Anne With An E is a coming-of-age story about an orphan and outsider who overcomes many difficulties to find friendship, love and family in the town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. The three-season series is set in the late 1890’s and centers on a young Anne who, after an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and the homes of strangers, is mistakenly sent to live with the aging Cuthbert siblings, Marilla and Matthew.
Thematically, the show differs from previous film/tv adaptations. The people of Avonlea face many challenges to their lives and to their mindsets. The first comes with the arrival of Anne, who always speaks her mind boldly. This is an affront to the expectation that women and girls must keep quiet. The second is the arrival of Avonlea’s first female teacher, who also happens to be a widow. She causes scandal in the town when she rides in on a fuel-powered bike, wearing trousers and no corset! Cole, one of Anne’s classmates, must deal with bullying and questions of identity. Racial tensions and prejudices are exposed when a black couple moves into town. As Anne and her classmates age, the young women deal with sexism and the right to bodily autonomy. The series also highlights the brutality of Canadian residential schools with the introduction of a Mi’kmaq family.
The way racism, identity, prejudice, bullying and sexism are brought to the light gives the audience great opportunities for reflection. The show asks us, “how have things changed since the 1800’s? What has stayed the same?” Anne With An E confronts us, but also gives us the courage to imagine a better world.
Producers Moira Walley-Becket and Miranda de Pencier have overseen a show with beautiful camera shots and compelling storylines. Amybeth McNulty’s Anne will delight you with her scrumptious vocabulary, brilliant imagination, and fierce activism. The series ran from 2017-19, and all episodes are available to stream on CBC Gem and Netflix.
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