When the theme song plays, and it slaps every time, I can’t help but get up and dance. I sing it loudly. (I live alone.)
“First thing we’d climb a tree, and maybe then we’d talk,” I sing. “You are ahead by a century, you are ahead by a century!” I belt.
I scream at the TV, like someone might watch football. “She wants puffed sleeves, Matthew! Mention the puffed sleeves!”; “The broach is between the couch cushions Marilla, what are you doing!”
This is the “Anne with an E” experience, the three-season television adaptation by Netflix of the classic YA novel and novel series, “Anne of Green Gables,” by Canadian author L. M. Montgomery.
Many people reread and rewatch classics around the winter holidays. They’re cozy and wholesome and often reiterate family values. Several have Christmas scenes or otherwise. Well-known and beloved characters ignite the nostalgia within us. These stories can feel as warm as a pair of mittens or a cup of hot tea.
Sure, “Anne with an E” is loosely based on the much more tepid novel set in the late 19th Century and published in the early 20th Century, but Netflix’s adaptation is Hard. Core.
This is the modern remake of a beloved classic you should binge over your holiday break, however you celebrate. “Anne with an E” is an especially good choice for viewers who want to celebrate found family and family-making this holiday season, or for viewers whose families might not represent a traditional structure.
Maybe it’s the bookish, embarrassing girl in me, but oh, how I love to watch that clever redhead and her friends run into burning buildings, deliver babies, hop trains, etc. Read enough books and you, too, may have the exact piece of knowledge you need in an unprecedented emergency.
Honestly, “Anne with an E” is basically just the story of a bunch of people who hate an orphan.
Avonlea, the series’ fictional village located on Canadian Prince Edward Island, where Anne moves after she is adopted by the Cuthberts, places value on breeding, manners, and education.
Anne doesn’t fit the bill. She’s an ugly, skinny, red-haired orphan girl adopted by accident.
I mean, even her adoptive parents, the elderly Cuthbert siblings who own Green Gables farm, don’t want her at first — it was a mistake. They needed a boy to help Matthew Cuthbert farm. They’re going to have to return her. Savage.
Of course, Anne wins them over in the end. Avonlea takes a little bit longer.
Anne is so cringe. Finally she finds acceptance.
At school, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert (Amybeth McNulty) is not popular. On her first day, she decorates her hat with wildflowers, and although I thought it was kind of a look, none of the other girls did. Billy Andrews (Christian Martyn) barks at her, muff muff, orphan dog.
Anne is doing the most when she is called upon to read aloud during class, but she can hardly contain her bookish enthusiasm!
I mean, same girl. She’s not a bad actor, either. She just goes for it with her literary recitations.
In Anne’s defense, she’s this excited about school because she hasn’t attended before; she’s an autodidact — which we learn through Vivid. Orphanage. Flashbacks. Again, hardcore.
Luckily, Anne has one true friend — Diana Barry (Dalila Bela) — a kindred spirit, as Anne might say. Although things do become a bit easier for Anne when she befriends another classmate, Ruby Gillis (Kyla Matthews).
The lengths to which Anne will go to convince the intolerant people of Avonlea to accept her are wild. She wins over Ruby by literally rescuing her house from a fire. I’m telling you, it’s action-packed.
Avonlea watching, Anne dashes into Ruby’s burning home.
“Anne!” screams Diana.
Anne runs from room to room closing windows so that the lack of oxygen will suffocate the fire. Everyone from town is outside watching or assisting, including Anne’s primary love interest, Gilbert Blythe (Lucas Jade Zumann).
Anne walks out, soot covering her face.
She’s a hero. The power of books.
Ruby must stay with the Cuthberts while her family rebuilds their home, but she is distressed that people might think she is Anne’s friend if she is truly to stay at Green Gables.
Despite the hiccups, the girls end the staycation as friends, and when Anne returns to school shortly after Ruby leaves (she’s been skipping on the downlow until Diana and Ruby bring her books to Green Gables, blowing up her spot by accident) she has two friends.
In another display of intolerance, this time from a grown-up, Mrs. Lynde — Marilla Cuthbert’s gossipy friend and Green Gables’ neighbor — visits to take a look at Anne and absolutely snatches her wig.
“Well they didn’t pick you for your looks, that’s sure and certain!” Mrs. Lynde exclaims. She continues, “And hair as red as carrots, dear, dear me.”
“I hate you,” Anne spits, “How would you like to be told that you’re fat and clumsy and that you probably haven’t a spark of imagination in you? And I don’t care if I hurt your feelings by saying so. I hope I hurt them. Because you have hurt my feelings worse than they have ever been hurt before and I will never forgive you for this, never, never!”
Anne runs vaguely into the fields. There is a lot of breathless running from Anne in “Anne with an E,” but I’m honestly super into it, and the cinematography is good. Don’t lose that hat in the wind, girl.
She takes deep breaths on the cliff, tears flowing, and one of her long red braids comes undone in the breeze.
Despite its charmingly melodramatic moments, “Anne with an E” is quite a moving show about acceptance.
One thing I appreciate about “Anne with an E” is the television series’ extension of the novel series’ author’s original intentions. “Anne with an E” expands themes of acceptance in “Anne of Green Gables” to appeal to modern audiences.
I love uber-modernized film and television adaptations of period pieces, but they receive a lot of flack from literary fandoms. I’m thinking of the poor reception of Netflix’s “Persuasion” in some Jane Austen fan spaces, but let me play devil’s advocate to the lit girls out there who don’t want adaptations of their favorite books to stray from dated source material. I’m sure Anne would agree with me.
“Anne of Green Gables” was written in the early 20th Century, when queer themes had to be tucked away in literature, but some folks still read “Anne of Green Gables” as containing hidden LGBTQIA+ themes. There is long-established scholarly research on the topic. In a modern context, why not explore these themes more obviously?
Across the internet, there are Anne and Diana ships. One Reddit user describes Anne as “maybe just Diana-sexual.” While fanfiction content like this is common, there is evidence of an intent by the author to code characters as queer in the original “Anne of Green Gables.”
Certainly so, in Netflix’s “Anne with an E,” which adds openly queer characters to its cast and even coming out moments. Whether you think it’s fanfiction or canon, there are lots of fun moments for the Danne ships in “Anne with an E.”
Mrs. Barry bans their friendship — Anne begs Diana never to forget her!
“I’ll never have another bosom friend,” Diana says (see: sobs), “I don’t want to. I could never love anyone as I love you, Anne. Thou.”
“Wait, do you love me?”
“Of course I do. Why don’t you know that?”
“I thought you liked me of course, but I never hoped you loved me.”
“I love you devotedly, Anne.”
“And I will always love thee, Diana,” Anne says as they trade locks of hair in a really straight way.
Regardless of your take on the whole Gilbert vs. Diana shipping conundrum (although the argument could be made for bisexuality or that queer desire is displaced in the form of forbidden love onto a new object — Gilbert — since everyone knows Ruby has liked Gilbert for years, Anne), kinship structures are tweaked or, “queered.”
Neither of the Cuthbert siblings are married, and their adoption of Anne late in life is a demonstration of family-making. They come to cherish and love Anne as their own, so really the show is broadly about acceptance and a cringey, embarrassing, redheaded people-pleaser.
I vastly enjoyed Netflix’s action-packed take on the literary series, and over my holiday break, I’m going to binge it for the third time. When I belt out that theme song, my upstairs neighbor is going to groan, “that cringey, embarrassing girl is watching ‘Anne with an E’ again,” and unfortunately for 2N, he will be right.
“You are ahead by a century! You are ahead by a century!”