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#Secret Garden anon

Bear in mind that I have only seen the first season (and haven’t heard anything about the others that particularly persuades me to continue) and am not trying to insult any fans. It’s a well-acted series with excellent production values. But I am discussing why it didn’t work for me.

I can understand making changes to an adaptation as long as the essential story, characters, and themes are in place. Anne with an E struck me as less interested in adapting Montgomery’s story than in rewriting it to be the story she should have told, as if it were a flaw of the book not to be dark and concentrated on social issues (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, just not the point of the novel) and, frankly, kind of cynical.

The Anne of the novel is indeed a girl who has had an extremely difficult past and has been raised by people who were unkind to her. Nevertheless, she is determinedly hopeful, and while her retreat into imagination is to an extent a coping mechanism, it’s also inherent to her nature. She has suffered but it has not consumed her. The Anne of the TV series is not quite the same character. She’s harsher, downright deliberately rude at times (the way she speaks to Jerry after meeting him really bothered me; he’s done nothing to deserve such treatment, and it felt out of character for her to be so vindictive without a cause), and seems to simmer with an underlying bitter anger–not the quick but fleeting temper of her novel counterpart, but a sort of…I don’t know, almost belligerence toward life?

The series justifies this as a result of her past–implying she has PTSD, an interesting concept but not one that the text adequately supports, I think–which, through flashbacks, is revealed to be rather exaggeratedly horrific. It’s as if almost everyone in Anne’s life is consumingly dedicated to singling her–and only her–out for torment. I mean, they seem to care a lot about making this random orphan girl miserable. It seems more likely that her past would be full of neglect, being ignored, not cared for or about, treated like an object; that other orphans would maybe taunt her vocabulary and roll their eyes and walk away instead of taking the trouble to catch and handle a mouse just to shove it in her mouth (???). Is that not traumatic and hurtful enough, especially for someone like Anne? The series is trying extra hard to establish her as a Victim, and it really isn’t necessary. You should be able to feel for her and root for her without this level of effort.

The result is a dark tone not in keeping with that of the novel, which may not always be bright and cheery–Matthew’s death is devastating–but has a pervading optimism and sense of humor that I don’t recall getting from the series. Montgomery treats the foibles of her characters with a light satirical touch, and more of them are harmlessly silly or self-important than truly bad people. But the series uses most of the inhabitants of Avonlea as a means to convey its insistence that most people of the past were despicably small-minded and hateful. The truth is far more complicated–Montgomery’s novel, written in the actual past by someone who lived then, does not present such a black and white picture at all–but the series does not treat the complex issue with the nuance and subtlety it requires.

Instead, Anne’s worldview takes anachronistic cues from the present day, and the only alternative is exaggerated bigotry. The “kindred spirit” Reverend Allan of the novel is replaced by a minister who spouts misogynistic views on women’s education that are absent from the book. If I recall correctly, Anne in the books encounters little if any opposition to her academic pursuits–and quite a lot of support. Why was it necessary to make the people around her more sexist than they were written to be in 1908? Can’t an author who lived through the era she wrote about be trusted to portray her world as she knew it? The result was a rather forced, heavy-handed treatment of the issue. This “century ahead” interpretation of Anne seems to come from an idea that a character from another time cannot be unconventional, unique, or relatable without conforming to the standards of our day. This is not only unrealistic but rather self-congratulatory. (Just imagine a TV series being made a century from now portraying all of us as hive-mindedly horrible jerks without human complexity or widely varying views!)

On another note, I was very uncomfortable with the scene in which Anne reveals to her classmates what she knows about her previous guardians’ sex life. That Mrs. Hammond would discuss so thoroughly such a topic, even in veiled terms (Anne doesn’t seem to fully understand the implications of what she’s repeating), with a child does not seem likely for a housewife of that era. Any questions Anne might have had about that topic would more probably have met with curt dismissal. The scene felt out of place for me, and seemed perhaps a deliberate snub at / subversion of the innocence of the novel. There’s realism and then there’s cynicism, and for me, Anne with an E leans more toward the latter. And that’s just not a reading of the story that appeals to me.

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Hi, Secret Garden anon!

I have seen the first season of Anne with an E, but I’ve never considered adapting The Secret Garden in a similar manner. It would certainly be a fresh approach and would require the introduction of a lot of new/invented material to fill out the new format. The arcs of the book are pretty self-contained and don’t strike me as something that can be too far extended. You could potentially cover the events of the book in a single season, while a second season might deal with the continued growth and adjustment in the newly reunited family, and a third could introduce the characters to a wider world–Colin would likely go on to attend a public school like Eton or Harrow or Winchester to prepare for reading science at Cambridge or Oxford, and surely Mary could find some reason to further explore England’s natural wonders. But it would require a lot of new material, and very good writers who respect the book and the characters. Anne with an E, from what I’ve seen, tended to stray a bit too far from its source material and original characterization for my taste, and I would prefer an adaptation of The Secret Garden to avoid that.

There’s an anime called Anime Himitsu no Hanazono that was done in the early 1990s that adapts The Secret Garden into 39 half-hour episodes. It’s on YouTube, I think, and I’ve watched several episodes, but unfortunately it’s never been subbed or dubbed into English and thus is incomprehensible if you don’t speak Japanese (I don’t!). But from what I could gather, they drag out the story at a painfully slow rate to maintain the length–throwing in random new characters with elaborate backstories, letting Mary go to the Sowerbys’ cottage fairly early and elaborating on those kids, giving Mary a cat she’s not allowed to have and building subplots around that. I can’t speak to how well it works, but that’s one approach to the TV format that’s been done.

I think a miniseries of the book could work well, especially since the book was originally a serial and has suitable cliffhangers in place. The 1975 series got in a lot of detail and attention to supporting characters through its format, and I’d like to see that approach updated.

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Hi, Secret Garden anon! Thanks for your patience, I will get to your earlier question about textual variants in The Secret Garden, but I need to recompare the texts again to catch everything. There are a lot of mostly mundane changes, but I want to be thorough.

Yes, the emphasis on the more practical, sensory side of healing is what grounds the book. Film adaptations tend to run with the concept of the Magic for a more mystical take on healing, but the amount of attention given to practical healthy behavior suggests that “the Magic” is more likely the children’s explanation for something perfectly natural. Burnett overdoes it on the power of thought, of course, but she also recognizes the positive psychological effect of having responsibilities and being independent and physically taking care of oneself and having a positive social life.

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it's "the secret garden" anon! i read the tags on your latest post and now i'm super curious about the other versions of "a little princess" where sara had more pronounced flaws! would you mind elaborating? :)

Hi, Secret Garden anon!

I’m going to do a post about that very thing in the near future; it’s just going to take a while to put together because DETAILS!

The earliest version of the story was a short story called Sara Crewe, Or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s (serialized 1887, published 1888). Then Burnett expanded it into a play called A Little Un-fairy Princess (later The Little Princess) in 1902, which was further expanded into the novel A Little Princess.

Stay tuned, and I will get back to you on this!

EDIT: There are also some minor textual variants in the serialized version of The Secret Garden (most notably Mary’s continuing to wear black after coming to Misselthwaite) that I’d like to talk about at some point.

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it's "the secret garden" anon! eek! the main trailer for the new adaptation came out! i'd love to hear your thoughts about it!

Hi, Secret Garden anon! Nice to see you! I do have lots of thoughts! And just watched the trailer for like the fourth time, really slowly and taking notes, so brace yourself.

Here’s the trailer, for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Keep reading

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Hi, Secret Garden anon! Nice to see you again!

I had no idea that the teaser had come out; thanks for letting me know.

The new time period allows Mary to have an adorable bob. I approve. Also her costumes are lovely.Misselthwaite looks appropriately Gothic and forboding. And oddly bare inside? Mary’s room appears to be very sparsely furnished. Even Colin’s room seems pretty minimal compared to other adaptations’ sets, but then clutter was very Victorian/Edwardian, and it would make sense for a 1940s Misselthwaite to look as if it’s seen better days, as if perhaps things have been sold to keep the place afloat amid the dramatic changes of the last few decades.Speaking of Colin’s room,

wow

, they went straight for that reveal. No secrets about

this

plot point. Although this is his only appearance in the teaser.The grounds are beautiful! Rather a different aesthetic than, say, the 1993 version, which was more muted, more old-fashioned. These gardens are bright and vibrant.Apparently she finds the key in a hole in a tree? Nice to see the robin is included, but I’m curious about this dog. Is it going to serve the same function as Dickon’s animals?This garden appears to be vast and wild, which I like for this setting, but I’m a bit confused by what look like rather tropical plants–not plausible for Yorkshire–and what looks jungle ruins. Unless this is an imaginary sequence? The garden should be a bit fantastical, but it shouldn’t stray too far from what’s likely for a walled garden in Yorkshire.Aww, Dickon. That shy smile. That’s in character.But I’m puzzled by this oddly threatening line from Mr. Craven. What trouble could she possibly cause him? Especially if (canonically, at least) he’s so seldom home. It’s normal for adaptations to throw in some Conflict involving the possibility of Mary being sent away or something comparable, but I’m not sure that this is in character for Mr. Craven. This is, however, given without context.Mary appears to either have a vision of or be visited by (the ghost of?) a woman. Is it her aunt? Letters are scattered all over the floor in this scene. I wonder if those are attempts to contact her uncle regarding Colin’s recovery that have been thwarted somehow, and perhaps she’s the one to be contacted by Lilias? And who are these mysterious floaty ladies wandering the halls of Misselthwaite? One could be Mrs. Craven, but several?Birds in Mary’s room? What’s going on?Is the garden literally magic? Or is this an imagination sequence? I wouldn’t get too worked up about it at this point. I can remember when trailers for the most recent version of

Bridge to Terebithia

came out and there was a great outcry over some emphasized fantastical scenes that turned out to be nothing than brief imaginary sequences. We’re seeing everything out of context, and at this point anything is possible.

Overall, I am curious and definitely eager to see where this goes. Obviously changes to the book will happen, that’s a given, but I hope they can capture the right spirit. I am determined to keep an open mind. 

I’ve seen a lot of comments denouncing this as a “remake” of the 1993 version which is Perfect and Should Not Be Tampered With (as if this film will obliterate the previous one’s existence?), but to be strictly accurate, this is just another adaptation of a classic book that was adapted multiple times even before the 1993 version. Same story, different take/interpretation. That’s what’s so great about literature; there are so many different ways to engage with a good story.

What did you think?

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it's "the secret garden" anon! (well, not anon anymore, but oh well) i HAVE to recommend this movie i'm currently obsessed with that has similarities to "the secret garden," in terms of theme and some plot elements: "the boy who could fly" (1986)! i'd REALLY love to know what you think of it! it's on youtube if you're interested!

Hi, Secret Garden not-so-anon-now! (Sorry about that, I turned off anon because I kept getting weird/pointless/redundant asks–not from you, of course–and didn’t want to deal with it anymore.) Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve added it to my list on YouTube and will let you know what I think whenever I get the chance.

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it's "the secret garden" anon again! feel free to reveal the twist for the steampunk adaptation, i don't mind! and oh my gosh, i'm SO excited for the studio canal movie! i've been quietly following news about it all year. the new setting will definitely be interesting, and the actors look great! ahh, i can't wait!

Me either! They’re apparently also filming in actual Yorkshire, which is perfect.

Okay, so in the 2017 version…

Keep reading

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it's "the secret garden" anon! what did you think of the steampunk adaptation?? i saw the trailers on youtube and was super intrigued, but i'm not prepared to spend $25 on it. was it any good?

Hi, Secret Garden anon! Nice to see you again.

(I don’t know if this is an option for you, but I watched it through Amazon Prime with a free trial of a particular channel, if that helps at all.)

I rewatched it this morning to collect my thoughts, and in short, it’s a visually impressive film with a creative and interesting take on the book that unfortunately doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its premise.

The costumes were lovely (though everyone seems to have a very limited wardrobe), the setting appropriate. Lots of aesthetic in this film, which is suitable for any incarnation of this story. But the worldbuilding’s a bit hazy. There’s an awkward expository conversation about the past wars that resulted in a world where plants are inedible and people wear masks outdoors, but otherwise we don’t know much about the world outside the factory (Misselthwaite) besides references to the moor. Are they in England? They’re implied to be, but most of the characters aren’t even bothering with the accent. Mary’s uncle has a title, but it’s used inconsistently. (He’s called both “Lord Archibald” and “Lord Craven,” depending on the scene, and on one occasion the latter is used in the same sentence with “Lady Lily,” in reference to his wife. If you know anything about British titles of nobility, this doesn’t make sense. Is this how titles work in this universe? Who knows?)

I found the interpretation of the story engaging enough, although I have a lot of questions, mostly about how this world works, the characters’ backgrounds (not enough is explained or explored), and The Big Twist, which is no longer simply that Mary has a cousin she doesn’t know about (in fact, this version lets us know from practically the first line that Mary’s uncle has a son) but that—well, I won’t spoil it for you. But I guessed it fairly early on, and it raises many, many more questions than are answered. It’s a fascinating take, but they don’t do as much with it as they could have or as much as would have fully explained things. If that makes any sense.

However, the script could have been better. There’s a lot of awkward/unnatural/redundant dialogue, which doesn’t put the cast at an advantage and was distracting for me as a viewer. And in my opinion, the acting in general was not as strong as the concept and the visuals.

I wouldn’t call it amazing filmmaking, and the underdeveloped story aspects leave me confused, but it’s by no means a bad take on the story. Just don’t go in expecting something on a level with, say, the 1993 film.

(And by the way, have you heard about the upcoming new version, which will apparently be set in 1947 or thereabouts? I am so. excited. for this, you have no idea.)

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hi, it's "the secret garden" anon again! but i have a question about something different. i was wondering, what if an author whose work you absolutely adore did something you found irredeemable? every time i think about it, i feel sick to my stomach and want to cry. but every time i think of his stories, i feel so happy, in a way i haven't been able to feel in a long time. i just don't know how to feel--it breaks my heart. i know it's a hard question, but what do you think i should do?

Hi, Secret Garden anon! Always a pleasure to hear from you.

On many, many occasions, I have discovered things about authors whose works I love that disappointed me. For instance, it was hard to learn that Charles Dickens cheated on his wife, or that Wilkie Collins split his time between his mistress and his common-law wife, who didn’t know about each other. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a single author who has not done or said or believed something somewhere, big or small, that I can’t approve of. Heck, I do a lot of things that I’m not crazy about. I’m human; I mess up. Authors are human too, and no matter how gifted they are, none of them are without fault in some way. Perhaps some more blatantly than others, but ultimately no one is perfect. Nor should we expect them to be. That’s a standard no one can live up to.

There are many authors, as there are individuals in every field, who have done seriously bad things, things that we cannot in any good conscience endorse. But by reading and enjoying someone’s work and appreciating their undeniable talent, one is not automatically putting the stamp of approval on the creator’s personal life. While an author’s work is very often affected by his or her life/beliefs/experiences, the piece that he or she creates is its own entity, separate from the creator. And unless their work explicitly endorses their own wrongdoing, it has nothing to do with their personal life and choices any more than the dinner I make tonight has any connection to all the lies I’ve ever told my mom. An author’s moral/ethical failure does not negate that he or she has been/is capable of writing beautiful stories that bring others happiness. And while we acknowledge that something he or she has done is not right, we cannot truthfully gloss over what they have done that is good. Of course, one’s good writing does not absolve one of wrongdoing, but even the most serious of personal mistakes should not cancel out the worthiness of any good art one has created.

I can’t tell you, of course, how to feel, but I can tell you that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying someone’s books even if you strongly disapprove of something he has done personally. These books make you happy; don’t let anything take that away from you. Read them. Love them. They are not their author. They are themselves.

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Secret Garden anon, you are not being a nuisance, and of course you can ask as many questions as you like, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to get back to you immediately. I have a lot of writing assignments at the moment and want to be able to give your question the time and thought it deserves. So please be patient and I will answer as soon as possible!

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