Netflix’s Anne with an E, Reviewed By an Adoptee
While critics are divided over the new “Anne of Green Gables,” one thing is certain—
Anne with an E is darker and grittier than previous adaptations of the 1908 novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery. That said, I’m not ready to give up on the series.
As an adoptee and adoptive mom, here are a few personal observations after watching the first episode.
Good news: The first episode steers clear of vulgar language and sexual content. Watching this episode as a family is no problem from this perspective.
Caution: Anne is occasionally haunted by brief-but-intense flashbacks of physical abuse from her previous homes (including a bullying scene with her peers and a scene where her foster dad beats her over a tree stump and then collapses to his death). If you watch this episode with young children or someone who was fostered, orphaned, or adopted, the flashbacks could trigger hard questions or memories. Critics suggest the show is best suited for children aged 11 and up.
Thankfully, it is generally clear by Anne’s expression when a flashback is coming if you choose to be creative with the remote.
The first episode is filled with quotable material. Specifically, foster and adoptive parents may identify–as I did–with several of the quotes from the first episode of Anne, having heard variations of them during the foster/adoption process.
- “[Adopting] an orphan boy? What on earth put such a notion into your head? Because I’m going to tell you plain. You’re doing a mighty foolish thing—a risky thing … You don’t know what you’re getting.”
- “Before we commit our children to associate with your Anne, my wife and I need to assure ourselves that she won’t corrupt their good natures or exert any negative influence. I’m sure you understand.”
—George Barry (Diana’s father)
- “Home. What a wonderful word.”
It should be noted that Anne’s dark grit more closely mirrors what life would have been like for an orphan at the turn of the century. It is a disservice to orphans and children from hard places–then and now–to portray their situations and circumstances as squeaky clean or always cheerful.
The characters are human and endearing. Anne doesn’t steer away from the emotional complexity of a nervous new adopting mom (Marilla) or a cautionary, unhelpful neighbor (Rachel) or a compassionate, determined father (Matthew) or a delightfully precocious child (Anne). While Anne lacks some of the whimsy of previous adaptations, the episode is not unhelpful, nor does it leave the viewer lacking hope.
Where some viewers might bemoan Anne as darker than previous versions, I choose instead to use the word richer for its startling multi-dimensional portrayal of life as a fatherless child. The first episode isn’t always rosy, but then, neither is being orphaned, fostered, or adopted.
In conclusion, consider this poignant exchange (my favorite!) between Matthew and Marilla when they were discussing whether or not to keep Anne—
Marilla: “What good would she be to us?”
Matthew: “We might be some good to her.”
*This review is not an endorsement of the series Anne. We encourage you to use Focus on the Family’s Plugged In entertainment guide to review the details of each entertainment choice to be sure it’s right for your family.