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.

Advertisements

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.

My Top Five Love Stories

These are my current top five books and movies. It changes, of course.

Books

English: Persuasion (last Jane Austen Novel) c...
English: Persuasion (last Jane Austen Novel) ch 23 : Captain Wentworth is showing his letter to Anne, “with eyes eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to t...
Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab by William Blake, 1795 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2.  The Book of Ruth

You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.

Illustration to the North and South (novel by ...
Illustration to the North and South (novel by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Take care.—If you do not speak—I shall claim you as my own in some strange presumptuous way.

4. Emily’s Quest (Last of 3 in Emily Series) by L. M. Montgomery

It came clearly and suddenly on the air of a June evening. An old, old call–the two higher notes and one long and soft and low.

5. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

We belong to each other now really and truly, no make-believe.

Movies

1. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

2. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

She could peel an apple in one long, curly strip. The whole apple.

3. The Parent Trap (1961)

I miss those wet stockings you used to have hanging around the bathroom. And I miss my razor being dull because you used it to shave your legs with. And I miss the hairpins mixed up with the fishhooks in my tackle box.

4. Wives and Daughters (1999)

I couldn’t go. I couldn’t go without… Molly, do I still have any chance with you?

5. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

My dearest sweetheart, Klara, I can’t stand it any longer. Take your key and open post office box 237 and take me out of my envelope… and kiss me…

After choosing these, I realized the most appealing thing to me in a love story is sacrifice, whether it’s through waiting or giving without expecting anything in return. I hope you’ve had a lovely February! Expect another post tomorrow because I plan to update my blog Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in March.

Which Way Is Ever After?

by A. Ashkanani, flickr.com

It’s the mushy month. Love and all that… And I was thinking, ‘I should find a good love story to celebrate Valentine’s Day properly.’ Nyah, nothing with a sappy name this time. They bother me. I know there’s something wrong with a Gaskell’s North and South/Austen’s Pride and Prejudice fanatic who doesn’t devour those confectionary titles like a big goblet of dark chocolate mousse, but I have difficulty reading a book that’s embarrassing to name aloud. (“Oh, I’m reading, ‘Love’s Endless Flowing Tragic Quest of Angst,’ you?”) It reminds me of Gilbert’s down-to-earth remark to Anne Shirley about her flowery romances. He tells her, “Nobody talks like that in real life.”*

Still, I believe there’s nothing like a good love story, and romances aren’t necessarily good love stories. Take Tolkien’s Return of the King as an example. It wasn’t a romance, but the love stories are mint. The relationship dynamics are what intrigue me most, I guess. Whatever my current writing obsession, I find myself watching my protagonist develop, placing certain situations before him or her to see what the reaction will be. As a reader, I like book characters that give me the impression I’ve met them before. I’m the Bildungsroman sci-fantasy sort, add a side of love story.

Because of this, a tale about a woman who is thawed into falling in love with some non-confrontational, gorgeously handsome man, who waits all through the book for her to notice him, has no appeal. I think I prefer reading about a confrontational, ugly guy who goes through his own metamorphosis. (Have I been conditioned to correlate male attractiveness with spineless drooling? Hm…)

How about the male love interest who makes the heroine eat her words? Well, he ought to be gentlemanly about it when she does, of course. But I’m not completely a Taming of the Shrew fan because it lends itself to the opposite extreme, toward berating or abusing womankind.

Why do so many love stories belittle the intelligence of either gender to make the relationship work? I think the romance genre often finds its writers in difficulty over how to keep that balance. And what about original endings? Wedding bells ring, a thrilling account of what happened on the honeymoon, or hints of a baby’s arrival often conclude the tale. Jane Austen fared just fine leaving her characters to pledge their troth and… Here’s an epilogue. Cue the orchestra, roll the credits. What are some other ways to end a love story without being cliché? The only other endings I can think of are the ones where one, or both of them, dies. The Hunger Games (Spoiler! Spoiler!) used a tactic which I found both realistic and depressing. Kat just deals. She ends up with the one she loves best, but they are too scarred to really be happy. Call me an idealist, but I don’t find death and despondency very inspiring in a society where love comes and goes like a hobby and no one seems to know which direction to ride off and find ‘ever after,’ much less ‘happily.’

So, any book suggestions, or have I thrown out the lot?

*from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series