Earlier this week, a link began making the rounds of my social circle of bookish, introverted ladies. Lucy Maud Montgomery‘s Anne of Green Gables, the classic book series about the heroine of awkward female adolescents, has a new cover.
This in and of itself isn’t horrible. New editions and covers come out often enough to freshen things up and appeal to a new generation. But this…this is just…well, have a look:
As I’m sure you can imagine, the aforementioned horrified social circle clutched their cardigans, then ran back to our Lady of Shalott reenactments because no one understands.
Let me explain to the uninitiated/socially well-adjusted why this is terrible. The most glaring problem with this cover is that Anne Shirley is a redhead. This really isn’t open for interpretation. Her red hair is described fairly plainly in the book and Gilbert Blythe always used to tug on her braids and called her “Carrots” to tease her.
Generally, I don’t really like having a depiction of the character on the cover of a book because my brain tends to stick with that mental image instead of forming its own while reading. So, for me, there would be an obvious disconnect between the image of the girl on the cover and the description of Anne in the books if I was reading them for the first time. However, giving Anne a different hair color isn’t REALLY what pisses me off the most about this whole thing because yes, artistic license and all of that. (Though I *did* want to distance myself from the bungholes who got all bent of shape about Rue being black in the Hunger Games movie. Those people were just racists. And I am not racist against attractive young blonde women.)
It’s really important for people to see people like themselves portrayed positively in the media that we consume. As much as we like to think that we are unaffected by depictions of ourselves, I can tell you that it was a total game-changer for this redheaded and awkward young girl to read about redheaded and awkward Anne. Seeing how she overcame her mistakes and trials, and embraced her unique physical and personal qualities and carved out a great life for herself was the shot in the arm that I needed at that time in my life. (Plus, a few years ago I found a small bottle of ipecac at work. I swooned to coworkers about how Anne saved Diana’s little sister Minnie May when she had the croup by giving her ipecac, and brushed off the weird looks I received because ANNE WAS A HERO THAT DAY. And, no, I did not have sex until I was 18. Why do you ask?)
So while it may seem like no big deal to make this kind minor physical change, it’s sending a pretty powerful message to the girls who identify with Anne. It’s saying, “Sure, Anne is able to find a place for herself in the world despite being ‘different,’ but really the best thing to do is be conventionally beautiful. So, get on that.”
The other aspect of this cover that really makes me squirm is how it’s kind of, well, sexy. The woman’s hair is tousled and she has a knowing, come-hither expression. And again, this is fine in plenty of other contexts but is just so wrong for this book. Aside from the fact that the Anne of Green Gables take place in the rather uptight Victorian era, Anne is a young girl who is more concerned with constructing her own romantic version of the world than she is with, you know, looking hot. Even as she becomes an adult, she retains this outlook which is part of her charm.
Sadly, this cover is yet another sexualization of a children’s/young adult character. Haven’t we had enough of that? And isn’t this a particularly stupid application of that trend?