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Well, yes, Netflix's new 'Anne With an E' (of Green Gables) is ... different

Let's get this out of the way: Netflix's new adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, puzzlingly called Anne With an E, is not like the Annes you've seen before.

The latest version of Lucy Maud Montgomery's 1908 book, releasing seven episodes Friday on Netflix after airing on Canada's CBC, comes from Moira Walley-Beckett, a writer for Breaking Bad who won an Emmy for penning "Ozymandias." And if you are the kind of person who reads "Breaking Bad + Anne of Green Gables" and thinks ‘YES,' this series is for you.

Touted as a grittier or more realistic Anne, the series often lingers via flashbacks on Anne's troubled past before Green Gables: She's tortured by other girls in an orphanage, screamed at by a woman employing her, beaten by the woman's husband until he keels over of a heart attack. Maybe you'll enjoy this deep dive into Anne's psyche, this attempt to provide an explanation of why she's so imaginatively outlandish.

"I like imagining better than remembering," says Anne, played by the twiggy Amybeth McNulty.

But maybe you don't really need all of that dragging down your whimsical, romantic Anne. Maybe reading such things will just send you searching for the beloved 1980s versions starring Megan Follows or the 2016 TV movie — or maybe even the book itself.

I was in this category, not just as an Anne of Green Gables fan in my youth but also as someone known to choose Netflix's sitcoms like One Day at a Time over deeper, darker offerings like 13 Reasons Why. But I gave this new Anne a shot anyway. And guess what? She wasn't for me, and I'm okay with that.

In a season of endless remakes, there's something to be said for bringing something new to a story that's been told 100 times, 100 ways. But it's also a truth universally acknowledged that some will always prefer an older version. Call it nostalgia, call it being stubborn. I say adaptations resonate with different people in different ways for different reasons.

To me, Anne has always been a poster child for escapism, for seeing everything as grander than it is. And so an Anne of Green Gables that is itself a form of escapism seems right.

But I also understand those like Walley-Beckett who read the character and want some sort of deeper explanation for how and why she is the way she is.

This Anne is battered and bruised, a little broken. Her constant talking and her unique outlook have made life difficult for her at times, and in return she uses them to cope with the hard knocks of life. Descriptions for later episodes have Anne struggling with her first period and Marilla with "a progressive mothers group."

Bluntly signaled by a CGI-artistic opening set to Ahead by a Century by the Tragically Hip, this is an Anne specifically built for 21st century relevance despite being from another century.

Maybe you will find her more relatable. Maybe you will find her more annoying. Maybe you'll find her more realistic. Maybe you'll find it hard to watch the orphan being bullied.

This may be your Anne, or maybe you just want to cling to the old-fashioned one. You do you. I can't help but think any version of Anne would approve.

[Last modified: Friday, May 5, 2017 11:50am]


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