Spotlight: “Anne with an E”

A Christian Perspective on the Controversial Show

Many were appalled when Netflix stepped out with the series Anne with an E – an adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s book Anne of Green Gables. This was especially true within Christian circles. They saw the series as dark, too dark, and missing the charm and positivity of previous adaptations; as well as across-the-line politically, needlessly pushing certain agendas.

Now, while I do agree that this adaptation is a far cry from the much-beloved 1980s adaptation of the Anne of Green Gables series starring Megan Follows and other more happy-go-lucky versions, that in no way devalues Anne with an E‘s place on the screen and relevance to our modern world.

Being a Christian, most people probably wouldn’t expect me to enjoy this show. Feminism? Tragedy? Racism? Abuse? LGBTQ+ characters? What? Shouldn’t I be watching Hallmark movies? Oh, but, my friends, such edginess is the exact reason why I so enjoyed Anne with an E.

Here’s 5 reasons why, especially as a Christian, you should give this 21st century reimagining of Anne a retry.

*warning: spoilers*

1 – The show rounds out the characters

The two biggest examples of this are within the arcs of three main characters: Anne, Diana and Gilbert Blythe.

As far as Anne goes, Anne with an E takes the time to really unpack what Anne’s life was like before she came to Green Gables, even going so far as to include multiple gritty flashbacks detailing some of the abuse and bullying she suffered.

As difficult as some of this is to watch, it is used in a positive way to shape who Anne becomes. Her childhood struggles grow within her great empathy for everyone she meets. Anne’s trauma turns into her motivation to change the world. The show depicts her throughout its runtime as able to see and understand the pain of others in ways others can’t, as well as being strong enough to do something about it. I really appreciate this reminder that painful childhoods don’t have to define the rest of your life – and can often shape it for the better; a reality that my own story echoes.

The second example is Diana Barry’s story. Her story depicts the also difficult realities of being born into an affluent family, and the future that money and power dictates. Viewers can’t help but feel for Diana as she struggles to break free from the mold society casts for her.

And finally there’s Gilbert Blythe. Considerably mature for his age in comparison to past depictions of him, Gilbert suffers his fair share of grief in his early years. But this grief isn’t pointless, as both it and other encounters with people (such as when he helps the Trinidadian woman give birth to her baby) contribute to his motivation behind becoming a doctor.

Anne with an E takes the time to not only round out the characters, but build their motivations in sensible ways. It deepens viewer’s empathy and understanding towards all through infusing deeper struggles into many iconic and beloved characters, making it hard to not cheer them on.

2 – The show questions both turn of the century and modern day beauty ideals

Oftentimes I get so frustrated with today’s media… especially such widely considered as ‘wholesome’ or ‘Christian’. Why do you get frustrated? you may ask. Don’t Christians like mushy-gushy stuff that hardly ever mirrors real life?

Maybe some do, but I don’t.

Anne, throughout the series, considers herself (and is told by others numerous times) that she is not the “ideal beauty” of the time. And no, perhaps she wasn’t. But what I love about this show is that they didn’t try to hide that.

So often modern television depicts only women who fit into the mold of today’s beauty standards, giving off the message that only trendy, perfect-looking women are beautiful. However, that’s not correct, nor authentic! Especially not for a period piece.

I really, really, really appreciate that they leaned into Anne (and the other characters)’s imperfections, rather than trying cover them up. Today’s movies and shows often claim that their female protagonists are ‘not-put-together’, even though the only thing that’s ‘not-put-together’ about them is a couple contrived clumsy moments. Anne, on the other hand, is practically the definition of ‘not-put-together’; and that’s what I believe makes her so endearing – and her romance with Gilbert so enrapturing.

3 – The show humanizes people who grapple with homosexuality

This is probably going to be the most controversial point in this post. I preface this with, no, I do not believe the homosexual lifestyle is God-honoring or accepted by God as right or good. And as a bible-believing Christian, I didn’t appreciate that this show did go so far as to try and justify the lifestyle.

But, that being said, I do appreciate that Cole and Aunt Josephine are well-rounded characters. Their actions, struggles and beliefs surrounding sexuality are only part of their story. They feel and express a large range of emotion and personality. Not only that, but I appreciate that they pulled their weight as characters rather than simply functioning as puppets meant to gain brownie points from the LGBTQ+ community.

Yet also, their stories teach us something about compassion. Anne is a good friend to Cole when the rest of the world shuts him out and he has nothing left. She sees the humanity in him and Aunt Josephine. Cole and Aunt Josephine’s storylines and Anne’s interactions with them are a good reminder that those who practice homosexuality are human and should be treated with respect even as they sin – as God has the same patience with us.

While we shouldn’t accept people’s sin and ignore the truth, truth and love must walk hand-in-hand. If we followers of Christ don’t walk with humility and gentleness, we cannot pave a way for the honest truth to break through the walls of defense meant to push us away.

4 – The show tells a good story tastefully and beautifully

The production, writing and acting of Anne with an E are stellar. Good writing and acting involves the ability to show, not tell. Anne with an E does so, and combines that with a beautiful soundtrack, authentic sets, well-researched costumes, and impressive cinematography to create an incredible work of art.

5 – The show acknowledges scarcely represented historical realities and considers multiple perspectives

Usually more ‘wholesome’ period pieces (especially around eras such as the turn of the century) written in Western society focus on only the struggles and difficulties white people faced… and if there does happen to be someone of a different race or culture in the show, racism and oppression are often glazed over.

Anne with an E does no such thing.

From the story of Ka’kwet’s horrific experience in residential schools to the blatant racism Sebastian and Mary struggle through, multiple perspectives are considered in this show.

There was also discussion multiple times about the struggles of women in that era, from near-arranged marriages to sexual assault and the minimizing of female perspectives and ideas… yet at the same time, they don’t dismiss Anne (or the other girls)’s desire for romance and to be loved. That speaks to a woman’s soul.

Overall, this show doesn’t shy away from the reality of hard topics, which is something that many Christian or ‘wholesome’ films and movies could learn from. Hard topics can be addressed through film in an authentic way that doesn’t make the viewer feel preached at, yet that also leaves behind emotional resonance, ensuring the viewers don’t forget about them quickly. And while Anne with an E doesn’t do so perfectly, I admire its valiant efforts to do so.

If you made it to the end of this post, I applaud you for your bravery! I hope now that you understand a bit more about why even Christians should consider such gritty, dark, yet authentic shows. Truly, we must understand the reality of our world and our role in its current condition before we can begin to fully understand our need for Christ. Shows like Anne with an E help us do that.

Thank you so much for reading! I really appreciate it, and I hope you learned something 🙂

Happy Thursday!

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Published by Emma Haglund

I'm here for the strong ones. The perfect ones. The ones who have built walls. I believe in choosing kindness, because everyone is fighting a battle that nobody else knows about. There is hope for us. In Christ, we can all learn how to be gracefully genuine and authentic.

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