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Don’t Mess with My Hero

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This post isn’t exactly spec-related, but it is about story.

I’m a big fan of all things Anne. That is L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley as in Anne of Green Gables. The book series ranks as one of my all-time favorites. The Canadian television movie 1980s series with Megan Follows and the late Jonathan Crombie is one of my favorites movie series. Anne of the Island is probably my favorite of the books and Rilla of Ingleside the only book that made me cry.

All of this being said, I was eager to try the Netflix series “Anne with an E” despite negative reviews, especially some of the themes and viewpoints interjected. My critical thoughts were: the changes were predictable and reminds me of a long-running beloved series.

“Anne with an E” is much like the beloved “Little House on the Prairie” series. They both take an iconic character and depart drastically from the books. I’d contend that “Little House” was even more of a departure from the actual books. That said, I faithfully watched the series. I started watching it in the late 1970s and followed it through the series finale in the early 1980s plus watching all of the series at one time or another in re-runs.

“Little House” might have lacked the pre-adolescent euphemisms of “Anne with an E” or closeted gay aunts, but it wasn’t without social commentary of the day with an ethnically diverse cast and topics that were probably a bit controversial in the 1970s on a series with a target audience of grade school girls.

I can mostly live with the innuendo surrounding Prilly Andrews and the schoolmaster. Because of the series, I’m rereading the books. The scenes are pretty plausible through a more-modern lens. Ditto with the alcoholism and abuse Anne sees in her flashbacks of her previous employer. I didn’t have a problem with Anne having her “time of the month”. Kind of icky but something female readers have thought about with respect to 19th century heroines. I’m not a fan of agendas or obligatory gay characters. However, hints at Diana’s aunt having a “companion” weren’t exactly canonical or necessary but didn’t bother me too much. Although the implications were overt, younger viewers might not catch them at all.

So where is my irritation at the series? Gilbert! Ugh they have ruined him. Gilbert Blythe is my favorite hero of all time. Kristen even quoted me about how a part of him is in every hero I write. The roguish boy with brown curls and hazel eyes will forever look like the late Jonathan Crombie, not a bad thing at all. But he has to be portrayed with the same authenticity as Anne. As a fourteen year old, he is kind of a jerk. He calls Anne “Carrots”. He plays tricks on her. Basically, he’s every nightmare crush of a junior high girl.

“Anne with an E” has ruined Gilbert. First they make him out to be this kind, good, and understanding boy. Um no. Gilbert is competitive, mischievous, and as my mom would say, “a stinker”. I kind of hate him until the “Lady of Shalot” scene. You’re supposed to. After that, you cheer for Anne in her defiance of him while feeling horribly sorry for her rejection of him.

They’ve also made Gilbert an orphan prematurely. Yes, his father is sickly, and the two of them did trek off to Alberta for his health. This makes Gilbert fourteen to Anne’s twelve even though they’re in the same grade. Probably why Gilbert is the way he is. He’s been held back a couple of years despite being bright. He’s taking care of an ailing parent and has aspirations for college. That is more than enough to make him an inspiring and sympathetic character.

Well, it’s obviously not enough for this series. They’ve turned him into an orphan. Instant “parent-less kid bonding” for Gilbert and Anne. No, just no.

That said, I’ve only watched the first season but will more than likely continue watching. They’d have to create a whole lot of atrocities for me to abandon it because, well it’s Anne and Gilbert and the rest of Avonlea. If I, albeit in childish ignorance, stayed with “Little House on the Prairie”, I am more than likely to stay with Anne.

And it wasn’t as if the second and third Follows and Crombie movies were true to the books. Anne of Avonlea condensed three books and the final book wasn’t even close with Gilbert, not their grown children fighting in WWI.

Back to my comparison to “Little House on the Prairie”. My snarky parting thought is “Anne with an E” won’t Jump the Shark unless they include a rapist clown (LHOTP Season 7, Episodes 17 & 18). Pretty sure I had nightmares from watching that at the tender age of nine.

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About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

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