It goes without saying that classics are usually best left untouched. They’re classic for a reason, right? Yet, in the world of popular culture, the temptation to remake the old is ever-present. From Disney live-action remakes to on-screen adaptations of novels, the industry is either running out of ideas or realizing that what’s old is always good. Sometimes, and I mean, very rarely, the remake of a classic is done better than the original. This is the case with Netflix’s original series, “Anne with an E,” a TV show adaptation of the classic novel “Anne of Green Gables,” by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
For those who aren’t obsessed with the novel like I am, it tells the story of Anne Shirley — an orphan girl with bright red hair, freckles and a passion for knowledge and imagination. Set in the 1900s in Canada, the story begins with a mistake when Anne is sent to a farm owned by two elderly siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (R.H. Thomson and Geraldine James), who intended to adopt a boy to help around the farm. While the original story centers around Anne’s experiences in the town and her relationship with her new pseudo-family, the Netflix adaptation is a modern and new take on the classic — bringing it to life in a whole new way.
To Binge or Not to Binge?
The Netflix adaptation is brutal, if I’m frank. While heartwarming, it’s realistic of what life was like during the time period for an orphan girl. Anne, portrayed by Amybeth McNulty, steals the hearts of viewers within the first few minutes of the show — but it’s the rest of the characters who you’ll need to learn to love. Anne is clearly not wanted — not by the Cuthberts, not by her schoolmates and certainly not by herself. Yet, what makes the original novel and this show so addicting is Anne’s perseverance and bright spirit. She is not deterred by the dirty looks or pointed whispers. Her imagination continues to flow freely, and soon everyone around her begins to appreciate her for what she is — a bright, intelligent and loving young girl. Other cast members, like the two Cuthberts, bring the show to life as Anne spreads love and joy to all of Prince Edward Island.
While the show wouldn’t be nearly as remarkable without a talented cast, it’s important to note why this take on the classic is outstanding. The original novel itself, in true narrative form, focuses primarily on Anne and her experiences. The show draws more on all the other characters alongside a series of issues that are important to think about in consideration of the time period — racism, feminism, education, foster care, beauty standards, sexual harassment, LGBTQ+ rights, censorship, classism and grief. As the show’s three seasons continue on, the issues become more poignant. In the final season, viewers face the uncomfortable reality of evangelization and assimilation attempts on Native Americans that live near Anne’s town.
The reason this show is so successful is its ability to not only bring the original story to life but to add to it in a truly authentic way. That’s why you and everyone you know need to binge this show. Especially now, while we are all in self-isolation, it opens eyes to real issues and how far we think we may have come in addressing them. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after its third season, but the series wraps up well and is worth the binge.
Season 3, Episode 9, “A Dense and Frightful Darkness,” is my favorite episode of the series. It starts to pull together a lot of the ending strings of the show but is also one of the hardest to watch because of how realistic it is.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “When Calls the Heart” and “Call the Midwife”
This show contains gore, racism, sexual harassment, violence and other triggering content.
“Anne with an E”
Available to stream on Netflix
Three seasons, 27 episodes, approximately 12.5 hours