Sunday, August 15, 2021

Modernizing a Classic: What I Found Strange in Anne with an E


In a previous post, I shared what I enjoyed about the latest Anne of Green Gables series, Anne with an E. Now, let's talk about what I thought was strange or a bit odd from the series. Reminder that spoilers will be in white. 

1. Why did the Cuthberts want a boy if they had hired hand Jerry Baynard?

I brought this up before, but Jerry is already working on the farm when Anne arrives at Green Gables. Had there already been rumblings about a financial crisis? Was the plan to let Jerry go after their orphan boy arrived? By having Jerry there when Anne arrives, it makes her being a girl irrelevant. 

2. Would a Canadian newspaper during Anne's childhood be talking about greenhouse effect?

In this commentary about Anne with an E, it states in 1896 a Swedish scientist concluded coal burning would have an impact on the natural greenhouse effect. In the second episode of Anne with an E, a newspaper boy is shouting, "Extra! Extra! Scientists predict greenhouse effect." I get they are trying to make this series relatable to modern viewers, but thinking a local Canadian paper would cover that news is a stretch for me.

3. Why are so many of the school children obnoxious? 

In the 1985 Anne of Green Gables movie, Anne got teased by her classmates. Josie Pye will always be Josie Pye, but the boys were fairly harmless. In Anne with an E, Billy Andrews is a horrible bully toward Anne. He calls her "Fido." He ruffs at her. He and two other boys run up behind the girls and lift their skirts. Especially in the case of Billy, he is seen as treating young women as people who are only their for his pleasure--whether that be teasing, bullying, or taking advantage of them. 

Josie Pye is the last one to come close to accepting Anne, and their friendship will be tested more than once. She actually calls Anne "trash." She gets her classmates to play spin the bottle in an effort to humiliate Anne. Josie accuses Anne of trying to take Ruby's boyfriend, Gilbert Blythe, as if on she could possibly have known Ruby had her heart set on Gilbert for three years. And, instead of defending her best friend when that happens, Diana Barry says she will try to smooth things over with the other girls. 

When there is a fire at the Gillis' house, Anne rushes in and shuts all the windows and doors, risking her life to slow the fire down. Though Anne's actions save the house, the family needs to relocate for a week while the men of Avonlea make the repairs. The plan decided by the adults is that Ruby will stay at Green Gables, which upsets her terribly. She tells her mother she will never live it down, to which Anne replies something about her not needing to pretend they are friends. 

4. Why did they portray Diana as less than a firm supporter of Anne? 

One of the best parts of Diana and Anne's friendship is that they always stuck by each other. Diana's parents may have separated them when Anne accidentally got Diana drunk on currant wine, but Diana never chose the other girls over Anne and never willingly decided to separate herself from her best friend in the books or previous adaptations. 

In Anne with an E, it is obvious Anne's way of talking embarrasses Diana in front of the other girls, so she tries to explain that away. When Anne is being bullied by Billy, Gilbert shows up to help her and ends up walking with her to school. Josie accosts Anne because she should stay away from him, since Ruby has her heart set on Gilbert--as if Anne could possibly have known that. Instead of sticking up for Anne, Diana lets Josie scold her and then says she will try to smooth things over with the other girls. This new Diana seems way more concerned about what the other girls think than what her best friend thinks. 

Later on in the series, Diana keeps a secret from Anne. When the secret is found out, they quarrel. They both say at the same time, "If you were my friend you would understand." Though I have to admit, Anne is really more to blame for this than Diana because she judged her friend's actions without trying to hear Diana's side, this severs their friendship for a while. Eventually Diana will apologize, but it hurt Anne that her best friend didn't trust her with the secret. 

5. Why were the Cuthberts looked down upon? 

The Cuthberts of the books and film adaptations were respected members of the Avonlea community. While they weren't as wealthy as the Barrys, the Andrews, or the Pyes, they weren't looked down for it. Everyone admired the Green Gables property. If you recall, in Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Sadler approaches Marilla after Matthew's death and offers to buy it from her. That is why Anne ends up staying home instead of going off to college. 

From the very beginning of Anne with an E, the wealthier families talk about them with a level of disrespect I didn't think possible after so many years of reading and watching Anne of Green Gables. They whisper among themselves as Marilla and Matthew bring Anne to the church picnic. The Cuthberts hold no position of power in town. The Board of Trustees is instead made up of the minister, three men who are never really identified, and Rachel Lynde. The owner of the general store in town isn't even kind to them. This is something that totally disturbs me. 

There are other things about the series that I found odd.

  • Creating an older Cuthbert brother who died, which meant Marilla didn't marry John Blythe because she was needed to take care of their mother and Matthew. 
  • Anne and Jerry being sent off alone to sell things so the Cuthberts could pay back the loan to the bank. 
  • Gilbert being able to leave the farm and take off on a steamship while he figures out what to do after his father dies.
  • Cole's suspicion that Mr. Phillips picks on him and was only marrying Prissy because he was struggling with his sexual identity.
  • Mr. Phillips being portrayed as a terrible bully toward his students. We always knew he was incompetent as written by Montgomery, but he wasn't portrayed as cruel. 
  • The girls talking about the status quo. They mention it at school, and Jane talks about her acceptance of the status quo when Prissy asks her father for her dowry since she doesn't intend to marry in the near future. She says everyone is overreacting because the status quo put a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs and the women didn't even need to lift a finger. 
  • After the Queen's Academy entrance exams are over, the students gather at the Ruins and drink moonshine, getting drunk and having a grand old time. I guess I never saw that happening in Avonlea.
What do you think of my list? If you watched Anne with an E, were there things you found odd about this new adaptation? Did you find anything on my list nitpicky? 


Susan B James said...

I found several things odd about the series. I’m an old Anne fan and I have read all the books several times except the first one. I only read that one once. I never wanted to revisit it. The greenhouse effect struck me as a little bit odd I know they were making it into a social commentary. I don’t understand exactly why they had Gilbert‘s father die but they were off on a track of their own and I frankly enjoyed the entire series.

Cheryl said...

I am guessing the only way for Bash and Mary to exist in Avonlea was to have Gilbert's father to die. I like how they incorporated the Indigenous and People of Color.

This Anne was a bit annoying to me--always putting her oar in (as Marilla or Matthew would say) even when it didn't involve her or people didn't want her involvement. That controversial editorial and what followed weren't my favorite parts. Still, I see how she resonates with a modern audience better than how she was originally portrayed.

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