Anne of Green Gables was a favorite book and miniseries when I was a girl. It was a non-traditional family, with a bachelor brother and spinster sister as parents, and a child that nobody wants.
Netflix, following in the footsteps of the classic PBS series, is the latest to take a crack at adapting L.M. Montgomery’s 1908 novel. Let’s talk about some of our favorite scenes and how they differ between the PBS version and Netflix’s new production, Anne with an E.
In the original film, Anne Shirley is best friends with her friend in the mirror, named Katie. She is her escape. A happy friend to take her away from her troubles.
In the new series, Anne also spends a lot of time looking at her reflection, but instead of seeing a happy friend, she has flashbacks to events of abuse—also unlike the original, in which Anne just worked hard and her book was burned by her mean “adoptive mother.”
The new Anne is whipped and beaten.
In fact, one of the biggest differences is that her adoptive father dies from his temper while at work, and Anne blames herself for bringing lunch an hour late.
In the new adaptation, he beats her like a crazy person and dies in the act.
In general, I don’t miss the imaginary Katie. I’m OK with Anne simply reading books to escape and I can appreciate the more realistic depiction of an orphan at the turn of the century.
In the scene where Anne meets Marilla’s frenemy, Mrs. Lind, and tells Anne she is ugly with ugly hair, the two versions are very similar. In fact, the language is almost exactly the same.
The difference is that Mrs. Lind in Anne with an E is prejudiced against orphans, but seems to have a better sense of humor. Mrs. Lind in the original is just a biddy.
As a mother to two redheads, and having had strawberry blonde hair as a girl, I sympathize with the feelings Anne has in the book—although a ginger-haired child, while always commented upon (“Where’d you get that red hair?”) is not usually met with cruelty. Both adaptations deal with the prejudice Anne must overcome and it is still a good lesson that attitude is everything.
The biggest difference I’ve encountered so far is the brooch incident. Anne wants to try on Marilla’s brooch and she says it’s not to be played with. When the brooch goes missing, she blames Anne and wants her gone because she is a liar and thief.
She tells Anne that if she confesses she won’t send her away, so Anne makes up a confession and Marilla still plans to get rid of her. Here’s where the story takes a completely different turn from the original.
In the original series, the brooch incident lasts for perhaps five minutes. In the new version, it’s an entire episode. I don’t want to give too much away, but the break in Marilla and Matthew’s relationship with Anne is completely disastrous.
All Anne wants is the unconditional love of a family. The reconciliation between Marilla and Anne in the original is quick and two-sided. The new adaptation is more difficult to watch. While the Marillas look similar, they are not similar in temperament: It’s subtle, but you notice a sparkle in the original Marilla’s eye, the new Marilla has a slightly harder edge.
Overall, the adaptation is great and worth the watch. Just be prepared to deal with the real trauma of abuse that is glossed over in the original. But also be prepared to be lifted with the optimism that comes from true love.
Anne with an E is now available on Netflix.
Keri is a professional chatterbox who loves watching TV & movies, reading about pop culture, and gawking at any craziness on the internet. You can follow Keri on Twitter.