• Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

Anne With an E

ByJoanna Koter

Feb 21, 2020

Anne with an E might not be an obvious choice for a Netflix night in. You may expect a period drama, based on a classic children’s book Anne of Green Gables, to be predictable and preachy. But the show proves to be the opposite. An unorthodox reimagining of the literary canon begins slowly and faithfully retells the story of the titular Anne. Before your eyes, it boldly deviates from the original plot to dive into a world of new characters and events, using them to explore contemporary issues. Anne takes on gender parity, racism, bullying, LGBT+ rights, the freedom of the press, and more — ensuring it stands out as a piece of drama unafraid of controversy.

The three seasons follow Anne, an orphan from Nova Scotia, through her new life at Green Gables as she tries to find her place in the new community. Anne’s story in the show is much more dramatic than in the books — we’re offered glimpses of Anne’s tragic past at the orphanage, which might have led to her dreamy, distrait character. Of course, some found this rendition too ‘dark’ or a ‘gothic nightmare’, as poetically put by the America. Yet this doesn’t detract from what is an enjoyable, daring take on the original story.

Anne is an experiment on how far you can stretch a classic without disrespecting the original, whilst still bringing in something valuable. Thankfully, this experiment produces positive results. Among the most noteworthy contributions of the writers is introducing Ka’kwet, a Native American girl of the Mi’kmaq nation. Her character connects the show with the less than romantic reality of nineteenth century Canada, complete with residential schools for indigenous children, set up to achieve forced assimilation to the dominant Christian culture.

The acting is up to the mark. Amybeth McNulty’s Anne is scrawny, annoying, and never shuts up, thus she is precisely what Anne needs to be. The clear division between good-bad or friend-bully, particularly in Anne’s school, can be tiresome at times, but the character development makes up for it — particularly that of Anne and her adoptive family, the Cuthberts.

Twice the winner of Best Drama Series at Canadian Screen Awards, Anne was discontinued by Netflix and CBC after the third season. The reason? “Economics, Algorithms, Demographics,” says producer Moira Walley-Beckett, as “art and commerce is never an easy marriage.” Antithetically to the feminist agenda of Anne, the show cuts off right after she finally finds her true love. This is a real shame. The plot still has great potential if it were to be continued, and it is tragic that one implication from the unjust cancellation is that a girl’s story comes to an abrupt halt just because she finally kisses that dream boy.

Regardless, what has been produced up to this point is a fantastic, engaging and thoughtful drama. Whether Anne shows how to adapt or not to adapt children’s classics is a matter of preference, yet either way, it deserves a watch.


Image: Lucy Maud Montgomery via Wikimedia Commons