At long last, season 2 of Anne With An E has arrived in Canada. Yes, while the rest of the world got to experience the heartwarming, thought-provoking and just overall amazing TV Show that is Anne season 2 in July when it premiered on Netflix, the country that brought this story into the world has had to wait until the end of September to watch it on CBC, one episode at a time.
I’m not sure what the logic is in that, but nevertheless, this is exciting for Canada!
Fangirlish has already reviewed this season (part 1 is here and part 2 is here), but because this is a joyous occasion, today I am going to celebrate it by talking about Anne Shirley. Not about the one portrayed in the TV show, exactly, because as much as I love her, she is not the Anne I grew up with. No, I am going to be talking about the Anne from the Anne of Green Gables book series, because she was my childhood hero, and the best role model I could have possibly had at that age. Yes, as many books as I read and as many movies as I watched as a kid, none of the characters I encountered had as profound an influence on my life as this little redhead from 19th century Prince Edward Island. To this day, she is the fictional character I relate to the most, and the one who had the biggest role in shaping who I am today.
Or, as I said on Twitter the day I started season 2 of Anne:
See, I honestly can't tell if I've always related to Anne Shirley or if she had such a profound influence on my life that I imitated her as a kid and then sort of… became her.
— Beata (@CBeataE) July 11, 2018
In a time when the entertainment industry is practically overflowing with strong female characters meant to empower young girls and inspire the next generation of women, it might seem weird to turn to a character created over a hundred years ago for life lessons. After all, Anne of Green Gables is an outdated novel ripe with gender roles and entirely ignorant of the existence of any people who are not white and heterosexual (the TV show, by the way, is not!).
Still, Anne is special. Even though her novels are very much a product of their time, the messages they convey can still resonate with a modern audience. That’s why it worked so well when the TV show decided to make her more “woke.”
I think that, even today, over a hundred years after the release of her first book, Anne Shirley can still teach us valuable lessons.
Here are 10 reasons why Anne Shirley is a great role model.
1. She teaches us that imagination and creativity are awesome
This, right here, might be the single biggest way in which Anne Shirley influenced me as a kid. People generally expect kids to have vivid imaginations, but there are still a fair amount of people who think it’s weird to have imaginary friends… or imaginary pets… or just to really enjoy coming up with fictional scenarios in your head. Because of Anne, I was always confident that my vivid imagination was not weird, but something to be celebrated, even after I reached the age when imagination and creativity were no longer “cool.”
2. She’s smart, and proud of it
This might not seem like that big a deal, but it is. Being smart should be valued, and celebrated. Intelligence should be cool. People should be excited to learn things, like Anne is, because learning is great.
Also, it’s so inspiring that Anne is so proud of her intelligence in a society that does not value intelligence in girls, at all. She gets good grades, she loves school, and she goes to college, even though that’s not the path the world wants her to take.
3. She appreciates the little things in life
Look. I know it’s cliché, but it honestly is refreshing to read about a character who gets so genuinely excited about the tiniest things. Anne reminds us that there is beauty all around us, and that we should appreciate it. Flowers are pretty. Fall leaves are pretty. Sunsets are pretty. Houses can be pretty. Graveyards can be pretty. We shouldn’t just get used to these beautiful things all around us, but appreciate them.
4. She’s unapologetically feminine
Even today, too many writers confuse femininity with weakness. Too many women – fictional or not – have to distance themselves from everything feminine in order to be regarded as tough, or smart, or respectable. Anne, on the other hand, shows us that femininity can coexist alongside intelligence, and strength, and leadership, and everything that makes her such a great character.
Anne is frivolous and shallow and she loves dressing up and looking pretty and that’s totally okay because it’s just who she is and it does not detract from her her worth.
5. She never puts down other girls to make herself feel better
This is something I noticed in a recent re-read of the series, but it’s so refreshing to read about a female character who is different from other girls, and yet never implies that there’s anything wrong with “other girls.”
Anne has many, many close friends who are girls. She admires other girls. She compliments them. She lifts them up. She loves girls of all kinds, from Marilla to Diana to Ruby Gillis to Rachel Lynde to Philippa Gordon to Miss Cornelia. That’s inspiring.
6. She doesn’t put up with other people trying to tear her down
At the same time, Anne knows how to stand up for herself. From the moment she yells at Mrs. Rachel Lynde for insulting her, we can see that she has a lot self-respect, despite how often she insults herself. When she breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head for making fun of her hair, and then proceeds to shun him for years, we see that she doesn’t put up with teasing, even from the cutest boy in class.
Anne has a complicated relationship with her self-image at times, but she is never, ever okay with other people devaluing her.
7. She’s passionate about many things
Again, Anne gets excited about things. And that’s good! We shouldn’t be afraid to be passionate about things, and to express that passion however we want to.
8. She teaches us to laugh at our mistakes
Anne is far from perfect, and that’s okay! She’s human, just like the rest of us, and because she’s human, she makes mistakes. Maybe her mistakes are a little more dramatic than ours, and maybe some of them are slightly traumatizing for her, but she always picks herself back up and, in time, learns to laugh at herself.
Whenever I made mistakes or embarrassed myself as a kid, it was always strangely comforting to think of how Anne had done so much worse and still managed to laugh it off.
Anne reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, because we all make mistakes, and in time, we all learn to laugh at them.
9. She’s always true to herself
Anne stands out, a lot, and she has been told time and time again that that is a bad thing. She should use fewer big words, she should read less, she should talk less about her imaginings, she should talk less, period, or else people won’t like her.
And the thing is, before she arrived in Avonlea, nobody did like her. She never had real friends, or a loving family, and yet she chose not to change a thing about herself. She decided that she would rather be herself and be lonely than change who she is and be liked.
10. She eventually marries someone who genuinely loves and respects her
Okay, I know we’re talking about Anne here and I almost feel bad for writing about Gilbert, but this is still important. Anne doesn’t settle for just anyone. She doesn’t just marry someone rich and pretty (though she does come close with Roy Gardner), but someone who loves her for her intelligence and her wit and her personality and everything people have told her is undesirable. She marries someone who can match her in intelligence, and with whom she can have genuinely interesting conversations. Anne and Gilbert are a team, in a time when that isn’t always a requirement in a relationship.
Season 2 of Anne With An E premieres in Canada on Sunday, September 23rd at 7/7:30NT on CBC.