Why Anne with an E is must-see TV for a new generation


Even though Anne with an E is set in the 1800s, there has never been a better time for this show than now.

Writer and Executive Producer Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad, Flesh and Bone) has given us a modern retelling of the beloved classic novel, Anne of Green Gables, with lively characters you root for and uncommon storylines that will hook you immediately.

Anne with an E has the heart of Little House on the Prairie with the modern sensibility we need so badly today.  Imagine the Ingalls family from Little House having a lesbian aunt. Or Albert realizing he likes boys instead of girls. Those are some of the situations that arise in this modern adaptation of the book, Anne of Green Gables.

The characters

We know that LGBTQ people existed in the late 1800s (and before). We know there were different girls who dreamed of careers more than husbands. We know that not all women of the period fit neatly into their corsets and assumed their place behind a stove. We know that women and men struggled with the rigid gender roles placed on them, yet we rarely get to see any of this depicted in shows about the era. Issues of homophobia, sexism, racism, and other social ills are dealt with in Anne head on, but in a way that matches the time period in which the show is set.

The title character, Anne, is a beacon of hope for teenagers who have gone through some major trials. Her relentlessly positive attitude in the face of adversity from all sides is really an inspiration. How many times did you feel like skipping school to get away from all the teasing and drama? Not only does Anne endure bullying, but right from the start, her living situation is uncertain. An orphan with a troubled past, Anne finally arrives at a home that brings her great joy — until she realizes the homeowners wanted a boy instead.

A powerful scene featured in the beginning shows Anne (AmyBeth McNulty), shortly after her arrival at Green Gables, questioning why Marilla (Geraldine James) wouldn’t consider allowing her to work out in the fields. The response is simply, “That’s not the way of things and you know it.” But Anne presses her, insisting she can do anything a boy can do.

The characters are so relatable, with some you wish you knew in your own life while growing up. Aunt Josephine (played so wonderfully by Deborah Grover) proves to be a lifesaver to the youth who struggle in a society that doesn’t exactly cater to them.

Walley-Beckett also flips the stereotypes we’re so used to seeing in shows about the 1800s. Instead of an unavailable, overbearing or violent father figure, we have Matthew Cuthbert (R.H.Thomson), a gentle, kind-hearted soul who is immediately drawn to –and encouraging of– Anne’s high-spirited personality. He allows her “differentness” to flourish. How great is that?

Major themes

Anne with an E is filled with universal themes of belonging, feeling awkward and strange in school (after all, who didn’t feel that way?), and the oppression of gender roles. Yes, we still have to contend with pesky gender roles today. Of course, now it won’t cause as big a scandal if a girl shows up to school with a short haircut. But industries still seem to be telling us that girls must shop only in the pink aisles for clothes and toys; a boy caught playing with a Barbie doll could very well be ostracized in school, even today. So we haven’t come as far as we’d like to think.

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Throughout the series, there is a thread of kindness and the basic decency of human beings. After all of the conflict, the final episodes wrap up in a way that leaves you with a sense of hope. That’s why we need Anne. Maybe now more than ever.