Live Free: The Charm of Anne (With An E)
Updated: May 24, 2022
I remember wanting 2022 to be different from 2021 when the year started. I dubbed it 'my year of movement', specifically from just getting through each day to what I called thriving. Thriving didn't have a singular definition for me, but as the year has unfolded, thriving seems to me to stem from another big, perhaps vague, idea: freedom.
The past few days have shaken me to remember to live from that, and have had me thinking about what that would look like for me. I also happen to have just binged Anne With An E for the first time, and our titular character is an inspiration for living free if I ever saw one.
Anne With An E, based on the 1908 book, Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery, follows young orphan, Anne Shirley, as she finds a home with an older brother-sister duo, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, and starts a life in their countryside town of Avonlea. Anne is very talkative, with an imagination that would make any writer jealous but that seems to have been sharpened through hardship, as it was into her imagination that Anne escaped when she was faced with turmoil. Her imagination and rough younger years make her weirdly optimistic, like she has faced the worst of life already and nothing that comes after will be that bad in comparison, and so for all 3 seasons of the show, Anne maintains big bright eyes as she looks forward to what comes next. Her optimism makes her wear her heart on her sleeve, quick to forgive and easily hope for the best (also, shoutout to Amybeth McNulty who played this character to perfection).
Avonlea is a town that is ruled by the perceptions of other people and the things one must do to ensure that those perceptions remain good, so Anne pulling up naturally disturbs their order. Anne, in addition to having an overactive imagination and an optimistic personality, is not bound by the rules of their 'polite society'. At least not in the way that everyone else who grew up in that town is. For example, in S2 Ep 8, Anne does not feel the need to include petticoats, linens and "pretty things" when she is talking about what she would have in a trousseau for her wedding and, apart from curiosity, is not affected when she is told by the others that her trousseau has to contain those items, because she has spent her life up to this point outside of this culture.
Anne, in a way I think is so beautiful, is free enough to not have the rules define her when she encounters them- even when she decides to obey them.
I find obligation is a theme for a lot of the characters on the show. Both Marilla and Matthew's lives took a turn when they acted out of obligation, even though they wanted more than what they were getting; Anne's best friend, Diana, is constantly torn between what her parents expect of her and what she wants to do; and Anne's eventual love interest, Gilbert, is thrown into adulthood young and handed a bunch of obligations that he tries to run away from at some point. Not all of these obligations are bad (taking care of sick parents and keeping your promises are good things), or turn out negatively (Matthew and Marilla come into Anne's life as an eventual result of their following through on obligations), but Marilla is right when she says in S1 Ep 6, "obligation can be a prison."
This past week, I told myself I have to do what I want, because life is short (#LoveGodLiveFree). I'm always careful when I say stuff like that because it could be taken to mean "throw all responsibility out the window" and I don't mean that. So I asked the question, instead of obligation, how do you let your responsibilities anchor and not trap you?
I don't think I can answer that completely. I do think part of it is choice. Choosing to do something because you want to is different from doing it because something bad will happen if you don't. But then I think that begs different questions. What is worth following? What is worth doing even if you don't want to? When is it time to sacrifice for others and when is it time to look out for yourself? Can you live free while looking out for other people? How? I don't know, stuff to think about. I hope we find the answers in our lives though, and that we can thrive from places of freedom in them.
I guess now is a good time to say Anne With An E addresses so many more issues and is really good. You should check it out if you're into random outbursts of "deliciously scrumptious" old dialogue, childish wonder, "tragical romances" and a whole lot of wholesomeness.
*I realised halfway through writing this that my last post also alluded to the idea of obligation so, you know... I must be going through something.*
All 3 seasons of Anne with an E are available on Netflix, and all 8 books in the Anne of Green Gables series are available to buy on Amazon.