Why Anne of Green Gables is the hero we need right now

PBS

Anne Shirley was the original nasty woman, which is why America needs her right now.  A couple weeks ago, American girls were told that they could be anything — except the President of the United States, even when they are as qualified as one could possibly be. Tonight, on Thanksgiving, American audiences will be treated to an Anne of Green Gables reboot, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Here are some of the reasons that we need Anne Shirley right now:

Anne Shirley has a very bad temper.

Hillary was dealt a terrible blow last week, and because of societal expectations, she had to keep her cool. You know who has zero chill? Anne Shirley. She’ll break a slate over your head, and she will STAND BY IT.

She is not likable.

Sure, she’s likable to us, but she’s not universally beloved in Avonlea. Josie Pie and crew love to throw shade her way. Anne keeps succeeding in spite of them.

She is the winner of the Avery.

Yeah, she wins the Avery scholarship. She beats out Gilbert Blythe, and everyone else.

She dyes her hair green.

You hurt Anne’s feelings , and she might react badly and dye her hair green. Anne shows us that we can make mistakes, we can overreact, and then we can move on.

annegren
Sullivan Entertainment

She’s not a boy.

Woof. The Patriarchy hits close to home on this one. Anne arrives in Avonlea only to find out that Matthew and Marilla wanted a boy. Sure, it puts her in the depths of despair, and then she keeps moving on until Marilla regrets that she ever said it. Let’s go, ladies. It’s time to live our truths so fully that the Patriarchy will regret that they ever tried to put us down.

Glass Ceiling? She’s on top of it, walking the ridge pole of a roof.

Remember that time that the Avonlea school went to Moody Surgeon’s house for Mr. Phillips goodbye party, and Josie Pie was showing off by walking a fence? Anne couldn’t help but throw down a gauntlet, saying that she once knew someone who could walk the ridgepole of a roof. Of course, Josie challenged Anne, and before we knew it, Anne was on top of Moody’s kitchen roof (until she fell and sprained her ankle). Gilbert offered her a ride, and she opted to take the long way home rather than give him the satisfaction.

If Anne Shirley had been with us last week, she’d have been scaling the Javits Center just to prove that she could. When the results came in showing Hillary’s defeat? Anne would have walked her home through the haunted forest.

She’s fishing for lake trout.

When the Barry’s dory springs a leak, she jumps out and clings to the bridge post, only to have Gilbert Blythe come smugly rowing by. When she’s in his boat, he dares to say, “The fact is: I rescued you.” Anne shuts that down so fast.

She’s not a damsel. She didn’t need rescuing. She reminds us that while we might accept and welcome the help of our allies, we don’t need them. We are more than capable of saving ourselves (even if we can’t save that lovely piano cover).

She doesn’t fall for the lie that it’s okay for boys to treat you badly (because they like you).

It takes Anne a long time to forgive Gilbert for calling her names and teasing her. Of course, we as the audience know that it’s because he likes her. Diana knows, too, and she tries to tell Anne as much, but Anne does not bite. She will not allow herself to be treated poorly just because Gilbert Blythe doesn’t know how to process his feelings, and we shouldn’t either.

She internalizes messages about what she should look like — because she is real.

I’m not saying that this is good, but I am saying that it is real. When we meet Anne, she hates everything about herself, from her name (“Couldn’t you call me Cordelia?”) to her hair, to the fact that she deeply believes that she’s ugly.

We live in a world were women are given so many complicated mixed messages about how we should look and feel and be that it is impossible to meet them all. Anne shows us what it’s like to carry that weight, to grow through it, and to become the person you want to be in spite of what other people tell you.

She is surrounded by strong women.

A fellow Anne of Green Gables fanatic recently pointed out to me that Gilbert Blythe is a kind of specter. “We don’t really know anything about him,” she argued. That’s certainly  true compared to the female characters in the book.  Diana, Marilla, Rachel Lynde: all of these women are deeply felt, complicated, and intensely human.  They are products of their circumstances, and they are allowed to forge their own destinies.

Anne knows what we should all know. That life in this world is a lot easier when you surround yourself with strong women who lift you up… and Matthew. Every single little girl — and adult woman — should have a Matthew in her life to tell her, “I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don’t ever change. I love my little girl. I’m so proud of my little girl.” (Excuse me while I go cry my eyes out.)

To catch a fresh dose of Anne, you can tune in to PBS this Thanksgiving (tonight!!!) at 8 p.m. EST.

If you can’t wait that long, there’s always the Kevin Sullivan original, where Megan Follows is the perfect imperfect heroine. Better yet, curl up with the books and prepare yourself to be soothed in a way that only Lucy Maude Montgomery can soothe you.

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