Television

Avonlea Showdown: Which Anne of Green Gables is Better?

Three different versions of our Anne-girl.

L.M. Montgomery’s classic, Anne of Green Gables has inspired dozens and dozens of Annes on film and television since the book’s original publication in 1908. But, to my mind, there are only three worth real consideration: First, the famous and extremely popular 1985 adaptation that starred Megan Follows, long considered the modern gold standard of Montgomery’s vision. And then there have been two new versions causing quite a flutter recently, with fresh takes on Carrots and her fellow Prince Edward Island adventurers. The first came out late 2016 and aired in the U.S. chiefly on PBS stations (though the first installment is currently available to Amazon Prime streaming subscribers). The second debuted on Netflix in 2017.

So how do they stack up? Are any of these new Annes worthy of the Lake of Shining Waters or puff sleeves? I’m spitting out my lime once more, setting down my glass of gin, and cracking my knuckles in anticipation of another great showdown between rival cinematic loves. Just as with the Longbourn Showdown (Ahem, Pride and Prejudice fans), this will be much like Thunderdome, but with ipecac and red currant wine! So scoop the mouse out of the plumb pudding sauce and get ready!

Anne Shirley

Anne of Green Gables Showdown

Megan Follows vs. Ella Ballentine vs. Amybeth McNulty

I thought my Anne would always be Megan Follows, whose 1985 take was dramatically serious in her imagination and fantasies. Every dream and speech was an audition for  play, a sworn oath, with her gaze constantly averted skyward, and it was easy to imagine that Follows’s Anne was maybe destined for the stage. She never lacked sweetness, but came across as a bit more self-centered, at least, at first. And she was always a bit embarrassing. But I just took it for granted that this was sort of baked into the character.

In 2016, we got a fresh Anne from Ella Ballentine. And I’m just gonna say it–she’s awful. Sure her look is sweetly generic, but her freckles are irritatingly fake, as is her grin, and her overly sunny disposition plays as a carefree girl who could make it anywhere. She’s the Mary Tyler Moore of Avonlea. Plus, Ballentine reminds me of a young Lindsey Lohan. And that thought hobbles me like smelling cheap whiskey. I’ve been burned before.

By 2017, we got a very different Anne from Amybeth McNulty. Darker, grittier, and slightly traumatizing to my youth, retroactively. McNulty has a very distinct look that isn’t too adorable or charming. Like a young Shelley Duvall. She’s the orphan that’s a little more difficult for the residents of Avonlea to welcome. And, this is a traumatized Anne who is precocious, but also damaged. She is appropriately distrusting, but still sees the wonder in people and moments. In fact, McNulty’s Anne strikes just the right chord between fear, passion, and silly-heartedness.

This is a tough call. But for age, tone, and looks, McNulty’s Anne is the most believable. She seems real and touching, even with all her imperfections. I’m so sorry to slight Megan Follows this way. She was wonderful, but she was played the role a bit too old, and lacked a certain brightness of youth that McNulty can pull off poetically.

Winner: Amybeth McNulty as Anne Shirley 

McNulty


Marilla Cuthbert

Marilla Cuthbert Showdown

Colleen Dewhurst vs. Sara Botsford vs. Geraldine James

Three brilliant women who do a great service to one of my favorite literary characters of all time: Marilla Cuthbert. Geraldine James’s take stands out the most as a little bit harder around the edges, which matches her version’s tone. Still, she manages to thaw beautifully, as does each of our Marillas. Sara Botsford was maybe a little too accommodating and lovable, making her Marilla a little shallower and easy to please. Almost too easy.

But I note that while grasping for criticism. All the ladies are wonderful. But there must be one winner! And of course, it has to be Colleen Dewhurst. Our husky-voiced Marilla knows how to be harsh and deep, but incredibly loving all the same. Her boisterous anger at the neighbors is brilliant, and yet she can be subtle in her emotions. She is simply perfect, and I wish our Marilla was still around.

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Update: Bran Stark is Still the Villain No One Saw Coming

Brandon Stark is a villain. Make no mistake. If you are a Game of Thrones fan and have not already read my argument on How Bran Stark is the Villain No One Saw Coming, please do take a few moments and read the case to be made for his dark nature and what may be driving him.

Now that season 7 of the television series has aired, it is worth examining how my theory has held up in the season or so since I first published it.

Bran Stark Heart Tree.jpg

Team Ice vs. Team Fire

Let us start with the most rudimentary means of examining the Westerosi standings thus far. As I pointed out previously, the television show–which is based on the books from A Song of Ice and Fire series–is most basically broken down to Team Ice versus Team Fire. Let us review where the teams stand:

Team Fire

– Targaryens (Jon included)
– Dragons: Drogon and Rhaegal
– R’hllor and the Red Preists / Priestesses
– The New Gods
– The pyromancers of King’s Landing
– The Night’s Watch (“I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn…”)

Team Ice

– White Walkers
– Children of the Forest
– The Old Gods
– Dragon: Viserion
– Brandon Stark, aka the Three-Eyed Raven

If you see Brandon sitting fireside at Winterfell and suppose that his return must indicate that he is on Team Fire, then you are mistaken.

Note the new addition to Team Ice? A dragon. A blue fire-breathing dragon. That is quite a remarkable shift in power, so how is it that Bran has not warned anyone? Even if we assume he didn’t see it coming, he most assuredly must be aware that it has occurred. After all, it happened weeks or months before Viserion took down a chunk of the Wall. Should Bran not be telling Sansa? Or messaging Jon? Or at least telling Samwell?? I mean, com’on, Bran, maybe Jon’s lineage isn’t the most super important news alert right now. (And don’t tell me that little perv doesn’t have his mind on Jon’s genes because he isn’t watching Dany and Jon rocking the boat! Eyes on the fire, Bran!)

The Children: A History Lesson

But there’s one big glaring problem that makes Bran’s omission even more ominous. And to understand it, first you need a quick history lesson.

Long ago in our Song of Ice and Fire world, there was something called the Long Night, a period that followed significant and costly wars between the children and First Men. A pact was reached though, and the two factions seemed to live in relative peace, with the Children relegated to the far north, long before there was a wall.

According to man’s legends, the white walkers emerged from…nowhere, allegedly, terrorized both races during the Long Night, and then were vanquished only after men and children banded together. It was then heroic Bran the Builder who engaged in rallying men, giants, and the children to all pitch in and build the Wall, lest the white walkers ever return. And for good measure, Bran asked the children to weave spells into the Wall, protecting everything south from the white walkers.

Of course, you could drive a mammoth through the holes in those legends told by men. And to quote Samwell Tarly of the books:

“The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Nigh comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it.”

The white walkers didn’t just appear. The children made them with their own magic. Why? Maybe they didn’t like being told to stay up north. Maybe they thought that the men were invaders on their land, and it was time to take some of it back. So maybe during the Long Night, the children weren’t terrorized quite as much as they let on.

The Wall’s Magic

Back to that wall, the one that no one believed could be demolished so easily. Especially since Bran gave them no warning that the Night King had become (*gag*) a dragon rider.

Side Note: I really, really hate you, Benioff and Weiss.

Beyond Bran’s lack of wall-melty notice, the really disturbing idea is that the dragon even could melt the wall. It turns out that maybe the routed children, who had been playing both sides of the battlefield during the Long Night agreed to weave spells into the Wall. But did they ever do it?

And even if they did as they swore, there is a good reason that blue dragon fire could break the enchantments: Their magic is of the same source. I cannot emphasize enough that the children are on Team Ice with the moth-eaten dragon that just melted man’s wall without blinking a blue eye, and using their own magic to do it. And they are on Team Bran as well.

What the Hell is He Doing at Winterfell, Anyway?

Still not convinced that Bran’s lack of help or historical knowledge (of which he has total omnipotence, allegedly) is evidence that he’s not on the side of good?

Bran Stark Villain

At this point, I think it’s important to point out something important about Bran, as he sits toasting himself at Winterfell: He doesn’t claim to be a man anymore. He isn’t Bran. We heard that from his own lips. He’s now the Three-Eyed Raven. So it is highly questionable that The Artist Formerly Known as Bran is even on the side of men, all ancillary evidence aside.

With his motives and allegiances in such dubious standing, I desperately want to know what on earth is Bran, aka Raven Lump, is up to during season 7. His sight isn’t doing anyone much good. In addition to keeping mum about a zombie dragon, he hasn’t let on to anyone what he knows about the genesis of the walkers.

And he’s failed to mention that he established some sort of magical link between himself and the Night King. Maybe that has dissolved already. But maybe it hasn’t.

Bran and the Night King.jpg

It might’ve also been helpful for Jon to have any information about the goings on of the Greyjoys, the Lannisters, the Tyrells, the Iron Bank, etc., etc. So one has to wonder (ahem, Sansa), what the hell good is he? What is he playing at?

If he isn’t helping the cause to protect and Jon and his allies, and he isn’t monitoring and reporting the progress of the white walkers, then it’s a little hard to understand what he’s doing at Winterfell, besides staying warm and fed. It seems to me that he’s a bit like a parasite. Or one of those evil, hairy spiders that lives in my basement each winter, and surely plots to murder me in my sleep. He’s using Winterfell and Sansa and Arya until his time comes.

The End Game

In my first post on this topic, I predicted that both Targaryens will ultimately need to rain fire down on the north to eliminate the walkers, and Brandon Stark as well. I stand by that.

Do not underestimate how big Bran’s role will be by the end. We didn’t spend hours and hours and hours of Bran being dragged through snow and ice, and all those three-eyed raven dream sequences for nothing. He is a much, much bigger player than most fans realize at this point. And his role is not setting up to be a happy, pretty, heroic one.

I mean, sure, I have a few doubts about the TV series, since I believe Benioff and Weiss collectively lack the imagination that the gods give to the average walnut. So maybe they’ll be satisfied with a hero arc for Bran. That would be neat and easy. But even if they do, I still believe that George R.R. Martin has something very dark in mind for the crippled Stark.

He is the secret weapon that the children snuck into Winterfell. The bushy-eyebrowed Three-Eyed Branven has infiltrated the realms of men, and will sow discord from within. So now, my only question is, how much damage will he do, and who will be the one to finally stop him?

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

Offred is a protagonist who lives in a world gone crazy. In a cautionary tale that borders on post-apocalyptic mania, The Handmaid’s Tale pulls a Planet of the Apes and seduces us into the horrors of Offred’s world and then reveals them to be our own. Offered is us. This is meant to terrify us and indulge our worst slippery slope fears. Rarely does that make for enjoyable entertainment, though. Thus, I blooped my way to Hulu’s new series, with my dog-eared, annotation-scribbled copy of the book still on my nightstand, wondering if I even wanted to spend hours of my life sucked into a vortex of depression. What I found, though, oddly delighted me. It turns out my paranoia enjoyed being indulged.

After an alleged terrorist attack on U.S. Congress, martial law is declared in Offred’s America, and there is a public movement for a return to basic values–which includes women staying in the home and owning no property. This would be terrifying enough, but Margaret Atwood, author of the book from which Hulu plucked its content, chose to add a special science-fiction twist: For reasons unstated, women and men face obliterating infertility rates. This warps the nightmare into a nation with a breeding program in which the “lucky” women are turned into procreational sex slaves.

This is the turn of the screw that is supposed to draw you in. Hook you. Women as forced breeders, wearing wimples and enslaved under such miserable conditions that most opt for one form of suicide or another. As a book reader, I was almost a bit disappointed that Atwood took it to this level. Sure, it makes the story stunning and tragic, but takes it just slightly beyond the grasp of what feels realistic. It disconnects us from feeling the likelihood that this could happen to us.

And it could. Atwood has warned of it herself. Were it not for the fertility plot line, this forced female servitude feels like it is only one international crisis away. One cry for a return to our “values”. One coordinated and well-funded grassroots movement away from decrying that women are not permitted to work outside of the home because, the children. Because the 1950s was when we were a pure and righteous nation, right? When men were men, and women knew their place. So the movements call and chant and wail that we need to go back to our roots, and they share it feverishly across social media. And in turn Facebook and Twitter accounts and voter registration records are used to identify who is a “patriot” or a “believer”, whichever bent the crusade takes. Add a pinch of racism and misogyny, a whirlwind of fear, and some financial incentives, and you’ve got yourself a real modern dystopia.

This is why I am so grateful for the updates and tweaks that Hulu has thoughtfully provided to Atwood’s mad world. It warms the world and makes it feel like it could have been our own once. Yes the show preserves the infertility thread–no way to avoid that– but it takes care to modernize the technology and add some haunting (an sometimes jaunty) soundtracks. I know those songs. Pre-Offred Elizabeth Moss knows those songs. And she orders pretentious coffee, swipes on Tinder, and worries about her profile pic. Sure the original names are still very 1980s, which is when the story was originally penned. Lydia. Janine. Angela. But there I am with Pre-Offred, believing I could hang out with her, or that I could at least pass her on the street. She is a real, modern flesh-and-blood American.

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Orange is the New Black: Excerpts From The Time Hump Chronicles

My summer love, Orange is the New Black, has given us one of the greatest, most disturbing meta stories ever: The Time Hump Chronicles. Crazy Eyes’s erotic fiction that she penned for drama class is the highlight of the show’s third season, and makes me wish it was real. The closest thing we have to it is what the script writers came up with and had actress Uzo Aduba scrawl onto curly sheets of worn paper. That is “Suzanne Warren’s” actual handwriting, and Aduba has admitted that there is a full story written out there. Can we ever hope to read it in its entirety? Praise Norma that it may be so. Until then, I have done my level best to reconstruct what the show has actually revealed to us on the written page. This is no fan fiction. You will find no poster mock-ups or vampires, especially because they’re so derivative. This is the actual text as written by our very special Crazy Eyes.

THE TIME HUMP CHRONICLES:
Two People Connecting…With Four Other People…and Aliens

By S. Warren

Characters

Edwina, a freckled, busty robo-doll made of pee-proof metal who can move through time in only one direction and is able to outsmart an orgasmator, but is forced to participate in a blindfolded “Trial by Lovemaking”

Space Admiral Rodcocker, a time humper with a distinct birthmark and two penises, who pleasures beings in other dimensions and has cum that has extra life-sustainable protein; Edwina’s love interest, falls in orgasmator

Gillead (aka Gilly), a sweet and sensitive man, who exists in the past and is known to have the “purest soul in the universe”; Edwina’s love interest and Space Admiral Rodcocker’s rival

Lily Sprinkle, one of Edwina’s lovers who has a pee fetish

Sunflower, one of Space Admiral Rodcocker’s lovers who is known for having taken both Rodcocks at once, and is unlikable

Unnamed Vaseline Character, a man made of Vaseline with a tragic tale

Time Hump

Chapter 1

  Admiral Rodcocker entered […] the Captain’s chair. The crew saw what was to come
next. “Everyone is dismissed.” said Rodcocker. Clear the Bridge. Duh! Purple love
muscle. […] Except for U. […] was palpable and […]. 
 […] behind the final crew was […]
were alone. They […] that can’t […] appendage […].

“Her three holes opened, ready to be explored by his swollen pangoline”

“The Admiral thrust his pork sword into her squish mitten.”

Chapter 2

Rodcocker broke away from the kiss.
“Are you okay, my sweet comet?” Rodcocker said. Edwina grabbed Rodcocker by his joystick. “C’mon, Rodcocker. […] rocket to blast off”, said Edwina with a wink.
Rodcocker […] and reached for the control panel. He tapped on the […] with the grace of a dancing […]. […] resting of on the Captain’s chair began to lift into the […]. The control panel [read]: “Artificial Gravitiy: Off.” Edwina looked at Rodcocker with […]. “I thought it was impossible to make love in space. Scientists and […] astronauts before we have proven it. Let’s boldly go where no lovers have gone before.Rod cocker reported […] sly grin. Edwina closed her eyes as Rodcocker’s forked tongue down her neck. The goosebumps […] of her neck […]. […] which he hadn’t felt since she timehumped  the Grand […] during the Spanish Inquisition. […] squealed in […]. Rod. Cock. Eerr…floated […]. […] behind Edwina and unzipped her uniform revealing […] love for space underwear. He pulled her close and she […] of […] approved man meat was pushing against her s[…]. “[…] prepared to board,” Rodcocker whispered in her […] and slipped lower and lower on Edwina’s body until he finally reached the final frontier […] was a smoooooth celestial body until […me]finally reach the humid climate. Rodcocker attempted to bend Edwina over but protested. She spun around in zero-g to face […] “I DON’T WANT TO BE FUCKED. I want to be loved”, she said. […] to him that he could […].

Maybe that wormhole will open for Rodcocker again, and we will get more chapters from that sweet, sick brain. You know I’ll be watching Netflix with the pause button ready, just in case.

I Want to Punch the TD Ameritrade Commercial Guy in the Beard

If you watch a lot of television, especially CNN, as I do, then you know the bearded TD Ameritrade douchebag. He patronizes women, telling them that their life savings is a fortune (….to them, filthy peasants). He therapizes stay-at-home moms condescendingly and, I assume fraudulently, because who the hell is a financial therapist, you creeper? And he does it all while talking out of his pervert beard. I hate that beard. I really want to punch him in it.

Since I can’t do that since that would mostly mean punching my TV which might then weeble-wobble right off the table and break forever, I have developed a solution. I give you, the TD Ameritrade Creeper Beard Dartboard!

TD Ameritrade Ad Beard Dartboard.jpg

Rules: Play darts as you normally would, but you get 50 points if you hit him in the beard.

The Great Golden Girls Game

Gather ’round, gather ’round! I am about to unveil a Golden Girls spectacular of thrills, chills, and excitement. It gives me great pleasure – nay, embarrassment – to introduce to you a game I have invented for those lonely nights when all you want to do is have a slice of cheesecake around a Miami wicker kitchen table with a few old broads.

Here is a game to help you rank and discover what truly is the GREATEST Golden Girls episode of all-time. Or you can make it a drinking game. Which is probably a lot more fun/dangerous. But I don’t know if I want Rose Nylund flashbacks the next morning with lipstick smears all over the screen, so it’s your call.

Here’s what you need to play:

  • A love for Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose
  • A few episodes of The Golden Girls ready to roll
  • A pen and paper*
    (*you may substitute a box of wine if you do not own a pen and paper)

Now, start your engines and away we go! As you watch episodes, you’ll need to keep score of each episode’s happenings, and here’s how to do it.

The Great Golden Girls Game Scorecard!

Mark points on your scorecard for the following Golden Girls moments:

  • (1 point) A late-night dessert is eaten in the kitchen while discussing a problem or date
  • (2 bonus points) If that dessert is cheesecake
  • (1 point) Every lover or group of lovers that Blanche mentions by name
  • (5 points) If the girls scream in horror after discovering two people in bed together
  • (2 points) Each time Sophia says, “Picture it….” followed by a location and year
  • (3 points) Each time Rose mentions a St. Olaf resident (not her, Charlie, or their kids) by NAME
  • (5 points) Each time Rose mentions a St. Olaf pet or livestock by NAME
  • (1/2 point) Each time someone says “Shady Pines”
  • (2 points) For every family member that comes to stay with the girls
  • (1 bonus point) If the visitor is one of Blanche or Rose’s daughters, and the daughter acts like a total bitch
  • (2 points) Every time Dorothy asks a guest to leave the house
  • (3 points) Every time they have to call 911, or fear that Sophia’s dying “Maaa!!!”
  • (1/2 point) Each time Sophia makes a farting joke
  • (2 points) If Stan comes to the house
  • (4 bonus points) If Stan brings the monkey cone with him
  • (6 points) If any of the four girls sing or dance during the episode (limit one scoring per episode)
  • (2 points) If Sophia talks about a Sicilian curse
  • (4 bonus points) If we see Sophia put a curse on anyone!
  • (1/2 point) Each time Dorothy is mocked for getting pregnant as a teen
  • (4 points) If there’s a wedding (whether or not the bride backs out beforehand)
  • (5 points) If “The Cheeseman” is mentioned
  • (-3 points) If they help a wayward child/person in need
  • (-1 point) For every celebrity cameo as him/herself (I’m looking at you, Sonny Bono!)
  • (-1 points) If Carol, Barbara, Dr. Westin, or Dreyfus appear, in what is surely a sad, sad spinoff tie-in attempt
  • (-1,000,000 points) If it’s a clip show!

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Game of Thrones: How it Parallels the Wars of the Roses

I’ve been a bit obsessed by the The Wars of the Roses lately. Maybe that’s hard for some people to understand, but I look at it like a really, really old season of Scandal, just with much worse hygiene. But apparently I’m not alone in my fascination, because author George RR Martin has made no secret that his A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) is based loosely on The Wars of the Roses. Cool. GRRM gets it.

Now, while the books/TV show that you and I know by heart is no allegory for the multi-decade conflict, there are a whole lot of parallels we can draw. So here is where I tear into the major characters like I am Henry VIII clawing apart a whole roasted chicken (I know, I know, the Tudors come later, but seriously, that man could really eat!).

The Lancasters Always Pay Their Debts

First, you need to understand that the (over-simplistic and somewhat misleading) gist of real-life The Wars of the Roses is that it’s a tale of two families battling for the English throne.

First, the Lancasters ruled. Then the Yorks.

And back and forth, and a bit wiggly all around for a while. Complicated. Now, notice the similarities in the names. Familiar, eh?

Lancaster = Lannister
York = Stark

Lancaster’s (alleged) red rose sigil = Lannister’s red lion sigil

York’s (alleged) white rose sigil = Stark’s white dire wolf sigil

You see? Even linguistically and symbolically, it’s pretty obvious where GRRM started. Even the map of Westeros loosely resembles the UK.

In fact, the only place where the allegory really falls apart is how kindly the Starks are portrayed by GRRM. The real-life Yorks were mostly some really greedy assholes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Oh, and if you want to learn more about the Wars of the Roses in a fun and delightful way, I retell the history here. Ya know, jut in case you want more background.

Okay, let’s just jump in and look at how I see the characters lining up:

Richard II = Mad King Aerys (Aerys II)

Richard II and Aerys

Richard II

King Richard II is largely considered the first major victim of The Wars of the Roses (TWOTR). See, Richard II had ruled the kingdom since he was only ten years old, and by most accounts, he had grown up to be a right little shit. His egocentric hobbies included building monuments to himself and surrounding himself with sycophants. After his wife, Anne of Bohemia, died, Richard started to become outwardly paranoid and began executing and banishing most of his rivals. This didn’t go over so well with his (recently banished) cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who raised an army against him, and threw him in prison, where he shortly thereafter died–possibly murdered, possibly starved to death, accounts differ.

Mad King Aerys II

Aerys II also ascended to the throne via largely non-disputed lineage. Good for him. But that didn’t help him much after his paranoia and general insanity caused him to start offing rivals, oh yeah, and playing with fire. As with Richard II, those who had once been close to him started throwing shade his way, distrusting the king’s actions and motives. Eventually Aerys II was overthrown in Robert’s Rebellion. Of course, Aerys’s death was much swifter…and pointier. No prison for him.

There are, of course, many differences between the characters. Aerys’s affinity for kidnapping and pyrotechnics sets him apart from his historical doppelgänger. But ultimately, both lost the throne that rightfully belonged to them because they lost their grip on reality. And when that happens, there is always someone waiting in the wings to pluck the crown of the king’s head.

King Henry IV = Robert Baratheon

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