anne side eye

About Your New Anne of Green Gables, I Have Concerns

Monday greeted us with the discovery that there is to be a new Anne of Green Gables TV series, and while I am typically loathe to be a knee jerk reactionary, I am concerned in this situation that this is not good news.

I have two primary objections. First, the show’s press release tells us that it will depict Anne’s story venturing out into “new territories,” as though she were some kind of Huck Finn. Do not tell me that they mean this metaphorically, that these new territories are narrative rather than spatial. I do not want to hear about it. The whole point of Anne — who is “of” Green Gables, first and foremost — is that she does not light out, she finds home. Just as she should not find some new territory spatially (as though the Haunted Woods, or the Lake of Shining Waters, were somehow not enough?!), her narrative ground is equally rich, and I am appalled that someone would suspect me of not gleaning infinite riches from revisiting, say, the croupy baby scene over and over, talmudically, forever.

This “new territory” business smacks of some man getting involved. Sir: if you are that man, picture me serving you liniment oil cake and then apologizing very profusely. Oh! I didn’t mean to.

 My second objection is that it is seems unlikely or perhaps impossible that this new production will cast Megan Follows as Anne. Let us turn again to our cake-eating TV executive and ask: Sir, without Megan Follows, what exactly is the point?

The 1985 CBC Production of Anne of Green Gables was excellent in many ways, but most importantly: its casting was perfection. (I think about it always in italics, as though I were Emily of New Moon before Mr. Carpenter got his hands on her prose style.) Colleen Dewhurst! Richard Farnsworth! Every warm appraising stare, every subtle twitch of the mouth, was a rural Canadian dream. But it was Megan Follows who was the star, who was Anne, who looked Anne (here, obviously, I’m riffing on the drama club plotline in Anne of Windy Poplars, in which poor impoverished Sophy “…was Mary, as Jen Pringle could never have been,” a dramatic moment which I’m sure all cake-eating male TV executives remember vividly.)

The 1985 Anne production came out when I was nine and thus deep in to my life-long Anne relationship. Even at nine I had been around long enough to learn what all reader kids know: that when beloved stories become television, you should prepare for disappointment. But Megan Follows was a revelation, or rather, a consummation. “Even before I saw the show,” I once earnestly told some adult, “When I pictured Anne, I pictured her.”

anne at train

I did not picture whoever they are going to cast in this new version with its new territories.

I am not categorically opposed to remakes or reinterpretations: if the new production team put out a press release saying, “We love and honor the 1985 production, but would like to restage Anne’s recitation scene so that she actually reads a poem called “The Maiden’s Vow” rather than “The Highwayman,” and also, in the sequel, we find unhelpful the attempt to conjure a romance between Anne and Little Elizabeth’s father,” then I would be RIGHT ON BOARD, even with the new casting.

But, as is, this new production reads as cynical and mercenary, which is exactly the opposite of what Anne ought to be. It feels colonial, expansionist; it feels like the opposite of learning how to find joy in what you have, which is what the Anne books teach us. The writer, fresh from Breaking Bad, is not some dude TV exec, she is a woman, and she tells us she is excited to “push the boundaries” of this story and I just want to tell her: sister, please, bring not your melodramas of beset manhood to Green Gables. Leave this masculinist “boundary pushing” tomfoolery in the morass of televisual antiheroism where it belongs.

 

Sarah Mesle: A Little Judgy



  1. January 15, 2016 @ 8:12 pm Andrea

    Completely on point. I totally agree. Why change a classic

    Reply

  2. January 15, 2016 @ 8:49 pm Christine

    You are doing God’s work, friend. I will follow where you lead, from waking the ridge pole to spending the night in Ilse’s haunted garret.

    Reply

  3. January 16, 2016 @ 1:51 am HelenRae Tarantino

    This is the first I heard of this…..tell me what is this about., will it be on tv soon?

    Reply

  4. January 16, 2016 @ 2:02 am Megan

    I totally agree. I just recently found the Anne of green gables box set at a store in Sydney which literally made me squeal like Anne Shirley herself when she first got her puffed sleeves and I have been watching the series again over the last few weeks reliving my favorite childhood series. There can be no other. Megan Fellows is perfection!!! It would be another Annie remake fiasco for sure! I say No to the remake!

    Reply

  5. January 16, 2016 @ 4:52 pm Abi Pearson

    I completely agree.

    Reply

  6. January 16, 2016 @ 10:52 pm Melissa

    YES. This. Just this. The sequel diverged significantly from the book series. They want to recapture the spirit and beauty and music and heart of the original, but stay closer to the source material? I am so here for that. But it sounds like they want to do something very different; it sounds like they may…want to make something like THAT tv movie. That One we Do Not Name. That…Continuing Story. O_O

    Reply

  7. January 17, 2016 @ 11:45 am Alex G

    YES.

    And: “(I think about it always in italics, as though I were Emily of New Moon before Mr. Carpenter got his hands on her prose style.)” *I think this *every* time I overuse *italics**

    Reply

    • January 19, 2016 @ 9:59 pm Lorilee Craker

      Just to have people speaking of Emily and Mr. Carpenter in a referential manner makes me SO HAPPY. what do you think Mr. Carpenter would have said about all-cappy people?

      Reply

  8. January 17, 2016 @ 3:09 pm Connie

    I fully agree with your praise of the cast- it was glorious! Meaghan was Anne through and through. I watch the originals over 20 times as a youngster. I hope the news series does not tarnish the legacy.

    Reply

    • July 21, 2016 @ 5:09 pm Catherine Clark

      “Even before I saw the show,” I once earnestly told some adult, “When I pictured Anne, I pictured her.” That was me. I “pictured” Anne, and Megan Follows fits that picture I have. Of course, as a redhead with an imagination myself, I am definitely biased.

      Reply

  9. January 17, 2016 @ 8:38 pm Heather

    Someone needs to contact a decent screenwriter who values the books. It would be best to dedicate one year to each book and act them out in detail AS THEY ARE!!! Think Hungar Games and how successful sticking to the book can be.

    Reply

  10. January 17, 2016 @ 9:33 pm Melissa

    I was not a fan of the Anne Of Green Gables TV show or the Book. Don’t get me wrong, I liked them a lot but I was not a huge fan. I just enjoyed them. I was caught up in the atmosphere and the characterizations and the sense of place the books imparted. That said. I winced when hearing the announcement of this project. If they want to do something that is new, or as new as it sounded to me when I heard the announcement, then do not hang the Anne Of Green Gables label on it . Have some faith in your own idea and make something new.

    Reply

  11. January 17, 2016 @ 10:56 pm Elle

    Yes to all of this. AND why not take on L M Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. It’s such a fierce beautiful tale that has yet to be adapted!

    Reply

    • January 19, 2016 @ 4:49 pm Keri

      Oh goodness yes! This is one of my favorite LMM books. I need to find a hard cover copy – my childhood paperback is literally falling apart from being re-read so many times.

      Reply

      • January 20, 2016 @ 11:44 am Pook

        With regard to Blue Castle, Project Gutenberg has a copy in a pinch if you E-read…

        Reply

    • January 19, 2016 @ 10:00 pm Lorilee Craker

      “The Blue Castle”: Oh my, yes! Am planning on featuring this hidden gem in an online book club soon. Can’t wait to show it off to those who have not heard of Barney Snaith!

      Reply

      • January 21, 2016 @ 4:37 am Alex G

        Although surely Barney Snaith is one of the worst names of all time 🙁

        (Still love you, Barney!)

        Reply

    • January 20, 2016 @ 4:27 pm Diane

      For many years I’ve longed to see someone make The Blue Castle into a movie. It’s actually my favorite LMM book now (and for many years). It could be done so well, with the right director, cast, etc. if they kept it true to the book. I’ve often wished someone would get up a petition for Andrew Davies to adapt it! (He probably doesn’t make decisions that way, but I’d love to see a million people begging him!)

      Reply

  12. January 18, 2016 @ 11:11 am Pook

    Your article is all i could wish to say myself. And Elle above is right! The Blue Castle is one of my absolute favorite books and is in dire need of an adaptation!

    Reply

  13. January 19, 2016 @ 1:54 pm Shannon

    “sister, please, bring not your melodramas of beset manhood to Green Gables.” Best. Sentence. Ever.

    Reply

  14. January 19, 2016 @ 5:12 pm Jessica

    PERFECT article. I have realized I am mildly obsessed with Megan Follows. I’d accept a remake…if forced..because I love Anne…but we have so much to draw from- why the need to create new stuff???

    Reply

    • January 21, 2016 @ 4:40 am Alex G

      We should create NEW new stuff, not old remakes…some of Alcotts other works (rose in bloom? Eight cousins?) or Georgette Heyer (if someone could just get the rights to them!!) there are so many great choices and we already attained perfection with Anne!! (Not the continuing story, obv…)

      Reply

  15. January 19, 2016 @ 8:09 pm Barbara

    No, Absolutely no! It is heresy to try to improve upon perfection. Leave the original alone!

    Reply

  16. January 19, 2016 @ 10:08 pm Lorilee Craker

    I feel this is a kindred conversation, mostly. I, too, feel “talmudic” about the 1985 movies. But as an Anne Superfan, I have a bit of a different take on the new miniseries. Call me crazy, but I see serious storytelling potential. In my recent memoir, “Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me,” I focus on Anne as an orphan, and braid her story with my own adoption story and my daughter’s from South Korea. As much as I adore almost everything about the first four hours of the Sullivan miniseries, there’s room for new interpretations, hopefully ones that stick closer to books 2-8! Maybe a slightly darker Anne? I know, I know. Without Megan F, it seems a bit untenable. But I still welcome what a crazy-gifted writer can do with my pal Anne, and here’s why : http://lorileecraker.com/2016/01/7-reasons-why-this-anne-of-green-gables-superfan-welcomes-the-new-miniseries/

    Reply

  17. January 20, 2016 @ 10:44 am Cathy Scott

    Since I never saw the first one I have no reference from that, but from the trailer, I love the girl they’ve picked to play Ann. I have every Anne of Green Gables all the way up till she’s an adult and married. I don’t know what y tv is? Is it in England? I also have every Emily of New Moon book. I love them both so much. I always wondered if they’d make a movie from Anne. I hate movies from books. They always ruin it. They never get it right. I hope I can find it to buy anyway.

    Reply

    • January 20, 2016 @ 4:25 pm Diane

      Cathy Scott, it should be easy to borrow the series from your local library and find out why we love it. There are few times when the movie is as good as the book (or good enough in its own way, since they are different media and we have to realize the need for some differences), and this is one of them. Here’s a trailer: https://youtu.be/czJi_FpLBYY

      Reply

  18. January 20, 2016 @ 2:09 pm Michelle

    As much as I ADORED Megan Follows as Anne, this new actress seems more the right age and body type of the character. Megan always struck me as being too old and mature to play little waif-like Anne at 11, as she was when the books began. I’m willing to reserve harsher judgement until the series starts, but they better not butcher it the way they did with that “Untold Story” fiasco from however many years ago that was.

    Reply

  19. January 20, 2016 @ 3:17 pm Judy B.

    Just watched the trailer and not impressed. It looks overacted, as in not real emotion. I adored Meghan Follows as Anne and agree with others that it will be almost impossible to replace Anne with any other actress. I hope it will be better than the trailer and will give it a go to give it a fair chance but if they change the story line, I’m out. Leave classics alone!

    Reply

  20. January 20, 2016 @ 8:14 pm Susan

    As much as I love the original, I can’t help but think that we are missing the point of a remake. For those of you old enough to remember, there were many remakes of many movies over the years. Cinderella – Ever After; An Affair to Remember; Pride & Prejudice; Little Women to name a few. Some I like the the second version better, others the original. Even though I love Megan Fallows, and love the original, I don’t want to make the poor child who is playing the new Anne to feel like she is being judged before she even gets to show her acting prowess on TV. Yes, it wont be the same, but it isn’t meant to be exact. Just like every other remake. They are never the same. Personally, I look forward to the new one, and if I like it, I will probably buy it. Yet, I will always love the original. I have them all and my daughter and I watch them often. I am just saying that maybe we should give the new girl a chance. 😉

    Reply

    • January 21, 2016 @ 5:56 am Michelle

      Agreed, and who knows, the series may do as well, or better, than the original. I just wish as well that they had hired Canadian actors to play the parts, there’s just something unique about how they interpret and create the story that’s uniquely Canadian.

      Reply

      • January 23, 2016 @ 9:40 pm Susan

        I agree with that completely! Loved the Avonlea series. Watched it with my daughter when she was growing up. Every time that I find a DVD that was made in Canada…I buy it. I love their stuff! 😉

        Reply

  21. January 20, 2016 @ 10:04 pm Anne S

    The news of a remake series has not reached me in Australia – but the mere thought of a remake is sacrilegious!!! There will only ever be ONE Anne of Green Gables!!!! Megan Fellows!!!! Aussie TV replay the original series every few years as well as the follow-up series from her girls’ school teacher years and then World War one.
    I recently spotted a cheap DVD movie in a grocery shop, “Anne of Green Gables – A New beginning” which I had never heard of. Anne is played by Barbara Hershey in her older years, trying to write a play for a summer theatre. Suffering form writers block she goes back to Green Gables for inspiration. She falls asleep in a deck chair and her dreams takes her back to the very beginning of her life, family and all the things that happened to her before and during the orphanage years. It ends with her arrival at Green Gables. The movie is really a prequel to the series we know and love!
    My husband and I both thought the girls who portrayed Anne – particularly the 2 older ones almost channelled Megan Fellows in the role.
    The movie is really a prequel to the series we know and love!

    Reply

  22. January 22, 2016 @ 8:10 am Cheryl Malandrinos

    This concerns me too. Remakes happen all the time, but do we need to have a remake that is so direct in pointing out that Anne’s issues from them are actually the contemporary issues of “feminism, prejudice, bullying and a desire to belong?” I don’t believe so. Anne wasn’t a feminist in the modern sense of the word. She believed in herself. Yes, she faced social prejudice, but wasn’t her handling of it what endeared us to her; not that she was some kind of champion against it? Anne continued to hold her head high and deal with the antics of Josie Pye, she didn’t see herself as a victim of bullying.

    The only thing I really feel they have stated correctly is that she has a desire to belong. That is probably true for every person who walks this earth.

    Take a look at the photos on IMDB from the original movie and this series. Megan’s face portrays the awe and wonder of coming to live in a place as wonderful as Green Gables. It portrays her vulnerability at this stage in her life. Compare that to the 2016 poster and you’ll see haughty-looking Anne with a raised eyebrow daring anyone to cross her path. Marilla looks okay, but Martin Sheen’s Matthew Cuthbert does not comes across as the shy, quiet bachelor we know Matthew was. I just can’t see him bringing the true character of Matthew we know from the books and the movie to this production.

    It will be interesting to see how well this is accepted.

    Reply

  23. January 23, 2016 @ 1:21 am Frances

    There will never be another Anne. Megan Follows was perfection. Everyone and everything was perfection. If you can’t do it better, don’t do it all — and there is no way to improve upon perfection.

    Reply

  24. March 6, 2016 @ 12:57 pm Katie

    Thank you for this – my sentiments exactly!!

    Reply

  25. April 13, 2016 @ 12:55 pm Judy

    People have tried for years with re-dos of classics and they always fall short. The latest Annie is absolutely terrible. I wish they would realize that they will be compared to the original and just give up the idea of trying again. The original always shines the brightest.

    Reply


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