Anne: season 3 catch-all
January 13, 2020 1:19 PM - Season 3 (Full Season) - Subscribe

This is a spoiler-filled place to discuss the third (and final?) season of Anne with an E.
posted by Maarika (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there a place for transforming the past into a fantasy world with values like our own? I think maybe there is. When I started watching Murdoch Mysteries, another Canadian show set in the 1800s (very late and ended up turning the corner into the 1900s), I thought "this show is stupid: the stories pay lip service to historical oppression (like Murdoch not being able to advance due to his Catholicism) but the coroner is a woman and so on. The show gets more diverse as it goes, and while there are storylines about racism and sexism, all the characters in the actual show seem to have transcended it somehow. But the show also gets more and more spoofy about how the main character invents all kinds of modern conveniences from the microwave to the internet. It's a weird tone to take, the sort of alternate past, and it can work or not work, depending on what is foregrounded/backgrounded.

Like, I think it's great that Lucas gets to be part of the Stranger Things gang without constantly getting flak from small-town Indiana in the mid-eighties. There's one storyline where another kid is a bigot, but it doesn't have to be an every day every moment situation for him. It's good not to have an all-white cast just to be "authentic" to the segregation of the time and place.

But sometimes it seems like Anne, the series is trying to bring in a diverse cast and give them triumphs over oppression that really break any sense of historical seriousness. I get that they want today's kids to feel self-esteem and all, but it felt weird when Diana's family welcomed Mary (when they'd rejected her hospitality earlier) just because she was dying.

This version seems to love Anne a little too much. Everyone agrees with her, lauds her, is willing to lay down their life for her at all times. There's no sense that Anne is a little full of herself (she is) or that she has to work hard against a stultifying status quo.

Maybe the books do need an update, and the cast here looks great! But the stories just make me feel weird, like Anne has stepped through her wardrobe into some alternate-dimension PEI that has our social attitudes and her technology.
posted by rikschell at 4:50 PM on January 13, 2020 [3 favorites]


This may come out in bursts, going from what I'm most angry about to what I'm least angry about.

One of the big ones, as I said in the Episode 1 thread, so I won't expound /quite/ as much here, is how much it really seems like whoever adapted this series fundamentally does not like women as much as the author, or women's choices, or really even women having them at all. For example: Diana, in the books, doesn't go to college. And she marries a boring man with a red face, and Anne doesn't understand it, and thinks it's kind of weird and surprising given how romantic Diana's fantasies were, and she just....doesn't judge Diana for wanting a different life. She continues to love Diana. Diana continues to love her. Diana names her baby Anne Cordelia. In the show, we get...a weird and incomprehensible romance with someone who gets literally one line of dialogue in the Anne of Green Gables book, where's she's mean and creepy and rich-girl about it, and keeps it from Anne so that Anne and her can scream that they were never best friends? WHAT EVEN IS THAT. Anne and Diana are a core relationship, and to do something like that effectively takes the heart out of the characters.

I'm going to quote from Eyebrow's awesome quote about book Anne of Green Gables, which really explains kind of the heart I feel is missing here:
It's a book about mutually-supportive relationships between and among women and how that love helps them self-actualize. There's only ever room for one man at a time in these novels -- not until Matthew dies can Gilbert enter Anne's life, because men are so secondary to the narrative in Anne (notice how rarely Gilbert shows up even when they're married!), which is about the webs of support that women weave to support and uplift each other, to hold together communities, to make it possible for women to become fully self-actualized, spiritual, intellectual, bodily people.

I think, in some ways, it would have been a bit of a cheat for Anne to become a famous writer (although I've wrestled with this for many years), because a large point the novel makes is not that women can be just like men, but that women are fully-actualized human beings as women and don't have to imitate men; that the world of women is rich and valuable, and that women are not thereby less intelligent or less spiritual than men. Having her become a wife and mother, as most women of that era did, and leading a rich, fulfilling life in that role is, I think, probably a more fit ending to Anne's story than if she'd been "exceptional," since Montgomery's entire point is that it's not just the rare, unusual woman who has a rich interior life -- it's all women.
And that core is one of the things I'm most frustrated about with how they handle the romance between Gilbert and Anne. In the books, Anne's journey to finding love with Gilbert is largely about herself - what kind of person is she, what kind of person does she want to be, and what does she need to survive and thrive? Is it the dark prince of her stories, or is it someone who is always there and gets the small stuff? And most important of all - it is Anne who makes that choice, not Gilbert. To take the choice that Anne had - the rich, successful dreamboat, or a different life - and give it to Gilbert, a man, while Anne focuses mostly on whether or not a boy would love her, is fundamentally anti-feminist.

Which comes back also to the other choices this season has made. This season centers on men. This season, reinterpreting a book whose core was all about women, made our focus and our sympathy linger on men. How are men impacted? How is Matthew impacted by his stifled romance? How is Matthew impacted by his shyness? How is Bash affected by the bizarre fridging of his wife?

Actually I'm going to pause a moment to discuss The Fridging Of Mary, because it is absolutely incomprehensible as an artistic choice. Was her purpose to be the Noble Death That Defeats Racism? Was it just so we can give Bash a tortured romantic arc of his man-sadness? Let us not forget that Gilbert, who is training as a medical practitioner, is somehow uneducated on what infection looks like in an era where infection was one of the biggest killers. It doesn't even make logical sense within the story, and perhaps worst of all, it feels like they killed off Mary just so they could start the seeds of some sort of Radical Romance With Miss Stacy. Which is so many levels of not okay I can't even.

Also I desperately want to know when they learned this season would be canceled - because they managed to tie the romantic A-plot up with a bow, but just left all the other life-or-death plots hanging. They couldn't have swapped existing footage around so that the escape from the residential school was shown as the culmination rather than the middle part?

*phew* I may have more later, but...I was so angry about the end of this season and the season itself I texted my teenage daughter just so I could get more emotions added to the fire.
posted by corb at 3:09 PM on January 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I appreciate everything that has been written above, and I selfishly created this FanFare post so I could read your intelligent commentary. I have tried to write a dozen responses but have abandoned them due to family interruptions and mobile device shittiness, and I have gotten interrupted at least a dozen times trying to write this comment, but thanks so much for commenting when I could not follow up with anything of substance.

My assorted thoughts:
* I hate it when shows introduce new, random characters, make you care about them, and then kill them off. What is the fucking point?
* If this is how the show overlords kill off non-canon characters, I’m glad the show isn’t around to kill off Matthew
* Would a kid watching this show today with all of its modern added wokeness be more satisfied or less satisfied with the original source material?
* what exactly was Winifred doing at the medical practice if her family was rich and had property in Paris? Was she related to the doctor? Also, WHY DO I CARE?
* There was just so much overdone evil in this series that never would have occurred “on screen” in the books: the horrible visiting con artists, the town council men who burned down the school, the bloody physical assault
* the indigenous boarding school atrocity arc was interesting but so counter to the spirit of the book series that I... Ugh. It’s awful and I fucking went to a college with a Native American residential school history and didn’t come close to comprehending that brutality when I was an undergrad, so I’m glad that there is an attempt to make that story known now, but it would be so much better as it’s own movie or story or whatever not crammed into something technically in the same time period but of a completely spirit.
* I thought the ambiguous romantic ending and parting was kind of sweet, even if that never happened that way in the books.
posted by Maarika at 9:55 AM on January 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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