Like so many people of my generation, I grew up watching the 1985 CBC television movie Anne of Green Gables. As a deeply weird, ugly, dramatic child, I identified with Anne on a profound level. It also didn’t hurt that Gilbert Blythe’s little wink to Anne in the schoolroom, around 3:05 here, sent me ricocheting right into puberty:
Y’ALL KNOW THAT WINK
I KNOW YOU REWOUND YOUR VHS OVER AND OVER AT THIS SPOT UNTIL YOU WORE IT OUT AND THEN YOUR MOM YELLED AT YOU
Also, I don’t think there has been such an erotically-charged “smashing a slate over someone’s head” scene in all of film history.
The point is, I will forever have a soft spot for Anne of Green Gables, and, because I’m apparently a masochist, I decided to see all the wonderful ways in which art departments could mess it up.
On to the usual preliminary stuff, including a quick recap (in all fairness, I’m recapping the movie, because I haven’t read the book since I was about six):
Anne Shirley is a gawky, redheaded 12-year old orphan who’s lived with shitty foster families her whole life and is pretty much used for slave labor. She keeps her spirits up by living in a rich, imaginative world full of high drama with knights and poetry and shit. Also, her vocabulary is DOPE.
An administrative mix-up eventually sends her to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an elderly brother and sister who live together and think they’re getting a boy-orphan to help them on the farm. Matthew is kindly and chill with it, but Marilla, who is pretty much the prototype for Minerva McGonagall, is pragmatic, and tough, and not at ALL sure about this pubescent ginger chatterbox all up in her hizzy.
Eventually Anne wins everyone over through her relentless sincerity and novelty value, and Marilla says she can stay with them forever.
Anne’s story is full of gentle, Edwardian, Canadian adventures, like accidentally turning her hair green in an attempt to dye it black, and winning three-legged races, and making a “bosom friend”, Diana Barry, whom Anne accidentally gets drunk on what she THINKS is cordial, but is actually wine, and makes her puke in the rosebushes, and it is a scandal. A PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND SCANDAL.
And let’s not forget the puff sleeves. Puffs so big they could swallow the world.
God, the ’80s were a rough time to be alive.
Also, there is Gilbert Blythe, the surprisingly forward-thinking feminist hot guy, who picks on Anne a little bit, but only because he deeply respects her and sees her as his equal (not that I’m advocating the whole “you know a boy likes you if he’s mean to you” bullshit–Gilbert would never dream of being mean to someone or participating in that kind of nonsense). Did he good-naturedly tease the popular, vapid Josie Pye? NO. Because Josie Pye wasn’t worth his fucking time.
I think Anne resonates with most awkward teenagers. She spends all her time being dorky with her best friend and feeling like an outsider and wishing fervently that she could change everything about her looks, starting first and foremost with her red hair. But it’s okay, because when she gets older, her hair turns a bit more golden, and her smarts pay off when she becomes a New Woman teacher and writer (there’s a lot of riding around on bikes in fabulous waistcoats) and she and Gilbert TOTALLY get together, and I am convinced that they don’t wait until marriage to have sex.
LET ME BELIEVE THAT
Right, on to the covers.
Previous posts in this series include: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Moonstone, Dracula, East Lynne, Lady Audley’s Secret, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, Jekyll and Hyde, Pamela, and Ivanhoe.
1.) These are all professional book covers instead of fan or amateur artwork (or at least I hope so). I’m more than happy to pick on marketing boards who thought these were good ideas, but I don’t want to pick on fans trying to express their love of books. If a fan cover made it in to this collection, then I’m very sorry and you are clearly a good enough artist to make me assume it was professionally done.
2.) I’m ridiculing the covers, not the book itself.
3.) I’m going to swear. A lot. If this isn’t your thing, then don’t read it.
Let’s start with the biggest abomination. What is the #1 worst thing they could screw up? Maybe . . . oh, I don’t know . . . the most visual thing that also drives a lot of the plot and characterization?
How about Anne Is Inexplicably Not Ginger?
WHAT FUCK-KNUCKLE DESIGNED THIS COVER?
I don’t want auburn Anne. I don’t want titian Anne. And I sure as fuck don’t want burnt sienna Anne.
I want Pippi-Longstockings-ORANGE Anne. There is a reason her nickname is “Carrots”.
Brown. Their hair is straight-up brown. Get your shit together, guys. I cannot believe there are this many covers that get this element incorrect.
Not only is Anne a brunette, but she appears to be suffering from some sort of horrible wasting disease.
Then there is a category called Anne Is Inexplicably Hot.
That is Evelyn Nesbit. As you can read from my blog post on her here, Evelyn was the following:
1.) The most beautiful woman in America
2.) A deeply sexualized and sexually assaulted teenage model/actress with a 47-year old boyfriend
3.) A woman who was badgered into marrying a crazy, abusive millionaire, who then murdered her former 47-year old boyfriend very, very publicly (he shot him in the face during a fancy dinner at Madison Square Gardens), which dragged Evelyn into the “Trial of the Century”.
Which of these details is fitting for the gentlest of all gentle books?
Unless this is how Anne visualizes herself to be in her deepest fantasies, then this is completely inaccurate.
Goddamn it, guys, Anne doesn’t get hot and have gentlemen callers until Anne of Avonlea.
Look, that’s a valiant effort at producing a vaguely redheaded woman with a braid, but Anne was definitely not a simpering silent film star.
I don’t even know who the fuck this attractive 25-year old from 1958 is, but she better STEP OFF
Let’s talk about another weird trope I discovered in these covers: Anne is Inexplicably Half-Naked.
Anne is a girl smack-dab in the middle of puberty in 1906. She would not have worn skirts this short since she was about 4 or 5 years old, if EVER. And she sure as shit wouldn’t be wearing them with bare legs.
In 1906, this would have been indecent exposure.
I like that they managed to tap into a modern audience, though. She’s got some nice, beachy waves, a little hipster hat, and Uggs with bare legs. She’d fit right in at an indie film festival in Oregon.
Seriously, Anne, what do you have against underwear? If you keep flashing your nethers, Rachel Lynde will spread it all over the sewing bee.
Then there’s my favorite category, even if it is deeply thematically inappropriate: Anne is Inexplicably Murderous.
BRACE YOURSELF FOR DEATH, CHICKEN
FOR TONIGHT I WILL EAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR DRUMSTICKS
IT HAS BEEN FORETOLD
This is Anne’s Wednesday Addams phase, straight out of the pages of the Toast:
RACHEL: Well, Marilla
I can’t say I think she looks like much, but you always did know your own mind
ANNE [lights a cigarette]: funny
i don’t recall asking you what you thought about a fucking thing
This is the Anne who haunts Marilla’s dreams, driving her slowly mad with the relentless noise, noise, NOISE.
Finally, my catch-all category of General WTF-ery.
Anne of Green Gables: I’m Literally About to Piss Myself, Hurry the Fuck Up, Matthew
Lisa Frank had a hand in this cover. This was in her muted, post-90s period.
If Anne had been this cool and French, she would have ruled that goddamned school yard.
In which Matthew decides he’d rather have a boy-orphan after all, and Anne has an “unfortunate accident” falling out of the carriage.
I can’t believe I’m going to ask this
Is Marilla a 12-foot tall witch throwing a harpoon?
That’s all from me today. You may have noticed that I didn’t do a “Good Covers” section, but that’s because most of the covers I found were perfectly appropriate and nice, without any of them particularly blowing me away. Any book suggestions for future posts would be much appreciated!