Parting is such sweet sorrow: Saying goodbye to Anne With an E

ANNE WITH AN E - Credit: Ken Woroner/Netflix
ANNE WITH AN E - Credit: Ken Woroner/Netflix /

Saying goodbye to Anne With an E is going to be hard, but its end is one fans cannot change no matter how loud we call for it to be saved.

Anne With an E took its final bow in the U.S. this month, and letting go of the series is going to be hard for fans who have been fighting to save the show since it was canceled in November of 2019. The hashtags #renewAnneWithanE and #saveAnneWithanE have been staples on Twitter since the announcement. Ryan Reynolds has even lent his voice to the campaign:

Those who have never watched Anne With an E may wonder why fans are fighting so hard for a show that’s based on a series of novels by L.M. Montgomery, the first of which was published in 1908. Some would say a period piece is a period piece is a period piece. They aren’t dime a dozen, but Anne Shirley-Cuthbert has had her time in the sun. Her story has been adapted multiple times, the most famous of which are the mid-’80s made-for-TV movie adaptations starring Megan Follows as Anne.

But what sets Anne With an E apart from its predecessors is the series’ attention to inclusion. Moira Walley-Beckett, co-executive producer of Anne With an E, told IndieWire in 2018, “I’ve always been super uncomfortable with the fact that this is a very, very white world, and it doesn’t reflect the reality of Canada’s diversity then and now.”

Her co-executive producer, Miranda de Pencier, shared a similar stance last year prior to the start of season 3’s filming:

"“There’s no sense in reinventing a classic novel if you’re not going to make it relevant for today’s audience. So it was really important for us to find themes that matter for Canadians.”"

Those themes include LGBTQ+ characters both young and old and the stories of people of color, which are often overlooked in period dramas that aren’t specifically about their struggles or history.

In season 2, Anne With an E introduced Cole, a young artist who feels stifled by Avonlea and the romantic awakenings of his classmates that don’t match his own. He finds a kindred spirit in Anne, and through Diana, they meet Aunt Josephine, a wealthy older woman whose romantic years are behind her, but who had a great love with a woman the family called “her friend.”

The season also introduced Bash, a Trinidadian sailor who befriends Gilbert. While the series was already tackling issues of class through Anne’s orphanhood and the wealth disparity between her classmates, Bash’s character racialized that struggle and presented another lens with which the audience could look and learn about inequality.

Through Bash we come to know The Bog, a black community just outside of Charlottetown. Walley-Beckett said that The Bog was a “thrilling and devastating discovery,” and a bit of Canadian history that she was unaware of which is why they were excited to bring the community to people’s attention and incorporate it into the themes they were exploring in season 2.

Walley-Beckett and de Pencier are two women who understand the importance of diversity and have made inclusion a part of their master plan from the beginning. That’s why they furthered this mission in season 3 with the inclusion of the Mi’kmaq and residential schools.

The character of Ka’kwet is just like her peers. She’s young, curious, inquisitive, and bright. The world is as brilliant and new and ever unfolding before her–the difference is that she’s indigenous. Her beliefs and traditions are unlike those held by the settlers of Prince Edward’s Island and rather than focus on their similarities the settlers of P.E.I. would rather stay steeped in their bigotry. And bigotry, presently and in the past, manifests in dangerous and psychologically harmful ways in the name of God and “saving” those perceived as uncivilized and in need of “civilizing.”

While Anne With an E did not introduce me to the history of residential schools and the church and government’s practice of misinformation and kidnapping in order to “kill the Indian to save the child” through forced assimilation, it’s the first time I’ve seen the history explored on television. What happens to Ka’kwet is heartbreaking, and it’s made even more so because her story isn’t given a conclusion thanks to the show’s cancellation.

Ka’kwet’s unfinished story — co-written by Tracey Deer, a Mohawk filmmaker and writer — is a reason all on its own for there to be a rallying cry for Anne With an E to be saved. The series tells stories others haven’t. As Deer says:

"“There are whole pieces of the Canadian population and the Canadian experience that are non-existent in the book. And I think that’s very telling of the time when the book was written. P.E.I. was not occupied only by white people.”"

Written by an all-women writers’ room, Anne With an E explores culturally significant topics whilst still adhering to the core of its source material.

Anne of Green Gables is a story about a young woman and her journey as she finds her voice. Deer describes Anne as “strong, fearless, opinionated” and that is why the character still resonates over a century since her creation.

It stands to reason that saying goodbye to Anne will be hard. The world Walley-Beckett and de Pencier have created is rich and full of Anne’s spirit that touches every storyline. Hers is a world where limitations are seen but pushed against. Anne is fantastical, precocious, stubborn, and relentless in her beliefs. She fights for what’s right, and her fans in their campaign to save her show are emulating the character with whom they fell in love.

Anne With an E is not going off air because of a lack of love from its audience. Their love is evident across social media platforms. It is felt by the series’ showrunner, and it’s felt by its cast and crew, too. The series simply isn’t able to be saved at this juncture. CBC and Netflix have dissolved their partnership.

President and CEO of CBC Catherine Tait told podcast Content Canada, “We’re not going to do deals that hurt the long-term viability of our domestic industry. A number of countries have done deals, as we did, with Netflix … and over time we start to see that we’re feeding the growth of Netflix, or we’re feeding the growth of Amazon, rather than feeding our own domestic business and industry.”

So, this isn’t an issue of low audience views or series expenses that can’t be justified by audience turn out. It’s about two business entities that reached an impasse and see no road forward.

According to the Financial Post:

"“At the heart of the CBC’s complaint is the fact that Netflix and other streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video and CBS All Access, are not required to collect sales tax in Canada and are not governed by the same rules as domestic producers. For example, Canadian broadcasters are required to put five per cent of their gross revenue into the Canada Media Fund to support creators. Netflix’s investment in Canada is entirely optional.”"

That is not an impasse fans are likely to be able to help CBC and Netflix fix. And without a new home or a green light for a film — neither of which Anne With an E received — there’s nothing more to be done than to keep loving the series for what it did give us.

I wish that Anne With an E could be saved. I wish that the loudness of our voices could eclipse the cancellation and the resounding “No” we received from CBC. I wish that requesting the series through a Netflix form and the signing of a petition would help us get if not more seasons than at least one new season of our show. A season that could properly conclude our beloved series rather than leaving it with threads untied and stories unfinished.

But those wishes won’t come true, no more than Anne’s prayers to be more comely and to have raven black hair. She, and her story, are most unusually beautiful and a world apart from convention. And we as her fans have to accept the tragical circumstance of her time with us being cut short because of the corporate machine.

Our heads can be in the clouds, but our feet must be firmly on the ground in this regard. Otherwise what we love will sour and that is not the kind of tragedy Anne would want to be her ending especially when the end of season 3 brought her nearly everything she’s ever wanted. So here’s to Anne With an E, a show we’ll love forever and a day, and a show we’ll miss dearly now that it’s ended.

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Are you sorry to say goodbye to Anne With an E? Share your thoughts about the show’s cancellation in the comments below.