Friends, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of our childhoods.
This month, Anne Shirely, the book and TV heroine who shaped the lives of countless women (and quite a few men, in my circle alone) has been re-imagined for a modern audience.
And, instead of being a unique, imaginative and smart force of nature she is now a broken specimen of a human being whose iconic story has been blackened into a Game of Thronesesque pit of despair.
Anne With an E is the latest offering from the endless conveyor belt of reboots, re-imaginings and retellings that are currently flooding our screens, and this particular one happened to pop up on Netflix.
Listen to a breakdown of everything that is wrong with the new Anne of Green Gables on The Binge.
In this day and age it’s not enough just do to a remake of a classic and hope that it will cut through the noise.
Now, it’s all about taking these stories and flipping them on their heads, like taking a beloved cast of fairy tale characters and turning them into murderous, sexual story fodder (yeah, I’m looking at you, Once Upon A Time).
At this point in time I would not be surprised if Laura Ingalls Wilder herself reemerged with a bazooka and a taste for blood and destroyed that little house on the prairie with her dangerous chain-smoking habit. That’s kind of where we’re at now.
In this new version of “Anne” we are still introduced to the young, orphaned girl who is adopted by an ageing brother and sister who call Green Gables and the town of Avonlea, home. But that is where the similarities end.
With the original earnest, magical format of storytelling erased from this modern retelling, everything is presented in a much harsher light, and so the story and character motivations of those within it now refuse to make sense.
There’s now no way to hide the fact that Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert are straight up ordering in a slave child to do their bidding on the farm, and so their motivations going forward are thrown under a suspicious light that no amount of recycled storybook dialogue can save.
Green Gables itself looks less like a green, picturesque dream home and more like that depressing house from Interstellar. A broken down dusty hellhole.
In this iteration, poor Anne (played by Amybeth McNulty) has terrible PTSD. Which, even if she wasn’t shaking and slipping in and out of consciousness the first time we meet her, is easy to spot, because less than five minutes into this thing there are enough flashback sequences to make even the creators of Lost say “uh, I think you may be overdoing that storytelling device….”
In fact, Anne's past is where this crop of writers seem to have taken the most liberties.
In a series of flashback we see Mr Hammond, the father of the last family Anne had stayed with, brutally whipping and beating a traumatised Anne over a log in the backyard. Then he dies practically on top of her while suffering a heart attack.
Another troubling memory shows a gang of young girls in the orphanage where Anne used to live literally holding her down, taunting her and trying to force her to eat a dead mouse. No wonder she is too scared to make friends with Dianna when she is finally introduced to the girl who should go on to be her "bosom" best friend.
“It’s like I’m already a disappointment to you” Anne laments to Matthew early on in the piece and, in the original script, I'm fairly certain Anne was meant to be saying this to Matthew.
But now I’m sure she’s saying it directly to me. But it's too late for apologies now.
The beef myself and other Anne fangirls have with this reboot is not the fact that someone has dared to mess with our beloved Prince Edward Island characters, but the fact that this reboot is here purely to shock. To pull in an audience that cannot look away because they are living through some sort of divine torture watching their world is being pulled apart.
There's not a lot of joy or enlightenment to be gained by essentially watching a cast of ghosts recite words in some sort of a parallel Anne of Green Gables universe where the kind, gentle Mathew Cuthbert is seen galloping on horseback across the rivers and sensible, stoic Marilla Cuthbert cannot seem to muster up an ounce of concern when her orphaned ward goes missing.
They did, after all, bring in Moira Walley-Beckett to run the show, an acclaimed writer who hails from the Breaking Bad creative team but yet again, it's just a shock tactic that fails to pay off.
I could spend another thousand words lamenting the mistreatment of my dear Anne Shirley, but if I do I feel my life would become a perfect graveyard of buried hopes, and so I will step away from the screen.
But just one last gripe, if they were so insistent on "re-imagining" this character, could they not have abided by the poor girl's wishes and "called her Cordelia"?
Cordelia of the depressed Canadian homestead....now there's a show I would watch.
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