Thanks to my friend, novelist and Lucy Maud Montgomery nut Rachel McMillan, I am starting to see this innovative, new “Anne” as a character study, and not a plot driven retelling of AOGG.
I know I have ranted here, and I’m still not thrilled with every change to my beloved story, but I feel somehow as if Moira Walley-Beckett and co. have expanded my knowledge and increased my friendship with Anne, Matthew, Marilla, and Gilbert. Yes, my friendship!
I totally believe you can be friends with a literary character, don’t you? I like to tell people that Anne is my Life Mentor, and it’s true! She has been so many things to me, an inspiration, a friend, a sister, a fellow orphan, a teacher, and the list goes on.
This new Anne has ignited some controversy, see an article in “The Federalist” which uses the word “perverted” in the headline. Talk about click bait…ugh. I refuse to give that article any link love, but if you want to find it Google it.
One of the things this author said about the new Anne was that AOGG is aspirational, not realistic. To which I had a strong response (what I posted in response to this Federalist piece on an AOGG Facebook group page):
“I believe Anne is MORE aspirational after we know the depth of her suffering. She’s more of a role model. Instead of dreaming away her trauma, she deals with it with the help of her keen but floundering newbie parents. That’s strength. That’s inspiring. I am getting to know Anne in a new, deeper way. The realism, I would argue, gives us all something to aspire too. Instead of preserving a “false peace” (I’ve been reading about false peace lately..ha!), things are uncovered and dealt with. The 1985 version is magical, luminous, and I shall love it forever. This one is disturbing, provocative, and equally needed.”
Not only does this “Anne” provoke and stir the pot, it also offers some shockingly beautiful and gripping moments between these fascinating characters. (Here’s where my review of Episode 6 really begins, by the way.)
In the gripping department, just try and rip your eyes and heart away from the iconic “Anne saves Minnie Mae from death” scene.
Even though we knew what would happen, Natalie, Juliana (our lovely hostess) and I could barely breathe as our level-headed Anne administered syrup of Ipecac, an onion poultice, and even the method of hanging Minnie Mae’s head off the table and pounding on her labored chest to get her to cough. Suddenly, I remembered with awful clarity that my own uncle, Frank, had died in such a way as a toddler. My mom said that her father, my gentle, wheat-farming, Matthew-esque Grandpa Loewen had paced the floor many a night holding his son as he tried to breathe. She said the sound of her brother struggling for breath had been unbearable. As good storytelling is wont to do, watching Anne’s story informed my own story, and all at once Uncle Frank was much more than a faded anecdote.
Back at the Canadian embassy, er, Juliana’s living room, when we could breathe again, RH Thompson took our breath away as Matthew. When he found out that Anne had saved Minnie Mae’s life, his quiet pride was written loudly all over his face. He gently brushed a tendril of red hair from Anne’s sleeping face, and his love for her was piercingly real.
Minnie Mae survived, and Mrs. Barry was brought to her knees by relief and repentance. I write about that scene extensively in Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me, and I’m so glad it was included in “Anne.”
However, grief still comes to Avonlea as Gilbert’s father dies, leaving him an orphan. Of course, in the book, Gilbert’s dad does get sick but recovers, and he also has a mother who is not well-pleased when Anne rejects her son repeatedly. As the mother of two teenage boys, I cannot blame her AT ALL.
In 1985, I wanted date Gilbert Blythe, and now, at age 49, I want to adopt him! Which I suppose is only appropriate but it’s funny how life changes, isn’t it?
In this retelling, Gilbert is all alone in the world at age 15, 16. And it’s the saddest thing. But it endears Anne to him, and it endears every motherly hearted creature on earth watching.
I truly loved how the writers gave Gil a highly unlikely companion in grief: Marilla. Yes, Marilla, we learn, was once passionately in love with Gilbert’s father, John Blythe. And he with her. Through a series of flashbacks, we see a young couple in love. He calls her Mar. She dimples at the very sight of him. But, as she tells Gilbert in an utterly powerful scene at his father’s grave, “there was nothing he could say to make me go with him.” The layers of that statement are still yet to be totally uncovered, but we do know Marilla felt she had to stay home and help after her brother’s death incapacitated her mother.
Finally, this episode gave us Aunt Josephine. One of the chief pleasures of reading the Anne series and any book by Maud are the droll, wry, hilariously crusty old birds which populate Avonlea and other LMM towns. Aunt Josephine was LMM’s first, but certainly not her last. Here in “Anne”, she is visiting her nephew and family during Minnie Mae’s crises and sees firsthand what a mensch Anne is. Anne, as usual, sees past the crust to the tender, fierce core of the woman, and immediately admires Aunt Josephine’s independence.
Anyone over the age of 13 will quickly intuit that Aunt Josephine is mourning the loss of her life’s love, a woman. It’s very subtly done, BUT, like the new “Beauty and the Beast,” is sure to get some people in a bunch. Honestly, it is no big deal.
Hopefully, people will not lose sight of Aunt Josephine’s very good influence on Anne, which results in Anne saying with confidence “I am going to be the heroine in my own story.”
Have any of you been able to watch?
What do YOU think about what me and other viewers have been saying?
Are you prepared to buy into some serious revisions here? Or would you prefer, as I do in my heart of hearts, that all of this phenomenal writing and acting and filmmaking would reflect Maud’s original story?
I’d love to know your thoughts! Every comment on my blog until the Anne series has properly aired on Netflix (May 12) will be entered in a contest to win a fetching Anne of Green Gables art piece or frameable quote from my favorite Etsy shop, Carrot Top Paper Shop! So comment away, won’t you, Anne Internet Friends??