Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Two (or Three) Cents

The Hubs says I need to write out my thoughts about the new "Anne of Green Gables" series, titled "Anne with an E" in a blog post, because . . . well, let's face it. There's no way I could confine all my thoughts into a readable facebook post. I already gave my opinion following the first episode, and that was mainly that while it's done well, the way it's been handled is simply not my cup of tea. I agree that the premise of Anne being traumatized by her experiences before coming to Green Gables is something worth exploring, and it's an interesting new angle. However, it is handled in far too grim a fashion for my taste.

I want to clarify that I am not annoyed with the fact that "Anne" was "re-made". Just look at how many "Pride and Prejudice" adaptations there are; despite what many of us may think, there are a lot more "Anne of Green Gables" adaptations out there besides the beloved 80's version starring Megan Follows. I've caught a couple of them. Interesting stuff. I read an article about Netflix cashing in on nostalgia, a la "Fuller House", but I don't see a new adaptation of "Anne" really fitting the same mold as that. "Fuller House" is basically exactly what "Full House" was twenty-five years ago, and is very much hitting that nostalgia button (which I eat up, I will admit; I have watched both seasons). "Anne" is one of those literary institutions that will always be redone, because the story itself is so timeless. So no, I'm not offended that they dared re-make perfection.

I am offended that the creators/writers of this particular go-around are bound and determined that anything that could go wrong, DOES go wrong. Apparently it's not enough for Anne to have every-day battles that develop her character. Everything is an enormous struggle and over-the-top heroic deed. I want to give as few spoilers as possible, but I'm going to give one right now. There's a house fire in Avonlea and the whole community is there fighting it. And who is the one to save the day? It's Anne. And suddenly more people decide she's worth the time of day! Ummmm . . . I have issues with this.

She has a similar experience in the book and previous adaptations when she and Diana are forbidden from being friends (thanks, currant wine!), and then she saves Minnie May's life and Mrs. Barry comes around and lets Diana and Anne be friends again. This still happens in this show (yay!), and you can't help thinking that Mrs. Barry is sure a fair-weather friend. I can't help but feel this way about the people who are only willing to give Anne a chance after she's the heroine of the afore-mentioned house fire. Do you really want everybody to give that "fair-weather friend" impression? What kind of lasting friendships is this reallllllly going to lead to? Instead of small, ordinary victories or people simply improving their characters and recognizing that Anne is an extraordinary person, it's only after she does something enormous that they decide to like her.

So this just further solidifies my first reaction, in which I stated that "this version is saying that a heroine is not a heroine unless her life has been awful, that the overly dramatic spins on old tales are the only ones worth telling, and that a victory is only a victory if it's won against impossible odds."

So now that I've finished the whole thing, besides this aspect of it, has my opinion of it improved? Well . . .

I came around to this version's Marilla, and I was very close to approving of Matthew, and then the last episode happened and he acted in a way that shut the door on it for me. "Nope. Not my Matthew." Sorry. Diana was good for me a great deal of the time, and I'd say the same for Rachel Lynde. Anne herself was charming, if uneven. Sometimes I was very affected by her, and sometimes her behavior just didn't make sense, even within the arc and mood set by the story being told.

I know what you're all thinking. What about Gilbert, right?!?? Cute kid, but the way his story was told and how his life developed was still in that "everything must be a tragedy" vibe, and I was baffled by where he ended up at the end. (And I'm not talking metaphorically; I mean physically where he ended up.) He also suffered from having to be around the other teenage boys, who were given dialogue that was incredibly out-of-place in the setting. It seriously sounded like they were 2017 boys dressed in 1900 clothing. I was waiting for one of them to whip out a "dude" any minute.

And the feminism angle: okay, aside from one (or was it two? they've blurred together) episode where it seemed especially heavy-handed, and I was justified in predicting that there would be overly misogynistic men in authority, it was surprisingly subtle. But maybe it just seemed subtle in comparison to where it was heavy-handed, and when it was heavy-handed, it was terrible. This is not an exaggeration of a response made by a woman in a "progressive" sewing circle (okay, maybe it is a tad exaggerated, but not by much): "Feminism? What an interesting word. Whatever does it mean?" Um. sigh If you're going to be feminist, please please write it a little better than that. It was excruciating to watch. I don't like decrying a show for being feminist; it's a good thing to be feminist. It's not a good thing to tolerate bad writing.

Now you're probably thinking, "If you disliked it that much, why in the world did you keep watching it?" Well, I felt it worth giving a shot, even if I knew that it would be a "grittier" re-telling. Sometimes you're surprised by these things. And there were perspectives and little bits that I thought were interesting and thought-provoking. For example, the book mentions the Cuthbert's hired boy, Jerry, maybe a couple times and then forgets him. In this, he's actually a character who you come to care about (although his French accent sure wobbled; but at the same time, i don't exactly speak French). There's a memorable part of Anne's growing up that all girls experience (oh, lucky us), and you thank heaven that you live in a time when you were prepared for it, even if your mother was out of town like mine was when it started for me. (is it obvious what i mean?)

You experience some moments of joy and tenderness, and that's wonderful. That's what you (or at least, I) want to get out of "Anne". But the whole series for me is bogged with downer after downer, and it's no fun feeling like you're just stuck in that quagmire. It even ends in a way that I wanted to tear my hair out and yell at the tv, "You really had to squelch that hopeful, up-beat ending with a completely made-up plot tease?" (Really: completely manufactured for this series.) What a disappointment that they felt the need to do such a thing.

So those are my thoughts on "Anne with an E". Have I completely turned you off of watching it? Or if you've watched it and disagree with me, are you going to dare talking to me about it? Or if you've watched it and agree with me, are you going to commiserate with me? Or have I teased it enough that even if you think along the same lines as me, your curiosity is going to get the better of you? So many possible ways this could go! I've found online reviews that echo exactly my feelings on it, and I've found online reviews that simply love it (nothing in-between, interestingly enough). Which camp are you? Will you dare? What makes you trust my word on it, anyway? That was surprising when I first posted on facebook that I was going to watch it; people wanting my opinion! Well, you certainly got it, and probably more than you wanted. Sorry. I'm a talker. Just like Anne.

And now I'm going to watch the happy version and take joy in that moment of crossing through the White Way of Delight with our dear Anne and the REAL Matthew Cuthbert.

1 comment:

ldsjaneite said...

Love this! Still not sure if I am going to dare watch it. I had no problem that it was being re-made. But also no desire to see an already great story have so much added or taken away from it in. Maybe if I am bored and out of shows...
On the nostalgia thread--have you seen Girl Meets World? I have enjoyed Fuller House, but I ADORE Girl Meets World.