Although this post began in our traditional Monday format, the author became too emotional and wrote this letter to the Netflix Anne of Green Gables adaption instead:
“Don’t you feel as if you just loved the world on a morning like this?… I’m not in the depths of despair this morning. I never can be in the morning. Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings?… All sorts of mornings are interesting, don’t you think? You don’t know what’s going to happen through the day, and there’s so much scope for imagination.”
I’m simultaneously trembling with anticipation and scared to even open Netflix this morning.
And I have a scrawny orphan with red hair to thank for my mixed emotions.
Anne of Green Gables was, is, and always will be my hero. I grew up simultaneously devouring the series of eight, (yes, there are really eight!), books by L. M. Montgomery and watching the 1985 miniseries with my parents. The combined experience was magical because I adored the girl who was unafraid to dream about something beyond her circumstances and unashamed to make spirited use of the words she loved. She dared to say things like, “People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?” Also, watching the first segment of the miniseries always made my dad
cry get something ‘stuck in his eye,’ so it was worth watching, reading, and studying simply for that strange and mystical power alone.
First written in 1908, the 1985 miniseries by Sullivan was an adaptation that successfully captured the soul of the books. The credit for this, I believe, belongs to a classic interpretation by the screenwriter and fantastic embodiments by the actors involved. (Because of these stellar performances, I will even sometimes admit Anne of Green Gables: the Continuing Story exists and that it is one of the ten DVDs I own. But not in public.)
And because the recently attempted PBS adaptation of the adored novel neither captured the soul of Montgomery’s work nor provided their audience with realistic presentations of the character, it has been banned from my presence as the opportunity lost is now merely a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.
That being said, Dear Netflix’s Anne with an E, dare I watch you tonight?
It’s hard to accept other apparitions of this timeless character. We already have the soul of the character in print and an embodiment to go with the name, so why create yet another Anne-spelled-with-an-E?
Well, as a bosom friend, I have three requests for you:
Montgomery has Anne comment on her own characterization at one point in the books, and I find the sentiment beautiful:
“There’s such a lot of different Anne’s in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
Above all, this is what I hope you accomplish, dear Anne with an E. Don’t take the shot-for-shot remake route featuring the 1985 miniseries, splendid as it was. Provide us with new vistas, new ways to interpret the dialogue, and new scopes for the imagination. Countering the 1985 adaption and providing an equally powerful but different interpretation will only provide readers with more scope for the imagination as they turn to the pages of L.M. Montgomery’s books.
After all, we all need to stop mentally picturing Megan Follows as Anne anyway. It would be an excellent exercise of character.
Challenge Our Perceptions
Anne of Green Gables has become a beloved character worldwide.
But it wasn’t always this way.
I’m pretty sure Montgomery wasn’t thinking about a beloved legacy shared by millions when she first penned the story of an orphan girl from the outskirts of Canada.
An odd girl instead of a useful boy.
A girl with ugly red hair.
A girl no one wanted.
No one wanted Anne before Montgomery brought her to vibrant life in 1908. That is what a great creator is capable of in the realm of story. Dear Netflix, you have all the advantages of time in the streaming format to explore the story in-depth and a fantastic screenwriter in Breaking Bad’s Moira Walley-Beckett at your disposal. Use them. Challenge our recollections and and perceptions of who this Anne-girl is and what she is trying to say. Explore turn-of-the-century Canadian culture and the role of women and the status of orphans in this society.
Give us more than the candied fluff of good feelings. Help us see Anne with new eyes.
Be a Kindred Spirit
However, most importantly, be a Kindred Spirit.
It is all well and good to explore the backstory, examine the social context, and provide the audience with greater secondary character development, but remind me of why I declared “bosom friendship” with my middle-school chum.
Provide us with an Anne who dreams. A girl who challenges the social norms, values what is beautiful, and thinks in a way so different from those around her. Dear Anne with an E, give us an adaptation I will want to show to my daughters someday. Allow me to finish your series and remark, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.”
With most sincerity and hopefulness,
A Longtime Lover and Admirer of Anne of Green Gables
Netflix’s Anne with an E, a.k.a as “Anne,” begins streaming today, May 12, 2017, on the service. The author will attempt to control her rampant anticipations and hopes and tune in later tonight to see if the series is indeed “a kindred spirit.”