Anne with an E is a Netflix original show based on the story of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a favourite childhood book series of mine, but with a darker twist.
The show is truly impressive in how it serves to retain the integrity of the original story whilst fleshing out the impact Anne’s childhood in an abusive orphanage had on her mental health and expanding the cast and subplots to be far more inclusive and diverse.
The consideration given the Anne’s mental health is a particular focus of the first season of the show which presents us with multiple flashbacks that Anne experiences of her life at the orphanage. Further into the show these lessen, most likely as a reflection of Anne settling into life at Green Gables and leaving behind her abusive past.
Whilst some may consider this a failing of the show, perhaps an unrealistic representation of dealing with traumatic experiences, I choose to consider the show in a more generous light. I believe that not only does the historical context allow for a little more forgiveness regarding the limited extent to which the show can explore mental health issues, but also accept that various narratives moved on and leaving behind the exploration of Anne’s traumatic past opened up the show to demonstrate other diverse narratives.
One of my favourite things about this show is that it is set in the 19th century in Canada but does not lazily insist on only portraying the storylines of straight white people. Instead, we are given both non-white and LGBTQ+ characters, both of which are rarely seen in historical dramas.
This led to one of my favourite story lines of the most recent season which followed a young Native American girl being taken to a reservation school where she was forced to assimilate to white Christian culture. I will acknowledge that I am unsure of the opinion of any Native American individuals so I cannot comment on the sensitivity or accuracy of the story line, and will therefore limit my commentary to simply expressing how much I enjoyed watching it.
Furthermore, the themes of women’s rights and racism that are threaded throughout the season stand up nicely against the backdrop of 19th century life in Canada and the prejudices expectations, or lack thereof, women and people of colour come up against. However, the success of the show’s inclusion of such themes and story lines is found its ability to in no way lose any of the charm found in the original books.
Overall, if you’re a fan of the original book series or just a good historical drama but looking for more diverse representation then I would definitely recommend giving this show a watch.