Netflix’s Anne of Green Gables Can’t Even Be Saved By Canonical Queerness

If you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear Anne Shirley or Diana Barry get more canonical with their love than promises of eternal bosom friendship, Anne With An E — Netflix’s rework of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s much beloved, much adapted novel — will satisfy that longing for you, as long as you’re okay with the soul of Green Gables being ripped to shreds around it.

There are lots of ways to adapt a beloved book into a film or a TV series. You could go the BBC Pride and Prejudice route, for example: six hours of tender devotion to every word Jane Austen wrote. You could go the Joe Wright Pride and Prejudice route: Two hours to pull on the most essential narrative threads and wrap them around the spirit of the original work.

Or you could go the Anne With An E route: Yank out all the bones of the plot and hammer them back together in the shape of the Game of Thrones. Turn Matthew’s calm conviction that Marilla shouldn’t send Anne away into a horse chase that ends with him smashing his head through a buggy window and saving her from a sinister man. Turn the brief mentions of Anne’s hard, lonely life before Green Gables into flashbacks of full blown dog-barking, scream-crying, alcoholic-dying-while-beating-the-hell-out-of-her abuse. Turn the teasing of Anne’s classmates into actual assault. Replace Anne’s relentless optimism with PTSD. And maybe, while you’re at it, give shy, stoic Matthew a girlfriend and a gun and have him ponder killing himself.

The New Yorker calls Anne With An E “a betrayal,” which I think is true. The series’ producer and writer, Moira Walley-Beckett (most known for her work on Breaking Bad), didn’t trust Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work, which has stood the test of time for over a century, to hold itself up. The costuming is real, the set decoration is authentic, most of the dialogue is rooted in the time period. But every scene is winking at us from the present, reminding us constantly that this is 1900 filtered through the lens of 2017, inviting our judgment and derision aimed at characters who haven’t had the benefit of a century’s worth of progress and education and Tumblr’s social justice lessons at their fingertips.

“Feminism,” Mrs. Andrews breathlessly exclaims at book club, “What a wonderful word!” Marilla isn’t so sure. Marilla Cuthbert, who never married and ran half a farm her whole life and raised a daughter who believed she could accomplish anything a man could do and more. Marilla, a naive dimwit who is freaked out in 1900 by the word feminism. God, you guys, she’s just so backwards.

The reason Anne Shirley has remained a feminist icon for over a hundred years isn’t because she stood up to boys telling her her place was in the kitchen. Or because she kept going to school despite advice from Marilla’s pastor that she should just stay home and learn to become a wife. Or because she ran into a burning building to save the day. (All of which happen in the new series.) The reason Anne Shirley has remained a feminist icon is because she’s smart and uncompromising and every day she learns a little bit more and teaches the people around her a little bit more until she has, in inches, transformed and been transformed by the folks of Avonlea. The real Gilbert Blythe helps her see that truth; he doesn’t rush into the woods to save Anne from a teenage boy calling her a “bad dog” and threatening to “teach her a lesson” while the music menaces and threatens more than just bullying.

Anne With an E’s feminism is so clumsy; every villain fighting against it is a cartoon character.

Well, but Anne does spell it out that she loves Diana in a gay way. Not all this turn of the century subtext about “I’ll never have another bosom friend—I don’t want to have. I couldn’t love anybody as I love you” or “If you love me as I love you, nothing but death can part us two” like Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote and the 1980s mini-series faithfully relayed to its audience. No, this was, per Twitter’s ceaseless request, loud enough for the people in the back. On a walk, Diana explains lesbianism to her friend who, in the book, kissed Diana’s letters and slept with them under her pillow.

Diana: [My aunt] is disinclined to stay at home since her companion died.
Anne: Her companion?
Diana: Her best friend forever and ever. Aunt Josephine never married. Neither of them did. They lived with each other their whole lives.
Anne: I’d live with you forever if I could, but I know you’ll leave me the day you get married to some wealthy and handsome gentleman. I hate him already.

You know curmudgeonly, wealthy Josephine Barry from the Anne of Green Gables books. Anne and Diana visit her and she becomes one of Anne’s kindred spirits. She’s an outspoken queer feminist in Netflix’s adaptation, which is welcome, of course, but would have worked a whole lot better if she hadn’t been written as 2017’s Mary Sue.

Season one ends in the blistering way it begins. No, Matthew’s not racing off on any horses. But two thieves who’ve already stolen the Cuthbert’s money and beaten up a kid in town show up at Green Gables to take Marilla up on her advertisement for boarders. Dun, dun, dun!

Moira Walley-Beckett told The Guardian earlier this year that “There are other versions of Anne out there for five-year-olds,” which is ironic, really, considering that unlike those other versions, Anne With an E doesn’t put faith in its audience to understand anything that isn’t smashed into its consciousness like Anne’s slate to Gilbert’s face. As if making something “gritty” makes it mature.

Anne of Green Gables is a story of profound hope and optimism, a story about the power of story, a story above all about the transformative nature of love. Anne Shirley is so happy to live in a world where there are Octobers. I’m so happy to live in a world where Anne Shirley’s legacy won’t be defined by this ham-handed adaptation.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1719 articles for us.


  1. “as if making something ‘gritty’ makes it mature.”

    YES!! i love you for saying that, thank you. the first time i read “anne of green gables,” i was eight and i read the whole thing in the course of a car ride. i love anne shirley so much, and she did not deserve to be slandered in this way.

  2. “inviting our judgment and derision aimed at characters who haven’t had the benefit of a century’s worth of progress and education and Tumblr’s social justice lessons at their fingertips”.
    see also: any character from anything ever who Refuses To Wear A Corset

  3. I’m having a hard time even believing this review is real. Obviously, I know it is, but it’s so distressing! Really disappointing. The Megan Follows version is lovely, so at luckily we’ll always have that.

    Strangely, this version’s existence hasn’t ruined my childhood. I thought for sure it might ;)

    • This series is simply beautiful and brilliant you critic are an idiot! I meant this show to be for my 8 yr old grandaughter and I to watch, I find myself totally transfixed! I lived and still do the novel the story Anne of Green Gables, this in NO way puts a blight on that. This show is freaking brilliant and WE LOVE IT!!

  4. Thank you for this review. I LOVE Anne of Green Gables but I don’t think I’ll be watching this…

    • I wouldn’t judge on this farcical review, I thrashed watched it last 24 hours with my 85 year old mother who is herself a fan of and Anne OGG and all follow on books and is director and found ithe different take on it quite watchable

    • Don’t be put off by this review. I read the original book as a child and loved it. Equally I absolutely loved this adaptation. Watched it until the small hours, couldn’t wait for next episode to load.
      When is the next series I can’t wait it’s different but brilliant.

  5. I would like to thank you for watching this garbage fire so that I don’t have to because I don’t think my heart could have taken it.

  6. In Anne of Ingleside, one of Anne’s daughters is breathlessly detailing the indignities suffered by a classmate, and says “she’s always hungry–have you ever been hungry?”

    Anne says “yes, often–before I came to Green Gables.”

    That’s how you do it.

    • It’s like the world is trying to rip away the few examples we have left of how to be classy and not some sort of flasher with every aspect of our lives.

    • I do,in fact, own the VHS versions of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and that odd but adorably corny 3rd sequel.

  7. Good Christ this is a depressing turn of events. I never dreamed of watching this nonsense because Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, and Richard Farnsworth are sheer perfection. But man, I didn’t think this would end up a trash fire. But it’s 2017 so I guess nothing’s immune. Thanks for the heads up to throw this version right into the lake of shining waters.

    I’ll be fishing for lake trout instead.

    • I have to disagree with some of the comments made regarding the new Anne series. Living on Prince Edward Island during the turn of the century would have been a difficult, sobering experience. That’s not to say that the original Anne of Green Gables wasn’t a masterpiece.

      Being familiar with PEI as a person living in the Maritimes, I can attest to the fact that life was often bleak and harsh.

      It goes without saying that many of the issues facing people back then continue to face everyone today, except modern day Canada is far more supportive of feminist and GBLT rights: all if which are eluded to, given that they are universal feelings hatboured by humans somewhere.

      It is a fact that LM Montgomery suffered from depression, and there are those who claim she took her own life in an institution in which she lived at the end.

      Anne reflects today’s bare-bones realities in a way in which the predecessor did not, however, it was brilliantly conceived in my opinion to give hope to those who live in like surroundings, and still capture the sense of the book. After all, making a movie out of a text is quite an undertaking.

      Anne reflects modern Canadian society coming to grips with societal issues which are still being dealt with despite those who chose to cling to a more “Victorian” mentality.

      Even so, Dickens handled themes similarly to those in Anne, and was lauded for doing so.

      Let us see how this new Anne inspires a new audience! I think the writers and crew behind the new production had what I just jotted down in mind.

      Kiddos to the new Anne, Ms. McNulty is incredibly talented, and I am certain that LM Montgomery would agree as well.

  8. There was a glorious fifteen minutes in the first episode, tho, where Anne is riding in the carriage with Matthew and they just let her talk, they let the scene breathe as is the ENTIRE SPIRIT OF THE BOOK – whole pages of the book are filled with her uninterrupted monologues, and it’s glorious – and for a moment, I was so happy.

    Then they ruined it with that weird action sequence and it all went downhill from there.

  9. I agree completely about them mangling the story. Darker isn’t necessarily truer or better. P sure it’s Mrs. Andrews who delivers that hammy line about feminism at her book club though. Also wouldn’t call the actor playing Josephine Barry “young” exactly… she looks about sixty to me. I strongly disliked a lot of the story choices they made, but I think the casting was pretty spot on. Geraldine James makes a pretty perfect Marilla.

  10. Unfortunately, you don’t appreciate the strengths of this new adaptation. Genzlinger in the New York Times did it justice, as did a blogger with the surname Bessey.

  11. Thank you so much for this review. I don’t think I need to see this version. Love Anne, always have, always will.
    …What a shame though! It would have been a treat to see a worthy new adaptation!

  12. Honestly, Anne of Green Gables probably did more to set the stage for my eventual journey into queer feminism than almost any other piece of media.

    I didn’t know any lesbians when I was reading this over and over until the cover was falling off. Some of those rereads must have happened after being introduced to the concept of homosexuality in hushed voices during my Catholic School religion or family education classes, but I didn’t know what that looked like in real life or that I loved women.

    What I did know then was that Marilla and Matthew lived their lives on their own terms. I knew that while it was kind of a bummer that something went wrong years ago between Marilla and her beau, she wasn’t regretful or bitter about being a spinster; she just kept on living fiercely. I knew Matthew didn’t talk to women and he still died happy, surrounded by the people he loved. I knew Marilla and Rachel moved in together for mutual support and that even though neither of them would necessarily admit it out loud, there was a deep and abiding affection there. I knew that change takes time, but that slow and steady love can make a lot of things happen. I knew families don’t always look the way you imagine they do.

    I wasn’t ready yet for Callie Torres or for Stef and Lena. But I had Anne and Marilla. So if getting explicitly gay content requires mangling the Cuthberts? Nah. Hard pass.

  13. I actually loved this show! But I don’t remember the Megan Follows version well and I’ve never read the books. As someone coming at this adaptation without previous knowledge, I really enjoyed it.

  14. Thank you Heather for saving me from watching this adaptation! I’ll be at home re-reading the books and re-watching the 1985 Megan Follows adaptation.

    • Same here. I was about to renew my Netflix subscription when I heard of the adaptation…. But remembering the year I live in, I quickly researched the reviews and unfortunately confirmed what I feared.

  15. Thank you for this! Anne of Green Gables was one of my favourite books growing up and I really strongly identified with Anne – to the extent that I considered drawing freckles on my nose and wished my hair was red. This adaptation sounds like sacrilege and thankfully now I won’t have to watch it to find out.

  16. no way! i absolutely LOVED this series. my parents were watching it and i was altogether indifferent but it began with anne getting her period and flipping out and i couldn’t help but love and identify with her! this anne is worth watching if only for the spirit of the actress playing her. she’s 14 i think, and she seems way more like an 11 year old than the lady i remember being anne in the 80s series (apologies to the hardcore fans, but she was too boring for me as a kid because she seemed like she was a grown-up). i get what you mean about everything trying to be hardcore, but a lot of it isn’t grimdark anne it’s just a realistic look at the past, and in these times i really appreciate that it isn’t romanticizing it. we don’t need to make green gables great again right now. agreed that matthew’s suicide attempt was ridiculous–i’ve only known him through this series and that seemed really out of character to even me. now i’m really curious about what happened in this series that isn’t in the books!

  17. I haven’t seen it yet, and I LOVED the Megan Follows adaptation, so I don’t know what I’ll think of this one, but I still intend to give it a shot. A friend of mine, a librarian who has indeed read all the books, actually really liked it. I don’t mind if this adaptation does something different than the others or changes the story a bit, as long as it tells a good story that can stand on its own. If the show is actually just poorly done, that’s one thing, but I think a lot of the reviews I’ve read about it have been strongly colored by nostalgia -which is of course understandable and legitimate! I’m just not too worried about it ruining Anne of Green Gables for me. I own the Follows version on DVD, so I can always go back and watch that one. It’s not going anywhere. :)

    • I don’t know anything about Anne of Green Gables other than this show, so I can objectively say that I think it was poorly done. The cute things work really well – Anne freaking out about her period, Anne getting drunk, Anne hanging with Diana, Anne hanging with Gilbert. But every time something cute happens, something very dramatic happens. The tone is so uneven.

  18. One of my best friends is from PEI and has actually worked as a professional Anne impersonator, and I’ve been tormenting her with tidbits from this series (she refuses to watch it). It’s a period piece, but the period is 2017 – you can say it’s set in 1908, but that doesn’t matter, it’s very much a product of 2017. The title song is a Tragically Hip song for god’s sake. I do like some of the added elements, but if you are looking for a faithful adaptation you will be rotted – it’s Lucy Maud filtered through Breaking Bad.

  19. Thank you Heather for putting yourself through this so the rest of us don’t have to. I too have been an Anne fan most of my life and have so desire to see the series ripped apart.

  20. Thank you for putting this out there. I glimpsed the first 10 minutes of the show and was like NOPE. Glad I’m not alone.

  21. This is a travesty.

    I live on the East coast of Canada and this NOT how we treat one of our treasures. We are a humble people and would in no way think about trying to improve on L. M. Montgomery.

    There have been many terrible low budget adaptations of this story. They’ve never bothered me much. This one, to me is insulting because it had the resources to be good. It was visually beautiful.

    This series not only feels disrespectful to the story, the characters, and the author herself but also to the land, people and time period upon which the book was based.

    After I raged my way through two episodes, I stopped. It was one of my better life choices.

  22. I’m sad they did this to the story, because the visual aesthetic of the show is lovely and the actress playing Anne is perfection!

  23. I wanted to hate this so much but I actually love it. Sure, it has some downsides, but I feel that the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot. Amybeth McNulty is incredible!

    • I felt this way up until they made Matthew suicidal. I have friends who worked on this series (behind the scenes), so I want it to succeed as a product so they can work again. And so much of this I was willing to forgive, because even though it isn’t classic LMM it was at least interesting. I figure if I can love fanfic, I can forgive some canonical embellishment. But suicidal Matthew is just… dumb. So much of what was added that people hated felt, to me, like unpleasant honesty — of course girls would want to talk about periods, of course Anne would have painful memories from the past, of course a world that was always presented as very straight was a little queer. But suicidal Matthew pushes it from “somber but realistic” to “DARKNESS AND PAIN ARE ALL THAT IS REAL” and that sucks and taints the whole porject.

      The acting is amazing, the actual filmcraft is very good. But so much of the story and characterization falls short.

  24. I was never going to watch this anyway. There’s only one Anne as far as I’m concerned, and that’s Megan Follows.

  25. I think there’s room for this inspired take on the story of Anne. Truly, another version like the one with Megan Follows is unnecessary since it continues to hold its own. I suspect the Netflix version will be well received by many tweens and young adults raised in a 2017 society with vastly expanded social norms. Knowing a few sophisticated kids in this age category, I think some might find the older version a little boring. I personally like both.

  26. Reading this review, I get the sense that this show wouldn’t be safe for many women with PTSD, which is a shame. There’s enough triggers in pop culture without taking this story, which didn’t previously strike me as trigger mindfield, and making sure it’s trigger-y. If any of these writers understood how hard it is for people with PTSD just do get through the day, they wouldn’t insist on making this show ‘edgy’ with a bunch of violent images.

    Or, I guess put another way: Possible-PTSD-survivor Anne with an E probably couldn’t watch this show about an Anne with an E who survives terrible abuse and has PTSD. And that’s how you know these writers don’t really know anything about PTSD.

    • On the other hand…

      As a person who lived through a decent quantity of trauma as a child, I have never seen anything that felt this real, and I sure as hell would rather someone watched this to get a better understanding of what my words alone can never seem to convey.

      Certainly, if you are not equipped or supported enough to safely engage with something potentially re traumatising, this show is not for you. BUT I felt heard and seen, and like a part of me was allowed to take up the space it needed… as opposed to the all to often response of well meaning people (and rapidly getting bored of hearing anything real about my life) eg. “it sounds like you had a rough time as a child and obviously I can’t begin to know what that was like but here are my opinions”

      To me this series captures exactly how dissociation can present, and I doubt the nuance of it could have been written or directed by someone without a lived experience. If it feels like the flashbacks and darkness take over and monopolises both screen time and story line, that is because in real life, it so often does.

      The interpretation of the other characters may well be less successful, and I understand that a lot of people feel very invested in the story because it defined their childhoods, but there are people for whom this interpretation speaks to the core of their childhood experience, they too are worthy of representation that is complex and dynamic, with moments of strength and weakness, and somehow still an innate sweetness and curiosity.

      As always, I can speak only for myself, but that counts for something too.

      • You put this so eloquently and I resonate especially with the following:

        “To me this series captures exactly how dissociation can present, and I doubt the nuance of it could have been written or directed by someone without a lived experience. If it feels like the flashbacks and darkness take over and monopolises both screen time and story line, that is because in real life, it so often does. The interpretation of the other characters may well be less successful, and I understand that a lot of people feel very invested in the story because it defined their childhoods, but there are people for whom this interpretation speaks to the core of their childhood experience, they too are worthy of representation that is complex and dynamic, with moments of strength and weakness, and somehow still an innate sweetness and curiosity.”

  27. I’m wary of the ridiculousness of Matthew the action hero, and other such drama for its own sake, but I am interested in the main text of Anne imagining things and forming fierce friendships, etc. due to her past trauma. Like the Megan Follows version is from Anne’s optimistic point of view. And this one is from a more jaded viewpoint that plays up what was only hinted at in the books and the beloved adaptation.

    I’m glad I’m emotionally prepared for Avonlea to be a much crueler place, however.

  28. I was very wary of this version and had already decided not to watch it unless I heard more positive reviews of it, so thank you for reconfirming my decision. I grew up with Anne, both the book and the Megan Follows adaptation, she has been my hero since I was probably 6, and I just can’t imagine enjoying this version at all.

  29. Actually, the thieves stole Jerry’s money – that horse was his last wages – and Jerry has enough of a sense of responsibility to defend Anne when he mistakenly figures she is being attacked, as he was charged to do.

    The chapter on Anne’s past in the book is told by Marilla’s POV – the Hammonds are in it along with Anne’s gulp when she thinks she will be given to Mrs Blewett because she’s been there done that before. It makes sense that she would be hoping for the best while fearing the worst.

    We are being told that the writer plans to do the first book in five seasons. Some prefer the old version where Anne miraculously is the cool kid to the one where she more slowly wins people over one by one. Hope the next series you review you like better.

  30. I completely disagree! I loved this remake, and I have read and loved the books a hundred times. I like that it wasn’t an exact carbon copy of the books or the Megan Follows version – those already exist wonderfully on their own. This one has “more scope for the imagination” which I think Anne would appreciate.

    White nostalgia is toxic and is the last thing this world needs right now. I’m glad this show strayed far away from it.

    • White nostalgia? Give me a break. What did this adaptation do to advance the causes or center the conversation on POC? Where are the women of color in the cast? Where are elements of racial equality being added to the story? This thing we do in the queer, feminist, and liberal communities now where every opinion we don’t agree with is somehow toxic whiteness is so ridiculous and unhelpful. This version of this series, in no way, disrupts white nostalgia.

      • Well, as a person of color, I just have to disagree again. I don’t think a show has to center POC to be disruptive of white nostalgia. I can appreciate a story that centers old-timey white people while also not painting their lives as perfect. I personally find it more relatable than the original, which again, I loved, but as a young Latinx person, never felt like I would have fit into.

        Of course it would have been interesting had this show included characters of color. It might have felt a bit contrived and forced, the way some of the added feminism and queerness feels clumsy in this remake.

        I also think that this thing we do in queer, feminist, and liberal communities now where we yell at every other queer person (especially strangers on the internet) whose opinions we don’t agree with isn’t helpful. Your comment felt rude and hurtful and like you were making a lot of assumptions about who I am.

        • I really agree that this one disrupts white nostalgia. This time period is often considered “a simpler time” when children played outside instead of staring at their screens all day etc etc. This remake seems to be like, “remember when families of 12 whittled down to 1 in the span of a decade?” It also has a lot of subtle reminders that even though Anne is worried about losing Green Gables, Jerry is in way more of a precarious situation. If they can incorporate a “little French” kid into this adaptation despite the source, it would be nice if they found a way to include a Mi’kmaq character in the next season.

    • This is a great point! I had a (white, cis, heterosexual male) relative wax nostalgic about the 1950s once, and I had to stop him forcefully with a list of all those for whom this wasn’t true (to his credit he was at least able to participate actively in an a-ha moment).

      In keeping with AOGG and this timeline, it’s interesting to bring a bit of the turn of the century “outside world” into PEI at the time. I feel like this version is meant to make us a bit uncomfortable, because we are uncomfortable having conversations about problematic societal structures, etc. that have benefitted some while subjugating others in the larger context, or just insular communities rejecting the “other” in others.

    • I love that term “white nostalgia”. It’s the perfect description of what’s happening here.

  31. Did we really need a gritty version of Anne of Green Gables? I’ve always thought that if anyone were to do another adaptation, it would be fun to go really campy because the original text lends itself to some very campy readings, especially in terms of queer subtext.

  32. Idk… this is just my opinion.. I grew up with Anne – devoured the books and really enjoyed the ’85 version which was an extremely true adaptation. At first, I was very confused by the added events, but found that they filled in the gaps and answered questions I had which the books never did. I got so drawn in by it that I binged it in a night.
    I think that it’s a very realistic interpretation of Anne and shows the torment which she really would have experienced in her circumstance in the 1890s. Let’s remember that Anne of Green Gables was a children’s’ book and that Lucy Maud Montgomery was an extremely troubled person who, really, had hidden a lot of sorrow and grief in between the lines of her writing. It’s a beautiful interpretation and in my opinion, it deserves to be seen as that.

  33. I finished ‘Anne with an E’ in day- I enjoyed it while it lasted, but the more I think back the more I don’t like. I enjoyed the first episode, however, as the series went on it got worse…
    For me, the two shining beacons of this series were Marilla and Gilbert (maybe not their storylines at times… but the acting was superb, and captured the spirit of these characters the best).
    After I finished this series I went on and re-watched the Megan Follows version- and it is far superior- my heart sang the entire time. After watching that I began to draw comparisons between the two, and that’s where the problems with this new Netflix (and CBC) adaptation arose for me.

  34. I can definitely see why some people wouldn’t like this new version…especially with medias love for all things “new and grim” there’s this sense that in 2017 we simply can’t accept a nice story without having to make it “realistic” or make ourselves feel clever with “what if…what…Anne’s flights of fancy are a result of her trauma and she’s actually craaaaazy huh? huh?”

    that said though

    I actually really enjoyed it for the most part…it got a bit much at times reveling in Anne’s suffering but I think this is one version of AOGG that is worth exploring…not for everyone no

  35. Wait can somebody confirm for me if Anne is actually queer in this adaption? This seems to imply it, but everything I’ve read puts Gilbert pretty firmly as her love interest (as in the books).

      • I just finished watching it (after having read this review) and I don’t actually know that that’s laid out so clearly. She doesn’t appear to grasp what two unmarried women living together all their lives means in this case until Josephine Barry corrects her later (when Anne talks about how Josephine gave up romance). The conversation with Diana still seems to land as “living with my best female friend and eschewing marriage is a thing I can do,” not “living with my best female friend who is also my romantic partner is a thing I can do.” I mean, it’s obvious to ME and anyone paying attention that she loves Diana in a gay way, just as it was obvious in the books, but I still didn’t really see that made maintext here. The presence of the definitely-maintext-queer Josephine amplifies the Anne/Diana subtext for sure, but in my opinion they never quiiiiiiiite connect the dots.

        • I think they do as best they can for being kids, and there’s a foundation laid down for later understanding.

  36. You couldn’t be more wrong! I LOVE the series!If you want a word for word adaptation, watch one of the many other adaptations!

  37. I haven’t read the books or seen the 80s show, but I didn’t like this. It was Tess of the d’Urbervilles level tragedy, rape scene almost included (at the train station then in the woods). Most period pieces, like Frontier, Hell on Wheels, Deadwood, etc. have funny, sweet, and romantic parts to make the drama tolerable for the characters and the viewers. Anne is just bad things happening to characters with no rewards for their suffering. Literally nothing funny or cute happens until episode 5. Might as well watch 13 Reasons Why instead.

    • I’m not a fan of suffering for its own sake, but at least we know that there’s a happy ending in the offing here. I can endure a fair bit of angst for a happy pay-off.

      • By which I meant, I can see your perspective if you haven’t read the books or watched the Megan Follows adaptation.

  38. Bless you!

    It is just so tragical. Wanted to like this series. Good actors, well cast, etc.

    Sigh nope. Blech. What’s next? Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? Oh, wait…

    The whole thing left me feeling like I needed to watch the classic version just to wash it down.

    Which I did. It’s available in a remastered widescreen version by the way.

    Ahhh, that’s better.

  39. Wow, Anne of Green Gables. Brings backs a lot of memories from the 80s. We didn’t have the internet. We certainly didn’t have cable. But we did have PBS. And PBS gave us beloved stories that I watched with my mom. I don’t remember much about the series. But I remember it is one of the reasons why I still love PBS. I can tell you, watching Anne of Green Gables gave me a gift. Whenever I touch upon my childhood I mention Anne and well people relate. When I traveled to Canada and talked with Canadians and mentioned it they are delighted. It was a shared experience of a good book and a wonderful place.

  40. By the way, mention how you loved Anne of Green Gables and you will surely get a better welcome from Canadians then wearing a Hillary or Bernie Hat.

  41. I must be one of only a few who likes this series as a fan of Anne of Green Gables books and of course the miniseries with Megan Follows. I was more worried it was going to be an attempt to just copy that version with new actors. There are a couple new plot lines in this version I do not love, but overall think it Ian interesting. This version is not as romantic and beautiful as the books or prior movie, and I am okay with that. Those perfect versions already exists so why would I want to watch an inferior duplicate?

    • For what it’s worth, I enjoyed it too. However, I’ve never seen the 1980s (?) version of the story, nor have I read the book.

  42. I’m another one who enjoyed this, even while also loving the ‘original.’ (For me, that’s the Megan Follows version, since it’s got way more of a hold on my heart than the books.)

    I felt that the series succumbed to some of the issues I’ve seen with other Canadian shows, primarily failing to let subtle moments breathe a bit, but it wasn’t the deal-breaker for me that it was for others.

    I’m OK with a lot of the additions: more explicit info on her background and its impact on her makes sense, I *loved* that they gave more of a reason for her to be keeping her distance from Gilbert, and having a bit more backstory for Marilla and Matthew was great. It really sucked me in at the start, and the actors kept me enthralled for quite a while.

    But I agree that the drama just kept trying to crescendo more and more – things basically never settled down. And that’s how you end up with the deeply wrong notes of Matthew planning to kill himself and Degenerate Characters bedding down at GG.

    I’m hoping that they get a renewal, and that they take it down a notch or two when they do. There’s a lot to love here, but I can see why some people just can’t get past the rest.

    • I just want the dramatic things to not happen during season two. It would still be gothic for them to cope with the insurmountable set-backs, loses, abuse, etc. from season 1 and their past. Adding more would just be melodramatic.

  43. I Glutwatched it and liked it. Her character is fun but it is darker than the other version as there are flashbacks of living as a farmed out worker and the trauma it brought. As for not being Our Green Gables, no it’s not, but I tend to enjoy things for what they are. To do the same thing that’s been done before would be boring. Watching the old version is something to do as a reminiscent thing in itself, something to call up memories of watching it with my daughters when they were young. Watching this version satisfies my grown up self and the reality of feeling her rejection was very real.

    • Yeah. Her psych issues felt very real and as a person with borderline personality disorder I watched this and was like – Anne with an E is a really good demonstration of how it feels!

  44. Eh, I liked it. I have loved the books my whole life but was always bothered by how they ignored the trauma of Anne’s pre-Green Gables life. A real kid growing up a poor orphan with abusive foster parents would most likely have some lingering issues to work through, and that never showed in the books. This adaptation at least acknowledges that Anne went through some shit.

  45. Well, I liked it, mostly. Having not watched any other adaptation may have helped that.

    Plus, Geraldine James is exquisite & liked the actor who plays Matthew Cuthbert in it.

    And a few episodes directed by Helen Shaver,Patricia Rozema, Amanda Tapping.

  46. Agree altogether.

    I’m really baffled by how people who like this adaptation keep attacking those of us who didn’t like it as being too “nostalgic.” I actually think it’s a good idea to explore Anne’s traumatic background, and I’ve liked that part. But what loses me is how unrelenting mean Avonlea is, and you’ve done a great job here of drawing out why that’s a problem. (Also the anachronistic “feminism” angle — just, no). I’ve always read the Anne series as being about Anne growing out of her traumatic past gradually, changing Avonlea but also coming to be embraced by Avonlea. This review really explains that well. I’m really puzzled by Avonlea being portrayed as an *extension* of the trauma rather than the safer space/growing space it became for Anne. Anne herself is filled with nostalgia for Avonlea through the rest of the series.

    But I guess this series is only going to focus on the first book? I felt like I was watching the other books melt away like the family photograph in Back to the Future. :)

    I’m also really put off by Gilbert’s storyline in Anne with an E. I loved that in the books Anne and Gilbert bond through academics — having them bond over shared orphanhood just… doesn’t work. My impression was always that Gilbert was privileged and pretty complacent about it, and Anne kept him on his toes.

    I quit watching when Anne made Gilbert’s orphanhood about herself. Series-Gilbert gets to have his own trauma, sorry.

  47. i’m sure somone else asked for this.

    but i’m sad that autostraddle didn’t take to opportunity to watch all of anne of green gables and anne of avonlea before reviewing the 2017 version.

    like i’d pop more that popcorn to read that.

  48. From a sociological perspective, one realizes that parenting in this period was very much “parent-centered,” whereas now we parent our children in a “child-centered” environment. I think that this version does justice to this concept with Marilla having no problem being cruel to Anne initially, because she did not fit her expectations. She does come around, though, and it is so endearing. In present-day, Anne would have received counseling for her trauma and been given tools to deal with her suffering. She lived in a time when this was not available to children. This is more pronounced when Marilla and Matthew are discussing Anne’s remarks about the “pet mouse” at school, and Marilla is saying how she should never have said such dirty things, and Matthew says, “it burns me up,” that someone of her age would know these things. Marilla then goes out to defend Anne.

  49. These books were my childhood, and I loved the film adaptations too, but to criticise the show like this seems overly harsh.
    I find it a stunning adaption, perhaps because it’s just that, an adaptation, and makes it it’s own without losing the core of the original books. Just because they choose to present the text in a different way doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and the tale of the young, loving, feisty redhead-with-freckles girl that we all know and love is still there, with a perfect Diana, and a fantastic way of introducing feminist and queer theory whilst keeping it period accurate yet without shoving it down our throats. This review does not give it justice and I’m so glad I saw the show before reading this else I might have missed the gem of a series.
    To anyone on the fence, ignore this review and try atleast the first episode before you make up your mind. Anne Shirley wouldn’t have wanted you to rely on someone else’s opinion without trying it out for yourself.

    • I concur. “I’m so glad I saw the show before reading this else I might have missed the gem of a series.”

  50. 1. Anne’s psych issues felt very real and as a person with borderline personality disorder and PTSD I watched this and was like – Anne with an E is ME!

    2. The primary thing that annoyed me was the theme music being sung by Tragically Hip – why choose a song by all-man band? It felt like it colored the whole series in a negative way for me – we don’t need men to be sympathetic towards Anne to be the lens through which we appreciate her story!!!! There’s so many female artists who would have done such a great job and sung something empowering as opposed to the overly-sympathetic “you are ahead by a century” observation.

    It’s the kind of thing that men have told me before and it’s never felt good. It does nothing to help the pain one immediately experiences of being ‘ahead by a century’ and it just serves to alienate people like me and her. And that’s the thing – neither she nor I are actually ahead by a century. We are where we are, constantly feeling the dysphoria of feeling out of place in this world that doesn’t appreciate nonconformists and actively squashes us.

    3. There was a bit of eyerolling level drama, okay? But it didn’t functionally detract from the story. It felt a little bit like fanfiction in that sense. But I also appreciate that it’s difficult to try and adapt a kid’s book into something deeper and darker, and the uneven tone is reflective of that struggle.

    4. I did actually like Matthew’s suicidal ideation, and contextually it made sense. But the fact that he came so close to doing the deed was unpleasant, and that indeed felt ham-handed.

    5. I really liked Josephine and her ‘companion’ – that really made me happy. I haven’t read the books since I was a kid, and I was going to re-read them solely to revisit that. I’m very sad that this isn’t canonical because it made me feel tremendously excited to see that representation.

  51. I agree whole heartedly. Where’s the beloved, quirky, fun, beautiful story we all know and love?! I’ve been trying to slog through the new show and I’ve cringed so many times. The tale is almost unrecognizable. Making Aunt Josephine – one of my favorite characters – into a lesbian, is the final straw. As if every woman who chooses to remain unmarried MUST be gay. But even more idiotic is the reaction of Anne, who swallows it whole and celebrates it immediately without question. This is the turn of the century, folks! A small town in Canada! This little girl raised on a strict, conservative, Christian farm would NEVER react this way to hearing about a woman being a lesbian. Diana’s reaction is exactly what Anne’s would have been; confusion, disbelief, shock. And, of course, we have to add little gay boy Cole to round it out and please all the SJW’s watching the show. And have Aunt Jo tell him how joyful and wonderful his gay life will be, instead of noting the reality that an openly gay man in the year 1900 would be persecuted, exiled, possibly even arrested. It’s repulsive and repugnant to take a beloved book and pervert it into some modern political statement.

  52. Sometimes new adaptations are refreshing. So you are in love with the book. We get it. However, a Game of Thrones comparison was unwarranted…?!

    To those who read this review and felt disheartened, I would encourage you to watch the show anyway. I am also a Good Canadian Girl™ and a True Fan™ of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and this adaptation is very, very dear to my heart. It means a lot to me. As a literary nerd, as a queer woman, as a feminist.

    I have seen a lot of trash TV and ESPECIALLY a lot of television that does no justice at all to its queer characters. I have had to set aside a lot of reservations and disappointments, made a lot of excuses for series, in the name of seeing myself represented on screen. Anne With an E might be a little optimistic considering the period aspects, it might be “reading backwards” to some extent. But if you can set that aside and appreciate the acting, the filming, the love and care that went into this show, it will warm your heart in the best way. I have certainly not had to make excuses for this show in the way that I have for other shows which include queer characters.

    Frankly I’m more than a little angry with this review.

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