Anne of Green Gables is the beloved tale of Anne Shirley, an imaginative and whimsical young girl with a passion for life. Lucy Montgomery’s classic 1908 novel has been adapted many times, including the popular 1985 film starring actress Megan Follows, and most recently, the 2017 Netflix Original series, Anne With an E. Over the course of two seasons, the show brings Anne’s story and the wonderful world of Avonlea to a new generation. Actress Amybeth McNulty’s interpretation of Anne embodies the sole characteristics that make up Anne Shirley. She displays a love of the world around her, a knack for learning, and an imagination as expansive as the sky. This TV adaptation takes on a gritty and dark approach, adding a level of drama to the originally lighthearted story. In Anne With an E, Anne’s dark past is explored in ways it was not in the film. Specific moments that occur trigger haunting memories from the orphanage and her home before Green Gables, a farm in Avonlea. Anne was tormented and abused in indescribable ways by the girls at the orphanage she lived in and by the parents of the family she previously worked for. The audience gets to see snippets of Anne’s intricate past in the form of flashbacks. This is extremely fascinating because it is the first time the audience sees actual moments from her time before Green Gables, as the film only took place in present time. Although Anne seemingly suffers from PTSD, she never loses the optimistic and cheerful essence that the character is known for.
Another central character from the franchise is Gilbert Blythe, a charismatic and confident young boy in Anne’s class. Gilbert is popular among his peers, and despite their judgement of Anne, Gilbert admires Anne for her intelligence and uniqueness. Actor Lucas Zumann’s portrayal of this beloved character is extremely impressive. He captures Gilbert’s dreamy charm perfectly with just one smile or glance in Anne’s direction. Due to the show’s darker interpretation, Gilbert’s character is also given a dark twist: he becomes an orphan when his father tragically passes away. I am tremendously excited to see Gilbert’s character development in the upcoming third season. Perhaps a much anticipated “tragical romance” will finally blossom between him and Anne?
The main aspect that differentiates Anne With an E from the novel and previous adaptations is its modernism. Through exploring topics such as feminism, the LGBT community, and diversity, the series truly merges itself with the current time. The newly introduced character Cole Makenzie is harassed by Billy Andrews, the class bully, and even his teacher, Mr. Phillips, for the sole reason of being different. Cole is unlike other boys in Avonlea; he is a quiet and sensitive artist. Billy Andrews sees him as a vulnerable and easy target. Even his teacher singles him out in class and takes every possible opportunity to viciously reprimand him. Eventually, Cole has a realization about himself: he is gay. I admire the show’s bravery to introduce multiple LGBT characters to a show set in the nineteenth-century, a time when it was illegal to be gay. Additionally, many progressive female characters challenge the narrow-minded way women were viewed during the time. A fun fact about the show is that each episode is titled after a Mary Anne Evans quote. Evans was a female novelist during the Victorian era and challenged gender norms. I am so excited to see what Anne With an E has in store for season three, which should be coming out sometime this summer, so stay tuned!