Anne— Anne with an E. L. M. Montgomery beloved character demands from the beginning. It’s a rather small request considering the life the orphaned preteen has experienced. She talks too much and a little too fast. Anne has come to terms with her looks, everything but her bright red hair. Everyone who has encountered Anne with an e, from Martha Culbert to the book's original audience in 1908 to the 90s kids, fall in love with her.
The best of the Green Gables is and will always be Anne’s sunny optimism that breathes life where ever she goes. Anne is an inadvertent yet free-spirited feminist with a whimsical imagination that could cure anyone’s woes. Emmy winner Moria Walley-Beckett’s version of Anne of Green Gables is far from the idyllic setting of Montgomery’s Prince Edwards Island. And what a shame.
Netflix's darker portrayal of Green Gables rewrites Anne’s character. Montgomery treats Anne’s past as a frame for in life. She’s deeply affected by the fact she’s an orphan and suffers abuse by the Hammonds. Rather than being angry or defined by her experience with the Hammonds, Anne considers it a footnote in her life. She learns how to deal with the coup and feels rather embarrassed for the Hammond’s life. Walley-Beckett takes it a whole other level by having Mr. Hammond die of a heart attack while beating Anne.
It doesn’t get much more cheerful. Even the most amusing milestones are turned into dark tones. Rather than finding a refuge in the safe bosom of Green Gables, Anne is bullied and seems to be up against misogyny and cruelty yet again. Her past is extreme and her mundane daily activity is ramped up to drudgery.
Walley-Beckett forgets the old adage “if it isn’t don’t fix it.” There is a reason why the story has stood the test of 109 years. The best of the Green Gables is and will always be Anne’s sunny optimism that breathed life into where ever she went. It’s understandable that the story combined Anne’s past with the despairing state of the world and Walley-Beckett’s voice tends to lend itself to dark drama. She’s a Breaking Bad alum.
The world needs more people like Montgomery’s Anne, who look to the world with optimism and strength despite the challenges and abuse they’ve suffered.
And yes, never compare the book to show or movie. Comparing it to successful adaptations like CBS mini-series Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea helps me arrive at the same conclusion.
There isn’t a need for another dark story where the character is barely hanging on. There are plenty of those stories both in reality and fiction. The world needs more people like Montgomery’s Anne, who look to the world with optimism and strength despite the challenges and abuse they’ve suffered.
Ever so often I still pick up my weathered copy of Anne of Green Gables because it’s a book that brings me joy. Occasionally I’ll read the other books in the series but there’s nothing quite like the freshness of Anne’s antics, optimism, and imagination. I wish Netflix’s Anne with an E left me with that feeling.