Monday, May 22, 2017

An Old Lady Review of Anne with an E


On the weekend that the Netflix "Anne with an E" came out I received no fewer than 8 texts from people asking if I had watched it. My love for Anne Shirley is deep and well known. And I'm happy about that. 

Confess, when you heard that they were making another adaptation you were a little apprehensive, right? I certainly was. Because the books are so dear to me, and the 1980s adaptations are so good, I knew that I would be nostalgic about it and would probably compare too much. But as comparison is the thief of joy I went into it trying my best to be open minded and embrace another retelling.

But I soon found that in order to do that I had to completely separate the Anne that I know from what I was watching. And then I could handle it. Because, you guys, it's different. Like an elephant and a flat head screw driver are different. And even after separating it I thought it was just an okay show. It is very heavy-handed. It never missed an opportunity to hit you over the head with a visual metaphor. For example, in the episode when Anne gets her period (yep, we get to see Anne freak out as she washes her bloody drawers. It's accurate.) Marilla and Rachel Lynde are discussing it with their hands deep in red berries. At Gilbert's dad's funeral (yep, Gilbert is an orphan too. Because you can't expect us to believe that they would fall in love unless they're both sad.) it starts to snow and Gil catches a snowflake and it melts in his palm and slides down just like a tear. This is not a subtle show. There were definitely moments of sweetness. Matthew can't help but be a dear and both he and Marilla have back stories alluded to that were compelling. But as a show I could take it or leave it.

But here's what I can't take. You know how Anne is awesome? How she's always able to turn things around with her charm and her smarts and positive attitude? How she stands up for herself but does so in a way that is natural and pure and then everyone except for Josie Pye is all, "Oh Anne, you're right"? How she's sometimes too passionate and a little weird but still lovable? How she loves nature and beauty and looks for it everywhere and shares it with everyone? How she makes mistakes and laments for a bit and then moves on? How she's not perfect but tries. How she's generous and kind to everyone and when she isn't she recognizes it and tries to change? How she's just generally good and happy despite some really tough trials? That's not this Anne. This Anne is unhinged. This Anne is all about the fight. She will fight and demand and lie and belittle. Sure she quotes poetry, but she does so like her life depends on it. She has to fight to make friends, she has to fight to stay at Green Gables, she has to fight against the stigma of being an orphan. They're all against her and it is nothing but fight. And it's exhausting and entirely joyless.

This is an adaptation very much influenced by the times we live in. And boy does it want you to know that it is current and modern and aware of our problems. Every adaptation is influenced by the times. This is nothing new. But this seemed to pick every single current hot button topic and shove it in your face. Global warming was mentioned in the first episode. Marilla attends a feminist book club, making you think that Avonlea must be a hotbed of progressive thought if it weren't for the Patriarchy. She hyphenates her name "Anne Shirley-Cuthbert". Period-shaming: check. PTSD: check. Sexual assault: check. And Great Aunt Josephine is a lesbian. There is a lot of reading between the lines and some of it I found kind of interesting but most of it I felt was too much. I do not deny that all of these things were part of those times. They just were never much a part of Anne. I felt like it came at the great expense of the joy that has always been a part of those stories. You will not get any rambles through the woods here because everyone is so busy standing up for their principles. Also, the whole thing is set in winter lest we forget how difficult the road is for her. She is literally slogging through life. (In cute boots. I liked the costumes.)

I suppose what really gets me down is that lots of young girls are going to watch this and think that this is what Anne is all about. The Fight. It bothers me that it tries so hard to make Anne into a heroine by doing even more extraordinary things. That the character that was created a hundred years ago and has been loved and admired by every generation suddenly needs to become something more because it's not enough for these times we live in. It is not enough that she was academically gifted and socially invested, or that she went to college and had a career and was a published author. In this day she needs to be a warrior and a survivor which leaves little room for the things that have made her special all along. They've tried to turn her into a feminist icon when she always has been.

I was disappointed.

But I will give it this: in that period episode Anne shouts out, "Years?! Every month?!" It does not matter how much you changer her, Anne still speaks for all of our hearts.
Here. Because you need it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Get your hobbyhorse ready

1. A motorcycle past me on the freeway the other day. The rider had on a leather jacket with foot-long fringe running down the length of the sleeves. There was also fringe on the end of his handlebars and fringe on his side bags. It was very reminiscent of one of those dogs that look like a mop. On my drive home that same day I saw an ice cream truck with a very terrifying snake coiled around a tree branch with its mouth wipe open, fangs dripping with venom, ready to eat your child whole. I ask you, as a parent, would you let your child buy her choco-taco from such a proprietor?  Look, you don't have to put balloons and cartoon characters on your ice cream truck if you don't want to. But maybe rethink the poisonous serpent. It reminded me of the windowless van that for years was parked across the street from the elementary school around the corner from my house. It had a mural covering the entire driver's side of Chucky, classic 80s horror flick doll, ripping through the wall. Nearly every time we drove by it my siblings and I would all shout, "Chucky Van!"

2. Did you hear about the the guy who was upset because he had to sit next to a dog on a flight? and then The Internet got its pitch fork out and was all, "You're the worst! And a jerk for hating dogs! They should put YOU in baggage!" Guess what, the guy was right. Dog's shouldn't be on planes. There I said it. If you bring your dog on a plane and you don't have a legitimate medical reason to do so and it is not certified and professionally trained, you just want it there because you love it and you can't be apart from it, then you're kind of rude and you should drive your car to wherever you need to go rather than subject the paying customers sitting next to you to your smelly, furry dog. Thus is the lot of all responsible pet owners. You're going to be inconvenienced from time to time. Not everyone loves dogs. And, more importantly, not everyone HAS to love dogs as public opinion more and more seems to dictate. A lot of people have fur allergies. Some people are afraid of dogs because they've been bitten by them because dogs, even the sweetest of them, are still animals. Dogs also smell. If you're around your dog a lot you probably can't smell it anymore. But I can. And it's gross. Dogs also shed and get hair on everything. Additionally, flying has become a miserable experience. You pay a lot only to be manhandled in security, charged for your carry-on, and handed a bag of 6 peanuts and half a can of ginger ale. I don't have a problem with dogs in general. In fact there are several dogs that I have loved and do love, like Lindsay's dog Boe. But even Boe can spend hours licking himself and the sound of it drives me up the walls. And if I had to sit next to a dog on a plane and smell his bad breath as he licked himself I would be very upset. I wouldn't make a fuss about it, but I would certainly be seething on the inside and mentally writing strongly worded letters to the airline about their animal policy while I sip my 2 ounces of ginger ale. (DO NOT compare this to a baby being on board. Dogs are not humans. Your argument ends there.)(And DO NOT get me started on the survey that was reported a few months back where some outrageously high percentage of people said that if their dog and a stranger were both drowning and they could only save one of them they would choose their dog. That is simply monstrous.)(End of Rant.)

3. And now to show that I am not totally dead inside I'll share Camille's idea for a possible activity at our next family reunion. This is a real thing.

Girls in Finland are going nuts for hobbyhorses! Can you believe we live in such a glorious time? They're doing hobbyhorse dressage! This makes Finland the cutest country, right? Move over Prancercize. (I kid. Prancercize is number 1 in my heart. All you need are ankle weights and sass.)