Fan Grief. That’s what I’m calling it. It started with the Pride and Prejudice knock-offs (most of which should have been knocked off and buried before they aired), followed by the fairytales that underwent extreme makeovers. The old cartoons were revamped. Then the Muppets. (I just want to erase the Muppets from my memory forever because I hit an all-time low with the new Muppets.) The sitcom comebacks came back and left again to my relief.
And then this: a little girl named Anne Shirley talks about sexual things she doesn’t comprehend, and it’s supposed to be amusing. It’s not. I’d be shocked, but that stage of my grief has been burned away by the constant barrage of terrible ideas coming from these revisits. Yeah, I know moral integrity was lost long ago by the major movie and TV companies who are making this tripe. That doesn’t make the horror go away that they have taken my childhood friend and smashed her innocent little face in the mud with the Boot of Demoralization. It doesn’t lessen the indignation I feel.
Fan Grief, this sense of losing someone close, causes me anxiety, confusion, and anger simultaneously. Can we acknowledge Fan Grief is “a thing,” or is grieving over the loss of an imaginary person too unrealistic? We shouldn’t have feelings for anyone but real people, right? Book characters continue to relate to readers in ways and at susceptible moments when a real person couldn’t get through to us. Is it really so silly that we fans take imaginary characters seriously? Never mind that the worlds of imaginary characters change us, influence us to grow psychologically, open our minds to new perspectives. They aren’t real, so they don’t count. Are any fans mollified by this line of reasoning? It’s not working for me.
L.M. Montgomery, the writer of Anne of Green Gables, wrote about seeing the beauty of life in the toughest situations and learning to rise above. She focused on joy through innocent Anne’s eyes. Later, as Anne grew into an adult, Montgomery used sorrow to create strength and vision to teach me to cling to love and goodness. Those of us who grew up scouring bookstores for Emily and Kilmeny and Marigold and Jane of Lantern Hill (before the Internet was an option) are now being punched in the gut. Our beloved Anne is a crude composite that some writer skimmed off the surface of Montgomery’s tale, tacking on to her all sorts of ugliness.
What if someone re-manufactured the Teddy Bear by pouring dirt into him for stuffing, then touted him as the Teddy Bear I grew up with… and laughed with… and cried with? What if, in my excitement, I presented the new Teddy Bear to my excited daughter, who wanted to relate to my fond memories and stories? She would take the filthy bear in her arms, and he’d puff out his filth on her. Trying to connect with the experiences of her mother, my daughter would receive the gagging refuse the fake Teddy Bear left on her! It’s a sorry replacement: a fake Anne stuffed with sexual innuendo from a brutal past. This re-invented Anne suffers from flashbacks of abuse. She goes into a panic attack when a baby cries and relives being insulted, slapped, and beaten. She has a self-inflicted bruise along her forearm—because she’s “pinched herself a thousand times.” Maud Montgomery certainly depicted loneliness and even depression, but not in a masochistic manner. If she had written Anne in this grimy way, child readers would never have connected with her like they did. Adults – adults who have been through the horrors of abuse and neglect and brutality – connected with Anne because she inspired them to look on the bright things of life with new eyes.
I can’t believe for a minute this is actually flying with fans. What fan is so unobservant and disloyal that she can’t see someone has just glued a picture of her favorite character onto something completely opposite in integrity to that character? Fans aren’t that stupid.
In the throes of my disappointment, I turned to kindred spirit friends for support. These were their comments:
- “I am currently reading through the Anne series again…to see if the newest remake had any basis for its claims. In chapter 17 of book 5, Anne is talking to Captain Jim… She says her time before Green Gables wasn’t happy, and Captain Jim says, ‘Mebbe not – but it was just the usual unhappiness of a child who hasn’t anyone to look after it properly. There hasn’t been tragedy in your life, Mistress Blythe.’ So, right there you have it from the author’s mouth that the horrid version has no basis.”
- “This [version] is an insult to L.M. Montgomery. It’s my opinion that a story should stick with the original, but this goes beyond that with changes that are agenda-pushing and/or change the personality of the character.”
- “If I wanted to watch a story with troubled teens, I’d just watch Lifetime.”
- “Yeah, if I wanted reality, I’d watch Teen Mom.”
I’m sickened! Yes, and I’m disgusted! And I admit that this strong reaction surprises even me. I’m surprised to find I’ve been wounded by a TV show. I don’t want the next generation to grow up thinking the book friends of my childhood even slightly resemble this rot.
I want the next generation to know the wonder of the untarnished original, set in the thinking of the time, not a writer’s mind-child tattooed with anachronisms that ruin the whole experience! Didn’t that time have enough of its own problems; does it really need this era’s propaganda? Why do writers use historical TV programs to pick at the scab of modern day issues, preaching pet political opinions and spouting banal platitudes? It’s nauseating. I have a mind to put strychnine in the well these writers drink from because there’s no slate heavy enough to inflict on their heads the fury I feel over their senseless behavior.