Anne with an “E”: a review from a reader and a watcher--By Polly Fitton
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery has been an inspiration to me ever since I read it in fifth grade, so I was excited to see how the Netflix adaptation, the television series titled Anne with an “E,” would portray the story. Anne’s character, as red-haired and curious as her literary counterpart, proved to be an interesting and upbeat protagonist, and the story had me jumping out of my allotted imprint on the sofa cushion several times by the end of the third and final season.
The story takes place in the late 1800s in Avonlea, Canada on a farm known as Green Gables. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, brother and sister in their elder years, have decided to adopt an orphan boy to help tend the land; instead, they get Anne. Although not the best farmhand, Anne brings with her various surprises, new outlooks on life, and eventually joy that can only come with a family bond.
Anne’s character is played by Amybeth McNulty, who was 15 years old when the first trailer for the series came out. Unfortunately, the young actress faced criticism centered around her body image before the show even aired. She described her experience in an interview with Independent.ie, saying that she needed the support of her family and friends when the trailer was released.
“I remember specifically the first 12 comments were just so nasty towards me and specifically towards my appearance,” McNulty said.
As McNulty struggled with judgment from her audience, some parents began to criticize the storyline for including darker themes than Anne of Green Gables addressed. A parent reviewer going by Erin B. on Common Sense Media gave the series one out of five stars.
“I never considered that anything based on [Anne of Green Gables] would be anything but completely appropriate for a girl my daughter's age,” the review read. “It stopped following the book and added dark, nasty, grim events that never happened in the book. This twisted something lovely that should provide a measure of escape into something dark.”
As a fan of both the book and the series, I can indeed confirm that Anne with an “E” sheds some light on darker themes of the world such as bullying, sexual harassment, sexism, racism and violence. However, not only do these themes portray real events and ideas of the time, but they are also important for all age groups to see and understand. If our goal is to make the world a better place, we cannot forget how it once was and accept the things we need to make better.
The darker themes also emphasized the impact of Anne’s character on others. Avonlea before Anne was a town in which children did only what their parents decided they would do, and women were married off to husbands based on their reputation and social status.
Anne saw the injustice in every nook and cranny of the world and was able to make a true impact. Avonlea became a place that treated blacks and whites with equal respect, that smiled when a woman ran from the altar to follow her dreams of going to college, and that applauded a small school’s newspaper for its right to freedom of speech.
Although many reviews for Anne with an E contradict one another, I can say from my own viewing and reading experience that this show portrays a slice of life that is deep and true. Its sad, harsh realistic moments only make the joyful ones that much more triumphant, and you’ll find yourself laughing with joy and tearing up in the same episode.