If you’re thinking about plopping the kids in front of the TV for some harmless viewing of the latest version of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 classic Anne of Green Gables, you might want to thinks again, claim some angry critics.
The second season of Anne with An E starts on Netflix on July 6 – but some of the scenes in the show could shock those parents who might remember gentler TV versions of the story.
Anne With An E has drawn criticism overseas, with the New Yorker even describing it as a ‘betrayal’ due to its often bleak outlook, depictions of violent child abuse, death and menace. One moment in particular has shocked some viewers.
‘Some scenes in here may upset little kids,’ says TV expert Matt Denby in the latest episode of WHO’s TV podcast, Binge List. ‘There is a character in here who dies of a heart attack while beating Anne, which was not in the original book.’
Another scene shows Anne being sadistically tormented by other children with a dead mouse.
‘I’ll be as quiet as a mouse,’ Anne says at a later time, while recalling the incident - suggesting she may be suffering from PTSD. Also featured in the show is the suggestion of a possible sexual predator, and a suicide threat.
‘What is different this time, is that the show has a dark edge that we’ve never seen before in Anne of Green Gables,’ adds Binge List TV reviewer Gavin Scott.
Anne discusses her first period at length, and while many would say this level of frankness about a natural bodily process is to be welcomed in 2018, its addition to the story has upset some devoted fans of the book, who hate any tinkering at all with the plot.
Show boss Moira Walley-Beckett – who is best known for working on notoriously violent drug drama Breaking Bad – has made no excuses for her more challenging changes to the book.
‘I don’t see the point in doing “Anne” in a way that’s been done, that’s very charming, teacups and doilies and “Oh, Anne’s in another scrape”,’ she says.
‘What’s the most realistic way to show the way a girl like this, from a strange place, with enormous prejudices against her, would move through the world?’
And Binge List’s Gavin Scott says Moira’s pedigree is definitely obvious in her take on this children’s classic.
‘A little bit of that darkness from Breaking Bad has seeped into Anne with an E, believe it or not,’ he says in the latest episode of the podcast.
The show has also been slammed by some for inserting very modern politics into a novel from well over a century ago, with Netflix making no excuses for the fact that the show ‘continues to chart bold new territory, adding new characters and storylines’, and will ‘explore themes of identity, prejudice, feminism, bullying, gender parity and empowerment through the lens of its fierce, starry-eyed, irrepressible 14-year-old protagonist’.
This has led some corners of the Internet to allege that the show’s depiction of men is often very harsh, with some of the characters allegedly tipping into gratuitously misogynistic caricatures that have little or no basis in the book.
‘If you go online, some people are really hurt by [the changes to the book]’ says Matt. ‘It does have a dark edge to it, definitely.
‘And it also brings in some very modern political perspectives.
‘It’s really down to whether you're one of those people who love this text so much that you don’t want to see it fooled with in any way at all. Some devotees of the book might be upset by some of the harshness, by some of the very 2018 perspectives on life and of politics.
‘Your attitudes to those things is going to colour whether or not you’re going to love this or hate this.’