After some hesitation, I finally decided to give the new Anne with an E on Netflix a try. Why the hesitation? Well, I have fond memories of watching the 1980’s mini-series with my mom. I remember when we would go to the local library, rent the VHS tapes, and weep together. I didn’t want to muddle that sweet nostalgia. But, it was time to give this new series a chance. After binge watching the first seven episodes of the first season (spread across two days thanks to a pleading family), I have to say that this is definitely NOT the Anne of Green Gables of my youth. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Before I get into this, I should say that the casting in Anne with an E is right on. The main actors bring their characters to life and pull you into the story. Also, you can tell at a glance how much care went into the crafting and styling the sets. When introducing this series to the next generation, the non-80’s influence and clear visuals are much easier on the eyes. When I looked up some clips from the older series, Munchkin couldn’t get past how “fuzzy” and big the womens’ hairdos were. So, did we like the new series? You have to read all the way to the end to know for sure!
Anne with an E on Netflix — Not the Anne of Green Gables You Know
The Anne of Green Gables mini-series which aired in 1985 is well-known, and well-loved, for many reasons. Anne, played by Megan Follows (I’m horrible with movie trivia so I did have to look that up on Wikipedia), was a bright and spirited young girl who oozed with wild-eyed optimism and stubborn determination. The loving relationship she formed with her adoptive parents was heart-warming, as was the deep bond of friendship with her “kindred spirit,” Diana. Then, there’s the ongoing back-and-forth with Gilbert Blythe who goes from school classmate, to academic rival, to something much more.
The series moved at a snail’s pace and was devoid of action-packed special effects or hair-pulling drama. Yet, it was so warm, fuzzy, and endearing that you couldn’t help but love every touching scene. Anne with an E presents a completely different take. The story is still based on the original book by Lucy Maud Montgomery. In fact, many key scenes and spoken dialogue follow the book pretty closely. But, these all have a darker tone.
Anne with an E on Netflix — Grittier, Darker, and a Whole Lot Less Fuzzy
What would a 13-year-old orphan who never had a loving home be like? Happy, content, and always seeing the best in everyone and everything? Not likely. This Netflix version of Anne reads between the lines and changes the heroine to a have an altered view of things.
For example, instead of implying that Anne had a rough past, vivid flashbacks flesh out the emotional and physical abuse she suffered. Experiences she had at the orphanage and with the families that she lived with before were traumatizing. Not just for her but for anyone in those situations (like a man getting a heart attack as he beats Anne with a belt). These deeply scar her and make bullying at the hands of her classmates, the townspeople, and even strangers that much harder to cope with. She often zones out and crumbles under the pressure.
Instead of a girl with a shining personality that wins everyone over in time, Anne is a troubled child coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sometimes her actions almost border on delusional insanity. While talking to her reflection (out of desperate loneliness), the filming angle and background music make the scene creepy and disturbing. In fact, I was nervous that she was going to smash the glass and start cutting herself. She’s also mean to the hired farmhand, Jerry. I get that she feels threatened by his presence at first. But, then, she continues being rude and condescending to him.
Anne with an E takes other liberties which warrant the PG rating. These are not “deal-breakers” but parents should keep this in mind when deciding if this is okay for their kids to see. This is not an innocent and rosy family series. Mature subjects are brought to the fore and may prompt unexpected conversations. Several scenes caught me off-guard while watching with my teen daughter. I was not expecting Matthew to attempt what he did, for Anne to talk about the “pet mouse,” for feminism to be so front-and-center, for hints at Aunt Josephine’s situation, or for the series to close out the way it did. (Trying not to include spoilers.) Never did I fear for Anne’s safety in Anne of Green Gables. But, in Anne with an E, I have no idea what might be in store for this poor, defenseless, and often unfortunate family.
Anne with an E on Netflix — Different But Intriguing
With all this in mind, we actually can’t wait for season two of Anne with an E on Netflix. It is true that Anne with an E is a departure from the Anne of Green Gables that many are familiar with. But, this series has its own appeal. The complex characters and “tragical” suspense draw you in so you want to know what happens next.
This is a great feat when you think about what current shows are like and the lack of interest of period dramas in younger generations. If anything, this will encourage people to revisit the original story of Anne in the eight novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery (some may argue nine but that’s another issue) or seek out the older series. Let’s just hope that no more harm comes to Anne and that she is able to embrace happiness in future seasons. I don’t think I can stomach it if she turns into an angsty and battered teen…
What do you think about Anne with an E?
I received a year subscription of Netflix and a device to stream the content as part of the Netflix Stream Team. All opinions are my own.