Erica here. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of my favorite people, Christina Yother. Christina and I (along with Dana R. Lynn) were matched together as critique partners way back in 2013. Christina is the author of the inspirational historical romance series Hollow Hearts. All the details about the Hollow Hearts books (Reverie, Reliance, and Reconcile) can be found on christinayother.com. I love her blogs on books and writing. She’s one of the best writers I know, and she helped me come up with one of my favorite features: Page to Screen. Page to Screen is where we will discuss books that have been turned into movies, TV movies, or TV shows. This week, Christina tackles Anne with an “E,” the Netflix series based on Anne of Green Gables. What’s interesting is Christina and I disagree on her conclusions. I’ll let you read (and watch), then decide for yourself. Be sure to leave your two cents in the comments section to let us know what you think.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
I still remember reading that line and thinking that Anne Shirley understood my love of autumn like no one else. I grew up with L.M. Montgomery’s beloved character and spent hours of my childhood floating down the river as The Lady of Shalott and suffering through the cruelness of having red hair. Anne’s despairs were my despairs – at least in my imagination. I felt that I was made a kindred spirit just by reading about her adventures.
Over the years there have been many times when our spirited heroine was brought from the pages of the books to the big screen. From the beloved 1980’s PBS classic to several made-for-tv movies, Anne, Gilbert, Diana, and the Cuthberts delighted us with their adventures and growing pains. Last year Netflix released a new interpretation called “Anne with an E,” giving their own spin to the tales we all remember.
“Anne with an E” still carries the same bones as the book series. Anne Shirley is an orphan adopted by the brother and sister duo, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. She is befriended by Diana and engages in a competitive friendship with Gilbert Blithe. The show gives us many of the wonderful adventures and misadventures that we’ve come to love from the book series – Gilbert calling Anne “carrots,” Anne’s wild imagination, the infamous puffed sleeves. But, what I love about this interpretation is the liberties it takes and the “darker” themes running through the story.
I would go so far as to say this series is meant for adults – men and women who grew up with Anne of Green Gables but are willing to view it through a different lens. We are given a deeper look into Anne’s past and the abusive nature of her experiences as an orphan. We see the effects its had on her and the trauma she lives with as she tries to accept her recent adoption. The show also deals heavily with sexuality in a tasteful yet real manner, showing what it was like to be “different” in an age when such views were much less accepted. We journey with several characters, young and old, as they explore and understand queerness and all forms of love. New characters and characters we’ve grown to love are shown to have a depth that the books didn’t address. Viewers are faced with a look at racism beyond what we’ve been taught in history class, including tolerance and inclusivity. And, we must watch the characters grapple with the emotions and reality of mental illness. There is a huge theme surrounding the roles of women and how they struggled to embrace their identity and power in an age when the expectation was to raise mothers and wives. There is a realness in this series that takes a sweet and beloved classic and explores it in a modern way. And I think that is what makes this new interpretation so relatable and powerful.
Of course this series won’t be to the liking of everyone. Many will view the liberties taken as a butchering of something they once loved. But, it’s important to remember that when any book moves from page to screen there will be specific aspects of the story that either don’t translate to the screen or simply don’t make the cut. One interpretation of a story isn’t right or wrong – creative freedom comes in to play. If we, as viewers, remember to appreciate a screen adaptation for what it is than our expectations are less likely to be disappointed. In the case of “Anne With an E” we can all use this new take on an old classic to understand the complexity of human emotions and experiences. It’s still a coming of age story, but this darker twist makes it even more timeless and relevant.