a shame she spends most of the show with a slapped-by-yet-another-trauma expression.  The main roles are given a lot of DRAMATICALNESS to contend with, and the actors pull it off, even if it is to me ridiculous. And though they're not my Gilbert and Anne, Show!Anne and Show!Gil are still completely totally fully utterly adorable. It's just such a shame so very many, many injustices have been done to them by a team of truly sadistic writers.


They are still my precious teensy bby ship for always

I love the idea of doing an AoGG with a bit more realism, with more tactile details and beautiful cinematography. But I did not want this. This just isn't Anne of Green Gables. This show is suffering from a serious identity crisis, and I honestly don't know how to judge it objectively. I can't help but see it through the lens of a lifelong Anne lover and find it hopelessly warped.

9 comments:

  1. THIS THIS THIS ALL OF THIS. At first, I couldn't even get past the first episode because I was triggered by the abuse I did not know was going to be so...THERE. Yes, LM didn't go into a lot of depth but she didn't need to. sorry that i don't wanna watch a little girl get bullied. So much of the "darkness" like you said took away from Anne being Anne. I read this review of Anne with an E that said the best part about Anne of Green Gables (and onward) was her strength and her imagination and that's who Anne won over the people of Avonlea. NOT BY RUSHING INTO A BURNING BUILDING??????? It felt like they were trying to add as much abuse into the show as possible and it just did not work.

    And yeah, I liked Show!Anne and Show!Gilbert but they're not really, truly Anne and Gilbert. I was more than willing to give this a go and yeah, change things if you want. But when you effectively erase who Anne is at her core and how Anne becomes who she is, I have a problem with that.

    And OMG THIS SCENE IS EVERYTHING. Lets just watch the Megan and Jonathan set again and again and again.

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    1. Im so sorry you were triggered by the abuse flashbacks. They were so brutal and you're right, so THERE that they also made me feel sick. Yep, Show Anne and Gil are cute but they're just not THEM.

      THAT SCENE NEVER FAILS TO MAKE ME FEEL ALL OF THE THINGS.

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  2. I never read or seen any of the movies/ shows, but I know of Anne of Green Gables and I totally agree with you here. I watched the first episode last night and I just felt really uncomfortable with how manic and desperate Anne was.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt that way! I felt almost disloyal.

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  3. Oh no! I watched the first episode last night and thought it was perfect (although the flashbacks were a bit much) until Marilla sent her away. The terrible second episode i skipped through hoping it was just a blip and things would be back to normal after that, but reading your review, don't know if I'm going to bother with the rest. Urgh, and Anne was just so perfectly cast! What a waste. :(

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    1. The first episode I also liked, minus the flashbacks. it was the terrible episode that made me realize things were NOT going to be going right here because what even WAS that?? I agree that the Anne c asting is actually wonderful, just misused.

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  4. I completely agree. Where is Anne's optimism? Why are the townspeople so mean? They were catty & gossips but always loving underneath. I feel depressed & nasty after watching this. And don't get me started on episode two. I mean shy Matthew, who couldn't talk to a lady salesclerk to buy a dress goes on an adventure to rescue her. Never! My poor, poor Anne. I am in the depths of despair over this adaptation.

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