I recently binge-watched the newest Anne of Green Gables adaptation, Netflix’s “Anne with an E.” All seven episodes moved at a brisk pace, complete with emotional story lines, sweeping landscape shots, and some damn talented actors (both young and old). To me, someone becoming acquainted with Miss Anne for the very first time, it played as a story about finding strength and hope no matter where you are. I thought it was truly beautiful, despite all of the hatred it’s been receiving from diehard fans of the original books and TV series. I’ve been reading through the reviews on Netflix because I was curious to see where it’s not hitting the mark with these fans, and there’s one thing that keeps coming up that honestly baffles me–people keep saying that the abuse flashbacks and PTSD-esque symptoms make Anne somehow weak.
What’s interesting to me is that these are also the people decrying it as “dark.”
Now bear with me because I haven’t read the original books yet (although they are now on my list for the summer), but I didn’t find this series dark in any way. I understand that the books were written for children and didn’t include such explicit descriptions, but there’s a difference between something being completely invented and something being untold. The abuse in Anne’s past may not be laid out as such in the source material, but it is what very well could have been an orphan’s life at the time. Would these things have been talked about in a family setting at the time they were written in? Probably not. But in 2017, we’ve reached a point as a society where they can be. I read a review stating “Netflix Should Not Pervert ‘Anne Of Green Gables’ To Make It More Realistic,” but I want to know why adding some realism is a bad thing.
What about the realism perverts it? Without being overly idealistic, Anne is still portrayed as an aspirational young girl. She is genuine and sharp witted and prone to getting lost in her own beautiful world. She is firm in her ideas and sense of self. She is not afraid to speak up.
She has suffered in her past and is yet boundlessly optimistic despite that fact.
It honestly shocked me that viewers interpreted any of that as weakness, because those are all the things that made her feel so real and so relatable. I cried several times watching the series, because throughout my childhood I have known her in the strength of my friends and I have been her in my own trials. I’m willing to bet that almost every woman I know has experienced something similar. I found myself wanting to reach into the screen to hug Anne; I wanted to adopt her myself. Even set in the 1800s, it brought me right back to my own childhood because many of the lessons stay the same (particularly the viciousness of classmates).
Why should it have to remain soft to remain cherished? Real life is hard and that’s not a secret to the youth of today. All they have to do is look at the news to see suffering and violence. It’s important that they know that things can be okay despite that and that it is worth it to keep looking ahead, especially as anxiety is becoming more common in children. If they have a loveable mess with red braids to model their perseverance after, then all the better. Obviously some scenes in the show are more mature and graphic, but it presents parents a great opportunity to watch with their children–to share a story together and to discuss in a safe and comfortable environment what exactly is happening in it. It is rated TV-PG for a reason.
So it’s not a word for word page to screen transfer–that’s why it’s called an adaptation. Merriam Webster defines adaptation as such: modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment. It boils down to change for the better.
We are living in changing times. It stands to reason that beloved stories of the past can and should change right alongside them, lest they fall behind. Sentimentality and nostalgia should not be prioritized at the cost of relevance.
In other words, I can hardly wait for Season 2.