It was Sunday yesterday (and a long weekend for me), which means a great time for another episode of Anne!
Here's the CBC link.
SPOILERS HENCE FORTH
(With 'thees' and 'thous', oh, and I'm not holding any punches whatsoever on menstruation. If that makes you squeamish, better quit reading now. Not kidding.)
One of the things that made me strangely excited about Tightly Knotted to a Similar String was that was directed by Patricia Rozema. Her latest film released was Into the Forest (based on the novel by Jean Hegland), which featured Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood in the lead roles of two sisters who find themselves relying on each other as they navigate a world with none of the contemporary comforts and the forest around them as their best resource to survive. It's (sadly) uncommon to see a drama that features two women, especially two sisters. It's why seeing her as the director for an episode that would involve Anne's physical transition into adulthood felt somewhat reassuring to me.
The episode follows some interesting threads. The familiar events being told involve the school spelling bee (we know who wins this one), a tea party involving red currant wine, and a dress with puffed sleeves.
Anne is the last student standing after the school spelling bee; she beats Gilbert, who spelled engagement sans an 'e' (while Mr. Philips keeps giving meaningful looks at Prissy as he announces certain words). Gil is gracious in defeat, but Anne looks very physically uncomfortable. That night, she wakes in a panic and is convinced she's dying as she tries to desperately wash blood from her sheets. Marilla knows what's going on, but Anne doesn't and is hysterical because she hasn't even worn a dress with puffed sleeves and she's a woman, even as Marilla tries to explain everything to her. (And it makes me wonder - how soon girls know that they'd menstruate and how many actually understood.) Matthew... awkwardly decides he's better off in the barn even if it's the middle of the night.
Now, in my own experience, I'm with Anne on everything related to menstruation. It's painful (damn cramps, 99.99% of the time), inconvenient, and what do you mean every MONTH for YEARS! And I love how when she (discreetly as she can) tells the other girls at school, their reactions are relatable to a contemporary audience - some girls feel mature, others point out you don't talk about it because it's "shameful" (even if Anne argues that if it's God's plan that it should happen and lets them have babies, why is it shameful), and there are girls who feel concerned that there's something wrong with them because it hasn't happened yet and everyone else has had theirs. Also, like Anne, I'd give mine away if I could (urgh... it's painful and I hate it and if I may sidebar, I didn't feel "womanly" or "mature" because I was thirteen and had known about this sort of thing since I was about eight, felt just wretched from the pain and grossed out because it's gooey blood and you ruin your clothes and your bedsheets and Tylenol is useless, damn it). It doesn't help that while she's basically forced herself to go to school so she doesn't fall behind (Gilbert), she winds up being distracted from (I'm guessing physical discomfort) thoughts of possibly embarrassing herself like another girl did because she bleed through her dress. Also, she's quite moody. It's probably a combination of getting used to the whole "I'm going to bleed every month" and also maybe some PMS.
It's probably to make Anne feel better, but Marilla lets Anne invite Diana over for tea (a grown-up tea) and serve the raspberry cordial, while Marilla goes to Rachel's. Anne's thrilled (except she doesn't have a fancy dress with puffed sleeves, which gives Matthew an idea) and she and Diana both drink currant wine instead. That's an interesting twist, because in every other adaptation, Anne usually misses out - but she can't tell it's wine either and they get up to a lot of silly antics before an appalled Mrs. Barry arrives, furious at what has happened. Marilla is called home after Mrs. Barry discovers the girls are drunk, and despite Marilla speaking reasonably that it was an honest mistake and she's to blame for the wine being there in the first place, Mrs. Barry won't relent and forbids the girls from associating. Diana's mother makes sure that Mr. Phillips gets the message and Anne and Diana declare their love and friendship with great pathos (hilariously, Diana can't figure out where to put the 'thou' in her sentences) before accepting Mrs. Barry's decision. Anne looks horribly lonely after school (I'm guessing Diana got to keep all the friends).
And what was happening in the meantime the infamous cordial incident happened? As we know, Marilla was at Rachel's, where they're both talking about Anne having her period, and candidly talking about the other option to get out of it is to be pregnant, which Marilla points out is the reason why Rachel had 10 kids over the course of 20 years. The Lyndes seem to have a very affectionate marriage, though Rachel comments it's one of managing expectations at this point. (Another sidebar - I really like the depiction of a female friendship between older women as candid and frank as Marilla and Rachel in this series. Not catty or competitive or two matronly women knitting and drinking tea superficially, but having a real conversation.) And Matthew was in Carmody, attempting to get a puffed sleeve dress for Anne. The first attempt is as we all know - there's no 20lbs of brown sugar or gardening rakes but there's a lot of boots. When he tries again, he's rescued by the proprietor of the shop, a lady named Jeannie who was an old classmate of Matthew. I actually really liked this part of the episode, because we rarely get a glimpse into Matthew's past. It might be in part because the source material is focusing on the stories and lives of women more than men, and also the fact that Matthew only physically is present in the first book. Matthew sits down to tea with Jeannie to explain what sort of dress he wants for Anne (puffed sleeves are important) and they talk about their old school days - which show Matthew as a very shy (and I think bullied) child, but one that Jeannie remembers distinctly because (seemingly as the most popular girl in school) he knew she liked collecting buttons and secretly left on her inkwell when all the other boys would have made a big show of it. Jeannie also mentions how Matthew left school shortly afterward, as well as a death of a brother in the Cuthbert family (I think it's implied that the brother was older, and his name was Michael). The meeting ends awkwardly; they still seem fond of each other, but Matthew is rather uncomfortable and sends Jerry to fetch the dress afterward, though he has Jerry give Jeannie another button.
And one more interesting little plot thread. I mentioned how the books and other adaptations focus on the women (which I'm fine with), but we don't see much of Matthew or any other male characters. The other significant male character in the series gets some background - Gilbert, curiously, is seen preparing his own breakfast and caring for his bedridden father (believed to be something wrong with his legs, given the presence of a wheelchair) - there doesn't seem to anyone else at home. Despite Gilbert's cheerfulness at school, it seems he's got a lot of his shoulders at home. The Blythes have hired a woman to care for Mr. Blythe while Gil's at school and he's torn between going and needing to care for his father. And Gilbert cares a lot - he goes home right away, sits by his father's bedside to read to him, and decides to skip school just in case anything happens. He misses enough class that grumpy Anne has to drop off his books (Mr. Phillips doesn't want his best student falling behind) and Anne's bit surprised to see Mr. Blythe's health (and he's a very kind man who immediately compliments how pretty Anne's red hair is and asks if Marilla is doing well) while Gilbert thanks Anne for bringing his homework, because he'd rather beat her fairly if they're going to compete.
The episode ends on an optimistic note - Anne's accepted that she's becoming a woman (at least in one way) and promises to be less emotional next time and is absolutely delighted to see her gift from Matthew. Marilla thinks he's spoiling her, but Matthew says it's a "growing-up present." =D
Before watching the episode, I wasn't sure how everything would tie in together - the summary mentions Anne getting her period, but the previews should the puffed sleeve dress and the raspberry cordial plots (which I was dreading, because it's always one of the most painful parts of the story), but everything fits in together nicely. I like how realistically they depicted everyone's attitudes and reactions towards menstruation (for the girls, older women, and men to some extent) - I'm attributing this to excellent writing and directing, and also how the series expands on the backgrounds of Matthew and Gilbert to being more than just idealized examples of positive male figures in Anne's life.
Quality episode, a solid 5/5.
Next time - Minnie May Barry gets sick. But it looks like Diana is the only person who trusts Anne more than someone with a medical degree.
Please share your thoughts on the episode! =)
23:00, April 17, 2017 (UTC)