A Grittier Anne of Green Gables?

Stories are indeed getting grittier these days. Around the world, audiences want drama with suffering that's isn't so polished to look neat and presentable. They want to see the pain and trauma of real life, and the more innocent the protoganist, the better. Who would have thought that Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables would fall into this category? Anne is so sweet and charming, it's hard to believe she has a dark, sordid history to contrast her lovable self. Canadians fell in love with Anne as retold by Megan Follows in 1985. She was "the fiery and headstrong redhead" who, since then, has gotten a dramatic upgrade since the newest version aired on CBC on March 19th 2017. A grittier Anne, indeed. And who better to write this new, grittier version of Anne of Green Gables than Breaking Bad Canadian writer and producer Moira Walley-Beckett?

An earlier version of Anne in 1919. CBC's new version starring Amybeth McNulty is considered "not to be your grandmother's Anne of Green Gables." (CBC, March 17th 2017) 

A New Anne for a New Audience - Guys Included

A lot of guys are into Batman, mainly because he's a dark, foreboding character with a heart of gold. Batman's traumatic history, the death of his parents, is replayed throughout the comic book series, like a mantra for his life's mission for justice. Most comic book characters have followed suit. It seems that the need for realism is widespread in most forms of popular entertainment. Nowadays, audiences can accept the vulgarities of real life; it seems to enhance the more honourable traits in the character rather than distract from them. Anne of Green Gables can now take her place in this line-up too. Like Batman, she is an orphan whose left behind to fend for herself. Moving from foster home to foster home, she manages to bounce back after each defeat, not as a superhero or all-powerful woman, but as a child of the Enlightenment, a beautiful creature who breathes life into anything and everyone around her.

The Dark Beauty of Anne of Green Gables

This new re-telling of Anne of Green Gables (with Amybeth McNulty playing Anne) is a courageous addition to Canadian television, a medium that is obviously ready to face its dark history as a nation, in an intriguing way, mind you, that isn't perverted for mere entertainment purposes nor a shallow attempt to garner a new audience with morbid storylines that appeal to cynicism rather than hope. This TV series is an honest portrayal of Canada as a nation where children got abused and neglected to the point of extreme trauma. Many scenes depicting Anne's abuse don't hold back on the visuals, although they almost flash across the screen in mere seconds. This part of the story isn't a put-off, by any means. To the contrary, the scenes gives the audience deeper insight into Anne's character and innate strength. In the Victoria's Ahearn's article, CBC's 'Anne' shows darker past of 'accidental feminist' from Green Gables showrunner Walley-Beckett describes Anne as "...a survivor. She's someone ... that stays positive in the face of real crushing difficulty and that's inspiring." Perhaps this approach will inspire new TV shows that challenge Canadian audiences on their past. A good place to start would be Canada's mistreatment of its aboriginal population during  the horror of residential schools.

Why the New Anne of Green Gables is a Hit

Walley-Beckett's Anne of Green Gables brings a deeper level of drama to an old story retold by Canadians since its first inception by Montgomery back in 1908. Anne is an inspiring character through her innocence, intelligence and unwavering optimism. She could be a role model for both male and female viewers, as her lovable curiosity and chattiness makes her an endearing character most would never forget. As a young girl, she displays strength of her conviction in a world that isn't always welcoming to her charm and intelligence. Anne truly is the "accidental feminist" as Walley-Beckett suggests. Anne is a character destined to remain a guiding star in Canadian culture.

Taking the grittiness of being a child orphan in the 19th century and bringing that into limelight could be risky. But these darker moments are told in flashbacks that do no more than mention a painful history but also imply a hidden trauma that Anne must face every day. This characteristic is probably true for most young women of this era, including the boys. It gives the show a humane quality that makes it accessible to viewers of any age or gender.

Anne of Green Gables has experienced a growth spurt, without pretentious writing or gratuitous morbidity. The light and the dark is well-balanced to tell a positive story of a young girl who is smart and strong, destined to fight hard for her survival and succeed. 

Looking for a great Canadian TV show with some real depth? Check out the Anne of Green Gables web page on CBC Television.

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