Snuffing Out the Thrill of Anne

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.

By L. M. Montgomery, M. A. & W. A. J. Claus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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.

Thwack! – By M. A. and W. A. J. Claus (https://archive.org/details/cu31924013243963) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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.

Mom’s Legacy

Every mom wants to leave a legacy, something her child will hold onto when she’s long gone. Today’s my mom’s birthday, and I’ve been thinking about what her legacy will be.

I remember how my mom taught my Bible Class when I was a kid. Mom is a natural when it comes to teaching. She knows how to create a hunger for learning.  Once, she brought me in to watch my five-year-old sister playing with Cuisenaire Rods. My sister stacked the different lengths of rods into cubes on the table, and my mom whispered to me, “See that!” Her hazel green eyes sparkled with excitement. “She’s doing square roots and doesn’t even know it!”

When she’s in teacher-mode, her enthusiasm is contagious. She is super at inventing activities to bring home key concepts, always introducing a new game. Even as I grew older, I realized her talent at bringing a lesson to life.

I remember the year we fell in love with Anne of Green Gables. Mom purchased the whole set for me for Christmas, then promptly read it before she gift-wrapped it. She would ask, “Have you made it to the part where…?” as I read the series. We shared Anne, and that may be why L. M. Montgomery is my favorite author today.

My mother sang all the time while I was growing up. I can remember being rocked while the soothing sounds of her Irish alto, reverberating against my ear, lulled me to sleep. I never wanted her to stop singing.

When I’m in my final years, I know her words will come back to me. I think I will hear them in song, just as she sings to me now when I’m in the midst of a hard decision:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart,
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him
and He shall direct thy paths;
and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Mom, how blessed I have been to have you as my mother! Please, don’t ever stop singing to me.

Where’s the Ending? Completing Your Story

Part 7 of The Fan Fiction Experiment

There was no ‘One, two, three, and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out ‘The race is over!’ and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, ‘But who has won?’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Dodo from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Dodo from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most difficult and annoying issues that plagues writers—and readers!—on free online writing sites is the inability to complete the story. There are tons of incomplete works of fanfiction, along with furious readers and apologetic writers. Let’s face it, writers can lose impetus, especially when there isn’t any monetary motivation involved. Plus, waning interest and plot bunnies come complimentary with storytelling genius. Many writers cater to them, leaping to a different tale without rescuing poor Sheila, the Little Mermaid’s sister, from the clutches of Korth, King Triton’s evil twin. Readers want writers to be reliable.

Johannes Vermeer - Lady Writing a Letter with ...
Johannes Vermeer – Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid (detail) – WGA24698 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not easy to be a steady serial chapter writer. It’s even harder to finish the story. Diligence is a muscle a writer has to exercise. Sense and Sensibility was originally written as a series of letters and read to the family. Think about that: It’s probable we wouldn’t have Elinor and Marianne and their beautiful love stories if not for the support of Jane Austen’s family to keep her writing. Unfortunately, not everyone has a family like Jane’s.

Fanfiction sites can help you stay accountable, motivated, and focused while writing your story. Every writer craves encouraging reviews, but they won’t keep a story going if the writer doesn’t have a purpose for continuing. So, begin with a purpose statement. ‘What?’ you might say, ‘Can’t a writer just write for the fun of it, to free one’s adventuresome spirit?’ Actually, a writer always has a purpose statement because no one writes without a reason. Some purpose statements include: “I want to try a ghost story,” “I want to explore a political theory of mine,” “I want to exorcise a harsh time from my past,” “My teacher says I have to write this,” or “I want to see how much of this story I can complete if I make a goal of posting two chapters a week.”

When beginning a story, writing down my purpose statement is like insuring my work. It’s my fallback. Without it, my story can become like a game of Telephone; I start with one idea and the story mimics flypaper, gathering plot bunny carcasses until I can’t find the original idea at all.

Here’s an example of a purpose statement:

I am writing Backwash, My First Job at a Dentist’s Office because I need closure on this most disgusting experience in my life, and I need to defend my decision to brush my teeth fourteen times a day.

I try to be as descriptive as I can. If I’m writing to a specific person or audience, I include that as well. This helps me refocus on the reason for writing the story, should I get sidetracked, say, by deciding to change the plot midway through. (Fanfic reviewers can have very tempting ideas, by the way. It is easy to get sidetracked, especially once a writer begins to receive good feedback.)

It’s just something to consider if your original reason for writing is important to you to stick to. Changing the story to accommodate a different purpose isn’t necessarily bad, but changing your motivation can change your work. It can also usher in a bad case of writer’s block.

There’s a general consensus that J.K. Rowling wrote Deathly Hallows with her fans in mind because there are nods in the 7th Harry Potter book, and it reads differently from the giddy, sky’s-the-limit feel of The Sorcerer’s Stone. After reading book seven, my sister and I discussed our theories on how the book would have differed without the influence of Potter fans everywhere. We’ll never know.

English: Cropped version of File:Lucy_Maud_Mon...
English: Cropped version of File:Lucy_Maud_Montgomery.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, wrote the other books in the Anne series after there was a demand for more. The rest of the stories in the series are great, but it is my opinion that there is something very precious and delightful when you first meet Anne that you don’t find in the rest of the books. Did this affect the sales of these books? I doubt it.

To clarify, your purpose statement is not the premise or the story outline, which are excellent ways to keep a writer focused, too. Some writers work best when following a premise or outline, while other writers like to wing it; but all of us have a purpose when we first begin writing the story, be it simple or complex.

Monday’s post will be about fails at originality. And next Friday’s post will be the last in the series.

(Disclaimer: Something about opinions and experiences. Writing this post distracted me, and I forgot to write it down.)