Netflix’s “Anne with an E” Guts the Innocence of Its Predecessors

Anne of Green Gables, the first in a series of books by L. M. Montgomery, is about a precocious young orphan, Anne Shirley. At the turn of the nineteenth century, young Anne is sent to work for an elderly brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island. Anne is thrilled finally to have a place to call home, but her euphoria is short-lived when she learns there was an error, the family requested a boy. Although Matthew, a “kindred spirit” according to Anne, welcomes her, Marilla is not easily persuaded, and Anne must prove that she can be an asset to the family—thus begins the reader’s journey into the chapter of accidents, which precede and then follow Anne’s life in Green Gables.


The story of the whimsical, chatty red-headed orphan, Anne Shirley, has been told several times on the radio, stage, film, and on television. In 1985, director Kevin Sullivan’s remake of the children’s classic book premiered in Canada and later in the US. The film, starring Megan Follows as Anne Shirley; Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert; and Richard Farnsworth as Matthew Cuthbert, captured the flavor of the books and the Anne_of_Green_Gables_-_pg32aspirit of the characters.

Netflix has decided to tell the story once again but in a different way—the caveat is that different is not always good, and sometimes different is a euphemism for wrong. Anne with an E stars Amybeth McNulty as Anne Shirley, Geraldine James as Marilla Cuthbert, and R.H. Thomson as Matthew Cuthbert. The streaming video site’s adaptation tells the classic story with dark and dreary undertones. Anne is bleak as she dismally wrestles with the world around her. The cloudy interpretation elicits uneasy feelings and leaves the viewer with a residual of solemnity. Netflix’s Anne with an E guts the innocence of its predecessor, and it comes off as the creepy uncle to the ‘85 Anne of Green Gables.

Anne with an Ew

apples-1019621_640Anne Shirley, in Anne of Green Gables, is whimsical, wistful, melodramatic, quirky, witty, pensive, and at times distressed. She has a boundless imagination and an impressive verbal agility, but most of all, Anne is lovable.

Netflix’s Anne is moody, argumentative, void of personal boundaries, prolix, and bothersome. She comes across as spoiled instead of innocently mischievous. Anne’s yo-yo mood swings color her as fickle, and her articulate verbosity comes across as verbal diarrhea. Anne has several flashbacks involving abusive situations and appears to be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. It’s difficult to sympathize with the character, and instead, you want to warn the Cuthberts that Anne with an E may cause them harm in the middle of the night.

Parental Guidance

Parents may want to preview the series before deciding whether to allow children to watch Anne with an E. The series deviates from the original story with off-putting, back of the neck hair-raising scenes. The overall tone is somber, and this new Anne is not your grandmother’s Anne of Green Gables.

Some scenes may make you feel uncomfortable. For example, Anne is sent back to the orphanage when Marilla accuses her of stealing a family heirloom broach. Anne makes Balanced_Herself_Uprightly_on_that_Precarious_Footing_-_M.A._and_W.A.J._Clausthe trip alone, and while at a train station a man approaches her, assertively grabs her arm, and says her family sent him to pick her up. As he attempts to take her away, pulling her arm and telling her he has candy in his carriage, Anne resists. She quickly realizes what’s going on; the man is trying to kidnap her. Anne begins to squirm and shout; she gets away from the man’s clutches and runs. The creepy man scurries after her and then notices two seemingly credulous young boys. The assumed kidnapper/child molester/murderer (or all of the above) turns his shuddersome attention to the youngsters, and as Anne runs away, he is overheard telling the confused boys that their family sent him. The scene is uncomfortable, and, while the stark reality is that some children are victims of kidnappers, this stomach-turning scene is out-of-place in the Green Gables story.

Other dark scenes include Anne having flashbacks to a verbally and physically abusive mother at a home where she was sent to live and work, and memories of the woman’s husband, who suffered a heart attack and died while whipping Anne. In another painful recollection, Anne recalls when a group of pre-teen female orphans verbally taunted and physically abused her. The girls shoved Anne to the floor, held her down, and dangled a dead mouse in her face.

Tradition or Variety

Anne_of_Green_Gables_-_coverIn an attempt to give Anne of Green Gables new life, Netflix flatlined the classic, threw it on a cooling board and eviscerated its main artery—the heart of the story, Anne. Script doctors labored throughout the post-clinical death phase and allowed their creative license to run amok by inserting shadowy plots from postmortem horror scenarios. The final product was a cumbersome, monstrous rendition of a beloved classic.

Traditionalists probably will not care for the modern remake of Anne’s adventures. However, progressive thinkers may find the contemporary story compelling. Interestingly, both groups may appreciate the fact that the title of each episode is a quote from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. But, what about Anne? What would she think of the latest remake? Well, she’d probably say something like, “It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”


A character from a Shakespeare play once asked if a person can ever have “too much of a good thing?” Perhaps. Maybe Anne with an E was one too many remakes of a classic that should have remained as it was meant to be . . . innocent.


About the Author

Deb Wax describes herself as a “procrastinating perfectionist who is also introspective.” She is an avid photographer, ’70s music junkie, and writer. Deb has written for several online publications, and her writings cover a hodgepodge of topics from the hot-button issues and cracker-barrel philosophy of today’s coffee culture to the Gordian Knot on the secular view of faith and religion. Deb previously wrote for Squidoo as the “70s Disco 1 A Color Org 2500 titleQueen Contributor,” before the website closed its Internet doors.

Deb recently completed the 2016 Dogwood 52-Week Photography Challenge and is currently participating in the advanced challenge. She is a photo contributor on Shutterstock, and you can find a number of her photos, including her challenge pictures, on her blog: Sunday Artist.

Deb has been married for over twenty-five years and describes her existence as a Darby and June life.

You can follow Deb on Twitter, Google +, Flickr, Instagram, and Shutterstock @DebW07.


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